Wednesday, August 19, 2009

At PGA Championship, chaplains are par for the course

For Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight, there’s something spiritual about preparing for the unexpected at the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club this week.

As Knight coordinates security at the Aug. 10-16 tournament in Chaska, the city police’s “Clergy Corps,” a team of about 12 diocesan priests, Protestant pastors and a rabbi, are serving the spiritual needs of the 50,000 attendees expected daily.

“The weather is our biggest unknown,” said Knight, who has handled security at Hazeltine tournaments since 1991. “[Severe weather] can happen, although we have a plan to evacuate the course. You just don’t know what’s going to evolve. Someone could be out here and have a heart issue. Life is what it is. It gives me great comfort to have [the chaplains] staying here in the event we need them.”

Eyes on Chaska

This year’s PGA Championship, the final major championship of the 2009 PGA season, brings more than 150 of the world’s top golfers, 2,000 members of the media and 3,500 volunteers, medical and law enforcement personnel, and other staff as well as thousands of spectators to the 47-year-old course.
Catholic priests serving this year are Father Larry Blake of St. Joseph in Waconia, Father Joe Gillespie of St. Albert the Great in Minneapolis, Father Paul Jarvis of Guardian Angels in Chaska, Father Tim Power of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis and

Father Steve Ulrick of Nativity of Mary in Bloomington.

Knight got the idea for the Corps after a man was killed by a lightning strike in 1991 at Hazeltine during the U.S. Men’s Open.

“I had a complete security plan in place, but we didn’t have our spiritual side covered and there are any number of potential needs on the spiritual side,” said Knight, a member of the Basilica of St. Mary who also attends Guardian Angels.

The first Corps, which he thinks is unique to the PGA, served in 2002 when the PGA Championship was last held at Hazeltine. The chaplains didn’t encounter any major problems at the event, Knight said.

Corps members don’t have a schedule or assigned area at the course but Knight does ask them to pray daily for the event’s safety and success.

Eye on Woods

Father Ulrick, who also served at the 2002 PGA Championship, led a prayer at the opening of this year’s tournament.

“I’m just here in a supportive role should I be needed, he said. “With all the people out here, if there’s some kind of emergency that they need me to be in a supportive role with family or individuals I’m here for that.”

A golfer, Father Ulrick said he enjoys seeing the top players. “They’re the best of the best and it’s fun watching them play.”

Father Jarvis doesn’t golf and is more interested in the people at the tournament, including his parishioners who are volunteering.

“I’ve got the objective to try to make Tiger Woods a parishioner at Guardian Angels,” he joked.

“I just look forward to being able to lead the folks in prayer, pray for them certainly and just be of any assistance to anybody who is going to be at the tournament as visitors,” Father Jarvis said.

Whether or not the unexpected happens, the Corps’ role is important, Knight said.

“An operation like this is pretty secular, and I think it’s very important to remember that there’s a whole big faith piece that’s involved in something like this,” he said. Catholic Spirit

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