Every September in Almaty, there is a clamour for the opportunity to take part in the running of the European Challenge Tour ‘Major’ and the Kazakhstan Open volunteering group has grown and grown since the first tournament in 2006.Pupils from local schools and universities are given a letter of release from their lessons to take part and ex-pats working in the Central Asian city also come along for the weekend to get amongst the excitement that surrounds the tournament.
Many of the volunteers are now keen golfers, having barely known a thing about the game before their experiences at the Kazakhstan Open, and incredibly, four of the volunteers have studied for and passed Level One of the R&A Rules of Golf exams.One of the two Chief Volunteer Marshalls, Natalya Shin, is one of them and, in her fourth year working at the tournament, she has seen at first hand the incredible rise of the Kazakhstan Open Volunteer Group – which even has its own Facebook page.
“I came to this tournament first in 2009,” she said. “When I first came here I was so excited, it was just so interesting for me and I had so much fun, met so many cool people from all around the world.“I met Camilla Davies (an English ex-pat who lives in Almaty and works with the volunteers) and she pushed me to start playing golf so thanks to this tournament I play golf now. I think it’s such an interesting game. It’s not a game, it’s a culture.
“People who didn’t know anything about golf maybe thought it was boring before coming here, I thought like that, but when I learned the rules and started to play I got a very different impression.“It’s difficult, it’s interesting, even my character has changed a little bit because I used to be very emotional but when you play golf you can’t be emotional. You need to keep calm all the time.
“I want to pass Level Two of the Rules of Golf now and who knows, maybe I can referee at golf tournaments someday.“All of the volunteers love being here and they always ask me how to get involved in the game so it’s great.”
“I don’t think this tournament work without the volunteers,” she said. “I think it is the most important part of this tournament.
“We get over 100 people signing up for Saturday and Sunday. I am amazed because these people are we not motivated by money, they just want to be around and see the players, watch them play and talk with them
“I started playing golf just five months ago and I’m really enjoying it. When the girls see the game and watch the players they see that it is a really interesting game.“I’m really happy that this tournament is taking place in Kazakhstan.”