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Sally Hayes: Volunteer of the Year
by Jeff Harrington

After family and friends, Red Cross and the Buick Open are the two things held dearest at heart by Sally Ann Hayes. The gracious and energetic Grand Blanc resident is a career volunteer who's managed to give her all to both causes, faithfully serving the Genesee-Lapeer Chapter of the American Red Cross in several capacities for 29 years, the pastg 20 years in a rather unique dual role with the Buick Open.

The Buick Open Tournament Committee has named Hayes, who was honored as Red Cross Volunteer of the Year in 1991, the 1999 Buick Open Bob Urich Volunteer of the Year. The award was announced in early July during the annual Buick Open media day at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club.

Appropriately, the award recognizes her contributions in what likely is Hayes' last year of involvement with both Red Cross and the golf tournament. Nearing her 70th birthday, Sally and Jim Hayes, her husband of 45 years, plan to relocate permanently to Arizona later this year, having spent the past several winters there.

"We're very fortunate Sally agreed to come back one more year, and that she's even training her replacement. Her work with the tournament is perhaps the most important of the many things she's done for Red Cross," said Genesee-Lapeer Chapter executive director Kim Yecke, who nominated Hayes for the award. "We really have enjoyed the best of both worlds, because Sally has merged two volunteer career paths--Red Cross and the Buick Open-- that she loves dearly."

"The reason the Buick Open is so successful is because of people like Sally Hayes," Yecke continued. "She's the kind of person who doesn't really know how to say 'no,' she just finds a way to get the job done!"

And Hayes has certainly handled a number of jobs over the years, beginning as a driver, then working in registration and scoring before taking over the transportation department ten years ago.

As the assistant director in charge of transportation, she oversees a department that has since grown to more than 100 volunteers. Besides securing and assigning the use of some 175 courtesy cars for the pros and their families during the week of the tournament, the department also arranges transportation to and from airports, as well as media shuttles, marshal transports and UPS deliveries on the grounds.

"It gets pretty busy," she acknowledged. "Last year we logged 63 trips in one day alone to (Detroit) Metro Airport."

Additionally, Hayes' position as chairman of volunteers for Red Cross and the fact that she and Jim (also a Red Cross and Buick Open volunteer) have been members of Warwick Hills for 35 years has led to her being called on in many instances as a liaison between Red Cross, the club and the tournament committee.

Despite her success at managing such a broad spectrum of duties, however, Hayes downplays the significance of her role in the big picutre, and says she was "very surprised" when told she'd been chosen as this year's honoree. "I'm just a small cog in the wheel," she insisted, suggesting the success of each year's event requires thousands of volunteers from many different organizations.

The bottom line, she said, is simple.

"Many people don't realize, but the Buick Open is a very big thing for Red Cross and the many other charities it supports. Buick makes nothing from the tournament. After the expenses are met, everything left is divided among the charities."

In fact, since 1982, the Buick Open has raised nearly $4 million for those charities, including Red Cross, Easter Seals Society, and several Flint area hospitals and fine art programs, among others. In 1997, charitable proceeds reached a record $500,000, a figure that was matched again a year ago.

"Charity and volunteerism go hand-in-hand," commented Buick Open media director Al Abrams. Without volunteers, we couldn't put on the tournament. It's a very important partnership."

Aside from her commitment as a volunteer, Hayes said there is another reason she has stayed involved for so long.

"It's the people ... This may have started out as a job, but when you see the same people year after year, and they keep coming back, you really enjoy that and look forward to it. Plus, we've met lots and lots of great golfers over the years, and they are always so nice."

"This may be my last hurrah," Hayes added, "but it's nice to go out on a happy note ... and we'll probably be here to help out whenever we're around."

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