A PGA TOUR pro has a caddie to watch his back out there on the golf course. But who do the spectators have?

At the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson, they have Rodney Fuller and Leslie Lewis, the dynamic duo that head the tournament’s First Aid Committee.

When not dedicating hundreds of hours to recruiting, planning and organizing the Byron Nelson’s emergency medical service efforts, Fuller is the Director of Safety and Security for Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital in Dallas, and Lewis is a local nurse.

But each year, they take a full week off from work to oversea more than 100 volunteers ready to step up to the plate. This year, those volunteers will man three first-aid tents at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, and give up their time to treat spectators who fall ill or get struck by wayward golf balls.

Fuller, who has served on the Byron Nelson’s mighty first-aid crew for 27 years, says he’s not a golf fan at all. He sacrifices his time for reasons bigger than the sport itself.

“The thing that makes me come back is the people,” Fuller explained. “I have a nice core crew of volunteers each year and then I enjoy meeting new people who come in. The great thing is, I never know if I’m going have a chief nursing officer or if I’m getting someone who’s just starting nursing school. People from all over the medical community come out. Some even dip into their vacation time to do this.”

In It For the Right Reasons

Sara Draughn (left) and Dabi Mask during their morning shift in the first-aid tent at the 2018 Byron Nelson.

Sara Draughn, 36, drove from Ft. Worth to make sure she was there for her Friday morning shift at the first aid station off the 13th fairway. The operating room nurse out of Texas Health Clearfork is now in her second year as a volunteer at the Byron Nelson.

“I love taking the skills you acquire at a job, and using them in a different way to give back to the community,” she said.

She also loves getting to know different people in the healthcare field, as well as those who aspire to be, like 20-year-old Dabi Mask, who plans on applying to nursing school in the fall.

Now in her second year as a volunteer, Mask, an aspiring travel nurse who is a first responder at her university, does it for the experience.

“My first year, I was filling out patient care forms and observing,” she said. “I love all the people here and getting the chance to be involved. It’s great exposure to medicine for me.”

A Trinity of Challenges: Crowds, Ball Strikes and Heat-related Illnesses

The obstacles for first aid volunteers run deep at any PGA TOUR golf tournament, but the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson presents its own host of challenges.

Hurdle No. 1? The cozy layout of the links-style course.

“This golf course is especially challenging this year because every golf cart path has at least one place where the golfers have to cross it,” Fuller explained. “So, it can make it tough to bolt through play to get to an emergency. That’s why I have so many first aid locations distributed, and I’ve got bike teams because when the cart paths get full of people, it can take me 20 minutes to go a quarter-of-a-mile in a cart.”

The course layout also lends itself more to potential ball strikes.

“There are no trees on this course to stop a ball that’s not going where it was intended to go,” Fuller said. “So far, I’m very pleasantly surprised we don’t have any golf ball strikes, but the wind is supposed to pick up later as are the crowds, so we’ll see how that works out.”

Now throw in the fact that the course has limited shade and that it’s been flooded by the city’s highest temperatures of the year so far.

“The heat is an issue. We’ve treated several patients for heat problems,” he said. “It can be hard because we don’t have real air conditioning in the tents; we have mister fans. That can make it difficult to get the patients cooled down. But if they have that big of an issue, we’re going to transport them by ambulance.”

Ready for Anything

Spectators will sometimes enter first aid tents with prevention in mind, taking a squirt of sunscreen or grabbing a band-aid to counter the beginnings of a blister.

DALLAS, TX – MAY 17: A general view of the cabanas on the 15th green during the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club on May 17, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Then, there are the spectators-turned-patients who forget to hydrate or take a spill because they think they can handle a hike in wedge shoes.

However, there are also the cases that teeter the line of life-and-death. For those, Fuller and Lewis are armed and ready.

“At the Four Seasons a couple of years ago, we had a patient who went into cardiac arrest,” Fuller said. “The crew that got to the site started CPR and they connected the AED (automatic external defibrillator) to shock the guy’s heart. They got him back and he ended up surviving.”

The medical company that loaned the tournament its AEDs came back to Fuller a week later and asked if he wanted to hear the recording from the AED.

“I had no idea these were voice recording devices as well,” Fuller admitted. “I was quite nervous about what I was going to hear, and as I was listening to the recording, I was absolutely flabbergasted at the level of professionalism. You could have transcribed what was on there, and that would have been a textbook way to handle a code.”

So, there you have it. It’s not just the pros out there on the course who need to be dialed in. It’s the unsung heroes behind-the-scenes, too.

First Aid at the 2018 Byron Nelson: Fast Facts

  • There are three first aid stations at Trinity Forest Golf Club — One located on the 13th fairway, one between holes 3 and 11, and one in the triangle on the 4th fairway.
  • Water, sunscreen, a hat and an umbrella are essentials. “Don’t come out here drunk or sick. Just know that if you get here and you’re sick already, it’s only going to get worse,” says Fuller.
  • Wear good walking shoes. “It’s not just the girls. It’s also the frat boys out here in their boat shoes and no socks,” according to Fuller.
  • Pay attention. Ball strikes can be a nuisance or they can be a true medical emergency. One coming in hot lends itself to the latter.