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Honda Classic volunteer recognized for making tournament extra special for children

Coronavirus keeps 75-year-old from handing out golf balls this year
Tom Gibbs, collects golf balls for children
Posted at 8:23 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 20:23:20-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The Honda Classic couldn't happen without the help of nearly 1,200 volunteers who donate hours of time to make the tournament run smoothly and give guests the best possible experience.

One volunteer has spent years going the extra mile to make the PGA Tour event extra special for the youngest golf fans.

That's why Tom Gibbs, 75, was awarded volunteer of the year, after tournament organizers felt his good heart deserved special recognition.

Gibbs can often be found staking his claim in the shadiest spot by the 11th hole, stepping out when it's time to silence the crowd.

Electronic billboard for Lucas Glover on display at 2021 Honda Classic as Tom Gibbs waits in shade
Tom Gibbs waits in the shade by the 11th hole as an electronic billboard for Lucas Glover is shown in the background on the first day of play at the Honda Classic, March 18, 2021, at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

He gets a great view of the players. But the best part, he said, is being in the mix with the fans -- especially the youngest ones.

"You see so many (who) have got little clubs," he said.

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He's made a name for himself around the Champion course at PGA National because all year long, he collects golf ball anywhere he can to hand out to children he sees walking the course.

"Half the golf balls we get at yard sales," Gibbs said.

Others donate their balls to him.

"Most people just go to their golf bag and pick out two or three balls and donate it," Gibbs said.

Area stores have also given Gibbs discounts when they find out why he wants them.

"Nothing like seeing a little kid's face or a little girl when you give her a pink ball," Gibbs said.

Over the years, Gibbs said, he's handed out probably 300 golf balls to children.

yellow golf ball on grass at 2021 Honda Classic
A yellow golf ball sits on the green near the Champion course on the first day of play at the Honda Classic, March 18, 2021, at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

"And they all say, 'Thank you,'" Gibbs said. "They all say, 'Thank you.'"

But this year, he had to take a break from that tradition.

"With the coronavirus, it just wasn't worth the risk of something happening," Gibbs said.

But the tournament still noticed how Gibbs, over the years, tried to make the tournament special.

Tom Gibbs presented with volunteer of the year award at 2021 Honda Classic
Tom Gibbs says he "cried a little bit" after being presented with a plaque recognizing him as the volunteer of the year at the Honda Classic.

That's why he was surprised and presented with a plaque for the volunteer of the year award.

"I cried a little bit," Gibbs said.

So even if Gibbs is just settling for a passing wave this year, his golf ball collection will keep growing to revive the tradition next year.