Golfer Barbara talks about Commonwealth Games volunteering

August 03 2022 | Golf

While most people have been watching the Commonwealth Games from the comfort of their living room, Ladies golf member Barbara O Neill has been in the thick of the action volunteering at the sporting event.

And for Barbara, who has been a member at Hever Castle Golf & Wellbeing since March, it is not the first sporting event she has volunteered at.

She explained how she got into it: “For me the volunteering road to Birmingham 2022 started in 2011, when a chance conversation with a cousin got me involved with the Media Support in the Main Conference Centre during the 2012 Olympics in London. It all snowballed from there.”

Since 2012 she has taken part in three Commonwealth Games, two Olympics and about 15 other major sporting events. She has travelled to Rio, The Gold Coast in Australia and Peru.

But the Edenbridge resident added: “The one that stands out in my mind was the very first Invictus Games. That was the most amazing experience. It was a games about ability, not disability.”

Barbara’s volunteer role sees her looking after the press in different areas of the games.

She said: “I can be looking after the media in the main conference centres, or at the tribunes which are on the side of the field of play. Or in the zones where the interviews take place. Or I can be in the media rooms where the press write up their articles. Or maybe with photo operations looking after the photographers on the field of play.

“In Birmingham, I am in the Hockey and Squash Media Room and both Tribunes. I can be assigned to other jobs as they arise. At the Olympics for example, I got to mix with heads of state and athletes. One never knows who you will be asked to look after. I’ve met people like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Seb Coe, heads of the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games, visiting royals, politicians and athletes of yester year, as well as the main medal winners. It can be very exciting at times, but it’s also hard work.”

After the Commonwealth Games Barbara will be off to the Gymnastics World Cup in Liverpool at the end of October.

She says: “Of course, I could spend my holidays sitting on a beach, but this is much, much more interesting.

“It’s all about volunteering. We don’t get paid. We get our uniforms and one meal a day. It’s all about a job well done.”

Barbara recommends volunteering at a major sporting event but says you need to express an interest two years beforehand and then go through the interview process. After the acceptance email there is training before you take part.

And when Barbara is not volunteering at a sporting event you can find her on the Prince’s course or occasionally on the Championship course. She discovered the nine hole while having a osteopath appointment at Hever Castle Health & Wellbeing.

She said: “I’ve always been quite sporty, I’m a level 1 golf instructor for my sins and I played a lot of sports when I was younger. I then became a professional singer/singing teacher/opera director and choir conductor.

“I’m really, really enjoying playing with the gentlemen on the Princes. I’m a 10.6 handicap, so they really give me a run for my money and they make me think, as I can’t play their game, I’m not strong enough.

“I really love the club and everybody has been so welcoming. There is a very open feeling among the members.”