STATELINE — This is Mary Del Monte’s swan song at the American Century Championship.
Del Monte, affectionately known as “Sugar Mama” or the “Candy Lady”, got her nickname because every year she brings a tableful of fruit and candy for caddies, players and tournament officials to her 16th hole location.
“I was golfing here (one time) and I saw the sign-up flyer for volunteers so I filled it out and mailed it in,” she said Thursday afternoon. “I just kept coming back. The first four years I did a little bit of everything. I was over by the driving range and then I also worked the 17th hole.
“It’s been a great run; a great time. You get to know everybody. We’re (the volunteers) like one big family out here. When my kids were younger, they would come out and hang out. The kids are older now (18 and 17), and we want to start doing things together.”
Del Monte, who lives in the Bay Area, estimates she spends $500 to $700 each tournament on goodies. She said fellow volunteer Carolyn Grubb has vowed to continue the candy tradition.
Del Monte spent the first four years doing a variety of jobs, but she has spent the last 14 years on the par-5 16th. Being in the same place for a long period of time has enabled her to make friends with many of the players.
“I communicate regularly on Facebook with Bret Saberhagen, and I’ll send his mom wine,” she said. “I like Jerry Rice and of course Charles (Barkley).
“The caddies always come through and stuff red vines in their pockets. I always have a Diet Coke for Charles and for Bryan Baumgartner it’s a Diet Pepsi. Michael Jordan and Charles would always grab Tootsie rolls, and they would walk down the fairway sucking on them.”
She even goes above and beyond for players, and many come up and give her a hug.
“I always gave cigars to Michael Jordan and Sterling Sharpe, and they were the good kind, too,” she said. “I’ve seen Michael here when he’s been single, engaged and married.”
There was one scary moment back in 2014 when rain and lightning delayed play by more than two hours. Power went out on some areas of the course. Mark Rypien, after the delay, finished strong and won his second ACC title.
“I was talking to Jerome Bettis at the time,” she said. “You could see the lightning all the way down the fairway.”