SUNRIVER — The tools of Sandra and Suzanne Strock’s trade are simple: markers in primary colors, highlighters and thick paper, a pair of scissors and a ruler. What they are able to create with these basics is both a remarkable work of art and of vital importance to everyone attending The Jeld-Wen Tradition.
The Strocks are a mother-daughter team of calligraphers who created the hand-lettered scoreboards that appeared outside the clubhouse at Crosswater Golf Club and inside the tournament’s media center. They spent their days filling numbers into grids with precise, beautiful writing, allowing the public to read each golfer’s score.
The art is a holdover from earlier times, when it was the only way to present so much information. In a sport steeped in tradition and long-standing rules, it’s no surprise that the Strocks haven’t been overtaken by a computer system and are still traveling the country hand-lettering scoreboards.
“It’s a tradition, yes, but it’s the only way that has all the information,” Sandra said. “We’ve got the golfer’s name, their hometown, the hall of famers, the past champions, it’s all the information out there.”
Sandra started lettering golf scoreboards in 1980, when she was a member of the Harrisburg Hospital Auxiliary in Harrisburg, Penn. The auxiliary sponsored the Lady Keystone Open in Hershey, and knowing that she was a calligrapher, someone asked her to do the scoreboards.
“For years that was the only one I did because I had little kids,” she said.
So for 10 years Sandra created scoreboards for that one tournament each year. Then someone asked her if she’d travel for her craft, and soon she was doing Champions Tour events. She’s picked up and dropped tournaments on a variety of tours, and now averages about 10 tournaments each year. Sandra is in charge of every tournament run by Peter Jacobsen Productions and recently picked up some tournaments on the American Junior Golf Association tour.
“You can’t apply for this job,” Sandra said. “You have to be recommended.”
Sandra, 61, handles the pro-ams and any other events that go along with the tournaments. About twice each year, Suzanne, 39, joins her mother for big tournaments. Sandra splits her time between Mechanicsburg, Penn., and St. Augustine, Fla., where Suzanne lives full time.
The first thing the pair does when they arrive at a new tournament is to go to the course and scope out the area, making sure there is enough room for them to set up their boards. They have two boards to keep up; one in the media center and one outdoors for the general public.
For the outside scoreboard, Sandra uses Old English lettering, which is more formal. In the media center, she uses a very simple script that is easy to read from all over the room.
The scoreboard is made up of large poster boards, each 3 feet by 4 feet. At The Tradition, which had 79 golfers in the field, the media center scoreboard had eight poster boards filled with each player’s score and a summary sheet for each day.
Outside, the scoreboard has 10 of the score sheets; at night, it is covered with plastic so that it won’t be damaged.
A golfer’s score on each hole is written in black pen. If the golfer scores below par on a hole, the number is highlighted. The total after nine and 18 holes is in red, and holes-in-one are noted on the summary board with the golfer’s name, the yardage, the hole number and a drawing of a golf pin on a green.
For The Tradition, the pair arrived Aug. 12, where they checked into the Red Lion in Bend.
The women picked up the score sheets, which are sent to the tour’s rules officials. Sandra brings her own pens and supplies with her from home but always carries them on instead of checking them.
“If they got lost, I’d be fried,” she said.
Then they headed to the hotel room, where they spent the next six hours writing each player’s name, hometown and other information onto all of the sheets. They also created the scoreboards for the amateur, pro-am and junior day tournaments.
“Whenever I go to a tournament by myself, I ask, ‘How many beds are in my room?’” Sandra said. “I ask for two beds. I like to sleep in one and work on the other.”
Usually all of the lettering for the two boards takes between six and eight hours, depending on how large the field is.
“Sometimes we go to bed at 2 a.m.,” Sandra said. “It takes hours.”
Once they’ve finished the lettering and put up the signs, they can sit back and relax for a while.
“Once the tournament starts, the week basically is finished,” Suzanne said. “We just have to update.”
Each day, the scores are sent into the media center by computer as each group completes its first nine holes. Suzanne updates the media center score sheets and Sandra writes the scores on the outdoor board. If there are any mistakes, they cut out precisely sized pieces of paper and glue them onto the offending spot.
In this age of computers, the fact that someone is still paid to make beautiful lettering is part golf tradition, part practicality.
“It’s unbelievable, but it’s still the most effective way,” Suzanne said. “You couldn’t computerize this thing. If you did, it would be the most expensive thing ever. And we can write it faster than you can type it.
“It is on the computer, but you can’t see everything at once. And on the leaderboard there are only 10 names.”
Still, the Strocks recognize that this is a lost art.
“Young people aren’t doing hand-lettering anymore,” Sandra said. “We are an anachronism.”
Anachronism or not, Sandra and Suzanne are an integral piece of a high-profile world, and in their golf clothes, they look the part.
Even though she’s been around golf for 27 years, Sandra just recently started taking lessons. Even though Sandra didn’t get into golf until she was older, after helping her mom with scoreboards as a kid, Suzanne took up golf. She walked on at the University of Florida and played there for four years before graduating in 1991.
After graduating with a degree in fine arts, Suzanne started a graphic design business, Strock Designs. She serves as president, and Sandra is the vice president. When Sandra isn’t at golf events, she letters everything from invitations to signs.
“She is a master calligrapher,” Suzanne said of her mother. “She’s really mastered her craft. She does probably 15 to 20 different types of fonts.”
As an independent contractor, Sandra’s fee varies for each event. In addition to working on golf tours, Sandra has taught calligraphy at the local community college in Harrisburg, a class she made Suzanne take. And the calligraphy jobs that Sandra is hired to do vary greatly. Once Sandra was hired to write a Chinese phrase on a rock for a baby gift. Another time she lettered 4,000 popcorn buckets with kids’ names for a mail-order service.
“There were 4,000 popcorn buckets all over our house,” Suzanne said.
Not only are there odd aspects to the job, there are dangers lurking as well.
Last year, Sandra took a spill while writing on the outdoor scoreboard at the State Farm Classic in Springfield, Ill. She sprained her ankle and walked around with an ice pack on her leg for three days. When some of the tournament officials suggested she take her mother to the hospital, Suzanne would have none of it.
“My mom will never leave her scoreboard,” she said.
Suzanne is not exaggerating. During the Constellation Energy Classic, a Champions Tour event held in Baltimore, a storm tore up and damaged all the score sheets. She took them to the hotel, laid them out to dry, then ironed them flat and taped them back together before putting them back on the board the next morning.
The best part for the mother-daughter duo is traveling together.
“Being together is the best,” Sandra said. “Everything that happens we laugh, no matter what.
“I do have the best job in the world.”
“No, I do,” Suzanne said.
“No, I do,” Sandra insisted.