AKRON—As an avalanche of paperwork descended on the caddies earlier this week at Firestone Country Club, the scene may have looked chaotic to outsiders. But Ernie Pouttu knew better.
Pouttu, president and CEO of Akron-based Harwick Standard Distribution Corp. and a longtime Bridgestone Invitational volunteer, said the process of getting caddies their registration and PGA Tour release forms, yardage books, sign-in sheets and more was very calm. That's because everyone, from the caddies to the volunteers, is so familiar with how Bridgestone works, the potentially hectic housekeeping was handled smoothly.
Since 1979, Pouttu has volunteered in different roles at the Bridgestone Invitational, which runs through Sunday, Aug. 9. This year, he is as co-chair of the Caddies Committee.
“Everything's timing,” he said. “It's checking our watch a hundred times a day, making sure we have people in their positions.”
Pouttu said he was a “casual fan” of golf when he first volunteered for the tournament, then called the NEC World Series of Golf, during its third year as a PGA Tour event. Pouttu, then 24, was a member of the Akron chapter of the United States Junior Chamber and with that organization signed up to work as a marshal at the tournament.
The job was basically crowd control, but it put Pouttu—toting “Quiet Please” signs and moving stakes to accommodate putting positions—inside the ropes, right next to the golfers.
Firestone saw an era of legends throughout the 1980s like Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus. During that time, Pouttu, who joined Harwick Standard's finance department in 1984 and has been CEO since 2007, made his way through various volunteer capacities with the tournament, primarily working with the caddies and as a marshal.
By the 1990s, he was the vice chairman of construction, overseeing the efforts of carpenters and the operation of the electronic scoreboard. He also worked in the credentials department, which made for some uncomfortably warm August days while in a jacket and tie he checked tickets.