Gordon on Golf

Rules officials wanted!

(Chuck Russell/ Golf Canada)

Among the scant few awards in my office is one that dates back to when I was coaching my daughter’s rep basketball team. This prized ornament features a basketball and a hoop encircled by wreath of leaves of some description.

The inscription reads: “John Gordon. Ontario Basketball Association. King of Technicals.”

It was given to me in jest by my team. Great bunch of girls. Talent, in addition to a sense of humour. Despite my best efforts, they won provincial gold in their division that season.

But their underlying message was clear. I knew (or I thought I knew) the rule book better than some of the referees and didn’t fail to take any opportunity to point out their shortcomings. With the expected result: Yet another technical foul, coach.

So it may seem counter-intuitive that I am studying hard to achieve Level 3 in the Rules of Golf certification this winter through Golf Ontario.

I successfully completed Levels 1 and 2 a couple of years back but, for reasons that remain unclear (OK, I got lazy), never progressed beyond that.  As I found out this summer while volunteering at a Future Links Championship at my home club, Midland Golf and Country Club, my situation was far from unique.

Ian Giles, who has volunteered at the provincial and national levels for more than 40 years, was a Rules official at that tournament. I’ve known Giles for many years and during one of our chats, between rulings he had to make, he asked why I hadn’t continued on in the Rules program. I didn’t have a decent answer. He said it’s not uncommon for avid golfers with an interest in Rules to go through the first two levels and then drop out.

The result is that while there currently are 587 individuals who have successfully completed Level 1 and 152 who have passed Level 2, there are only 30 certified Level 3 and 113 Level 4 officials in the entire country. (For an explanation of the four levels, click here.)

“We don’t have nearly enough officials in Ontario or across the country,” says Golf Ontario Tournament Manager Larry Longo, one of the country’s leading Rules experts. “Ideally, there would be enough to have an official at not just Golf Ontario events, but PGA of Ontario, local amateur and junior tournaments, even club invitationals and member-guests.”

Golf Ontario Rules Chairman Lee Griffin has been a volunteer Rules official since 1999 and says the rewards are plentiful.

“There’s lots of gratification,” she says. “As a Rules official, I’ve gotten to meet some fabulous people I would never have met otherwise, like people at host clubs, other officials and players.  And to see young players grow into adults who are successful not only in golf but in life is wonderful. “

Although I like to think of my desire to become an accredited Rules official as giving something back to the game, many folks (no doubt some in striped shirts reffing ball games) will see it as karma, as in the cliché, “what goes around, comes around.”

Whatever. I just hope I pass.  I’ll keep you posted.

More information about the Rules of Golf and Golf Canada’s Rules Education Program is available by clicking here.

And if you want to join me, visit  www.gao.ca or your provincial golf association’s web site.

The game needs you. Er, us, that is.