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From know­ing the Rules of Golf to be­com­ing a ref­eree is a 3-tier qual­i­fi­ca­tion process

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life -

he Rules of Golf are com­plex, yet a sur­pris­ing num­ber of South African golfers are keen to fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the minute de­tails of ev­ery one of them, and be­come rules ex­perts ca­pa­ble of of­fi­ci­at­ing at tour­na­ments: 109 del­e­gates at­tended two of the first Tour­na­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tors and Ref­er­ees Schools (TARS) to be hosted by The R&A in South Africa.

“This in­ter­est in the rules au­gurs well for the fu­ture of com­pe­ti­tion golf in South Africa,” said SAGA se­nior vice-pres­i­dent Naadir Agher­dien, one of 53 del­e­gates at Steen­berg Golf Es­tate in Cape Town in Oc­to­ber. An­other 56 del­e­gates went to Royal Jo­han­nes­burg & Kens­ing­ton the fol­low­ing week, mak­ing up a to­tal of 72 men and 37 women. Each was hop­ing to achieve the stan­dard of a tour­na­ment of­fi­cial or ref­eree in this last stage of The R&A’s three-tier qual­i­fi­ca­tion process.

The del­e­gates all sat the ref­eree’s exam, and com­ments af­ter­wards var­ied from tough and tricky to en­ter­tain­ing and fun. All agreed that the three-day event, headed up by Claire Har­gan, R&A As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Rules, was well-con­structed and in­for­ma­tive.

“We broke the ice with a prac­ti­cal de­mon­stra­tion on the first morn­ing at each venue to get ev­ery­one in the right frame of mind,” said Har­gan, “and fol­lowed with the­o­ret­i­cal ses­sions around tour­na­ment com­mit­tees and ad­min­is­tra­tion.

T“Since we like to get the exam out of the way early, that was done on the sec­ond morn­ing, be­fore we con­tin­ued with more ses­sions around pace of play, start­ing and record­ing, and sus­pen­sion of play.”

Har­gan was as­sisted by David Bon­sall, chair­man of The R&A Rules Com­mit­tee, the SAGA’s Neil Ho­mann, and R&A ref­eree Tony Rocke. For­mer Euro­pean and Sun­shine Tour pro Roger Wes­sels spoke at Steen­berg from the pro­fes­sional play­ers’ point of view, and Richard Kaplan, an­other ex­pe­ri­enced vet­eran, at Royal.

“It is im­por­tant that del­e­gates un­der­stand that the golf course is the play­ers’ of­fice,” said Har­gan. “When you en­ter their of­fice you have to take the right at­ti­tude and ap­proach. A player might be hav­ing a hor­rific day and a ref­eree should never take any­thing per­son­ally.

“Roger did an out­stand­ing job com­mu­ni­cat­ing the player’s point of view and shared some fan­tas­tic rules in­ci­dents from his years on tour. He also as­sisted in the prac­ti­cal de­mon­stra­tion where del­e­gates were given an op­por­tu­nity to give rul­ings, and the role play ses­sion.”

Agher­dien ad­mit­ted that the exam had been tough – 79 of the 109 del­e­gates achieved the pass mark of 60 per­cent – but the three days of in­for­ma­tion shared by the R&A rep­re­sen­ta­tives was ben­e­fi­cial. “I was de­lighted with the turnout. The in­ter­est in cer­ti­fied rules pro­fi­ciency is over­whelm­ingly en­cour­ag­ing.” Del­e­gates at the Steen­berg School.

Bar­bara Pes­tana, sec­re­tary of the Women’s PGA, ap­plauded Har­gan and her team. “I was re­lieved when the exam was out of the way,” said Pes­tana.

“It was tricky. You were pre­sented with sit­u­a­tions, but then they throw things in there that cause you to doubt your de­ci­sion. Not to men­tion hav­ing to do it all on the clock. That said, though, the course over­all was well pre­sented, in­for­ma­tive and ed­u­ca­tional and I en­joyed the prac­ti­cal ses­sions im­mensely. It’s great to see the­ory ap­plied in prac­tice.”

Women’s Golf SA pres­i­dent Karen Oli­vant agreed. “I qual­i­fied in 2010 when the R&A last con­ducted the Level 3 exam here,” she said. “How­ever, it is such a priv­i­lege to have the R&A in South Africa and I could not pass up the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend the TARS again. One can al­ways ex­pand your knowl­edge base of the rules. It was fan­tas­tic to see so many women in at­ten­dance. It bodes well for the de­vel­op­ment of the women’s game.”

Sun­shine Tour op­er­a­tions man­ager Dirk Cloete, a qual­i­fied Level 3 rules of­fi­cial, also re­took the exam. “At first I wasn’t go­ing to sit, but I changed my mind, be­cause it is such a good ex­pe­ri­ence,” Cloete said. “The TARS also rep­re­sented a great networking op­por­tu­nity to meet the R&A rep­re­sen­ta­tives and del­e­gates. I en­joyed talk­ing to David Bon­sall about the R&A’s long-term vi­sion to sim­plify the rules to en­cour­age more peo­ple to study them.”

Ho­mann, who ear­lier con­ducted the Level 2 process, hopes the suc­cess­ful del­e­gates will be used by golf unions to ref­eree at tour­na­ments. “Hav­ing qual­i­fied rules of­fi­cials present adds to the qual­ity of these events,” he said. – LALI STANDER

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