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