PGA Tour rules of­fi­cials do more than watch, wait

Be­fore play be­gins, job in­volves de­ter­min­ing tee and hole lo­ca­tions

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - BY AARON TOR­RES aaron.tor­res@wash­post.com

Robby Ware’s day be­gan early, as most do when he’s work­ing a PGA Tour event. He woke up at 6 a.m. He took a shower. He went to Star­bucks and or­dered a venti green tea be­cause he doesn’t like cof­fee. He ar­rived to TPC Po­tomac at Avenel Farm at 7 a.m. sharp be­fore the start of the third round of the Quicken Loans Na­tional. Af­ter break­fast, he got into his golf cart, the one with five wa­ter bot­tles, two golf balls, a put­ter, an um­brella, a yel­low back­pack and, most im­por­tantly, bug spray. Then, at 8 a.m., he drove from the PGA Tour of­fi­cials’ of­fice to the 10th tee.

“It’s a nice day,” said Ware, 58. He ar­rived to the 10th tee and pre­pared to mark the tees and the holes on the back nine for Sun­day.

Ware is a rules of­fi­cial, one of 22 em­ployed by the PGA Tour, and has been for 18 years. He se­lects hole lo­ca­tions and places tee box pins. He mon­i­tors the pace of play. He con­sults with play­ers and makes judg­ment calls on rul­ings. He is there from the mo­ment the first ball is teed off un­til the last ball drops in the hole.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween rules of­fi­cials and play­ers is only rarely marked by ten­sion. But the past year has brought some highly pub­li­cized in­ci­dents. There was the “DJ rule” in­sti­tuted at the U.S. Open last month in re­sponse to the pre­vi­ous year’s U.S. Open, where Dustin John­son was pe­nal­ized af­ter his ball moved on its own at the No. 5 green. There was the widely crit­i­cized rul­ing against Lexi Thompson at the LPGA Tour’s In­spi­ra­tion tour­na­ment this year, when Thompson was given a pair of two-stroke penal­ties af­ter hit­ting the ball from the wrong spot and sign­ing an in­cor­rect score­card — but a day later, af­ter a viewer called not­ing the in­frac­tions.

“I think the tour’s got re­ally good rules of­fi­cials,” said Rickie Fowler, the high­est-ranked player at the Quicken Loans Na­tional. “They han­dle all the sit­u­a­tions as best they can. They’re not bi­ased. They do a good job with course setup. They know we’re not per­fect. We know they’re not per­fect.”

Other than when there are con­tro­ver­sies, rules of­fi­cials are usu­ally un­no­ticed. On Satur­day at the Quicken Loans Na­tional, Ware over­saw play on the 10th, 11th and 12th holes af­ter com­plet­ing his prep work for Sun­day on the back nine. He stayed in the shade un­der the trees be­cause tem­per­a­tures over the past three days have hit the low 90s, with the heat in­dex in the up­per 90s.

Rules of­fi­cials typ­i­cally work 28 to 30 weeks out of the year. At be­gin­ning of the year, Ware will mark down which tour­na­ments he would like to work. Then his bosses or­ga­nize his sched­ule based on his pref­er­ences. Ware is in the mid­dle of a four-week stretch as an of­fi­cial. This means he will be away from his home in Hous­ton, and his wife, Janet, for 31 straight days. But this isn’t the long­est stretch he has done. Last year he did a six-week stretch.

“I don’t know how you did six weeks in a row,” fel­low rules of­fi­cial Peter Dachisen, in the mid­dle of con­sec­u­tive weeks away, said to Ware.

The two were tucked away in the shade on the 10th hole late Satur­day morn­ing, sit­ting, watch­ing and wait­ing. “This is ba­si­cally what I do,” Ware said.

Yet about three hours ear­lier it was the op­po­site. Ware carted two golf balls, a put­ter and a can of white spray paint from the 10th hole to the 18th, mea­sur­ing where to place the tees and holes for Sun­day’s round. He marked each hole lo­ca­tion with a spot of paint for the grounds crew to carve out the next morn­ing. The place­ment of each was up to him alone.

“Dif­fi­cult but fair” is how Ware de­scribed the way he chooses where to place the hole on the green. He walks around each green, look­ing for the flat­test sur­face. He places the spray paint can where he thought the hole should be, then stud­ies it from dif­fer­ent an­gles. He con­sid­ers the slope, the grass, the breaks. Some­times he places his two-way ra­dio a few feet from the can be­cause he wants to see whether one lo­ca­tion might be bet­ter. Then he putts golf balls to the paint can or the ra­dio to see how the ball rolls. He’s pretty ac­cu­rate, even when he putts with one hand.

“You should be play­ing,” a spec­ta­tor tells Ware, who re­turns a po­lite smile.

Ware played for four years at Mis­sis­sippi State, as well as in the 1996 PGA Cham­pi­onship and for the 1996 PGA Cup Team. Af­ter play­ing, he was the club pro at Deer­wood Golf Club in King­wood, Tex., for 10 years.

He re­ceived a call in 1999 telling him a PGA Tour rules of­fi­cial, the fa­ther of one of his col­lege teammates, was re­tir­ing. Ware was asked whether he wanted the job.

Eigh­teen years later he’s still go­ing, and it’s why at about 10:30 a.m., af­ter he was done plac­ing the holes and the tees for Sun­day, Ware headed out to the 10th hole to watch and wait for a call on his ra­dio. “Robby, we need you.” And that’s where he will go.

PETE MAROVICH FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

PGA Tour rules of­fi­cial Robby Ware, left, said his goal is “dif­fi­cult but fair” when he is de­cid­ing where to put the hole on the green.

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