Date: May 09, 2013
Author: David Cherry

A referee’s view: inside the ropes at Augusta

In order to understand why I was invited to the Masters Tournament, you need to know that I am the Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship which is a jointly sponsored event by the Augusta National Golf Club (ANGC), The R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC). The winner of this event gets an invitation to the next Masters Tournament as well as a start in the Final Qualifying for the Open Championship as does the runner up. I therefore have had the privilege of working with officials from ANGC including Fred Ridley Chairman of the ANGC Championship Committee. While I have some status as a Rules official, I am not a guru who can quote chapter and verse but having hit the ball all over the place while a player, I am conversant with the common Rules of golf and if not then I had the expertise of John Hopkins, Chairman of Golf Australia, who came with me. The ANGC Masters Tournament is unique as the only one of the four majors that is held at the same course and it has to be one of the best (if not the best) manicured in the world and many would say that it is in the top five courses in the world as a layout. There is a certain mystique about the entire event and I do not intend to reveal unnecessarily any of those facts nevertheless it goes without saying that the members of ANGC are extremely proud of their event and will do anything humanly possible to improve it in whatever way possible. ANGC Members, with their famous green jackets, are all great guys, who have their designated same (for most) job each year. As an example, one member runs the lost property and sees very little golf during the week. About 30 members act as Referees and have interesting tales to tell. There are over 1100 volunteers from all over the USA who attend each year at their own cost to act as marshals, etc, – not that marshals are very much needed as the Patrons, as they are called, are the best behaved in the world. On my second day as a Referee, I introduced myself to a marshal (who happened to be an oil executive from Louisiana) on the 14th hole, who was over the moon as after 24 years on the 14th hole, he had just been asked to be deputy marshal of the hole. There were about 20 marshals per hole, to ensure that the event ran smoothly. One marshal on the 13th had the job of watching tee shots and signalling to other marshals where the ball was likely to finish as it is a tight driving hole. He was still seeing his psychologist for therapy to help him manage the fact that two years ago, a player hit one way left into what I would call scrub (I am certain that ANGC would call them gardens) and lost his ball. He was also frequently called upon by Patrons, to point out from where Phil Mickelson had hit that amazing shot in 2011. Similar to all major tournaments, there was a meeting of all of the Referees prior to the event. One of the tasks was to introduce yourself and reveal how many Masters Tournaments you had attended. I had attended the 1988 event as a spectator so I fudged my response as 2012 being my second Masters, but I was put in my place by Dow Finsterwald who did not bother to add them up but just said since 1957 . All Referees (and it was a who s who from around the golfing world apart from myself) were given a book containing all the minutiae of the idiosyncrasies of every hole and how to manage every conceivable situation. There was a demonstration of how to manage common Rules like relief from TIOs and I was very grateful to have Andrew Langford-Jones (the Director of Tournaments, PGA Tour Australasia, only other Aussie Referee present) as a mentor to show me the way around. Behind the scenes is enormous and I will say no more on that topic. Each Referee was allocated a particular hole per day. During the first two rounds, that meant staying on a hole from 15 minutes before the first player reached it until all players had completed it about 9 hours and 6 hours for the final two rounds. I can remember seeing Colin Phillips (the then Executive Director, Australian Golf Union) refereeing the left of the 11th green near the water and thinking how lonely he would have been. I was allocated the drive on the 13th (with 2 others and we took turns of being either left or right) on the first day, the 14th hole on day 2 on my own, the 4th green on day 3 (with Andy Yamanaka a character from the JPGA) and on the final day the 9th green. Referees were instructed what to wear and to remain inconspicuous. We were supplied with radios from which we were to call for assistance from Rovers should that be required, Radio discipline was extraordinary no flippant remarks, cricket scores, political jokes nothing! As luck would have it, I had no difficult Rulings upon which I needed to adjudicate I was impressed by the knowledge and politeness of the players. Let s face it, I would be polite as well if I was wanting a Ruling but from an Aussie? Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot on 14 into a concrete stanchion holding an electrical cable. I was sitting on my chair at the green and was flagged by the marshal to get down the fairway no carts were allocated for that purpose so there was a bit of a delay. Phil knew exactly what to do but wanted my OK to cover him and therefore waited until I arrived. The ball was in amongst the Patrons and marshals had cleared an appropriate region around the ball not that they were necessary as the Patrons knew full well what to do. I spent a lot of time talking to the marshals on the 14th where I was treated well above my station. They fetched me drinks whenever I needed them it was very hot, food from the enormous tented villages at unbelievably cheap prices but there was one thing they could not do for me but I am certain that if I had asked they would have tried their best. Unless you have been to Augusta, you cannot appreciate the layout of the course as TV hides the slopes to a great extent. In any event, TV audiences rarely see the front five holes. I was on the 4th green on day 3 and that was a great experience as the pin was situated far right on a little plateau. It was playing about 190 metres with a huge penalty for missing right I don t think anyone did, and only about three players hit it anywhere near the pin (Tiger hit it to 1 metre). Henrik Stenson, like most others, had hit his tee shot near the plateau but the ball rolled left down the huge slope so he was left with at least 35 metres. His putt would still be going had it not hit the hole and gone in he walked past me saying it was an easy birdie but he knew full well that had it not hit the hole, his next shot was with a pitching wedge from about 30 metres away. My only uncomfortable potential situation arose on the final day with the final pairing. Phil Mickelson had hit his second shot onto the front of the green and the ball had rolled partway down the fairway where it somehow had come to rest. I was extremely worried that when Phil addressed the ball, it would move and I would have had to become uninconspicuous. Fortunately nothing happened so I can truthfully say that I did not stuff up. Driving down Magnolia Lane each day and being treated like royalty was an experience in itself and added to that, having the front seat to one of the iconic sporting events in the world, was truly memorable. The Rules sticker on my car meant that on the first day after a late finish, I drove back down Magnolia Lane to the intersection with Washington Freeway (5 lanes each way all on the wrong side of course and I had to turn left). No problem as a truck load of policemen saw my sticker, held up both sides of the freeway, while yours truly was escorted across into my correct lane. For anyone who gets the rare opportunity to attend the Masters Tournament, do so as it would be impossible to not enjoy it. Associate Professor David Cherry has had and continues an illustrious involvement in golf as an amateur player and as a long-serving administrator. Highlights include: Member of South Australian Interstate team 17 times; Captain/Manager of Australian team to Papua-New Guinea; Royal Adelaide GC Champion 12 times; SA State Champion 1976 & 1978; SA Golf Association President 1994-98; Australian Golf Union President 1998; Vice President of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation 8 years; Golf Australia Board Member 2007-11, South Australian Golf Industry Hall of Fame Member 2012.