A day in the life of a high school rules official

11 05 2011

Be honest now! If you’re a member of a golf club and you find out that there are no tee times available on Tuesday morning because the course is hosting a high school tournament, what is your first reaction?

a) Excellent! It’s great to get the youngsters out there, honing their skills in a competition!

b) Terrific! I’ve heard some of these kids can really play. Maybe I’ll come out and see what it’s like to swing without a bad back and putt without fear!

c) Oh boy. There’s gonna be pitch marks left on every green, F bombs flying through the air and garbage left all over the place. They don’t even pay full rate! What’s the manager thinking, letting these young hoodlums loose on our course?

If you answered a) or b) – congratulations! I can see your halo shining from here. Or maybe you didn’t read the question properly…

So let me tell you about the North Vancouver Island high school championships, held at Crown Isle Golf and Country Club yesterday, here in sunny Comox:

I should start by admitting that I haven’t always been a fan of Crown Isle.  The members are, shall we say, better heeled than those at the other courses in the Comox Valley, the club used to have a reputation for not being welcoming to juniors, and the gold fire hydrants dotted around the complex are, to my eye at least, in somewhat dubious taste. However, a few years ago the club changed its policy towards local schools and began to actively encourage them to send players there to practise and play at very reasonable cost. The result has been a flourishing junior programme and, I have to say, a much enhanced reputation in the local community.

So yesterday nine high school teams – 45 players in all – competed for the North Island trophy, with the top five teams qualifying for the Islands to be held at Royal Colwood in Victoria next week. The scores were as varied as the swings that went with them. A few players – ranging from Grade 8 to Grade 12 – broke par and several more failed to break 100. One of the later group managed a sextuple bogey 11 on the par 5 15th hole – and then made a hole in one on the 16th! Now there’s a story to tell his grandkids…

My own role was tournament rules official, which basically involved reminding all the players before the shotgun start of the need to play fast, follow the rules and play two balls if in any doubt as to how to proceed and not do or say anything which might upset the members. I would play the course with a group of coaches and be there at the end to resolve any potential rules disputes. We started on the tenth tee and all went well until we reached the 150 yard marker in the middle of the fifth fairway. The black and white pole had been smashed in half and bits of plastic lay all around as evidence of someone’s misdeeds. My first reaction was shock – how could anyone do such a thing? – and my second reaction was fury. Whichever kid it was – and surely there could be no doubt that a student had caused the damage – would be hanged, drawn and quartered. Oh, this is 2011 and we don’t do that anymore. Alright, they’d be DQ’d, publicly humiliated and…oh. Well, at the very least they would pay for the damage and write a letter of apology to Crown Isle.

An hour later, the players’ rounds had been completed, scorecards were being checked and the coaches were asking their teams how the 150 yard marker on #5 was looking as they had passed by. Sure enough it was only a couple of minutes before a coach made his way through the crowd, accompanied by a tall, skinny, very nervous-looking Grade 10. “I believe this is the young man you’re looking for, Mr Brooker” said the teacher. “Is it indeed?’ I replied, my voice intended to convey a threat of  terrible retribution to come. “And would you like to explain how you came to destroy a piece of Crown Isle property, after they’ve been so kind as to let us hold this event on their wonderful course?” I have to admit that I was making no attempt whatsoever to keep sarcasm out of my voice – the guilty party was going to get his just desserts.

“Well, I hit a good tee shot…”. “Yes. Get on with it.” ” And then I kind of thinned my next shot. And the ball hit the 150 yard marker. Which kind of disintegrated. I still made par though.”

So there we have it. 32 years of being a teacher and I still made the rookie mistake of assuming, well, what most middle aged golfers would assume: if there’s kids on a golf course and the golf course is damaged, then obviously it must have been a kid who did it, right? It’s a well known fact that we grown up golfers never throw clubs, never drop litter, never swear, always replace divots and repair pitch marks, correct?

So shame on me. I think the lad involved was a little embarrassed when I shook his hand so heartily in front of all the other players and he certainly retreated a step or two when it looked as though I was going to hug him. Instead, I made my way to the pro shop, told them the whole story and begged them to pass on the news to any members out on the course who might be wondering about the reconfigured 150 yard marker on #5 fairway and who were possibly making the same assumptions that I did.

Many thanks to Crown Isle for hosting the North Islands. They did a terrific job, and BC High Schools are going to be delighted with what’s on offer when the Provincial Championships come here next year. And many apologies to the youngster whose second shot on #5 hit the distance marker and set off all the kerfuffle. I’m glad you made par, I hope your team qualified for the Islands and I promise to do a bit better in the not-making-assumptions-department in future. I’m certainly old enough to know better. And as for the lad who made an 11 followed by an ace – welcome to the wonderful world of golf, young man!

All da best,

Dave B.

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6 responses

11 05 2011
Martin

As always Dave a wonderful post. It’s so refreshing to read your wonderful, subtle but very definite support of the youth of this valley. I’m afraid that I too would have jumped to the conclusions you reached. Isn’t it amazing how that happens? There are so many great kids out there and they are lucky to have you around to guide them along in any capacity.
Keep up the good work David me lad. I look forward to reading the next instalment of your super blog!

11 05 2011
Bagger Dave

Thank you, Martin. Most kids certainly are wonderful, and a lot of them are irritatingly good at golf too!

D.

12 05 2011
Glenny the Sandbagger

I agree with Martin up to the “guide them along in any capacity” comment.
I am hoping that not too many of these young hopefuls have actually witnessed their head rules official struggling over a 3 foot putt.

12 05 2011
Bagger Dave

Yes, Glenny, but you’re acquainted with the saying “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Well, those who can, putt. Those who can’t, become rules officials…
D.

12 05 2011
Admin

Great post, DB…lesson learned for me re: judging others and I can apply it to everyone in my life, not just the youngsters. Thanks for the good perspective, appreciate it.

12 05 2011
Bagger Dave

You’re welcome, Ben. Trouble is, I’ve been judging people for half a century now – and it’s a difficult habit to get out of. Oh well…

D.

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