AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | The first couple of days from the 2012 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club featured the strong, early surge of England’s Lee Westwood, the troubles of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the near DQ of Luke Donald plus other compelling storylines.
But overlooked, just the way he likes it, was Texas Golf Association member and Dallas’ Bent Tree Country Club head professional David Price.
While players come and go at Augusta, Price has remained, a key to running golf’s most successful and prestigious tournament as a Masters rules official.
PGA Tour events have a set of full-time rules officials to help the players play fairly and evenly and Texas TGA events use volunteers to oversee their events. The Masters, golf’s unique event, uses a very unique all-star system of rules experts and head pros from around the country and the world.
They work all week at Augusta, wearing a coat and tie, with a yellow arm band and walkie-talkie, never a cell phone, to make sure the golfers in this scenic venue have a fair result for their efforts.
“I’ve done U.S. Opens, PGA Championships, Ryder Cups, but there is nothing like The Masters,” Price said as he got ready for the 2012 tournament.
“The tradition and the beauty are really something.”
Price, 61, began his career as a rules official in 1987 after coming to Bent Tree CC in 1985, replacing the legendary Eldridge Miles, but since has worked golf’s greatest events.
In addition to this year’s Masters, his 14th, he has overseen more than 20 PGA Championships, four Ryder Cups and the Grand Slam of Golf.
“I think I’m doing my part to uphold the rules of the game and boost the integrity and honesty of golf,” said Price, who still conducts two national rules seminars a year.
Because of his national golf rules expertise, he was asked to join the golf rules all-star team at The Masters in 1989 and has been a regular most years.
He arrives early in the week and meets with more than 100 officials from the U.S. and other countries, all known for their golf rules experience.
Each morning they meet with Masters member and competition and rules chairman Fred Ridley to go over special situations or rules questions. Last week’s topics include the heavy rain on Wednesday and part of Thursday and the possibility of allowing the players to use the lift, clean and place system for their shots, which ultimately did not happen.
Then, they are given a series of rotating assignments on different holes. Price was at his 13th hole greenside spot on Thursday and said he couldn’t think of a better place to be.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to do this every year.”
As for his favorite Masters, his job is to ensure a fair competition, not to cheer for individual players, but he has a soft spot for fellow University of Texas graduate Ben Crenshaw, who won in 1995 (and also in 1984) days after burying his mentor Harvey Penick. Price was also there for Tiger Woods’ landmark victories.
“I always enjoy the week, seeing friends and watching this great tournament,” Price said from his usual pine-straw covered office, under the huge pines at Augusta National.
Another worthy player was crowned 2012 Masters champion late Sunday afternoon and given the winner’s green jacket. But the usually unnoticed TGA pro Price, wearing a blue blazer instead, carried on doing his part to continue to make The Masters one of golf’s great traditions.
Mike Booker and Peter Kirchner both won dramatic playoffs to capture the Senior and Super Senior Divisions in the Texas Golf Association’s South Senior Amateur Championship on Wednesday at The Club at Falcon Point in Katy.
Booker, of The Woodlands, started his final round within striking distance of first-round leader Owen Joyner, and ultimately defeated Joyner in a playoff after both players finished at 2-under-par 142. The playoff took place on the par-4 18th. Booker sealed the victory in the Senior Division with a two-putt par as Joyner found trouble with the pampas grass and recorded a double-bogey 6.
Kerrville’s Dennis Emerson finished alone in third place at even-par 144 after rounds of 71-73. Katy’s David Pocknall and Austin’s Mike Allen finished in a tie for fourth at 1-over 145. Emerson (2009), Pocknall (2010) and Allen (2011) each have won the Senior Division of the South Senior Amateur Championship since it began in 2009.
The Super Senior Division saw the same type of drama as Spring’s Kirchner began the day four strokes back of first-round leader Bob Smith of Houston. Kirchner, who opened with a 4-over 76 in the first round, posted four birdies, four bogeys and a double-bogey on the way to a 2-over 74 for his final round. Kirchner finished at 6-over 150.
Smith and Kirchner each recorded par on the ninth hole in the playoff. Then, playing the par-5 hole a second time, Kirchner sank a left-to-right 15-foot birdie putt to win and Smith’s birdie attempt missed on the right side.