Volunteer Officials Are The Lifeblood Of The USGA

Each year at the U.S. Amateur, I find myself engaged with several volunteer rules officials. Typically, this happens when I elect to follow a match in progress. I approach the official for a quick update on the match, and invariably it leads to a hole or two of dialogue. And each year, I return from the Amateur reminded of the generosity of spirit these rules officials demonstrate time and time again.
Without that generosity and dedication of more than 500 rules officials, there is no USGA. Oh, there might be a U.S. Open, perhaps a Women’s Open. But there would not be 10 national amateur championships. The men and women who give of their time to conduct on-site rules at these tournaments are truly remarkable.
Take, for example, Tom Dudley, from Jacksonville, Fla. Dudley became involved with officiating in 1990 when he was challenged by a friend to take the USGA rules exam. Since then, he has officiated at nearly 100 USGA events, not including local qualifiers. He will give 60 days annually and spend $15,000 to $20,000 each year out of his own pocket, just on USGA events. If that wasn’t enough, Dudley also teaches the rules and officiates at local college and Florida State Golf Association events.
Dudley, 68, enjoys the Opens, but it is his love for amateur competitions that keeps him coming back.
“The players are happy to be there,” he told me recently, contrasting them with the typical entitled tour professional. “The days are long, and it’s a thankless job, but I love it.”
He also cites the camaraderie of being involved with the USGA, and the friendships he has formed over the years.
“I cherish those relationships. There are a lot of really good people in the game of golf,” he said.
Dudley is retired now and has a bit of time on his hands, although for most of his tenure with the USGA, he had a job in the real world.
So consider Bryan Lewis, a 50-year-old executive with Whirlpool in Michigan. He grew up playing the game and played in college, but his skills slipped after entering the workforce and he didn’t feel that he was still good enough for competition. But he liked being around tournament golf, so he got involved with the rules on a local level, where all rules officials start. An opportunity arose to join the U.S. Junior Championship Committee, and from there his USGA involvement mushroomed.
Despite having a full-time job and family, he will work three or four national championships a year. The time he invests in those events eats into the time he can play; he tells people he watches much more golf than he plays. Like so many USGA volunteers, he uses the word “love” to describe how he feels about his volunteerism.
And then there is the husband-and-wife team of Kent and Pat Newmark, from California. Their volunteerism is somewhat unique, as it has taken them to Australia, Argentina and, most recently, Turkey.
Pat grew up in a golf household but didn’t get serious about the game until she met and married Kent. She was introduced to the rules the hard way – by being on the wrong side of them. After a miscue that led to a disqualification in a club championship event, she decided to learn the rules in 1998. By 2002, she was a full-fledged USGA rules official, and now has more than 100 USGA events to her credit. In time, Kent also became a rules official, and with his wife has done extensive volunteer work with women’s amateur and collegiate golf in northern California.
The Newmarks were in Australia several years ago when they learned that the World Amateur Team Championship was to be played in Adelaide a year later. When they returned home, they inquired as how to work the rules at that tournament. They were selected and returned to Australia to do so. Subsequently, they worked the Women’s World Amateur Team Champion-ship in Argentina in 2009, and in Turkey this fall. They raised their hand to work the Copa de las Americas in Miami next month, and were quickly signed up. All of this on their own time, on their own dime.
Each spring, Pat eagerly awaits the letter from the USGA that “invites” her to specific events to work the coming season. You have to be a serious golfer to understand that, to be invited to work, at your own expense. Pat’s description? “It’s a privilege to be asked.”
These very few examples are representative of more than a thousand people at the national and local level who have equally interesting backgrounds. They freely volunteer their time without any designs on becoming a USGA executive committee member, much less the president. It’s love of the game and an abiding respect for the rules that motivates them.
So, the next time you are at the Open, at an amateur championship, or even a local qualifier, thank a rules official for his or her service. As Executive Director Mike Davis has said so many times, the USGA could not do it without them.


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