Call them the Four Macs.
Or call them, as Phil Mickelson might prefer, the Mac Daddy rules officials of the USGA. All four have Mac surnames – McLachlan, McGregor, McCutcheon and MacDonald – and they live and breathe the Rules of Golf.
Wherever the USGA is holding a national championship, Malcolm McLachlan, Reed McGregor, Tom McCutcheon and Gerry MacDonald are likely to be there. At times, they go to extraordinary lengths to serve the USGA as well as their local and regional golf associations.
The Four Macs are widely recognized in golf. They may not play the game as often as they once did, but they are among the most knowledgeable and influential golf officials in the world.
Malcolm McLachlan is so highly regarded that he was inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame. Reed McGregor was awarded Utah’s highly regarded Gold Club Award.
Here was McGregor’s schedule for the recent 2019 U.S. Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur, which were separated by one off-week: He flew to North Carolina for the U.S. Amateur, he worked the tournament before returning home to Utah, then he flew back to North Carolina for the Senior Amateur. Now that’s dedication
Sure, these are volunteer positions, and golfers serve without pay. But the rewards are many, and volunteer recruits are needed across the spectrum – from junior golf all the way through senior golf.
Golf needs these men to help the game run intelligently and judiciously. And, to be fair, golf also needs female officials. If any golfer is wondering how to contribute his or her skills to golf, the answer can be found with the nearest golf association.
Sure, these are volunteer positions, and golfers serve without pay. But the rewards are many, and volunteer recruits are needed across the spectrum – from junior golf all the way through senior golf. In particular, the attention given to junior golf is significant, as volunteers donate their time to promote the future growth of the game.
Whether they are certified as rules officials, or help with tournament administrative duties, or simply serve as forecaddies during competition, volunteers are needed for the smooth operation of any event.
So who are the Four Macs?
• Tom McCutcheon
McCutcheon is the great father figure of junior golf in Missouri. He has been the primary rules official for many kids, and he officiates at countless tournaments for junior and collegiate players.
The Rules of Golf are like a Bible to him and he admits this has caused some problems. “I would call (interpret) the Rules in my group, and nobody would play with me,” McCutcheon said with a smile.
That’s not true, of course. But McCutcheon is one of the genuine rules experts who continues to actively play tournament golf in his 80s. So his understanding of the Rules is largely based on everyday experience.
Please don’t call him a farmer (he doesn’t like the term) even though he owns a cattle and sheep ranch of 660 acres. He loves to travel and has a dream in which he hits golf shots on every continent, including Antarctica, which doesn’t even have a golf course. Just call it McCutcheon’s Frozen Links.
• Gerry MacDonald
Before he retired and moved to Sparks, Nev., MacDonald was an oral surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and then in a private practice in San Jose, Calif.
He is quick to note that his handicap has gone from 5.0 to 12.5 since he joined the USGA’s Senior Amateur Committee in the fall of 2005. Soon to be 75, he accepts the inconsistencies that have invaded his golf game.
As a boy, he worked all summer on a farm so he could save enough money to buy a set of golf clubs at a local thrift store. Those clubs had steel shafts wrapped with a bamboo-looking material.
“I wish I still had them,” said a nostalgic MacDonald. “They would look good on a wall.”
MacDonald doesn’t mind admitting that the U.S. Amateur is his favorite championship. “The young players are amazing,” he said. “They hit the ball farther than touring pros. We’re watching the future of golf.”
• Reed McGregor
Speaking with Utah Golf Association intern Beaux Yenchik, McGregor outlined his love affair with golf. “For me, it has never been about the game or the score,” he said. “It’s been about the beauty of the course. I have never seen an ugly golf course.”
McGregor attended Utah State University. He wanted to be a dentist, although he later changed his mind and became a chiropractor. With the encouragement of professional Bruce Summerhays and USGA regional affairs director Mark Passey, he studied the Rules of Golf and ultimately transformed himself into a rules expert.
His favorite activity, roaming a golf course, is course setup. He loves the intricacies of preparing a layout for tournament play. Out there in the middle of nature, nothing is ugly.
• Malcolm McLachlan
McLachlan’s father, George, was president of the Connecticut State Golf Association. Malcolm would have held the same position, too, if he hadn’t been picked to run all the CSGA tournaments, plus all the USGA qualifiers. He also taught the Rules of Golf up and down the East Coast.
Reflecting on the Four Macs, he joked, “We’re like a law firm – a Scottish law firm.”
Well, the Macs can be tough, but the Rules of Golf are the rules. There is no escaping the truth. “And, yes, I will admit the truth,” McLachlan said. “Officials mess up occasionally. It’s easy to panic when you’re out there in the middle of a bunch of yelling, screaming people. But we love the responsibility of being rules officials, and we’re pretty good at what we do.”
Focusing on USGA volunteers, one closing subject needs to be addressed with some depth. Volunteers at the national level, or the state or regional levels, are not reimbursed for their expenses. Even the USGA does not pay for airfare or housing during its championships.
This is different from the practice of the R&A, which has a longstanding policy of reimbursing its volunteers.
The Four Macs do not complain or even talk about this reality, but the USGA and R&A are substantially different in this regard.
Malcolm McLachlan (left), Tom McCutcheon, Reed McGregor and Gerry MacDonald. Photo: Jim Achenbach
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