The beginning of February presented a once-in-a-lifetime experience for myself and Dan Sabourin – we were two of 91 lucky delegates from around the world to experience this year’s R&A Tournament Administration & Rules Workshop.
Dan Sabourin, from Port Coquitlam, B.C., is a long-time Golf Canada volunteer and the current Rules Education Subcommittee Chair for Golf Canada, while I am a fairly new full-time staff member to the Rules & Competitions department at Golf Canada. Despite being separated by 40 years in age and 4,300 km across the country, we bonded as Canadian golfers and together, we took on the experience of the workshop to the fullest.
Our hosts from the R&A conducted a remarkable event with great instruction and presented their knowledge with ease to suit all delegate levels of Rules and Tournament Administration. The role-playing opportunities – accompanied by full-sized practical areas that touched upon each defined area of the golf course – were first class. The most impressive practical demonstration props were a scale-sized bunker (with a stacked turf face) and a legitimate scaffold for Temporary Immovable Obstruction (TIO) relief. The delegates were tested by The R&A staff on a real life scenario that we may face in the field during a championship.
We took part in many group discussions and covered a number of hot topics that are currently under review for the next Rules code. Learning about clubs and equipment rulings was fun and even more interesting when dissecting specific situations and case studies in small groups! Suspension of play and evacuation plans are often something to be dreaded, but The R&A team made us laugh through it by making it extremely exciting, while still focusing on the key components that make a successful evacuation.
Dan and I were treated with guest appearances from both Frank Nobilo (Golf Analyst, Golf Channel, NBC Universal) and John Paramor (Chief Referee – PGA European Tour). It was great to hear both Frank and John’s takes on the Rules of Golf – both from a past player’s point of view and from a rules perspective. I will certainly take away some key points on how to approach officiating in certain situations.
Dan and I met many of the delegates from all over the world. It was truly educational to hear delegates’ stories from Bermuda, Jordan, England, Australia and Spain. It was so interesting to discover similarities and differences in how we administer golf in our home countries and to learn what levels and programs each association has for Rules Officials.
Of course, a trip to Scotland included tackling the Old Course at St. Andrews on our last day. We clawed the teeth of the Old Course, battling high winds and rain on the last few holes, but made it out alive! What a treat it was to play golf in February in a climate similar to our winters in Ontario.
Both Dan and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have been picked to attend The R&A’s wonderful annual workshop. It was a fantastic experience and one that we will never forget. To the entire Canadian golf community, I would suggest that anyone interested should become involved with the Golf Canada family – whether as a volunteer on a committee or at a championship, or as a staff member here at Golf House – you never know what opportunities may lie ahead.