"#RulesSchool is Now in Session" is a series where you’ll get an opportunity to check out some of the things going on here at the AJGA as our Operations staff prepares for the PGA/USGA Workshop on the Rules of Golf and the USGA Rules Exam. In addition to a “behind the scenes” look at our preparations, you will also have the opportunity to reach out to us via social media to ask your own questions about the Rules of Golf.
At AJGA events, it’s easy to see the staff serving as Rules Officials all over the tournament course. You might find them helping a junior with relief options for a water hazard, answering questions about course marking, encouraging pace of play, and many other tasks. What you may not see is the Senior Rules Official supporting all of the AJGA staff Rules Officials out on the course. A Senior Rules Official is someone with a vast knowledge on the Rules of Golf that works to help the AJGA staff with any questions they might have. Having a Senior Rules Official, or “SRO” as you might hear them answer to, strengthens the AJGA’s on-site rules team, helping make it the best it possibly can be.
Last week, Morgan Seeley, a Partnership Coordinator here at the AJGA, had the opportunity to talk with one of the AJGA's Senior Rules Officials, Gary Albin. Last summer, Morgan worked as a Communications Intern on the West Coast, and worked with Gary quite a few times at events in California. Gary has a pretty interesting story of what he did before golf, and how he got into the game, and I’m excited to share with you a little of the Q&A that Morgan and Gary had… Enjoy!
How did you get into golf?
“As a marine pilot, I spent five years flying the presidential helicopter for Carter and Reagan. While in the military, I never really felt like I had enough time to play golf, and where I grew up in Idaho, there weren’t many golf courses around and it wasn’t a big sport. I started golf way to late in life to get very good, and right now I’m still right around a bogey golfer, but I am happy with that. I got into the rules of golf because I wasn’t ever going to be a very good player. This way I could get out on some good courses and watch good players that could really play.”
What made you decide to be a Senior Rules Official?
“Being a Marine Corps pilot, we always had a lot of rules that we had to follow. To be a good pilot, you had to know a lot of emergency procedures, FAA rules and all these different policies, so I was always a real straight-arrow type person and enjoyed knowing and following the rules.”
“Golf is a game that is governed by the individual player, rather than someone coming up and jumping out the trees to call a rules violation on you. You either have to call it on yourself or on your fellow competitor that you are playing. It is always nice when you can help somebody before they make a mistake and explain and teach them what they need to do to avoid penalty.”
How did you get involved with the AJGA?
“After six years with the SCGA [Southern California Golf Association], I started volunteering at other events. There was a request from the AJGA to the SCGA for an SRO that I volunteered for. The first event I worked was probably eight to 10 years ago at Mission Hills with Tommy [Tangtiphibootana]. After that, Tommy kept asking me and adding a couple other tournaments in the area, and I just got more involved with the AJGA.”
Why is it so important to stress rules at the junior level?
“You have to start somewhere and I think the junior program is the best place to do it because once they get to the collegiate or professional levels there are too many other things on their mind. There is no reason to be a great golfer and pick up a lot of penalty strokes while doing it. Plus, the philosophy of the game of golf traditionally has been to follow the rules and if you don’t start using them at an early age, how can you really feel for the tradition of golf?”
Today is the day! It’s finally the start of the PGA/USGA Workshop on the Rules of Golf. It feels a little empty in the office with all of the operations staff away at the workshop, but after talking with so many of them these last couple of weeks about their preparations and studying, I’m excited to see how everything goes. Tomorrow afternoon a few members of the communications staff are heading over to check out the workshop for ourselves. Make sure you check back here, on Twitter, and on Facebook to see some photos and other coverage of #RulesSchool.