By Kelly Neely, Sr. Director, Handicapping & Course Rating
In these modern times when it seems as if the universe is conspiring to separate us (unless we’re flying coach), we can take great solace in the many things that stick together (unless we’re flying coach).
Often, the amiable alliances I’m referring to fall under the category of “more than the sum of their parts” and embody Perfect Pairings. My fave short list, in no particular order, consists of the following:
Jack and Arnie
handicapping and course rating
a dog and another dog (sorry, cats)
peanut butter and jelly
bacon and eggs (bacon and anything)
Pete and Terry
The Rules of Golf equivalent of mac-and-cheese (the really good gourmet kind, not the boxed kind), seasoned OGA Senior Rules Officials Pete Scholz and Terry McEvilly serve up the Rules both on the course officiating competitions and off the course authoring their popular Rule of the Month feature. They also skillfully tackle most Rules questions that come into the OGA office. In addition to their extensive work for the OGA, we can add officiating at USGA and NCAA National Championships to their remarkable resumes.
Tried-and-true and indispensable, Pete and Terry have likely seen and heard it all during their storied careers as nationally respected authorities on the Rules. And because they are all-around good guys, they graciously agreed to a grilling (there may have been slight unease that a refusal would lower their handicaps).
According to our records, you’ve been involved with the OGA since 2007. While I’m grateful for your service all these years, I’m also wondering: who twisted your arms?
Terry: The odd thing is that Don Kowitz, who was the chief of OGA Rules when Pete and I both started, had a strong influence on both of us, but in different ways. Don called a penalty on me in the 1999 OGA Net Championship and Trysting Tree and went to great lengths to patiently answer my questions after the round. He also gave me a 10-minute tongue lashing after a round during an autumn event in 2007 at Oregon State, my first year volunteering as a Rules Official for the OGA. He didn’t chew me out at dinner that night because he wanted to put me down, but because he saw some potential in me as an official that I didn’t see in myself. We became great friends from that moment forward.
Pete: I got interested in the Rules after reading a newspaper article about Don Kowitz. It sounded like something I might enjoy doing. It took me a few months to find the right material to study as I knew nothing of the OGA or USGA. I took me about 2 ½ years of study before I took my first USGA/PGA workshop and exam in 2008, but I began volunteering for the OGA in 2007 as a spotter. Because it was becoming known I was interested in the Rules, I was given a Rules ride-along for a day with an official at a tournament, and much to my surprise, the official was Don. I ended up enjoying every minute of it. A year later, I met Craig Winter (who is currently the USGA’s Senior Director of Rules of Golf and Amateur Status), who worked for the OGA at the time. We ended up growing up with the Rules together and would spend hours on the phone hashing over Rules. Both Terry and I are very proud to have him as a friend and someone we can call when stuck on a ruling.
Terry: And it would be a serious omission on my part if I didn’t mention Pete as a strong influence on me. In fact, I think we both have strengths that the other doesn’t have and, be it in teaching a Rules workshop together or working a tournament together, we’ve both helped each other grow.
How did you go from merely being interested in the Rules to both being respected as top referees?
Terry: This is really more of a question for Pete. His brain is wired in such a way that he has an amazing ability to really analyze a Rule from both the practical level and on a much higher plane of theoretical analysis. Pete’s ability is so highly respected that the USGA used him to weigh in on tons of drafts about proposed major changes to the Rules before they were adopted in 2019.
Pete: There is only one way to get to a high level of Rules knowledge. And that is read, read and re-read, all while working hard to memorize the Rules’ numbers, understanding all the clarifications and even the Rules themselves. But just knowing the Rules isn’t enough because what happens on the course doesn’t always happen that way in the Rule Book. You have to be able to combine the two to really bring the Rules to life.
What’s the most impactful change in the rules you’ve experienced over the years?
Pete: The most impactful change in the Rules were all the changes that occurred in 2019 – specifically, simplifying the dropping procedure. Before 2019, it was messy and often required the player to drop several times before the ball was properly in play. The new procedures made it less complicated for the player. The goal of a referee is to prevent as many penalties as possible and to help the player get a ball back into play as quickly as possible. The other changes in the 2019 Rules helped make the Rules more golfer friendly, easier to understand, a bit fairer and ultimately helped to speed up the pace of play. And I think you will see the R&A and USGA stay on that path as the Rules continue to evolve in coming years.
What is the most difficult or strangest ruling you’ve had to give on the course?
Pete: The most difficult ruling is when we must tell a player that because they didn't announce a second ball as a provisional, the second ball is in play under stroke and distance. And I have lost sleep over it. Many golfers don't understand the importance of this announcement. Even after a lot of other announcement deletions were made in 2019, the one for a provisional ball still stands.
Terry: For me, the oddest rulings I’ve had to make are for breaches of the Rules committed by Pete during rounds I’ve played with him. During a round at Creekside, he committed two loss of hole penalties and a couple of one-stroke penalties. Watching Pete apply the Rules while he is playing is as baffling as watching Einstein at a chalkboard struggling to find the correct answer to 2+2.
What is the most misunderstood rule?
Pete: Terry and I agree that the most misunderstood/misinterpreted/ignored/hardest to administer Rule is the advice Rule. I am not sure of the history behind this Rule, but to my knowledge, no other sport has such a Rule. Terry can give me advice all day long – that doesn't mean I have to listen or abide by it. I make my own choices on the course. Frankly, I have never asked Terry for club selection advice since my 9 iron and his driver travel the same distance. It’s a question that would make no sense to ask.
Do you recall a particular ruling that has kept you up at night?
Pete: I don't recall a particular ruling that kept me up other than the mention above about provisional balls. And once we put a ruling up to Craig and the USGA, I sleep like a baby.
Terry: If anything is going to keep me awake at night, it’s coming to the realization after the fact that I made an incorrect ruling on the course. It happens to all officials and it’s the mistakes that are made that stay with us the longest.
One last question – be honest. What do you think of the World Handicap System?
Terry: The only reason Pete even has a Handicap Index is because I pay for his handicap each year as a Christmas gift. Handicapping is not an area he spends much time thinking about. But since I am a Handicap Chairman at my club, I always have to think about handicapping and players. To me, the World Handicap System seems to be generally on the right track so far, although I don’t know what evil changes are coming in 2024. The fact that everyone in the world is generally following the same Rules of Handicapping, with a few exceptions, is somewhat of a miracle since different parts of the world had completely different systems prior to 2020. The system works, even if players fail to understand the ins and outs.
I’ll just wrap this up by pointing out how impressive it is that someone would devote oneself to the Rules of Golf AND the Rules of Handicapping so completely and live to tell the tale. And thank you for providing Pete with the gift that keeps on giving. We hope you two never retire.
Have a Rules conundrum? Send your detailed question to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be forwarded to Pete and Terry.