A Midland PGA professional is facing a Tiger, several alligators and a worldwide television audience of millions as he makes his debut as a referee in a major championship this week.
Rob Simpson, general manager at Kedleston Park Golf Club near Derby, is among the rules officials for this week’s USPGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
The 45-year-old has been selected to represent the PGA Rules Panel along with PGA tournament director Ben Groutage, at the famous South Carolina resort, host to the 1991 Ryder Cup.
While the number of alligators lurking in the ponds interspersed throughout the island have captured media headlines, it is the prospect of refereeing the likes of Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson and Luke Donald which has given Simpson a few butterflies.
“At the moment I feel okay about it,” he said. “But when you see the enormity of the championship, it’s hard not to have a few nerves.
“In golf every time you go to a ruling you just don’t know what you are going to find. It could be anything but in this instance there will be TV cameras, thousands of spectators and millions watching so there is a bit more pressure.”
Simpson became fascinated by the rules after taking a PGA course in tournament set up but it has also proved useful in day-to-day operations at Kedleston Park, the regional venue for The Lombard Challenge qualifier last week.
“When I was a director of golf at my previous club I did a course on tournament set up with the PGA which included the rules,” he recalled. “I found it interesting, did a follow up course, did well in exams and was invited to start shadowing some tournaments and fell into it that way.
“But the more you get into rules the more fascinating they become. Nigel Cleaver, the club chairman, and the club have been very supportive and I’ve actually found that refereeing has helped me in my job here.
“Being involved in tournaments, and with the PGA tournament staff, you learn all the time, which stands you in good stead whether it’s at a monthly medal or the USPGA Championship.”
Like most referees, Simpson has a few tales to tell including recently at a PGA Europro Tour in Ireland when he was asked by a player if he could move a live worm that was by his ball in a bunker.
“The answer was ‘no’,” he explained. “It’s deemed a loose impediment so he couldn’t move it, although there is a rules decision about a dead snake which you are allowed to move.”
To date Simpson has refereed a number of high profile events such as the Ladies British Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, the British Masters at The Belfry and the All-Star Cup at Celtic Manor butKiawahIslandwill mark the most prestigious.
However, an equally important date awaits him on his return from America when he heads back from Heathrow to oversee the PGA Midland Masters, which is preceded by a pro-am the previous day, takes place at Kedleston Park on 15 August.
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