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  • Alistair Tait

European Tour loses vast local knowledge

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

John Paramor stood in front of 60 attendees at the Rules of Golf and Refereeing exam at St Andrews. The European Tour’s Chief Referee tried to settle the nerves of all of us sitting the exam the next day. There was a wee bit of apprehension in the room at the prospect of three hours trying to keep rule numbers in our heads and dealing with putative rules situations. Anything big John could do to reassure us was welcome.

Paramor looked out from the lectern at officials from golf associations/unions from around the world hoping to attain the 60% mark needed to pass the exam:

“You’re going to go back to your home unions and officiate at tournaments and give rulings,” he began. “You’re going to be nervous when you give your first ruling, but remember this: you’ll never have to give a ruling to Howard Clark.”

Some in the room probably had no idea who Howard Clark was, but I burst out laughing. I once watched Clark deal with a rules official at Wentworth, and never wanted to go through that experience. My 74% for passing the exam wasn’t going to stack up against the gritty Yorkshireman. I doubt Wolfgang from Hungary would have survived either: he spent the entire three hours the next day hyperventilating in the chair beside me.

Of course, Paramor (above right) had no problem dealing with Clark, or any other name player. Ditto for Andy McFee. The European Tour’s two excellent chief referees have been handing out rulings for decades, and getting it spot on Every. Single. Time.

That’s why their retirement from the European Tour after the conclusion of the BMW PGA Championship is going to leave a big hole in the Tour’s rules knowledge.

Paramor and McFee have administered the rules of the golf around the world for over 80 years between them. Paramor, 65, joined the Tour in April 1976. McFee, 62, arrived in September 1983.

They’ve been involved in some momentous rulings. Paramor was the referee who denied Seve Ballesteros relief on the 18th hole at Valderrama in the 1994 Volvo Masters. He was also the official called on to sort out Jordan Spieth in the final round of the 2017 Open Championship when the American hit his ball onto the practice ground at Royal Birkdale.

McFee had to tell Tiger Woods he’d taken a wrong drop in the 2013 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. The two-shot penalty meant Woods missed the cut. McFee had to disqualify Padraig Harrington before the final round of the 2000 Benson & Hedges International at The Belfry after it emerged the Irishman hadn’t signed his first-round scorecard. Harrington had a five-shot lead.

They are literally giants in the game, mostly working behind the scenes and making sure European Tour events go as smoothly as possible. However, now is the time to hang up their stop watches and rule books. Mark Litton, the new chief referee, has big shoes to fill. Paramor and McFee have been a formidable team:

“The great thing about Andy is that if I have a problem and I simply cannot see a way through it, I know I can ring him and he will be able to find a way,” Paramor said.

McFee was equal in his praise for Paramor.

“The word I would use about John is gravitas,” McFee said. “He has empathy with the players and he is honest and fair. When John Paramor speaks about the rules of golf, people listen.”

Unfortunately, Paramor and McFee’s voices will be heard no more in European Tour events. Equally unfortunate is most golf fans have no idea of the stature of these two men in golf’s inner circles. European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said:

“The word ‘legend’ is sometimes used too often in sport but in terms of golf, and the administration of the rules of our sport, it is the perfect word to describe both John Paramor and Andy McFee.
“They are rightly recognised for being the best in the business and have represented the European Tour with honour and distinction across the world for decades, bringing professionalism and integrity to the role not only inside the ropes, but also outside them in the important work they have undertaken with the R&A and the USGA to constantly develop and modernise golf’s rule book.”

Let’s hope they continue to help the R&A and USGA with the rules of our game. Golf needs the experience, the knowledge, of two of the greatest administrators that ever worked a golf tournament. I speak for many golf journalists when I say they always fronted up to the media, never ducked a question and were always happy to pass on their wisdom of the rules of golf. I certainly benefitted from their wisdom during my career. Enjoy your retirement guys. You will be missed.

#JustSaying: “I’ve always had three rules for playing well on tour: no push-ups, no swimming and no sex after Wednesday.” Sam Snead

Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the Association of Golf Writers

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