The job of a golf tournament rules official is akin to a police officer who comes upon the scene of an accident. Unless you witnessed the infraction first hand, you're likely walking into an unknown situation armed only with the knowledge of a set of rules by which you must come to some sort of proper resolution.
In golf, that could mean adding penalty strokes to a player's score - a nerve wracking proposition when you consider that these professionals play for millions of dollars each week and that for some, even missing one cut could jeopardize their future on the PGA Tour.
With that understanding, why would anyone ever want to accept the responsibility of being a rules official.
"I was just lucky I guess," says Diane Barabe with a beaming smile, waiting with radio in hand for the call that may never come, somewhere between the sixth and eighth holes at Royal Montreal. She is one of 12 rules officials asked to lend their expertise this week at the RBC Canadian Open. She became only the second female to referee a Canadian Open championship and the first female from Quebec to work the tournament.
While she was thrilled to receive the assignment, that doesn’t mean she didn’t have doubts, like the first time she was asked to step in and make a ruling this week. A fairly safe call, she recalls - a ground under repair situation. But when the radio goes off, the anxiety level goes up a notch.
"As soon as they called, I said 'Oh my god, I hope this is an easy one'," she says with an infectious laugh. "But that's usually the anxiety that comes into play."
"I would not ever make a ruling if I wasn't 100 percent sure. And even sometimes if you are 100 percent sure, I may ask for confirmation."
Barabe is aware that even if she makes a ruling, a player can request a second opinion. It's something you have to learn not to take personally, no matter the level of competition.
"You can't,” she emphasizes. "Even the most knowledgeable person in rules will have a brain freeze from time to time. We have to get it right and if that means you need help, we call. I accept that."
"These guys are earning big bucks, but even if they weren't, even if it was at a junior tournament, you want to get it right"
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