For Mark Russell and Slugger White, getting into the business as a PGA Tour rules official was a lot easier decision than getting out.
With some 80 years of experience between them – Sam Snead was still playing the occasional tournament when they started – Russell and White are moving toward retirement from their official titles of vice president of competitions.
Russell says he will stay on as a consultant during the transition. White plans to work about 10 or so events next year, making himself available if the need arises.
White played on the PGA Tour for parts of four years in the late 1970s, before the all-exempt tour began, only twice cracking the top 150 on the money list.
”I found out I wasn’t quite as good as I thought I was, I guess,” White said with a laugh.
For more details on his career record, look for ”Carlton” White. His father was a boxer and kept in touch over the years with one opponent who signed his correspondence ”Slugger.” That became White’s name from the time he was a day old.
White’s father was a stickler for the rules, and White thought he knew them well when he decided to join the PGA Tour.
”You think you know them and then you look for a decision and there were 1,200 decisions when I started,” White said. ”I’m smart enough to know that I’m not smart enough to know 1,200 decision. But I know where to find them.”
The toughest ruling he had to enforce was against Kevin Stadler in Las Vegas, when it was discovered a club was slightly bent on the first hole. How it got damaged – remember, this was only the first hole – remains a mystery. But the penalty was disqualification (that was one of the rules changed in the recent overhaul; now it’s a two-shot penalty).
Russell was a teaching pro at Disney who later became the golf director of the three courses and served as chairman of the Walt Disney National Team Championship. Clyde Mangum, the deputy commissioner in charge of rules and operations, offered him a job and Russell didn’t look back.
His most memorable ruling was among the more famous on the PGA Tour. Russell got word on the radio of a television clip showing Craig Stadler on his knees to play a shot from under a tree at Torrey Pines in 1987. He placed a towel under his knees to keep his pants clean from the rain-softened turf. He was guilty of building a stance.
”I knew right then he was disqualified,” Russell said. ”We were trying to figure out a way to get him out of it. But reading the rules, there was no way out. We told him in the scoring area.”
Russell also remembers the TV interview he gave. Rules officials are never on TV unless something has gone wrong.
The move toward retirement comes a few months after John Paramore and Andy McFee retired as chief referees on the European Tour. All four are close friends and have a combined total of roughly 160 years of experience.
”Forty years is hard to believe,” Russell said. ”I don’t think it will ever happen again. It would take a young guy in the right place at the right time.”
Also retiring are Dillard Pruitt and John Lillvis.
The transition on the PGA Tour means Gary Young will oversee the rules and tournaments administration, effectively the role White and Russell shared. He has appointed four officials as senior tournament directors – Steve Rintoul, John Mutch, Stephen Cox and Ken Tackett. Also, Mike Peterson, Pete Lis and Jordan Harris are moving from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA Tour as rules officials.