Women and Girls’ Golf Week: Maureen Clarke on the pleasure of 40 years of volunteering and helping other players with the rules

Maureen Clarke has been a golf volunteer for almost 40 years, sharing her love of the game with new players and guiding countless golfers on the rules. Maureen is a championship referee who has been on duty at The Open as well as at national, county and local amateur events. She’s an honorary member at Sherwood Forest Golf Club and of the Nottinghamshire County Ladies’ Golf Association and she’s currently the county President. Here is her story:

Getting started

I played all sorts of sports growing up and went to a beginner course on golf back in 1968 and never looked back. I play three or four times a week and I like the competition, meeting people and enjoying the variety of golf courses, including the amazing scenery.

My best handicap was four in 1982, the same year I won the ladies’ club championship at Sherwood Forest and reached the semi-final of the county championship. My best golfing achievement was winning the LGU Challenge Bowl, both nett and gross in 2002 at Worksop GC when I played to five when I was off a 10 handicap.

How did you get interested in the rules and refereeing?
It was after my first competition which I played with my husband at Sherwood Forest. We were told we could tee off the 5th but when we got back to submit the result of our match it transpired we weren’t able to do this and we were disqualified from the event. From then on I thought it was in my best interests to know the rules and now I want to make sure others know the rules to help them enjoy their golf like I do.

When did you start refereeing?
I had been a member of the Midlands divisional committee for a number of years and in 2002 I was one of two representatives asked to go on to the England executive committee. We were asked to visit The R&A for a week to be taught more about the rules and undertake our exams. Subsequently I became the chief referee for the English Ladies’ (later Women’s) Golf Association and was responsible for things such as course set up, additional local rules and the implementation of suspension of play as well as pace of play for championships.

How much time do you spend refereeing?
As much as I want to, but nowadays I do three championships a year for England Golf as well as the Regional and Final Qualifying for The Open. I continue to support locally with county and midlands events too. An event can be anything from 2-5 days depending on the type of tournament. I referee for men, women and juniors.

Tell us about refereeing at The Open?
I refereed at The Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes in 2012 and it was a brilliant experience. In the first round I was the observer referee for Ernie Els, Darren Clarke and Zach Johnson. In the second round I had James Driscoll, Barry Lane and Garth Mulroy, I got the pleasure of Ernie again in the third round, playing with Thomas Aikenand in the final round I had John Senden and Lee Slattery.

Best refereeing moment?
Being on TV shaking hands with Darren Clarke, who was defending champion.

Worst refereeing moment?
With James Driscoll at The Open. He hit three provisional balls off the 11th tee and I was also responsible for recording his score. So he was 3,5, 7 off the tee, but thankfully the marshalls found his first ball. I then had John Paramor, the chief referee, on the radio to me stating I had to get the group back into position which, as you can imagine, didn’t go down well with them. Thankfully they did!

What do you enjoy about refereeing?
When the weather is bad I do wonder at times why I do it, but I enjoy helping players to understand the rules and use them to their best advantage to enjoy their golf.

Do you always know the answers?
No, but I do mostly and if not I can find them quickly in the Rules and Decision book.

Does anyone ever argue with you?
Rarely, but if they do I show them the rule in the book.

What do you think of the new rules?
Great! They will help with speed of play and they’re more comprehensive with the inclusion of etiquette. But more could be done to simplify them to further help players’ understanding.

Will you re-learn them and continue refereeing?
Yes, of course I will. I want to continue refereeing for as long as I can and for as long as I keep enjoying it. I am on The R&A Rules Panel and have been invited to St Andrews for the two-day new Rules of Golf Seminar in November. I’ve already booked my train tickets.

What other volunteering have you done?

I started volunteering from the early 1980’s, I have always been interested in helping the next generation enjoy golf and quickly became recognised for the support I provided to the juniors so I was asked to be the County Junior Organiser for Nottinghamshire. Throughout my time supporting the juniors I have always shared my knowledge on the rules as it is something that can seem quite daunting, but getting to know the basics from early on builds a player’s confidence.

I was invited to become ELGA Junior Area Manager for Notts, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Northants and be part of the ELGA National Junior Committee. Then in 1997/8 I was asked to be Nottinghamshire county captain. During this time I also represented ELGA on the English Schools’ and Golf Foundation committees.

It’s quite a long time when I reflect on this, but I’ve enjoyed the variety of experiences through these various roles I have completed. I wouldn’t change it at all.

Would you encourage other women to get involved?
Absolutely, golf is a sport for life, it teaches integrity, independence, team spirit and keeps you fit, even though it’s gentle exercise. Not only that there is the variety of courses to go and play where you can see an array of wildlife and enjoy fantastic company. There is something for everyone to enjoy and I would love to encourage more women not only to play golf but to referee as well.
• Inspired to follow Maureen into golf? Visit www.getintogolf.org to find free and low cost beginner activities.

Caption: Maureen on England Golf championship duty (copyright Leaderboard Photography).