The Rules: Claire Dowling on life inside the ropes
Is there any better way to watch the Open than from inside the ropes? That was Claire Dowling’s view at Royal Troon last month. The former British strokeplay champion and Irish international, who captained GB&I’s Curtis Cup team in 2000, was a referee for all four days. Issuing rulings to the likes of Darren Clarke, she was in a privileged position. But how did she get there? Dowling reveals all…
“I was invited to join the R&A last year and sit on the rules committee. You automatically go to the Open for the time you are on the committee. There are 75 referees altogether, which is a huge amount of people.
“I refereed over the four days. On the first day, I was with Jim Herman, Fabian Gomez and Anthony Wall. The second day it was Brandt Snedeker, Paul Lawrie and Thongchai Jaidee. The third day it was Matthew Southgate and Alex Noren and, on the final day, it was Darren Clarke and Ryan Palmer.
“I had two or three decisions each day but they were relatively straight forward. Paul Lawrie had an unplayable lie in the gorse on the 11th and I had four balls go out of bounds on that hole.
“There was a temporary immovable obstruction with Darren Clarke and Alex Noren had difficulties with a ball staying at rest when he was on the Postage Stamp.”
“It was all a bit of an accident. I’d been involved in handicapping as a volunteer and I had worked at Wentworth many years ago in the competition handicap section.
“When I was asked to join the English Women’s Golf Association’s handicap committee, the chairman said to me one day ‘we need amateur members of the committee to volunteer to do rules, you are going to the Tournament Administrators & Referees’ School’. I was always interested in the rules but I’d never had the opportunity to get involved. I was delighted. I did the exam in 2010 and I was at the Open, at Royal St George’s, in 2011.
“The Open is a fantastic experience. To walk inside the ropes with players of that calibre is such a privilege. One of the things they tell you is ‘don’t become a spectator’.
“It’s not about enjoying the golf, it’s concentrating on what you are supposed to be looking for.”
How do I become a referee?
“You can attend England Golf county rules schools and start refereeing within clubs and counties. You can move through the levels. It is lovely being involved. I played for years and when I retired from international golf it was really nice to keep involved with the game.”