The 37th Curtis Cup - Nairn Golf Club Trisha Wilson - Chief Referee of the Curtis Cup
As Chief Referee I arrived at Nairn on the Monday, 4 days before the matches started. These events don’t just happen, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into them and that preparation is absolutely vital in ensuring that everything runs smoothly. That’s part of a referee’s job, it’s not just about giving rulings to players.
Everything looked different from when I had visited a few weeks earlier; Portacabins had been put in place, marquees erected, Curtis Cup logos were all over the place. You could feel the excitement starting to build as more and more people arrived, as more equipment was installed on the course, and as the course reached a peak.
I had a team of 6 referees with 2 more joining us on Sunday for the singles matches; some of the referees had refereed at a Curtis Cup before but for a couple of them this was their first time. It’s not just the players who are nervous at events like this, the referees are nervous too and so Tuesday’s course walk for the referees was an opportunity to address some of those nerves.
All the referees carefully walked round each hole of the golf course together. It was my job to go through all the possible problems that could arise during the matches so that each referee was confident and clear as to what to do and what was expected. It’s important to look at the course boundaries, water hazards, any areas that may warrant marking as ground under repair, new turf seams, what the bunkers are like, any spots where ball spotters could come in handy, and so on. No point in doing this after the competition starts, that’s too late. The course walk is invaluable in focusing the referees on the task at hand and clearing up areas of confusion.
Nairn is a great course with very thick rough and gorse, which could prove quite punishing if a ball ended up in it (perhaps some unplayable balls (Rule 28)?) and of course a very large lateral water hazard – the sea - running up the side of the first 7 holes. The water hazards and out of bounds had been clearly defined (with lines and stakes) before the rules team arrived, certainly making my life easier.
This being such a big event in ladies' golf, we had some temporary immovable obstructions (known to all TIO's), such as scoreboards and grandstands, the kind of things that you would not normally find on a golf course and so the Rules have to cater for them in some way. These TIOs can be a referee’s nightmare as most of us don't encounter them very often in the clubs that we play at or events that we referee at. We therefore looked at them very carefully; working out where a player would drop if her ball landed on them, in them, in front of them, or behind them, in fact every conceivable place a ball could end up. We then resorted to putting dropping zones in to try and help with the relief situation from TIO's and take some of the pressure off the referees.
The next couple of days were filled with repeated trips round the course looking for more possible places where difficult rulings may occur and finalising the Local Rules and conditions of competition. Preparation. Preparation. Preparation. We had everything covered, hopefully.
The build-up to a Championship seems to pass by quite slowly until the actual golf starts and the Curtis Cup was no exception but then suddenly Thursday was upon us, the opening ceremony happened and the players for the first foursomes matches were announced for the following morning. I was starting to get nervous, not just for me but for my Rules team. There were going to be two referees with each game for the first two days of matches, which consisted of three foursomes in the morning and three four-balls in the afternoon, one referee walking and the other driving ahead in a buggy acting as an observer.
An "observer" is actually a term that is defined in the Rules and it is “one who is appointed by the Committee to assist a referee to decide questions of fact and to report to him any breach of a Rule.” As a referee, it’s a real luxury to have an observer, the advance warning they can give the walking referee can be invaluable – it just gives the referee a minute or two to gather her thoughts, and to check the Rules or Local Rules, if necessary.
On the Sunday the referees would be on their own walking with the 8 singles matches. No observers!
Once the matches started, it was my job to drive around watching all the games, making sure there were no problems and to be available if needed; this was quite easy when the foursomes and four-balls were going on, as I could stay close to the middle game and then would be able to move forward or back if I was needed to help with any rulings, or just keep a check on the pace of play. Not such an easy job when the singles were being played, but I found various points on the course where I could keep out of the way of the spectators but be close to the golf. I did have to ask a couple of the players to speed up once or twice, but it all ran very smoothly.
The rules incidents that arose were uncontroversial and nothing that our course review had not equipped us to handle - that’s the point of the course review. We had a couple of unplayable balls, a ball on the beach, a ball out of bounds and a player hitting herself with a ball after a shot from a bunker (one stroke penalty under Rule 19-2). No TIO's came into play but at least we were prepared. In fact, the most interesting thing was showing one of our Irish referees what a molehill looked like. She had never seen one (as well as not having any snakes in Ireland they also have no moles). We were all amazed when a mole appeared from the molehill and promptly disappeared into the long grass!
As those interested in the Rules will know…
Decision 25/23 Molehills
Molehills are casts made by a burrowing animal. Accordingly, a player having interference from a molehill, or the remains of a molehill, is entitled to relief under Rule 25-1b, provided, in the latter instance, the remains are still identifiable as a cast made by a burrowing animal.
As for the Curtis Cup itself, after all the excitement The Great Britain and Ireland team got off to a bad start, being 3-0 down in the morning foursomes and things looked pretty gloomy. Whatever they talked about over lunch must have been just the job, because they then fought hard to keep in the game. After two days of foursomes and four-balls there was only one point separating the two teams which made for a really exciting last day of play. All I can say about that is the rest is history, a really emotional and proud moment to be part of.
The next Curtis Cup is in America in two years’ time, we can't wait.