August 16, 2009

Slugger White

Being a referee in many sports means being a target. Not so in golf, says this PGA Tour rules official

*Slugger White has worked 28 years for the PGA Tour. He is VP of rules and competitions, and you can find him at tournaments, riding around in a cart, maintaining law and order. *

Grillroom:__ "Slugger"?__

White: Came from my dad. I am Carlton Palmer White II. He went by "Cotton" instead. He was in the service with a professional fighter who was "Slugger." They were buddies. I became "Slugger" when I was two or three days old.

How long did you play on tour?

From 1976 through '79. Made maybe $40,000 in four years. When I left the tour, they were looking for ex-players to join the field staff. Here I am.

Watching other sports, do you identify with officials?

I look at how they're treated, and I know a few. Joe West, who's been in baseball a long time, is a friend. Coaches and players tend to be condescending to referees and umpires, but we don't have that. Rules are there to help, and so are we. It's a different landscape. Athletes in other sports are looking for an edge. And in golf, guys will penalize themselves with nobody else near them. Plus, we're fortunate not having to make snap decisions. We can talk with a player, put him on hold and talk again after the round.

Which doesn't mean you don't have discussions.

Correct. For instance, we had that incident at Firestone CC in 2006 when Tiger Woods' shot to No. 9 hit a cartpath and landed on the clubhouse roof. He got a free drop because the clubhouse wasn't O.B. Some guys felt Tiger got a favorable ruling because he was Tiger. Gary Hallberg got it up and down from a rooftop years ago at the Bob Hope.

One issue that doesn't go away on tour is pace of play.

You hear some guys say it's too slow, and the only way to speed it up is by penalizing strokes. But I don't believe you should affect a man's livelihood with a stopwatch. Also, I don't feel play is as slow as some people think. We've had 4½- hour rounds for 30 years.

Downside of the job?

Besides being away from family so much? Few. Players are great. I haven't sworn at one or been sworn at in 28 years. But the weather? First thing I do in the morning is look out the window. Weather has its own rules.