Most golfers don’t have a clue about the rules; they probably know that there are some but that’ll be about it.  I think I know the basics but don’t question me too closely these days, now that we’ve had yet another update and are meant to look things up on an app.  I suppose the booklets we used to get every few years were expensive to produce en masse (who remembers the sponsors?) and paper is passe (still haven’t sussed the acute accent, so what hope have I of differentiating areas, penalty or otherwise, on the course…?)

If most of us were to take the R and A rules exams, well – we wouldn’t.  They’re a lot of work, requiring reading, revision, remembering and knowing where to look when remembering isn’t enough.  Then there’s moving up the ranks from the smaller events, amateur, junior, all those things that require organising and officiating, even if the competitors scarcely notice.

It’s all virtual now, isn’t it?…

All the big amateur events, local, regional, national, international, need rules officials and so do the professional circuits, big and small.  As the events get bigger, so does the pressure but if you were a rules official at The Open, for instance, or the Ryder Cup or any big event, if you felt yourself floundering, intimidated by the player, flummoxed by the complexity of the situation, overwhelmed by the occasion and the television cameras, you knew you could relax, breathe, reactivate the brain cell, because there was no need to panic.  You were not alone.

Whenever John Paramor, who has died, far too early, at the age of 67,  was on hand, all was well.  You knew you were backed up by the best, the undisputed world No 1, a giant of the game in every sense.

At least one regular reader of this blog (many thanks for your support) will not have a clue who John was and will have missed the marking of his retirement a couple of years ago.  Sadly, the dreaded cancer buggered up the rest of his life and he and his family and friends had known for some time that he was not going to do.  I sent him a WhatsApp message on St Patrick’s Day a year ago and he, ever the gentleman, replied the next day.

“….Thank you very much for your message…Hope both you and Maureen are well….I am not quite at my best and sadly will not be improving that much in the foreseeable future either but it’s lucky as I have probably lived two lifetimes in one!…Take care and hopefully will get a chance to see you one of these days…JP.”

That was not to be and Mo and I send our condolences to his family and  his many other friends worldwide.  JP was that rare being:  a person respected for his knowledge and expertise but above all loved for his kindness and generosity of spirit, as Alistair Tait put it in his lovely tribute on alistairtaitgolf.com.

Looking back, it’s ridiculous how kind the greatest rules guru of his day was to a plonker who needed clarification and happened to have his contact details.

I remember losing my ball marker, a pale green plastic thing that should never have been allowed to reach any golfer’s pocket, on a green in bright sunshine (it was, amazingly enough, in the UK);  you had five minutes to look for your ball in those days, so I suppose a lost marker was the equivalent of a lost ball and it took a heckuva long time to pace up and down the green looking for the suddenly invisible marker….”It was about here…..it must be here somewhere….what happens if we don’t find it?….”

I remember Woosie at a World Cup picking up his ball and forgetting to put his marker down because he was desperate to get to the loo…but losing the marker altogether?…

I contacted John later to ask what the correct procedure was and have now completely forgotten what he told me!  But the very fact that he answered my query tells you all you need to know about the man.  He was a marvel.

JP (right) being honoured at the AGW dinner at Carnoustie in 2018 for services to golf. Roddy Williams is presenting the salver, aided and abetted by Iain Carter [Getty Images]

He spent a large part of his life on the perennial problem of pace of play and when the US Open was at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, I sent him an email entitled “Shot Clock” that included the question:  “Is it my imagination or was Jacquelin once one of your slowcoaches?”  Heaven knows what I’d witnessed on the telly but sometimes even this blog needs to know the facts.  This is the bulk of JP’s answer, on the eve of a major championship:-

“Good to hear from you.  Currently on Long Island and enjoying being back at the iconic venue of Shinnecock.  It is in great shape and hopefully should provide a great championship.  We are staying some 20 miles away and it took us 35 minutes to get to the course (25 back) by car leaving at 9.00 am.  [Traffic congestion and access to the course were major issues.]  So I don’t know where all the traffic went but am glad they were clearly somewhere else!  The only hold ups were a roundabout with road works and where police were trying to cone off the road….and with a potential departure time from the hotel at 5.00 am each day, I am hoping we don’t have any problems….famous last words.  Saw Maureen yesterday touring around in a buggy.

“Rafael [Jacquelin] might have been on the average side (not particularly slow) of speed but I think he has improved as most others have gone the other way….

“Brilliant last week with players being ready to play when it was their turn to play.  Hallelujah!  Exactly what I have been asking for every year when I send them out a timing procedure report.

“Enjoy viewing and hope to see you at Carnoustie.

“Best regards.

“JP.”

No wonder we all loved him.

 

John wasn’t that sort of referee: I gave this badge to Dai….