Slugger White talks about his work attire and how Tom Watson helped him become a rules official

Slugger White
Angus Murray
PGA Tour rules official Slugger White.

Are Tour players pretty ignorant of the rules in general?
I don't think they're ignorant. I think they're cautious. That's what we're out here for. If we make a mistake, the onus is on us; when they make a mistake, the onus is on them. We have guys who, in the heat of the battle, find that it's tough to [remember how to take a drop] off of cart paths. They're thinking past all that. And we understand that. So that's what we're here for, just to get 'em back into a comfortable situation and get 'em going again.

When was the last time you made a mistake?
It's been a while. Anybody who doesn't think they're going to make a mistake is mistaken. I can't think of one right now.

What about Tiger enlisting his fans to move that boulder at the 1999 Phoenix Open?
There are two decisions that cover that. That was not a mistake at all. He was well within his rights.

Do you have to go to seminars to keep up on the rules?
We do go to USGA rules workshops, but there are times when it's tough to get to those with our schedules, so last year we had the USGA come down to Ponte Vedra. They've been very helpful.

Hats have become your trademark.
It's a Panama. I have 15 or 20. I'll only wear it Thursday through Sunday. Somebody will see me on a Tuesday and ask, "Where's your hat?" I'll say, "Well, it'll be on Thursday morning. I have it in the back of the car."

You're awfully dapper.
It's not required. We just feel it makes us look a little more professional. Ties are optional, but I'd say pretty much everyone wears a long-sleeve shirt and a tie Thursday through Sunday.

You dabbled on Tour between 1975 and 1981. You had one top 10, the 1977 San Antonio Texas Open. With a name like Slugger you must've been a long hitter.
I was adequate. The name comes from a guy my father fought in the service with. When they got back stateside, they used to correspond back and forth, and the guy always signed his name Slugger, so my dad tagged that on me when I was a day old.

What would you guess your career Tour earnings were?
I would think it's about $35,000.

Thirty-two thousand, seven hundred and twenty-nine dollars.
There you go. We weren't playing for much money, and plus I didn't play that well. [Laughs.]

So that's why you became a rules official?
I was playing with Tom Watson in Atlanta one year. He hit a driver onto the eighth green at Atlanta Country Club, kind of ran it up onto the front edge. That was a driver he hit off the fairway. It was a layup shot for me. I said, 'That's quite a shot, T.' He said, 'Yeah, I thought if I could just skip it in there with the driver I might have a good shot at making three.' It was a par 5. I walked away thinking, 'And I'm trying to beat this guy?' He's hitting a driver off the deck into a little area and skipping it up to the hole. I thought, 'Maybe I need to rethink my future.'

You're 63, you've been a rules official for 31 years and you work up to 30 tournaments a year. How much longer do you think you'll be out here?
I always say that when I'm eighty-two and a half years old I'm going to go ahead and skate on out of here, but I don't know. As long as I'm healthy I don't want to leave, unless they want to throw me out. But I hope that's not the case.


 

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