He did not burn the midnight oil as most students do during an examination. He planned it well, sought the right guidance from the right men to come out in flying colours in the inaugural Indian Golf Union (IGU)-Royal & Ancient (R&A) National Rules School at Chandigarh earlier this year.
R. Shyam Sunder, the Golf Captain of the Coimbatore Golf Club, is now a level-2 ‘B' category rules official of the IGU. It is the first time a golfer from this part of the country has gained that rare honour. Kennenth Gonsalves of Ooty did likewise in 2004.
About 60 aspiring referees from across India attended the rules school out of which 35 were certified as rules officials. They also earned the eligibility ticket to officiate in all the national golf tournaments.
“I am happy to have emerged successful in my first appearance. I have always had a liking for golf rules. A golf rule is a separate bug as the game itself. I allowed myself to be bitten by that bug,” said the 58-year-old.
“Now that I am a rules official, it will give me an opportunity to travel across the country and watch the best of golf at close quarters,” he added.
He remembered late K. Rajagopal, the CGC founder, during the occasion. “He was responsible for our golfers to play the sport by the etiquette and its rules. It would have been nice if I had got the certification when he was around.”
Shyam thanked both Kenneth and R. Gopinath [late K. Rajagopal's son] for helping him out with the preparation for the exam.
On his dual role as the Golf Captain and the rules official, he said they complement each other.
“The respect of a golfer goes up the more he knows about the rules. The sport has 34 rules and close to 1,200 decisions under its various heads. A referee is supposed to know all of them. And, if need be he should be able to navigate the book and show the rule if called upon.”
Shyam said the country has about 60 rules officials and about 20 of them fall under this category. “But we need a lot more. It will help in understanding the game much better. In Coimbatore, most of the golfers know the basic rules but there is always a situation they need guidance from a rules official.”
“Also golf rules are not meant to penalise a player. It will only help them during a difficult situation,” he added.
He was happy for the Club and its founder. “But, I don't wish to carry myself tall around the course with the rules under my belt because you can always make a mistake. Even the best of referees can crack under pressure. So, it's always nice to be quiet and accurate. Also, ascertaining facts is always going to be difficult. Relationship skills are required to find the truth.”
Shyam is quite eager to complete the international certification next year. With a lot of travelling, will it not be a tough ask at his age? “I don't think so because golf calendars are well planned. Also, the sport has no age. As long as I am able to walk the course I will be a referee,” he said.