The Open: Ex-West End club pro Rishworth certain to rule at Carnoustie

David Rishworth, head club professional at Halifax West End for 26 years until 2011, never quite realised his childhood dream of playing in the Open Championship.

David Rishworth, former Halifax West End club pro, is a referee at the Open Championship at Carnoustie. If a player's ball comes to rest on the course's famous halfway house at the back of the 10th hole Rishworth - seen on his home course - will know what to do (Picture: Chris Stratford).

But the 61-year-old will get to walk inside the ropes this week at Carnoustie alongside the world’s top golfers after being chosen to represent the Professional Golfers’ Association as one of the event’s army of match referees.

“Each golfing body gets two to three people to go and represent them and the PGA normally send their head of tournaments and the senior tournament director, who are based at The Belfry,” said Rishworth.

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“I am one of the PGA’s rules panel and I believe I am the first one [of the panel] to be given the opportunity to referee at the Open Championship, so obviously I am delighted and honoured.”

He started his journey to the hallowed fairways of Carnoustie early in the new Millennium.

His regular refereeing domain is within the Challenge and EuroPro Tours, and on occasions the European Tour, where referees tend to have four to five holes under their surveillance and supervision.

“We all have radios and as well as rulings we report on the pace of play,” he said. “We have timesheets for how long a group should complete a hole and if they get a bit over the schedule we report to the next referee, who will have a word with the group and try and make sure they get back on schedule and in position.

“The Open is different; there are probably about 60 or 70 referees there and we all get given a game, so at Carnoustie we will walk round with the game, so we can be on call straight away if there is any need to officiate and give a ruling.

“Over the four days I should get three days of walking refereeing although possibly not on the Saturday or Sunday.

“But if you are not refereeing you will be an observer; you will go ahead of the players and report back to the referee in question if the ball is going to be in a situation where he may need to get his head round a ruling that might be needed.

“I’m not visualising myself getting a top TV game. I will probably get a very early morning game or a very late game. But they are all quality players, so it will be great just to be there and sample the atmosphere and be inside the ropes.

“I don’t think it really matters what game I get, I will just be delighted to be there and I’m looking forward to the experience of it.”

Rishworth headed north to Angus yesterday and as well as a course walk with an R&A official tomorrow “to go through certain scenarios” he and his fellow referees – who receive only reimbursement of expenses – will attend a rules briefing.

“We will be well informed about everything, so there will be no stone unturned,” he said.

Rishworth had a couple of attempts at qualifying for the Open, without success, but has been to the championship on numerous occasions since attending his first in 1974, and remarked: “Royal St George’s is the only one on the rota that I haven’t been to.”

He became a referee after seeing an advert in his local PGA magazine. “There was a referees’ school on offer and they wanted delegates to go and try their hand, so I went to the induction meeting and got really inspired by it and it went from there,” he said.

After passing two stages of strenuous exams with high marks he was invited to shadow a referee at a EuroPro event and embarked on a sideline to his career that sees him attending his third major having officiated at the US PGA of 2009 and the Women’s British Open in 2013.

“I think my first event was a EuroPro event at Waterton Park, in Wakefield,” he recalled.

“I was a bit raw, and I remember it being bad weather, and I thought, ‘is this what refereeing is about?’. I managed to get through that one and got asked again and it sort of branched out from there.

“Each year I do about eight or nine events for the PGA of Europe, one or two European Tour events and one or two Challenge Tour events, which you get invited to go and do. That mixes it up a bit.”

The rules of golf are quite complex and evolving all the time. A whole raft of changes handed down by the R&A and the USGA - including being allowed to leave the flag unattended while putting on the green - will come into play in 2019 and referees have to keep up with all the amendments.

“For the last 10 years we have probably had an exam every two years,” said Rishworth. “We go through an exam down at The Belfry and have a sort of seminar. We have got one in November to discuss all the new rules, so that will be fun, something different.

“There are some big changes due to come in next year and hopefully it will inspire one or two of the new generation to start to play the game by speeding up play.

“If we can get people playing ‘ready golf’ - if you’re ready to play, play and don’t stand around waiting for your playing partners - I think it will help make the game even more attractive.”