A Knack for Uncommon Common Sense
Pete Scholz has quietly become one of the finest Rules officials in the region
by Ron Bellamy
Five days a week, a Springfield, Ore. freight truck driver named Pete Scholz stops by a local Starbucks to spend an hour reading a book.
And each day, it’s the same book: The Rules of Golf.
That diligent study over the past decade has enabled Scholz, 56, to become one of the most highly regarded Rules officials in the state of Oregon, volunteering at events for the Oregon Golf Association, the United States Golf Association, the Oregon School Activities Association and for collegiate tournaments.
It has also well-prepared Scholz for the rigorous 100-question test that Rules officials take after workshops staged by the USGA and the PGA of America. Scholz has taken the test six times and recorded perfect scores on his last four tests, a performance considered extremely rare, if not unprecedented.
Roughly 1,500 Rules officials take the test each year; since the USGA began keeping such records in the late 1990s, fewer than one percent have recorded perfect scores.
“He is in rare air with his knowledge,” said Craig Winter, director of Rules of Golf and Amateur Status for the USGA.
Winter, who worked for the OGA as a Rules instructor and director of junior golf from 2006 through 2013 and who himself achieved perfect scores on several Rules tests before joining the USGA staff, knows Scholz well.
“I think some people have the right mind for it and he certainly does,” Winter said. “It takes a lot of time to learn the Rules. The more you nibble around the edges, outside the black and white of the Rules, and play in the gray, the more you understand how they’re connected and really the beauty of it.”
Scholz, who took up golf at age 30 and plays to a 15.4 handicap, became interested in the Rules roughly a decade ago when he read a newspaper story about the late Don Kowitz, a prominent OGA rules official who became a mentor.
“For one, it’s hard,” Scholz said. “I’m a little bit more of an analytical type of person. There are a lot of Rules that override another one, and to keep it all straight takes a certain amount of time.”
Scholz studied more than two years. In 2008 he attended a USGA/PGA Rules Workshop, scored well on the test and began volunteering. Now, he’s frequently consulted by other officials to discuss situations; with Salem Rules official Terry McEvilly he co-authors articles for the OGA website and stages workshops.
Scholz’ experience includes working U.S. Open qualifiers, the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship held at Bandon Dunes, various OSAA championships, and refereeing the final 36 holes of match play in the Oregon Amateur, an assignment that OGA Director of Tournament Operations Brent Whittaker figures appropriate for “the best Rules official in the state.”
Along the way, Scholz has studied communication skills, the better to deal with golfers in high-pressure situations. He faced one of those in May 2016 in the final round of the OSAA Boys 4A Championship at Emerald Valley Golf & Resort in Creswell.
On the 18th hole, a golfer, believing that his approach shot from 60 yards had bounced out-of-bounds behind the green, accepted the stroke-and-distance penalty and played another ball without declaring it to be a provisional shot. However, his first ball had remained inbounds, and upon discovering that – and being told by coaches from other schools that his original shot was okay – the golfer picked up his second ball.
Scholz, who had been elsewhere on the course, ruled that by failing to declare a provisional ball, the golfer had “abandoned” his first ball and then incurred another penalty stroke when he moved the second ball, which was now the ball in play. The golfer’s team finished second by a stroke.
“It was terribly unfortunate the way it all transpired,” Scholz said. “I felt the ruling was right, but it still bothers me. The way that transpired affected the outcome for that team and I don’t take that lightly. It’s why we always try to get it absolutely right.”
Ron Bellamy is the former columnist and sports editor of the Eugene Register-Guard. His golf stories can be found at ronbwriter.com.