Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Suhey
Steve Suhey’s father introduced him to the game of golf when he was 6 years old in 1956. They spent Sunday evenings looping the nearby course in central Pennsylvania. Today, Suhey continues to create lasting memories on golf courses more than 1,500 miles away from where he grew up and learned to play.
“I love the challenge of golf throughout your lifetime,” Suhey said. “It’s a game you can play your whole life, and as you grow older you face new challenges. I’ve really enjoyed that.”
In 1982, Suhey and his wife, Louise, moved to Texas. The avid amateur golfer played in competitive events across the state, including championships conducted by the Texas Golf Association. He’d always loved and appreciated the Rules of Golf, but it wasn’t until met Marty Javors that he began to get involved as a Rules official.
“In the late 1980s, I met Marty, who had been a TGA and USGA Rules official for many years,” Suhey said. “He encouraged me to get involved with the Rules, but because of my businesses and travel schedule, I could never do it. I promised Marty that when I retired I would turn my attention to the Rules and get involved as a Rules official.”
In 2016, Suhey delivered on his promise. Following his retirement as an insurance broker, he attended his first USGA/PGA Rules of Golf Workshop, took his first Rules of Golf exam and volunteered with the TGA.
“When he finally pulled the trigger he didn’t hold back at all,” Javors said. “He’s a very smart guy and learned the Rules very quickly. He loves the game and he’s been a huge help to the golf community in Texas.”
Over the years, Suhey has become one of the most dedicated TGA volunteers. In 2020, he officiated over 40 days at local and statewide men’s, women’s and junior championships.
“As a volunteer, my goal is to help the competitors play by the Rules,” Suhey said. “In order to do that, you have to ask a lot of questions to find out the exact situation and make sure the player knows what his options are.”
Suhey values the interactions he has with players, working with TGA staff and building relationships with other volunteers. His “team-first” mentality has not gone unrecognized by the TGA.
“Steve’s presence makes our championships better and our job as a staff easier,” TGA Tournament Director Ian Davis said. “It doesn’t matter what his assignment is for the day, he is the first one on site and he is the last to leave. Steve is a staunch individual and you can always count on him. He’s always available to stick around for a playoff or help with packing up the equipment when we finish.”
Golf is an ever-evolving game. It teaches lessons on and off the golf course, and Suhey has been a part of unique lessons for so many amateur golfers across the state. Sixty-four years since he touched his first club, Suhey continues to grow from the lessons of golf.
“Because of what golf has given me over the years, this is my way of giving back,” Suhey said. “I learn something at every tournament I officiate and every meeting I attend. And like the game of golf itself, you keep learning and learning and learning and it never stops throughout your life.”
The TGA extends its sincere appreciation to Steve for his efforts in making our championships a success. The work and dedication from all our volunteers allows the TGA to grow and continue to support the game we all love.
To learn more about the TGA Volunteer Program, click here.
Volunteer Spotlight: Tom and Alice Wohlgemuth
Tom and Alice Wohlgemuth committed to a life together on June 19, 1971. Since their wedding day, the Wohlgemuths have been inseparable. They do everything together.
In 1975, the couple lived just outside of St. Louis. Tom was in the restaurant business and worked many nights. He consistently had a local band called “The Par 3” come and play at his restaurant. All three members loved golf.
“We became very good friends with the drummer and his wife, and they invited us to go on a vacation with them to Florida,” Alice said. “So, he taught Tom how to play golf so they could play on our trip.”
Tom quickly fell in love with the game. He soon was spending all his off-hours playing golf, and Alice was not going to be left out of the fun.
“I told him, I am already a restaurant widow, and I will not become a golf widow,” Alice said. “So I found an instructor and took lessons. Thus, our golfing career started.”
Since then, Tom and Alice have played countless rounds together. They have traveled throughout the country on golf vacations and raised their two kids to love the game, as well. In the mid-1990s, both underwent joint replacement surgeries. Despite slowing down as players, the Wohlgemuths found a new way to stay involved.
“With my hip issue, I started to think about the time that I wouldn’t be able to play,” Tom said. “So I thought doing Rules would be the best way to stay in the game and be associated with it. I went to Rules school in Nashville and started getting involved with the Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association of St. Louis. Alice and I do everything together, so the following year she came to Rules school and got started in it also.”
Through the years, Tom and Alice have volunteered as Rules officials for three different amateur golf associations (Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association, Arizona Golf Association and the Texas Golf Association). They have worked with different tournament officials, players and golf courses. They have seen the game they love grow and develop together.
“It’s been a very rewarding experience for both of us,” Alice said. “We get to go together and we have a great time doing it. I find being a Rules official is a very honorable job and that you are responsible to help the players.”
Tom and Alice share the same mindset when it comes to the role of a Rules official. They want to protect the integrity of the game while making sure the players are the top priority. They don’t hesitate to seek help over the radio on a Ruling and they cherish the fellowship and camaraderie.
“The majority of people in golf are very friendly,” Tom said. “They’re so accepting of other people and we have built many friendships along the way.”
Today, Tom and Alice continue to volunteer with various golf associations across the country. They still play golf together, travel together and even ride a tandem bicycle together. Their dedication to each other and the game of golf has not gone unrecognized.
“I was lucky enough to learn from them during my internship with the Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association of St. Louis,” TGA Tournament Director Ian Davis said. “Tom and Alice showed me what it means to be passionate about the Rules of Golf and the game as a whole.”
The TGA extends its sincere appreciation to Tom and Alice for their efforts in making our championships a success. The work and dedication from all our volunteers allows the TGA to grow and continue to support the game we all love.
To learn more and volunteer in 2020, click here.
Winter Golf and Loose Impediments
One of the many great things about Texas is our year-round golf season. It might mean an extra layer or two of clothing, but plenty of Texans already are playing golf and posting scores. And, while playing this time of year can be wonderful, it does lead to some extra challenges we don’t face in the summer. If you play this weekend, you’ll probably encounter more objects on the ground than usual, such as fallen leaves and branches. These and other natural objects are classified by the Rules as loose impediments. Luckily, you can move loose impediments out of your way without penalty.
By definition, loose impediments are unattached natural objects like stones, loose grass, leaves, branches, pine needles, clumps of compacted soil (including aeration plugs), etc. Dead animals, worms, insects and other similar life forms that can be removed easily, and the mounds or webs they build (such as worm casts and ant hills), are also loose impediments.
However, and be careful here, such natural objects are not “loose” if they are attached or growing, solidly embedded in the ground (that is, cannot be picked out easily) or sticking to the ball. Those are not loose impediments.
Neither is loose soil, sand, dew, frost and/or water. Snow and natural ice (other than frost) are either loose impediments (meaning they can be moved) or, when on the ground, temporary water (meaning free relief is available), at your option. While sand and loose soil are not loose impediments by definition, you may remove them on the putting green.
With the new Rules that were implemented in 2019, players now are able to remove loose impediments that lie anywhere on the course without penalty, see Rule 15.1a. There previously were restrictions against moving them in a penalty area, but you may now move loose impediments that lie in any area of the course, including in a bunker or a penalty area.
While you may remove loose impediments anywhere, you should take care to not move your ball in doing so. If the removal of a loose impediment causes your ball to move, you must replace the ball on its original spot and you usually get a one-stroke penalty, see Rule 15.1b. There are exceptions to the Rule though. When your ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if you accidentally cause it to move when removing a loose impediment. Also, you can remove loose impediments by any means! Go ahead and use your towel or hat to remove any such items that may be in your way.
Another common question related to loose impediments is what happens if your ball deflects off a loose impediment while it’s in motion? If your ball in motion hits a loose impediment, you must play it as it lies with no penalty. This applies whether the loose impediment is moving or at rest and whether your ball is on the putting green or elsewhere.
In addition to loose impediments being more pervasive in the winter, it’s also the time of year when many courses undergo various maintenance projects, so you may encounter some abnormal conditions on the course.
The offseason often is a time when clubs schedule regular maintenance, such as aeration or course improvement projects. Let’s take a look at how these practices might affect play on the golf course. Any hole made by the Committee or the maintenance staff in maintaining the course (such as a hole made in removing turf or a tree stump, or laying pipelines) as well as grass cuttings, leaves and any other material piled for later removal are deemed ground under repair by definition. Therefore, you are automatically entitled to free relief, see Rule 16.1.
A Committee may also wish to define certain areas as ground under repair because of course conditions. If the Committee clarifies that an area is treated as ground under repair, you may also take free relief provided your ball does not lie in a penalty area.
Aeration holes do not fall within the meaning of a hole made by the maintenance staff, and thus are not ground under repair. Therefore, you may not repair them on the putting green (or anywhere on the golf course) or automatically take free relief from them in the general area. As such, holes can interfere with the proper playing of the game, a Committee may choose to use a Local Rule to give relief from these holes (Model Local Rule E-4). If this Local Rule is in effect, you may take free relief when your ball lies in or touches an aeration hole.
When playing golf at this time of year, or really at any time of year, there is always a chance that you will encounter loose impediments or abnormal conditions on the golf course. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to proceed in these situations under the new 2019 Rules of Golf. Continue to enjoy golf in the New Year!
For more on the Rules, click here.