Charlotte, N.C. – It’s incalculable to know how many miles Gail Rogers has logged over fairways in the United States and abroad walking as a USGA Rules official. The exorbitant figures might put a pedometer on tilt.
For the past 17 years, the Santa Cruz, Calif., resident has put aside golf outings and other activities to give back to the game as a USGA committee member. From the U.S. Women’s Open to the Curtis Cup, Rogers has worked more than 50 championships at some of the finest layouts ever created.
But as the 110th U.S. Women’s Amateur at Charlotte Country Club winds its way to crowning another national champion, Rogers’ distinguished nine-year career on the USGA Women’s Committee is sadly coming to an end.
Tears? Well, not in this heat. As she sauntered toward the finish of a third-round match late Thursday afternoon, Rogers looked ready to collapse in a pool of ice. With a cold towel wrapped around her neck and a cherry hue flushing her face from the suffocating humidity, Rogers almost was yearning to be back on the veranda of her home club, Pasatiempo Golf Club.
“I had friends e-mailing me that they were having a heat wave,” said Rogers. “It was 78 degrees. I don’t like this 105-[degree] stuff.”
To say that Rogers will be missed on the Women’s Committee is an understatement. Few volunteers among the USGA’s stable of highly qualified volunteer officials come with Rogers’ Rules knowledge. She has scored 100 on the Rules Test and thrice scored 99.
But beyond the numbers, Rogers understands the proper interaction between official and competitor. As Women’s Committee Chairman Barbara Douglas stated it’s Rogers’ ability to apply the knowledge on the course is what separates her from many officials.
“It’s making a player feel comfortable when they have an issue,” said Douglas. “Not everybody can do that. It’s so important.”
Rogers’ involvement in the game came long before she joined the USGA. She had volunteered with the Women’s Golf Association of Northern Californian as a tournament chair, Rules chair and president when former Women’s Committee member Karen Dedman took notice of her talents. She asked Rogers if she would be interested in being on the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship Committee. Rogers accepted and joined that committee in 1993.
But with the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur being a fall competition, Rogers’ first national assignment actually came at the ’93 U.S. Women’s Open at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich. That was the first year the USGA employed walking officials at the Women’s Open and since Rogers was experienced in the field, they asked her to come.
Flying over Lake Michigan on a puddle-jumper, Rogers looked at the water and wondered.
“I envisioned being in the middle of this boardwalk and they were pulling the slats away from both sides,” she said. “I said, ‘OK, it’s sink or swim.’ It was the image of what I was going to do.”
At that first Women’s Open, Rogers drew a group with a slow-playing amateur and one professional who liked to play fast. During the first round, she immediately was thrust into several rulings. In one instance, the pro had moved her ball mark to allow the amateur to putt. Because of the snail-like pace, the pro was about to replace her ball without moving back the coin. Rogers stepped in to remind the player, which drew an angry stare. The caddie eventually realized the gaffe and both individuals were thankful that Rogers had prevented a two-stroke penalty for playing a ball from the wrong position.
It was just the start of a wondrous journey that has taken Rogers to some of the world’s finest venues.
“It’s been fabulous,” she said. “The people that you get to meet … the clubs where everything is held. Where would you ever have that opportunity to cross paths with so many wonderful people except through this experience in golf?”
Much like Dedman gave Rogers the chance to take her skills nationally, Rogers has done the same with new people that come aboard. Douglas said that Rogers’ background with state and regional associations has been of great value to the Women’s Committee. Rogers also played a major role in educating committee members in better understanding the Rules.
“Her Rules knowledge is more than just being an official on the golf course,” said Douglas. “She’s come up with some very good ideas to help our committee people prepare to go to [PGA-USGA] Rules Schools and to get themselves up to speed.”
Added Rogers: “Rules has been something I have really enjoyed. I have had the opportunity to talk to people like John Morrissett, Tom Meeks, Jeff Hall and Kendra Graham. They were wonderful mentors.”
As for her greatest memory, Rogers points to the 2008 Curtis Cup Match at the historic Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. Being able to enter the clubhouse at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club will be a vivid snapshot that stays with Rogers long into her retirement from the committee. For years, The R & A didn’t allow women to enter the clubhouse, with the exception of the Queen of England. That changed with the 2007 Women’s British Open and 2008 Curtis Cup Match.
“It really made you feel like golf for women is definitely making some transitional changes that are needed,” she said. “It was exciting to be there. The [R & A] membership was wonderful. They were very pleased to have everyone there. That was very special.”
But Rogers endured a health scare in 2009 that prevented her from working any championships, including the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, which she was going to chair for a third consecutive year. When doctors diagnosed Rogers with ovarian cancer, she spent all of last year in treatment, including chemotherapy. Caught at an early stage, the disease is in remission, allowing Rogers to work events this year. She attended the Curtis Cup, Women’s Open and now the Women’s Amateur.
While she’s retiring from the Women’s Committee later this year, she is adding three key championships to her schedule the next three years. She will work the WAPL at Bandon Dunes next June, the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in Daly City, Calif., and appropriately close it out with the 2013 Senior Women’s Amateur at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif., which is not far from her Santa Cruz home.
“To give up my committee [in 2009] was very sad,” said Rogers. “The good news they are coming to Bandon Dunes and I am going to go up and see them. It will be nice to see everybody and finally say good-bye.
“It’s sort of a gradual transition.”
Rogers still plans to remain active regionally with the Northern California Golf Association, the Women’s Golf Association of Northern California and the California Women’s Amateur Championship Committee. The decreased workload will give Rogers the chance to play more golf – “I think I’ve played Pasatiempo twice a month over the last 20 years” – and explore other activities. But she also knows her departure will give someone else a chance to enjoy the same opportunity.
“I’m not [totally] going away,” said Rogers. “But there are other great people who should have this chance.”
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.