In January 1991, I had been working at the USGA for just a few months when I was asked to fill in at a Rules of Golf workshop in Florida for former USGA Executive Director P.J. Boatwright Jr., who was unable to make the trip.
I flew down to Boca Raton, where I met the workshop’s coordinator, Doug Brecht, who had been expecting a Hall of Famer and had been greeted by a rookie instead. Doug instantly made me comfortable, and we got through the workshop. Most importantly, I had made a friend for life.
As I learned more than two decades ago, Doug had a knack for connecting with people, which is why so many people around the golf world will miss the LPGA’s director of Rules and competition, who died Oct. 12 at age 62 due to complications from West Nile virus.
Doug was firm when he wanted to retain control over a situation, empathetic when he needed to be more engaging, funny when he sensed he could lighten the mood. No matter the situation, he could find a way to interact with people.
This is a quality that fellow Rules officials like me truly could appreciate. Any time an official is involved in a ruling, it’s generally because the player has hit a poor shot. The player is upset, and Doug did a great job of calming them and explaining the situation.
Doug was more than an official. He mentored young players, helping them adjust to the LPGA Tour and encouraging them to develop an appreciation for tournament administrators. Through his friendliness, professional manner and consistency, Doug was able to earn the respect of the players.
In addition to his role with the LPGA, Doug had a long relationship with the USGA. He worked as an official in seven U.S. Women’s Opens and one U.S. Open, and was a member of the Rules of Golf Committee, serving from 2006 to 2011 as the LPGA representative.
The Committee meets two or three times a year, and it’s important to get the viewpoint of officials who deal with professional golfers. Gained from a practical application of the Rules on a week-to-week basis, Doug’s experience offered a useful perspective to the other members of the committee. We had some long conversations about many topics.
Doug’s insight was valuable, and his feedback has helped us to make sure that the Rules are working properly for the best women players in the world.
His knowledge of the women’s game also was a tremendous resource as we were preparing for the U.S. Women’s Open. He was always willing to assist in whatever way possible, and the presence of Doug and other LPGA officials helped us to better conduct the championship and improve rapport with the competitors.
The golf world already misses Doug, but the USGA family won’t feel the full impact of his absence until the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.
Our thoughts are with Doug’s family and the LPGA as they deal with the loss of a great man, a Rules expert, and a protector of the game that we all love.
Jeff Hall is the USGA’s managing director, Rules of Golf, Competitions and Amateur Status.