Garcia Ruling Helped Hyler

Feb. 6, 2010

By David Shefter, USGA

Raleigh, N.C. – It’s very rare to see Jim Hyler flustered.

But shortly after joining the USGA Executive Committee in 2004, the meticulously prepared Hyler, who assumed his new role as president of the USGA Saturday, found himself in a sticky situation, literally and figuratively.

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During the Masters Tournament, where Executive Committee members assist as on-course Rules officials, Hyler was stationed on the par-5 eighth hole, a supposedly a low-risk area. It was an extremely humid day, drizzling rain and Hyler was soaked with sweat underneath his rain suit.

The heat got turned up when Spaniard Sergio Garcia hooked his drive left of the fairway onto a road and sought relief.

“I could barely spell rules,” said Hyler. “It’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life.”

Even with his limited knowledge, Hyler recognized the player’s options, but Garcia had another opinion. In fact, Garcia could sense Hyler’s angst and tried his best to mentally intimidate him. An estimated gallery of 200 added to the tension.

An anxious Hyler grabbed his radio. “Can I have help?”

Soon backup arrived.

“I’ll never forget Andy McFee from the European Tour got right up in Sergio’s face and said, ‘What’s the problem?’” said Hyler. “Sergio, you drop [the ball] right there.’ ”

Hyler’s intuition proved to be correct, and he and McFee still laugh about the incident today.

Since that moment, Hyler’s Rules proficiency has improved exponentially. He went from scoring a 62 on the Rules Test to scoring 95 last year, making him eligible to serve as a walking Rules official at any USGA championship.

“I got close to [the required score of] 92 a couple of times, but I never could get over the hump,” said Hyler, who still doesn’t consider himself a Rules expert. “Talk about competitive; it just killed me that I couldn’t get the number on the test. I’ve spent a lot of time in that Decisions [on the Rules of Golf] book. I didn’t get excited [about the 95] until [USGA Director of Rules Education] Genger [Fahleson] called me and said it’s official.”

One perk of being the USGA president is walking with the final group at the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open. Last year as a vice president, Hyler had the honor of being with the penultimate group at both championships.

But even so, he always knows there’s an expert within an earshot to assist.

“That’s a lot of fun,” he said. “But I can always call for help.”

David Shefter is a USGA staff writer within the communications department. E-mail him with questions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.

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