VCC Pro Luis To Be Rules Official For PGA Championship

August 9, 2018

At approximately 8:23 this morning, a threesome featuring Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Justin Thomas will tee it off at the 100th PGA Championship. Fans eager to see that group will be shoulder to shoulder outside the ropes at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, hoping to get a glimpse of that trio or some of golf’s other stars at the year’s final major. Meanwhile, Clark Luis will have an even better view — inside the ropes. The long-time PGA Head Professional at Valley Country Club will be serving as a rules official at the four-day tournament, marking his fourth PGA Championship in that capacity. “It’s exciting,” Luis said Wednesday via telephone from St. Louis. “I do three tournaments a year. I just got back from doing the PGA Junior Championship in Louisville, and it’s great to work with the kids. But here I’m actually in the ropes with two holes I have to oversee, and giving decisions at the very top level. It is exciting.” Luis has been on the PGA of American Rules Committee for 14 years, and is currently the chairman of the Rules Committee of the Philadelphia Section of the PGA. He officiated at his first PGA Championship in 2004 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, followed by the 2012 PGA at The Ocean Course Kiawah Island in South Carolina, and last year’s final major at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. Luis and other rules committee members must retest every four years, and score at least a 92 out of 100 to be selected to serve at tournaments. Things are even tougher on the rules committee this year, as it prepares to transition into a new set of rules in 2019. “Now we’re all getting ready for the new rules that are coming out in 2019, everything’s going to change,” Luis explained. “We have to be overseeing this tournament with the present rules, and be studying the new rules that are coming out, so it’s kind of a challenge. These are wholesale changes in the rules, and they’re going from 34 down to 24. But the rules will actually have more meat in them. They’re trying to make the rules more user-friendly.” Luis will be focusing on the current rules this week. He’ll be positioned on hole No. 7 today and Saturday, and on No. 15 Friday and Sunday at Bellerive. The two par-4 holes have little in common, but will likely prove pivotal this weekend. “The seventh hole is the shortest par-4 with a lot of bunker on it,” Luis said of the 394-yard layout. “I was scoping it out, and I saw all the players hitting driver. The fairway’s wide enough to hit a driver. “There’s a very steep slope to the left of the green that leads down to a lateral water hazard. They’re going to be hitting a short club into (the green), and I really think they’re going to do well on this hole. This is a hole that they can really try to make a birdie on.” Luis arrived in St. Louis on Tuesday, did a walkthrough at the Bellerive course, and spent Wednesday reviewing some of the toughest things a rules official has to deal with come tournament time: The TIOs. “The difficult things for us are what we call the TIOs, which are temporary immovable obstructions, which is something we don’t handle on a regular basis,” Luis said. “But we had a good class on it today and I think I’m ready. I think I’m ready to handle anything.” He had to be at last year’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, when Sergio Garcia got into some trouble on the hole Luis was stationed at. “He had hit his ball on the seventh hole at Quail Hollow. He tried for the green in two, and went into the lateral water hazard to the front of the green,” Luis recalled. “They had figured out where the ball had last crossed the margin of the hazard, but there was only a small little walkway of grass between the hazard and a bunker. If he’d have had to drop it there, it would have given him a really tough stance. So he called me up and asked me, under the rules, if you could drop it from one hazard into the other. Two club lengths would have gotten him into the bunker. I told him yes, that would be possible under the rules. “He did that, he dropped it on the wall of the bunker, and it rolled into the bunker. He knocked it about a foot from the hole and saved his par.” Luis will be ready to make that kind of call again starting this morning. “I’m stationed there with a chair on these holes, and I have to walk back and forth with any rulings on that particular hole,” he explained. “We decided that the best place to go is 20 yards past the drive zone. This way you’re close enough to get back to the drive zone, or to get up to the green, where I would anticipate more rulings would be called for.” Luis is no stranger to golf’s biggest stars. “I have a locker with my name on it here. My locker is right amongst the lockers of the great players,” he said. “We dine where the players dine. We have breakfast and lunch with them, and they’re very friendly. And then we get to see them as they walk by as they’re playing these holes. It’s really exciting to be inside the ropes to do that.” Being inside the ropes will provide a better vantage point for Luis than for the thousands of fans who will line Bellerive’s crowded fairways, greens and tees. “Today we were out there and there were huge crowds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen crowds this huge,” he said. “The golf course is compressed as compared to Quail Hollow. This golf course has massive crowds.” Luis said he won’t have to wonder when the Woods-McIlroy-Thomas foursome is coming through today. The crowd will tell him. “You can tell when they’re on their way because of the fans. You can hear the thunderous herd coming,” Luis said. “That really will be exciting. The fans will be following them all around.” Seeing golf’s biggest stars at the 100th anniversary of the PGA Championship, and being a part of the milestone celebration, is something Luis will treasure for years to come. “It’s very special to all of us since this is the 100th,” he said. “I can’t explain it.” Contact the writer: sstallone@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3596; @sstallone5 on Twitter