WORCESTER, Mass – You might say that Gary Young is officially in love with golf.
That’s because the 57-year-old resident of Millbury, Mass., is the head rules official for the PGA Tour.
“I love my job. I love what I do,” he said.
Two weeks ago, he was promoted from PGA Tour vice president of rules, competitions and administration to senior vice president of rules, competitions and administration.
In his role, he works 25 PGA Tour events a year and serves as chief referee in about 12 of them. Young also oversees the five members of the management team of the rules committee. He reports to Tyler Dennis, PGA Tour president and chief of operations.
Young became vice president at the beginning of 2021 after the retirements of veteran PGA Tour rules officials Mark Russell and Slugger White. Those two used to make all the decisions about enforcing the rules and weather or darkness delays, but Young decided to share those responsibilities at various tournaments with the five members of the management committee.
Young had to deal with weather delays and 5-1/2 hour rounds last week when he served as chief referee at The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
TPC Sawgrass is a difficult course so rounds last longer than at other PGA Tour venues and it’s difficult to fit them all in with the limited amount of sunlight in March.
“When you figure it all out, 132 players fit perfectly at that time of year in that week,” Young said. “When we go with 144 we know we’re satisfying more members who are now getting a chance to play, but realistically we know we can’t possibly finish and we’ll have to finish up on Saturday morning, make the cut and go off two tees in threes and then we should be back on track in order to do our one-tee start in pairs on Sunday.”
Umpires in baseball or referees in football and basketball aren’t typically interviewed on national television, but the chief referee in golf often is. After the second round of The PLAYERS was called off for the day due to rain, Mike Tirico interviewed Young live on Golf Channel to explain when play would resume.
Young is often interviewed on network television and in the media room at tournaments.
“It’s a function of the sport,” Young said. “A lot of times people are interested in learning more if there’s a rules scenario and they want a deeper explanation. So sometimes television will ask me to come on air and describe in more detail what we’re dealing with.”
Young is unflappable, unassuming and easy going. So he handles himself well during interviews on television with golf fans from around the world watching.
“I’ll be honest with you, I try not to think about it,” he said. “I’ve never had any formal media training. I was blessed with having a boss in Mark Russell who was just always calm and a lot of poise under pressure and I’ve watched how he handled the media and how he handled those situations. He never seemed to get too far ahead of himself and he was always calm. So I’ve tried to follow that same mold.”
After Young appears on TV, he usually receives text messages from friends and family, especially his brothers Tom and Jeff. Some tell him how well he did and how proud they are. Others poke fun at him.
They sometimes even text him during his interviews or while he’s enforcing a rule during a tournament on live television. So he makes sure to keep his phone on vibrate.
“I always laugh about it,” he said. “I look at my phone after everything’s done and I laugh about all the text messages, but it’s fun.”
Young is taking a wait and see attitude about the proposal that the USGA and R&A announced on Tuesday to give competition organizers the option to use limited-flight golf balls. The proposal is intended for use only in elite competitions and would have no impact on recreational golf.
If adopted, the proposal would take effect on Jan. 1, 2026.
David Maher, president and CEO of Acushnet Company, maker of Titleist golf balls, has come out against the proposal in part because he believes golfers of all levels should be able to use the same golf balls.
Young would like more information.
“We are simply in a mode of listening to our membership,” Young said of the PGA Tour, “and other constituents, such as golf manufacturers, to hear what they all have to say. Golf is in a good place at the moment and we don’t want to have any knee jerk reactions to this issue. Now is a good time to listen to all sides that are involved and be well informed before any decisions are made.”
Meanwhile, the PGA Tour is doing its best to not allow LIV Golf to steal any of its thunder.
“I still think that ours is a superior product,” Young said, “and we just need to focus on being the best that we can be and however LIV Golf ends up, it ends up, but I can’t worry one minute about that.”
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