HARTFORD, Conn. – Knowing the Rules of Golf can often seem as difficult as trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
But Stan McFarland has rarely had such a problem for more than half a century while giving decisions locally, regionally and nationwide.
Toss in a stint as Connecticut State Golf Association president, and you have a worthy candidate in the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame Distinguished Service category.
McFarland and fellow Central Connecticut State University grad Kyle Gallo, winner of a record-tying four Connecticut Open titles and dozens of other tournaments, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the CSGA’s annual meeting Dec. 5 at Torrington Country Club.
McFarland, who turned 79 on Friday, has been a rules official with the highest certification for almost two decades and worked at every level of the game, but he’s most proud of the few penalties he has assessed.
“My goal in every case is to prevent something from happening,” said McFarland, one of the CSGA’s five assistant tournament directors. “And I can say that I’ve prevented a lot more things than I’ve ever called.”
But McFarland fondly remembers not exactly adhering to his motto in his first CSGA rules duty in 2001 at a qualifier at Blackledge Country Club in Hebron. A player hooked his ball into the woods on the second hole, and while closing in on the five-minute limit to find it, the ball was located and he tossed his hat to mark its place. Unfortunately, the hat hit the ball, and the player didn’t move it back to its original position before hitting his next shot.
“I gave him a one-stroke penalty when it should have been two,” McFarland recalled. “I’d like to think I’ve got a lot better.”
McFarland also has been a stickler about slow play.
“We’ve been way too nice,” he said.
McFarland especially took delight in what occurred at a qualifier when he and New Haven Country Club’s Bruce Guthrie, who was the official in charge, gave every player a special message on the pace of play.
“We’re going to penalize someone today, we just don’t know who it is yet,” McFarland said. “They finished in four hours.”
McFarland was born in Bar Harbor, Maine, and he and his family moved to Manchester when he was 10. He played “any sport that had a ball,” including golf with his father starting at 11 at Manchester Country Club. He wanted to caddie at the club at 10 but wasn’t big enough until a year later, when he was injured playing Little League baseball.
McFarland still lives in Manchester, where he was a member of the high school team that won two state championships and 39 consecutive matches and also excelled in amateur industrial leagues. At 19, while attending night school at the University of Hartford, he proposed becoming a club professional to his father, who asked, “Why would you want to turn something you love so much into a job?”
McFarland now says, “I thank him to this day.”
McFarland transferred to CCSU and graduated in 1982 before earning a Masters’ degree in business management and finance from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1985.
McFarland began his rules official career at Manchester Country Club and with the CSGA in the club representation program 20 years ago. He has led, taught and saved thousands of players, officials and volunteers from possible disaster for more than 50 years as a club, CSGA and United States Golf Association official. About the only phrase more common than “Fore!” has been “Ask Stan, he’ll know.”
During McFarland’s CSGA presidency in 2015-16, the organization added a director of women’s golf and increased the number of volunteers, one of his priorities. He also was chosen to serve on the USGA’s Public Links Championship Committee and officiated at five national championships. When the event was discontinued, he joined the Senior Amateur Committee and has officiated at five of those championships. He also officiated at the 2017 U.S. Four-Ball Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., and has served as lead rules official at eight NCAA Division II Women’s Golf Championships, including this year in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Meanwhile, McFarland has continued his strong play with five titles and two senior titles at Manchester Country Club. He also tied for first in the 2005 New England Super Senior Amateur Championship, has won two CSGA Senior Net Championships and made nine holes-in-one.
“Playing with Stan is a comfortable and pleasant experience, particularly listening to his tales of 60 years caddying, playing and officiating,” former CSGA president and Hall of Fame member Dick Zanini said.
One of his championship wins came at Manchester Country Club, where he is the member with the longest continuous membership, having served on both the greens committee and board of governors but never as president.
“At that time, my position at work (Pratt and Whitney Aircraft) was pretty demanding, and I felt I really had to concentrate my energies on work,” McFarland said.
Those sentiments help explain McFarland’s unflappable demeanor as a rules official. And his wife of 35 years, Linda, has encouraged him to give back to the game that he loves and has traveled to nine countries as he played and officiated at more than 1,000 courses.
“Linda says, ‘I like where this golf takes me,’ ‘’ he said with a laugh. “She has been great.”
The couple has visited faraway golf locales in Japan, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England. He had a particularly memorable round in 1993 at the famed Old Course at St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland.
“I got hooked up with two guys from Oak Tree Country Club in Edmond, Oklahoma,” McFarland said. “I drove it out there pretty good on 18 and hit a wedge shot to a foot. We were playing behind a match between the Scottish International Team and the Irish International Team, so I got a nice reception when I got to the green. The shot also saved me $30 because we were playing a skins game.”
McFarland has also been a member of the New England Golf Association Executive Committee since 2014, is currently its second vice president and will become president in 2021. Despite his multitude of activities, McFarland feels proud that he’s still trying to expand his knowledge, which is why he’s often in rules discussions with other officials at tournaments and is quick to admit he has met many rules experts who are smarter than him.
McFarland’s mantra? “It’s what you learn when you know it all that counts,” he said.