As he announced his intention to call time on his legendary career, we revisit an interview with European Tour rules chief John Paramor where he discusses his famous incident with Seve Ballesteros
He’s one of the European Tour’s most familiar faces, and one of the most respected rules officials in the world.
But after four decades ensuring the game is being played as it should, John Paramor has called time on his storied career.
The 65-year-old has announced, along with fellow stalwart Andy McFee, that he will step down following the BMW Championship at Wentworth in October.
Between them, the pair have administered the rules of the game for more than 80 years. Paramor started with the European Tour in April 1976.
When the changes to the Rules of Golf were introduced in January last year, Paramor sat down for a wide-ranging interview with NCG and you can read the first part of that here.
But in this second part, he got stuck into slow play, his most memorable ruling, and whether he had ever witnessed cheating on Tour…
One of the recommendations in the new Rule Book is for players to make a stroke in 40 seconds or less. As someone who has had to give out a famous slow play penalty at Augusta to Tianlang Guan, what is your view of it on the tour?
Forty seconds is what we play on the Tour anyway. We are trying to make everyone the same and the great thing about the professional game is we do play effectively the same game as the amateurs. We play from the same Rule Book so it is good that 40 seconds is the world standard.
Some people would say that might be too long, and others might say it is not long enough.
We will see how it goes. Do I think there is a pace of play problem? I think everyone would like to play a little bit quicker.
Whenever you seem to be waiting to play a stroke, because of the people in front of you, you always think they should be going faster. That’s just nature, because you don’t like to be held up from doing what you are out there to do.
There again, I also feel extremely guilty if I have got someone waiting behind me. I don’t know if everybody else feels the same. I’d like to think they did but I am not sure, looking at some of the people I have played behind, that it is a shared value.
If I feel I am holding someone up, I will speak to my playing partners and say, ‘Come on, guys, we need to move. We are holding them up behind’ or, ‘We need to stand aside and let them through’. That rarely happens these days.
Do I think there is a pace of play problem on the tour? We have been looking at this for ages and ages. Yes, they are serious guys and they are playing for their living. That is something we never forget. We also go out of our way to produce a test which, to be honest, is not conducive to quick play at all.
We make the fairways narrower, we make the rough deeper, we make the greens firmer, and we make the greens faster.
We make the golf course as long as we possibly can and then we say, ‘We’ve done a great job’. Well, we have but each one of those (things) actually has an impact on the pace of play.
One moment we are making the golf course as testing as we possibly can and the next we are saying to players, ‘We want you to play as fast as you possibly can.’
The two don’t really go together that well. But we do realise the players have said, ‘This is what we want. We want to be chased if we are not in position. We want to play in a reasonable time schedule.’
What is the most memorable ruling you have made?
There is the one with Seve at the Volvo Masters that a lot of people know about. It was the first time the BBC had taken live pictures from a European Tour event outside the UK.
It was the last day of the 1994 season. Seve had had a couple ordinary years and, in ’94, he started coming back to a bit of form. It looked as if he might round off the year with this victory, which would have put him in second in the Order of Merit rather than third.
To everyone’s surprise, he did not birdie the 17th – the par 5 – and hit it behind a tree on 18, very close to a hole which he believed to be made by a burrowing animal.
Effectively, I didn’t. It took me a bit of time to try and have a look, to try and find some evidence to enable me to give him relief from this tree – because it was effectively from the tree than anything else.
I just couldn’t find the necessary evidence and I said, ‘I’m sorry, to me this could be dug by anything.’ Under the new rules, he would get relief.
There’s a famous anecdote where you went to put your hand down the hole…
There was another smaller hole, inside the large hole, and I put an inquisitive finger in there and he said, ‘Be careful, it might bite!’
That was tremendous in that pressurised moment with everything that was riding on it. I just cracked up. You can see my shoulders start to go because I was laughing.
It was an incredible thing to say but it didn’t change my mind.
Have you ever witnessed anyone cheat in a Tour event?
I have. I saw someone prefer his lie right in front of me and I don’t think he realised I was there, or who I was. It was on the 18th and I said, ‘Did you prefer your lie out there?’ He said, ‘No I didn’t.’ I said, ‘Have you preferred your lie on any other hole?’ He said no.
I said, ‘Are you sure you didn’t do it on the 18th?’ and he said yes.
I said, ‘Well I was standing right beside you and I saw you do it. So I think we have a problem.’
Yes he did have a problem and we did take some further action with him. I don’t think I’ve seen him again.
Click here to read part one of our interview with John Paramor.