Mark Reinemann has seen golf from all angles, including as a rules official at the Masters
Mark Reinemann examined golf from nearly every angle during his time on the USGA Executive Committee from 2012 to 2019. Among other duties, he chaired the Rules of Golf and Amateur Status committees. Reinemann also served as Chairman of the Greater Milwaukee Open/US Bank Championship on the PGA TOUR from 1995 to 2007.
His contributions to the game continue these days as a member of the Board of Directors at the Country Club of North Carolina, site of the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur. Reinemann, a native of Milwaukee, relocated to Pinehurst, North Carolina, and still manages to play the game he took up as a 10-year-old – one that filled many childhood summers.
As an Executive Committee member, Reinemann also had the opportunity to serve as a rules official at Augusta National during the Masters. Golfweek caught up with Reinemann recently for his unique perspective on Masters week and its many traditions as well as the upcoming USGA event at his home club. The interview appears below with light edits for brevity.
This week would have been the Masters Tournament, an event for which you have served as a rules official. How did that come to be and what, in particular, were your duties as a Masters official?
The Masters invites an international field of rules officials, and one of the groups that it invites is members of the USGA Executive Committee. On the USGA Executive Committee, there are some members who have a score on their rules exam that allows them to referee at the highest level and others don’t. The entire USGA Executive Committee is there and present and works on the golf course but there are some that are considered rules qualified that are eligible to make rulings and to referee and others that are not are part of the observer team and they will work in tandem with a rules-qualified individual. Not necessarily just with the USGA people, sometimes they get mixed in with people from the R&A or the PGA of America or Augusta National members. It’s a big group, and that’s how I got started.
That was 2012 and then I did a total of seven Masters as a referee. It was a tremendous experience.
Did you have a specific place where you were located or were you roaming? What was your perspective and what do you remember most?
The way that the Masters assigns its rules officials is by a hole or a zone. So you might be responsible, for example, for the fourth hole, or you might be responsible for the landing zone for the tee shots on 13, as an example. Because I was able to participate for seven years, I actually worked, I think, every hole except No. 3 and I think 17. I think those two holes I didn’t work. So I moved around the golf course, and when you’re there all four days, you get four different assignments for those four days.
One of the traditions of Masters week is the amateur dinner early in the week. Having attended seven those, what is the atmosphere like? How do those players face such a monumental opportunity as playing in the Masters as an amateur?
You can’t imagine how neat it is to be in attendance at that dinner. It’s relatively small, I would guess that there are fewer than 100 people in attendance. That includes the typically six amateurs. It could be more, it could be less depending on if someone has turned professional. The players, except for the mid-amateur champion, are typically quite young. I would say 18 to 22, in that range – college age. The Augusta National orchestrates the seating at two tables of six or seven or eight, and it will put one of the amateurs at a separate table. They’re seated with either Augusta National members and USGA Executive Committee people or R&A people. They’re on their best behavior. It’s shirt and tie, they’re nervous, they’re excited. The long tradition of the amateur game at Augusta National rings through that dinner. Bob Jones’ lifelong commitment to being an amateur and that spirit carries itself through that dinner.
The youngsters get a chance to say a few words and they’re nervous when they do that. There’s usually a keynote speaker, and typically the keynote speaker is someone who played the Masters as an amateur and sort of can relate to what they’re going through and tells stories about when they were an amateur. I remember Johnny Miller was the speaker a few years ago and Johnny got all choked up when he talked about it. It was very special.
The last amateur dinner I attended was 2018 and I actually sat next to the keynote speaker, Matthew Fitzpatrick. The irony of it was I had been the referee for one of Matthew’s matches at the Walker Cup in 2013 at the National Golf Links of America, and also I had spent some time with him at the U.S. Amateur in 2013 that he won. So we were able to have that conversation and also I took that opportunity because we were still finalizing it in the Rules of Golf Committee, to talk to him about green-reading books and what his opinion was of them and what should be done about them, etc., because we were still very much in the process of working that through at that time.
One other interesting anecdote that I remember distinctly from the amateur dinner is at one of these small tables of six or seven, I sat across from Dr. Condoleeza Rice and she had been on the USGA nominating committee when I was nominated to the USGA Executive Committee. So I had met her before, but now I become the nervous one having a conversation at the table.
Seated our table was Garrick Porteous who was the British Amateur champion (this was in 2014). I had refereed Garrett Porteous playing Jordan Niebrugge in the singles matches at the Walker Cup in 2013 as well. Porteous and Niebrugge were tied on the last hole of the match and they both hit their tee shots very well into this howling wind – it’s a par 5, the 18th hole – and in my opinion, they were equidistant from the hole.
I’m not sure who wanted to play first and who didn’t, so from that situation when I asked them privately what their yardages were, they were both at 231 yards and so you couldn’t distinguish the difference. So what you do then is you flip a coin. I flipped the coin and it was Niebrugge who won the flip to play first and hit a 2-iron to about 15 feet and you could just see Porteus’ shoulders slump.
So dumb me, I tell the story at our table and I’m sure Garrick was just thrilled to hear how he lost on the 18th hole of the Walker Cup match, but it was a way that he and I could relate a little bit. It’s just so many great stories like that and great young men, and it’s a very special evening.
It takes a certain type of person to want to know and study and make decisions on the Rules of Golf. What was the hook for you when it came to wanting to dive deeper into the Rules?
Probably two things. The first is I played state-level competitive golf. I tried to qualify for a few USGA championships, never made it. But it was a big part of my summers up north. You get to a point where you’re not as competitive anymore. Mine, probably in part because of age and in part because of my work responsibilities. I wanted to be part of it, and I thought that the way to be part of it is to become a rules official so I could still get into the atmosphere of a competition but in a different way. So that was kind of the desire.
But then I went to attend my first rules workshop probably 20 years ago. I scored a 76 (out of 100) on the exam and I was just mortified, because I never got a 76 on anything! I realized there was a lot more to the rules than what I knew as a player, so I was motivated to study and learn more about them. The challenge of getting a good score on the exam, but also I wanted to be part of the heat of that competition.
Pinehurst is certainly a golf mecca, but what is it that ultimately draws a Wisconsin native like yourself there later in your life, and what drew you to the Country Club of North Carolina specifically?
When you’re in Wisconsin and you get into the springtime and it’s still all brown and gray outside and you’re watching people in their shirt sleeves playing golf in the southwest or the southeast, you often feel like, “Wouldn’t it be great to be there?” If you’re in Wisconsin, you sort of think about where you want to be – either the desert southwest if you like sort of the dry heat and the southeast if you like more green.
We started to come to the southeast in the ’80s to take spring vacation golf breaks. I had a very good friend of mine who was a member at CCNC who said, “The next time you’re in Pinehurst, you need to play my club.” We did and fell in love with it and that was probably 1988 or ’89. We joined CCNC in ’99 as national members, we purchased our lot in 2000 and we built and moved here and we never varied from this is where we wanted to be when we could get here.
CCNC will be hosting the U.S. Junior in 2021. What all goes into the planning of such an event, even as far out as you are now, with roughly 14 months to go?
There are over 30 committees that are working on various aspects of the championship. Many hands makes work light is the logic. We have a number of committees responsible for everything from making sure there’s water in the ice chests on every tee to where people can park, how you shuttle people, what is the practice range setup. It’s an enormous number of details.
Yes, the USGA has a template and yes you learn from other sites that have the same championship, but every site has some unique aspects to it that requires a fair amount of work. What’s nice about it is it gets people at the club engaged in hosting the championship. It’s theirs and they feel like they have a big part of it when they’re on these committees preparing for it. So we’ve been fast at work for over a year already.
Knowing that you are a golfer, is there any competition in your future – perhaps a state senior, a run at U.S. Senior Amateur qualifying or even a club championship?
It’s pretty hard to get competitive golf out of your system. My game, probably some people say it’s still OK but it’s not as good as the players that are competing at the state level in North Carolina in my age bracket and plus, there’s a pretty big difference between 55 and 63! I’ll try to continue to win my Nassau and play in some flight of our club championship, probably the senior flight. It’s just as meaningful and it’s just as important and you get just as keyed up for it.