(Scottsdale, Ariz.) June 7, 2010 — The Southwest Section PGA announced today at its annual meeting that George Boutell, 66, has been named the recipient of the 2009 Anser Award. The prestigious honor, since 1991, has honored an individual “…whose positive efforts influenced the history of golf in Arizona.”
The award was established in 1990 by the Southwest Section PGA, in honor of Karsten Solheim, and named after his famous PING Anser putter.
“I’m honored to be in the company of previous Anser winners,” Boutell said. “They made it possible for me and others to progress in golf.”
Originally from Minneapolis, Boutell was a top amateur golfer, a successful college player at Arizona State University and an accomplished coach at his alma mater. A member of Phoenix Country Club since 1950, he’s also been a resident of either Phoenix or Scottsdale for the last 60 years.
He played on the PGA TOUR for five years and worked for the PGA TOUR from 1987 to 2007 as a revered PGA TOUR Rules Official (see article by David Feherty below).
Boutell said he made decent money in local events and had a career best 6th place finish on TOUR, but his last position was what defined him. “That was the job I felt I was made to do,” he said. “It allowed me to make friends all over the world.”
A 1981 inductee into the ASU Hall of Fame, Boutell is also a 2000 Arizona Golf Hall of Fame inductee.
A PRODIGY AT AN EARLY AGE
In 1958, at age 14, and a sophomore at Central Phoenix High School, Boutell was the youngest competitor to qualify for U.S. Amateur Championship at the Olympic Club. In 1961, Boutell won the Arizona State High School championship and led Central Phoenix High to the team championship as well.
In 1962, he won the Southwest Amateur and the Arizona Amateur Championship. The winner of the 1965 Trans-Mississippi Championship and 1965 Eastern Amateur, he was runner-up in the Western Amateur that year. Boutell was only 21 when won the Trans-Miss, a national match play tournament held that year at Kansas City Country Club. “It might have been my best win because I beat the entire Oklahoma State golf team,” he said. “I beat all their studs.”
In 1966, Boutell was named the No. 1 “Amateur golfer in the United States by Golf Digest and Golf World magazines. He was an All-American golfer at ASU and the Phoenix Press Box Association, the predecessor of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, voted him into its Hall of Fame.
WORKING 80 HOURS PER WEEK, 12 MONTHS PER YEAR
After college Boutell played the PGA TOUR from 1968-1973. He worked as an Assistant Professional
for the legendary Arch Watkins, the 1995 Anser Award winner, at Papago Golf Course in Phoenix from 1973 to 1975. He returned to Arizona State in 1975 to become the men’s golf coach until 1986. Under his direction, the Sun Devils won the Western Athletic Conference Championship in 1978. In 1979, the men’s team won ASU’s first Pac-10 Conference Championship in any sport. The Sun Devils later won the Pac-10 Championship in 1981.
Boutell’s ASU teams finished third in the NCAA Championship in 1977, 1978 and 1982. He was named Pac-10 “Coach of the Year” in 1979 and 1981. “The most rewarding and difficult job I had was at ASU,” he said. “I was working 80 hours a week, 12 months a year and making $14,000.”
During a 45-year career, Boutell spent most of it traveling. “For 31 straight years I was out of town, on average, 220 days,” he said. “But the quality of the people I was lucky enough to be associated with made it worthwhile.”
On November 19, 1962 Boutell appeared in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd for the second time. “George Boutell, 18, a growing golfer who gulps milkshakes between rounds for energy, finished a fine season—Southwestern titlist and low amateur in two PGA events—by beating an experienced field in Scottsdale for the Arizona amateur title,” the magazine said.
Boutell has been mentioned in numerous publications over the years by various golf writers, including by Jamie Diaz in the New York Times in 1991 (see article below). Boutell, using a television replay, interceded on a judgment call that affected Tom Kite. “After the Kite incident,” Boutell said, “the TOUR realized that it was placing too much scrutiny on the players being televised. The television monitoring fortunately was stopped. My part in that was only that I was assigned the monitoring duty on that day.”
“ANSER” AWARD WINNERS
1991 Karsten Solheim
1992 Bob Goldwater. Sr.
1993 Bill Farkas, Sr.
1994 Ed Updegraff
1995 Arch Watkins
1996 Harry Cavanaugh
1997 John Riggle
1998 Lyle Anderson
1999 Linda Vollstedt
2000 Bill Dickey
2002 Sister Lynn Winsor
2003 Jay D. Woodward
2004 Willie Low
2005 V.O. “Red” Allen
2006 Al Birmingham
2007 Louise Solheim
2008 Heather Farr
2009 George Boutell
George was the Gretzky of rulings, the Federer of the fairways
I’ve said this before, but the Rules officials on the PGA Tour are tops. The reason I’m reiterating this is that earlier this year George Boutell, one of the best, drove his cart into the sunset with nothing more than a sly wave goodbye.
George was the grandmaster whom apprentices approached with reverence in the hope of gathering a rare crumb of knowledge (or doughnut) that occasionally fell from the box of Krispy Kremes he would freebase in a shady spot near the port-o-lets. Yes, I’m talking about a man who once had a pizza delivered to his cart at a PGA Tour event.
When a player called for a ruling it was a joy to watch George transition from what seemed like a nursing home coma into a regimentally upright, razor-sharp, starched-white, creaseless, athletic ruling machine.
George was the Gretzky of rulings, the Federer of the fairways, usually invisible, yet always in the right place. I knew of only one man with a similar style, a guy named Jimmy Hemphill, from my early playing days on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa. One day in Pretoria I was paired with Nick Price and called for a ruling because I thought my ball might be embedded. As usual Jimmy was there, faster than a flick of a springbok’s tail.
“What’s the problem?” he asked.
“Well, Jimmy,” I said, trying to keep a straight face as the idiot Price slapped the bark of a nearby gum tree. “We think my ball may be embedded here, but we’re not sure.”
“Where is it?”
“Uh, I believe you just parked your cart on it,” I said, pointing to his front left wheel.
Jimmy looked down at the spot, then said indignantly, “Well then, it was a bloody waste of time calling me, wasn’t it? Obviously it’s a free drop.” And with that, he sped off.
To the best of my knowledge, George never parked on anyone’s ball. He applied the Rules to the letter of the law, performing his primary function (which was to protect the interests of the rest of the field), while leaving enough room for common sense and compassion. If there was any doubt he always leaned in favor of the player. He was a grumpy sonofabitch with a legendary hemorrhoid problem. Even if you got him during one of his bouts of pink balloon knots, you knew you’d get a fair shake, even if it did include a graphic description of the current state of his nethermost regions.
When George got himself a little cancer, that merriment was briefly halted. Within weeks, George had a few feet of bowel removed and was back at work, claiming that the only difference was that his farts were now a slightly higher F-sharp.
One reason George retired early was his compassion for the people who sat beside him in coach after a week of dealing with prima donnas who wanted drops from lies where the grass wasn’t growing in the right direction, viewers calling in with idiotic rulings, missing and presumed stolen courtesy cars, and frequent cavity searches at airport security.
After years of being seated next to hideously cheerful “Isn’t flying fun? What do you do for a living?” nimrods, he knew that eventually he was going to kill and eat one of them. In an age during which professional golf is rolling in cash, Rules officials still have to fly in the back of the airplane.
The Tour is lucky to have such great officials. Despite having recently signed a new five-year deal, they are still underpaid and overworked. Now it seems the ones with the most experience are becoming an endangered species.
It would be easy to go the Al Gore route and blame it on greenhouse gases, to which George contributed more than his fair share over the years, but it is a problem much easier solved. This column should tell readers I really miss him. His departure should tell the Tour they need to look around the world of sports (see the NBA), realize what they’ve got, pay up, and look happy about doing it.
ON GOLF; Golf on TV? Certainly. Television in Golf? No.
By Jaime Diaz
Published: May 10, 1991
Golf has always been proud of its fierce adherence to its rules, but last Sunday in the final round of the GTE Byron Nelson Classic, it adhered so fiercely it impugned the integrity of one of its most respected players.
For the first time, the PGA Tour used a television replay to overrule a player’s decision. But the fact that the replay was used to assist in a judgment call and the player was the tour’s career leading money winner, Tom Kite, made the incident one that might bring a quick end to golf’s experiment with video-enhanced rulings.
The use of instant replay on the PGA Tour began in March after a television viewer in Colorado reported a rules violation that ultimately caused Paul Azinger to be disqualified from the Doral Ryder Open. As a result, for the last several tournaments, the tour has placed an official in a TV trailer to monitor rules infractions.
Because the tour has no reason to believe that large groups of players are breaking rules or intentionally cheating, the main intention of the viewing official is to inform players of problems before it is too late. For example, had a rules official been able to inform Azinger of his penalty before he signed his scorecard, Azinger would have been forced to add two strokes to his score for that day, but he would not have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
But on Sunday, the official in the trailer, former touring pro George Boutell, interceded on a judgment call, not a potential rules violation. In other words, had Boutell not provided information that caused Kite to be overruled, Kite still would not have broken a rule.
The disputed incident took place when Kite hooked his tee shot on the 11th hole into a lake. Both Kite and his playing partner, Phil Blackmar, who in effect was representing the rest of the players in the tournament, agreed that the ball had passed over a point of land before landing in the hazard. Based on that agreement, Kite was entitled to a penalty drop on that point of land.
But Boutell, looking at a videotape of the shot and familiar with the 11th hole, thought Kite’s ball could not have crossed the point of land. Instead, he thought Kite should play his next shot from the same tee. Boutell contacted Mike Shea, the tour’s tournament director, who was on the course. After arriving at the 11th hole, Shea told Kite of Boutell’s opinion.
Kite disagreed, and played two balls. On the ball played from the point of land near the lake, Kite made a five. On the ball played from the tee, he made a double-bogey six. After watching the video replay of Kite’s original shot, Shea ruled that the double bogey would count.
After the round, Kite was upset that his judgment had been questioned.
“TV has no business doing what they are doing, making a ruling from an official watching TV in a trailer,” said Kite, the third-round leader who shot a final-round 75 to finish tied for eighth. “I don’t understand why we are using it.” Kite will undoubtedly make sure his opinion is represented when the tour’s policy board reviews the use of instant replay in June.
From a purist perspective, the use of instant replay is consistent with golf’s code of ethics. Unlike other sports, where athletes often take a roguish pride in undetected holding, scuffed baseballs and the like, golf expects its professionals to call penalties on themselves and their playing partners whenever they see an infraction.
Some might feel the use of television replays are unfair because generally only players in contention get on camera. But even Azinger had no argument with being reported by a television viewer because, finally, he violated a rule. As Shea said, “We’ve always taken all the information we could on a potential rules violation.”
Some wondered, however, whether the Azinger incident has made the tour anxious to demonstrate to any skeptics that it has a close eye on any possibility of cheating, and that it doesn’t need television viewers to tell its players and officials when a rule has been broken or even bent.
“No, this was an individual case,” said Sid Wilson, PGA Tour director of public relations. “We are not trying to pound our chest and say how honest we are. There have been too many instances over the years of players calling penalties on themselves for us to be worried about that. Integrity among our players is not a problem.”
If that’s the case, instant replay or no, the tour ought to leave the judgment calls to the players.