December 6. Stan McFarland was inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame for Distinguished Service to the Game at the CSGA Annual Awards Dinner on December 5. A grateful McFarland told the audience that he has chosen to volunteer and to work as a rules official, one of the best in the country, "because it was a way for me to give back to a game I love so much." In his introduction of McFarland, Dick Zaniini said that playing a round with McFarland was "an educational seminar on the rules."
When Stan McFarland was 19, attending night school at the University of Hartford and making himself one of the state’s best golfers, he proposed the idea of becoming a club professional to his father. After all, he’d been part of a Manchester High team that won two state championships and 39 straight matches, and he was now excelling in amateur industrial leagues.
His dad looked at him quizzically. ‘Why would you want to turn something you love so much into a job?’ Stan remembers him saying, adding: “I thank him to this day.”
So do the rest of us, including the thousands of players, officials and volunteers Stan has led, taught and saved from disaster over his half a century as a CSGA and USGA official. A newcomer discovers quickly that at most of the championships Stan works, there’s one phrase more common than “Fore!”
It’s: “Ask Stan, he’ll know.”
Stan McFarland, who enters the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame for distinguised service to the game, is the wise and sometimes curmudgeonly uncle who makes the family look smart. Although he has been a rules official with the highest certification for almost two decades and worked at every level of the game, he’s most proud of the few penalties he’s assessed. “My goal in every case is to prevent something from happening. And I can say that I’ve prevented a lot more things than I’ve ever called.”
That does not mean he is a softy. On the subject of slow play, for example, he minces no words. “We’ve been way too nice,” he says, and tells the story of a qualifier years ago when he and New Haven Country Club’s Bruce Guthrie, who was the Official in Charge, gave every player this message on the subject of pace of play: “We’re going to penalize someone today, we just don’t know who it is yet.”
“They finished in four hours,” he says.
During McFarland’s presidency (2015-16), the CSGA added a director of women’s golf and increased the number of its volunteers, a priority of his. But he’s made just as sizable a mark outside of Connecticut. He was chosen to serve on the USGA’s Public Links Championship Committee, and officiated at five national championships. When the Public Links was discontinued, Stan joined the Senior Amateur Committee and has officiated at five of those events. He also officiated at the 2017 U.S. Four-Ball Championship at Pinehurst, and has served as lead rules official at eight Division II NCAA Women’s Championships, including this year’s in West Palm Beach. Meanwhile, he’s continued his strong play. He has five club championships to his credit, and two senior club championships. He has tied for the New England Senior Amateur Championship. He has two CSGA Senior Net Championship titles. And he has made nine holes in one. “Playing with Stan is a comfortable and pleasant experience,” says former CSGA president Dick Zanini,”particularly listening to his tales of 60 years caddying, playing and officiating.”
One of championships was won at Manchester Country Club, where he is its oldest member, having served on both the greens committee and the board of governors. If there is a tiny gap in his resume, it is that he has not served as president of the club where he grew up caddying (after a baseball injury) and finding golf.
“I dodged that one,” he says of the Manchester presidency. “We had problems at work [Pratt and Whitney Aircraft] and I had 500 workers under me and about a thousand grievances on my desk. I didn’t think it would be too good if I was not concentrating on that.” Which explains Stan’s un-flappable demeanor as a rules official.
Encouraging him to give back to the game he loves so much is his wife of 35 years, Linda, who has traveled with him to some nine countries as he officiated and played, about 1,000 courses. “Linda says, ‘I like where this golf takes me,’” he laughs. “She has been great.”
A member of the New England Golf Association Executive Committee, he will assume that presidency in 2021.
McFarland seems proud that he’s still learning. You’ll find him often in rules discussions with other officials at events, and he’s quick to tell you he’s met plenty of rules experts who are smarter than him. This acknowledgment becomes an opportunity for him to remind you of his mantra, one that the lines on his face suggest he’s paid for:
“It’s what you learn when you know it all that counts,” he says.