Bill Walker is the executive director of the Utah Golf Association, the governing body for amateur golf in Utah that is under the umbrella of the United States Golf Association. The UGA also maintains a database of amateur handicaps for those who join. Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon asked Walker five questions about the USGA's recent putting rule change.
Q. Could you explain in a simple way the ruling by the USGA to eliminate the use of the long or belly putter?
A: Rule 14-1B does not eliminate the long or belly putter. What the rule does is define how a stroke will be made going forward in the respect that you will not be able to anchor the club or the gripping hand to any part of your body. Those people who currently have a belly or long putter are still able to use them after 2016; they will simply just not be able to anchor.
Q. When will this rule go into effect and why will it be that long until it does?
A. The rules of golf are amended every four years and Rule 14-1B will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. This will also allow people who are currently using an anchored stroke the time to adjust to requirements of making a stroke under this new rule.
Q. The biggest UGA event of the year is the Utah State Amateur. What can you tell us about this year's event?
A. We will be at Soldier Hollow in Midway July 8-13. We will be playing the Silver and Gold courses for stroke play and then the championship Gold course for match play. Because of the two 18-hole courses at this venue, we will extend the field from 32 to 64. We are excited for this championship. We will be reversing the 9s on the Gold course, which is what we saw at the (U.S. Amateur Public Links) last year. We don't have a commitment from Zac Blair, the state's best amateur, but we're working on identifying his schedule and hope he can compete.
Q. How healthy is the UGA and the state of golf in Utah?
A. I think, speaking for the UGA, across the board there has been a decline in membership, but we have seen a rebound in maintaining our membership and a slight growth of late. Across the country, when the economy went south, so did the number of people playing golf and that was the trend in Utah. Scott Whittaker (executive director of the Utah Section of the PGA) is doing a study that shows 2012 is a good year in rounds played. A big factor is the weather. People played earlier in 2012 as opposed to 2011 when there was snow in some valleys in spring.
Q: What can the UGA do to increase participation in the sport?
A: The game is improving but we need to get out there and promote the game and at the UGA and facility level and get more people interested in the game.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.