WILMSLOW-based European Tour referee NEAL BRIGGS (left) kicks off his new series looking at some of the more puzzling rules of golf. The Styal Golf Club-attached former tour pro also promises to take us behind the scenes of the European Tour.
EUROPEAN Tour referee Neal Briggs admits he feels the pain of the young pretenders who he watches go through the pressure cooker of the tour qualifying school.
For it wasn't too long ago since the former tour player was there himself.
Briggs enjoyed a successful spell on the European Tour and the Challenge Tour before deciding to quit to forge a new career as tour administrator and referee at the end of 1998.
He said: "Ironically, my first job as a referee was at the Tour School of 1998. Having been there so many times myself, I could sympathise with the ordeal the players had to go through in what is basically a terrible experience and I still feel for them after doing the job there for the past four years.
Briggs began his career as a junior at Long Ashton, near Bristol and had a one handicap at the age of 15.
His first major success as an amateur came when he won the Gloucestershire County Championship but he was unable to defend his title as the family moved to Hertfordshire.
He joined the Berkhamstead club and went on the win the Hertfordshire County Championship at the age of 18 and in the same year won the County Champion of Champions tournament.
Another move for the family saw them settle in Cheshire, where he has been based ever since and he completed a hat-trick of county championships by winning the Cheshire championships in 1985 at Royal Liverpool.
He then decided to turn professional and joined the Tour at the age of 21 in 1986. Briggs again created golfing history in 1989 when he became the first winner on the newly-formed Challenge Tour in Italy at the Riva dei Tessali GC.
In the same year he topped the Challenge Tour order of merit to win his card back on the main Tour for 1990. Three years later he was back on the Challenge Tour where a fifth place in the Order of Merit again saw him return to European Tour action.
His best-ever finish on the Tour came in the 1996 French Open when he finished second to Paul Broadhurst.
Briggs lost his card in 1997 and after a year back on the Challenge Tour, decided that his days as a major player were over.
He said: "The enjoyment of playing day in and day out had gone and I lost confidence particularly in my chipping and with my will and heart not in it I decided to quit.
"I decided to rejoin the Tour as an administrator and referee in 1998 and after passing a very tough refereeing examination at the R and A following an intensive three-day course I took up my present post.
"I have my Tour schedule for 2002 which sees me involved in 22 tournaments plus three on the Challenge Tour which I particularly enjoy as it's good to see and possibly help young players develop.
"The role of a Tour administrator and referee is possibly very different to what most club golfers imagine.
"I feel that having tasted life as a player on the Tour for several years I have a good knowledge of the players of golf and golfing etiquette and have added a very intimate knowledge of the rules of golf to my qualifications."