|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XXIV NUMBER 2 WINTER 2008|
Blaisdell Knows the Rules
As a nationally recognized golf official, Pete Blaisdell '73 helps keep Tiger Woods and other legends in line. But his toughest assignments are on his home course.
by Stuart Kaufman
Pete Blaisdell, taking the rulebook on the road.
Even when snow fills the bunkers at the Keene Country Club and covers the greens at the Bretwood Golf Course, Pete Blaisdell '73 is thinking about the sport he calls the "most difficult in the world to play." And when it comes to knowing the rules of golf, the Keene native, son of the late State Senate President Clesson "Junie" Blaisdell, goes right to the top of the leader board.
Calling the rulebook his "bible," Blaisdell knows its 34 rules and 1,200 decisions like some people know their street address. Knowing the rules, however, is just the beginning of the game. "Most people think a golf official is someone who sits in a cart with a radio and just waits to get a call to make a ruling," said Blaisdell. "But it's more involved than that. I don't care if it's at the local level or all the way up to the PGA tour and the U.S Open. It's a logistical challenge." No one is more up to the challenge than Blaisdell, who has been monitoring the fairways and greens for 28 years. Last summer he officiated his 500th event.
Blaisdell couldn't have had a better role model than his father. In addition to his work at the statehouse, Junie Blaisdell was also a devoted sportsman. The cofounder of the Keene Little League, he also helped to get the Keene Babe Ruth League off the ground, assisted in the formation of the N.H. Special Olympics, and was one of the original organizers of the Keene Swamp Bats.
"I never knew who was going to be in the living room when I came home from school," said Blaisdell. "My dad knew everybody." Junie's friends included Ted Williams and Red Auerbach. "Auerbach used to bring the Celtics up to Keene High School for a preseason intra-squad scrimmage," Blaisdell said. "I was always the ball boy and got to rub shoulders with Bill Russell, the Jones boys (Sam and KC), and Bill Sharman."
A devoted baseball fan, the younger Blaisdell began umpiring games while still attending Keene High School. Although he went out for several teams at the University of New Hampshire, at 5 foot 10 inches and 145 pounds he didn't have the size to play college sports.
On his return to Keene to help run the family business and complete his degree at Keene State, he got his start as a golf official. He conducted events at Keene Country Club and Bretwood and joined the New Hampshire Golf Association Board of Directors in 1986. Working numerous tournaments and getting involved with the United States Golf Association, Blaisdell attended rules workshops sponsored by the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) and PGA of America and earned his national certification in 1994. It wasn't long before he was working his first national championship.
You name the major tournament and Blaisdell has been there. Crisscrossing the fairways of New England and the country, he has officiated 47 USGA championships, including the U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur, Senior Open, Public Links, the Senior and Mid-Amateur, and the boys' Junior. He has made rulings for current stars such as Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia as well as legends like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
Depending on the tournament, Blaisdell could find himself walking the course with a group, serving as a rover, or doing his favorite job, working as a setup man. Getting to the site a few days before the start of competition, the setup man is responsible for marking and lining fairways and hazards, defining out of bounds, measuring greens, and determining hole locations. "You can't believe how much effort and physical labor goes into doing this," Blaisdell said. He then writes u p the local rules pertaining to that specific course.
Except for the cup itself, which must be 4-1/4 inches in diameter, every golf hole in the world is different. That's why there are so many rules and why the sport needs officials. Blaisdell has had the opportunity to watch top golfers perform their magic on some of the top courses in the world.
He won't ever forget the first time he met Arnold Palmer. Following a round at the senior open in Des Moines, Iowa, several officials and players had congregated at the local hotel lounge to exchange war stories. One of the officials told Palmer about Blaisdell's daughter, Laura, who had been diagnosed with cancer. Palmer, whose first wife, Winnie, was also battling cancer at the time, sat down beside Blaisdell. "Arnold wanted to know everything about my daughter," Blaisdell said. "He said, 'Tell her to keep plugging and don't give up.'"
A year later at the Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Blaisdell got an unexpected tap on the shoulder. "It was Palmer, asking about my daughter," Blaisdell said.
For all the big names that Blaisdell has ruled on, he says the toughest assignments are right in his backyard. "You might have to penalize a guy from the local bank who just gave you a car loan," he said.
Blaisdell, now 57, says he would like to cut back on his schedule a little bit. But it won't be easy. "There's nowhere I'd rather be, besides with my family, than out on a golf course, especially early in the morning when the sun comes up and the first tee goes in the ground," he said.