In meeting John Paramor for the first time, I naturally reached out my arm to shake the hand of the European Tour’s leading referee.
What I did not expect was the crushing nature of his handshake.
No, it was not as though Paramor was in any way proving a point as it was just the nature of this powerfully built rules official, so much so, that for each and every other time I shook the hand of ‘JP’, as he was affectionately known, I was prepared for the force of his handshake.
It came as a shock today driving from Oman and just a short distance from going through the procedures of entering the UAE to learn ‘JP’ had passed away (February 17th).
I was new to the European Tour and still finding my journalistic feet when first meeting both ‘JP’ and his fellow European Tour Chief Referee colleague, Andy McFee. They were professional golf’s leading referees. They were to be respected and their word on any rules matter was final.
It’s fair to say in those earlier days, working my way from one European Tour event to another, I also felt somewhat intimidated by them but then there were plenty of golfers also who no doubt felt the same.
I was also working the European Tour when Seve Ballesteros was very much a dominant figure and Seve seemed to have a knack of attracting ‘JPs’ attention, not for the wrong reasons but because Seve could find areas of a golf course that no-one else could, like the infamous ‘burrowing animal’ ruling on the final day of the 1994 Volvo Masters at Valderrama, and other spots that would require a ruling.
Ah, there were many times ‘JP’ and Seve were in discussion on a golf course.
But it was not only Seve, as it was ‘JP’ who had the task to advise Ian Woosnam of the hardness of the rules in having an extra club in his bag at the second hole while leading into the last round of the 2001 Open Championship. It was only noticed by Woosie’s Irish-born caddie that he had an extra driver, and an illegal 15th club, while heading to the second hole because the first at Royal Lytham was then a par-3 that Woosie had birdied.
The totally gutted wee Welshman eventually finished four shots behind David Duval but then you couldn’t blame ‘JP’ as he was just doing his job.
As the years mounted and the more I saw both ‘JP’ and Andy, the more you could walk-up to them and whether that was with them parked in a buggy at some point on the golf course or around the clubhouse, and also often when they may have been called to the media centre to further explain a ruling, as was the case when Rory McIlroy didn’t take a proper relief from a spectator walkway during the third round of the 2014 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
It was ‘JP’ who advised McIlroy he had not taken full relief, with a portion of his foot still within the walkway when he played his next shot, so he was in breach of the rules, the penalty being two strokes and that would eventually see McIlroy finish runner-up by a shot.
That particular incident is the answer to the McIlroy trivia question: “What was the tournament where McIlroy shot the lowest score but he didn’t win?”
I always found ‘JP’ the definition of professional but then he was also very much the definition of a gentleman. Always engaging and always having time to speak with you.
It is also why I was personally delighted to approach him early in 2018 in my role as Secretary of the Association of Golf Writers (AGW) to advise him that he had been nominated by the Association for our Services to Golf award that was presented to him at the Association’s annual dinner at Carnoustie and in the week of the Open Championship.
And now given his passing at the young age of 67, I feel so pleased the AGW voted to bestow that on ‘JP’ while he was still working on the Tour and not in his retirement.
Indeed the AGW also honoured both ‘JP’ and Andy when they retired together at the close of the 2020 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Each could be rightfully proud of their work and their achievements when it came to their role either interpreting, explaining, enforcing and often, enhancing the rules of rules of the ancient club-and-ball game.
What does not seem to be the right ruling is that just over two years into his retirement ‘JP’ should be handed the harshest ruling you could ever hand a human being.
We’ll miss you ‘JP’.
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