This volunteer Rules official from Rhode Island C.C. endowed golf with her integrity and flair August 9, 2011 By Rhonda Glenn, USGA

Lib McLoughlin was a longtime Rhode Island C.C. who served as a volunteer Rules official at USGA events. (Courtesy Tom McLoughlin)

Barrington, R.I. – Earlier this summer, Christine Brinkman and Tom McLoughlin lost their mother. Rhode Island Country Club, where the U.S. Women’s Amateur is being conducted, lost a fine member. And golf lost one really great volunteer. She was Elizabeth Lib McLoughlin and she was 85 when she died.

Lib wasn’t famous. She would have disliked fame. She no doubt would have disliked being written about too, but Lib McLoughlin was special.

The first U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Committee in 1987 was packed with first-timers. Avid golfers, they ranged in age from the 30s to the 50s. Lib, at 61, was a little older than the rest. But Lib offered something that few had. Lib knew The Rules.  Boy, did she know The Rules! 

Lib was a small, elegant woman, slightly rounded, with iron-gray hair and a winning smile. At championships she went out with early groupings as an official. She had a bit of a strut when she left the tee shortly after dawn. By the end of 18 holes, she’d be dragging, mopping the perspiration from her face. 

Not to worry: I feel great! she’d say, pumping her sturdy little arms. And out she’d go again.

Lib was the best sort of Rules official. A player could be quaking, sure that she’d violated a sacred rule, (a real trunk slammer, as those disqualifying infractions are sometimes called) then Lib would arrive. With a little smile, she’d pleasantly impart her great knowledge and make it okay. Without a doubt, Lib McLoughlin saved countless players a lot of strokes.

Lib loved her involvement as a USGA volunteer. Her daughter, Christine Brinkman, said the entire experience brought pleasure – the activity of the event, the people who cared about it and loved the game, from the hush of the gallery to the smells of the course, from intently following scores to seeing terrific golf played.

Most often, when the committee gathered it was Lib who had the best story; an odd Rules incident or a fabulous shot. She found all of it wonderfully exciting.

She was quietly proud of her dedicated knowledge of the Rules of the game, and humbled by others' respect for her expertise, Brinkman said. It was all a labor of love for her.

Throughout my life, my mom impressed upon me many priceless pieces of wisdom, hoping to give me a bit of an edge toward gaining some fulfillment in life. One of those just happened to be, ‘Be involved in something that you love and are passionate about.’ Obviously her 'something' was golf.

Lib supported golf for more than 50 years. President of the Rhode Island Women’s Golf Association in 1959 and again from 1977-79, she was instrumental in developing its successful girls’ junior program. She’d been a member of Rhode Island Country Club since the 1940s and won the women’s club championship in 1949, 1954 and 1955. She was a past president of the Junior League of Rhode Island. Lib was inducted into the Rhode Island Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2007. That same year, she received the association’s Distinguished Service Award, the first person to be so honored.

Martha Kirouac is a former Rhode Island Country Club member, 1970 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, and a member of the USGA Women’s Committee. For years Kirouac enjoyed a yearly foursome with Rosie Crim, who was another Women’s Mid-Amateur Committee member, Peg Rice and Lib.

Great memories, Kirouac said. We’d hit and giggle. I’m now the only one left. Lib did an awful lot for women’s golf and her passion was junior girls’ golf. I think when you look at the number of good players, for a little tiny state, it’s remarkable. Junior girls’ golf development here is really a thank-you to Lib McLoughlin.

Lib’s son, Tom McLoughlin, remembers his mother’s love of the game.

Her work as a rules official was driven by a strong desire for fairness and equity to players and the field, Tom said. As a sometime-caddie in state championships, I was often ‘around’ events that she officiated.  In the car riding to and from tournaments, she often would share with me her rationale for decisions and stress these elements.

Lib played her last game of golf in 2004 as the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease crept into her life.

Even to the end, my mom continued to talk of golf … convinced that she had just played recently or that she was away from home attending a championship as a rules official, Christine said. Just the thought of it all gave her joy and brought her comfort, so it never once occurred to me to correct her with reality.

Lib died on June 9.

It is morning at Rhode Island Country Club and the first-round matches are underway. A fresh breeze ripples the rough and puffs of white clouds scud along the horizon. Narragansett Bay is choppy and sparkling in the sun. For many, Lib McLoughlin is still a presence here. She is here whenever a player swings a club with youthful joy or hits a fine shot toward a green. She is here in the integrity and courtesy of the game.

During the week of this national championship, in a game she so loved, Lib McLoughlin is very much here.

Rhonda Glenn, a manager of USGA Communications, was also a member of the first U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Committee. To comment on this story, contact her at rglenn@usga.org.