Don’t be alarmed, guys, but Leslie Grabeman is taking names and keeping score.
And no woman does it better. Actually, no other woman does it, period.
Grabeman has followed a path from amateur golfer to Muirfield Village Golf Club intern to becoming the first and only PGA Tour female scoring official, with even bigger things to come. If plans hold, she will become the first woman to work as a rules official on Tour.
But first, Grabeman has a score to settle, er, make that scores. Working about 35 Tour events a year, including this week’s Memorial Tournament, she verifies each player’s scorecard at the end of every round. Her duties increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, including sometimes announcing players’ names on the first tee, but mostly she serves as scoring official/sounding board/amateur psychologist.
“You have to be able to read the room,” she said last week while working the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. “You have to have thick skin and know that if they’re mad about how the course played, it’s not directed at you. It’s their livelihood, so you remember that. You listen a lot.”
The scoring tent, which typically is four solid walls tucked somewhere inside the clubhouse or media center, is the first place players can let off steam away from fans and TV cameras (although sometimes TV follows the top finishers inside the scoring sanctuary). Finally able to let loose after a bad round, players enter the scoring area ready to vent or celebrate.
When she first began her current position 1½ years ago — she has held several other Tour jobs the past six years, including helping run the ShotLink system that tracks every shot of every player — some players unaccustomed to seeing a woman in the scoring room were careful to mutter obscenities under their breath.
Over time, the guys have become more comfortable around Grabeman, treating her like one of the boys. Big of them, eh? The Tour is as male-dominated as it gets. It took 52 years before the Tour hired a woman to verify scores. But give credit where due. The testosterone-heavy Tour is trying to diversify.
Gary Young, vice president of Tour rules, competitions and administration, sees something in Grabeman that transcends gender.
“Her knowledge of the game and experience as a player (at Springboro High School, the University of Minnesota and then Memphis) have provided her with a good feel for the game,” said Young, whose plan is to continue moving Grabeman up the ladder. “It is my hope that Leslie will continue on her path toward becoming the first female rules official on the PGA Tour.”
If that happens, Grabeman can expect to step into even tougher situations than she faces now. Scorers pass the stickiest issues up the line. For example, when 2020 Memorial winner Jon Rahm was penalized two strokes during the final round — his ball moved when he soled his wedge in the rough at No. 16 — the Tour’s tournament director took command of the situation, informing Rahm of the penalty.
“Once the facts have been decided … we’re almost a bystander at that point,” Grabeman said.
Rules officials sometimes get berated on camera — Bryson DeChambeau publicly took one to task at the Memorial last year — and face pressure not to cave to player arguments.
But Grabeman is no pushover.
“I’m not afraid to ask (players) about their cards if there is a potential issue,” she said. “That’s called helping them out.”
And sometimes they need it. One absent-minded mistake can get a player disqualified. In 1968, Roberto De Vicenzo infamously signed an incorrect scorecard that cost him a chance to win the Masters in a playoff.
Grabeman, whose brother, Kevin, played golf at Ohio State, grew up golfing, but burned out on the game and became disillusioned after playing under a series of coaches in college. Not until a family friend put her in touch with a Tour connection and she landed a job with the Tour at its Jacksonville, Florida, headquarters did her love for the game rekindle. But instead of marking her own scorecard, she checked everyone else’s.
“You have to be accurate (when scoring), because so much is riding on the results,” said Larry Dornisch, the head pro at Muirfield Village who brought Grabeman into the pro shop as an intern in 2010-2011. “When she worked over here with us, you knew she had a bright future. She’s efficient, a problem solver and initiated things that could make us better. And she has a great sense of humor.”
Those attributes are not gender specific, of course, which Grabeman proves every time she checks a scorecard. She is smart, kind and willing to listen to golfers at their best and worst. It all adds up to being the right woman for the job.