Wirtanen: Horse shows are just par for the course

September 19, 1993|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Staff Writer

The routine that Glena Wirtanen goes through in any given week from the spring into the fall usually includes horse shows and golf tournaments.

This way of life was recently compressed into a span of 16 hours, during which she got home from officiating at a horse show in Pittsburgh, ran one round of the two-day Women's Golf Association stroke-play championship and was back on a plane to Buffalo for another show.

Although every sport survives by its rules, perhaps none do so more intensely than horse shows and golf.

Wirtanen, a Phoenix resident, has been interested in horses since she was 10, and the nearly 50-year span has seen her go from riding in two Powder Puff Preakness races, when that event was the only one open to women riders, to jumpers, to showing horses and to officiating.

In the last capacity, she started as a judge when her two grown children were young and involved with the sport, and as she says: "I didn't care for it. The classes got so big, it was hard to keep your concentration, watching one horse after another go around and around."

Since then, she went through the couple of years and assorted testing it takes to be licensed as a steward. "I've been a judge, a show manager and a starter, and I believe it gives me a much better feel for the competitors. And you really have to know the rules."

As a steward, she is the chief official, serves as an arbiter in disputes and afterward is responsible for filing a variety of written reports.

When jumping six-foot fences astride a show horse became more work than pleasure, Wirtanen, looking for another avenue for her competitive spirit, found golf.

"When I started in golf as a member at Hunt Valley about eight years ago, I was a 36-handicapper, and I figured if I was going to play the game, I'd better learn the rules.

"Curiously, although both revolve around their rules, they are looked at differently. A rules official on the golf course has a rule book and a decisions book; a steward does not carry a rule book but has one in an office. That way, when there is a challenge, the official has a chance to get the person calmed down while they walk to the office to get the book.

"By the same token, most of the horse show people know the rules and know what they have to do; with golfers, more of them play the game knowing less about the rules than in any other sport."

Her knowledge and handling of the rules at horse shows have caught the attention of some major show officials, and she is in demand as a steward at some of the bigger ones, although she has yet to crack the Harrisburg-Washington-New York circuit.

As for golf, don't challenge her on those rules, either.

Last year, she entered a 12-question Killer Rules Quiz by Golf Digest magazine and was one of 113 out of 8,490 entries -- about 1 percent -- to get them all right. It turned out to be so difficult that one of the rules experts who had put the quiz together missed the answer to his own question.

The 113 entries (10 of them were from women) were entered in a sweepstakes, with eight winners receiving three days and nights at a GD instruction school/rules seminar Wirtanen was one of the lucky eight. "The teachers were very good, and it was a wonderful experience."

Wirtanen, whose handicap is in the 10-12 range, regularly plays in the WGA events, runs the weekly 18-hole group tournaments at her club and recently competed in the Middle Atlantic and Maryland State Women's Seniors championships.

She is an alternate for next week's U.S. Women's Seniors at Preakness Hills CC in Wayne, N.J. She competed in the 1989 Seniors in Modesto, Calif., beating a quarter of the field. If she gets in this one, it will business as usual -- finish the American Cafe's grand prix at Howard Community College late Sunday, start the golf tournament Monday.

NOTES: The fourth annual Ciccarone Classic, which benefits the Ciccarone (heart) Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has drawn a capacity field for tomorrow at Eagle's Nest. . . . Frank Ferguson of Washington Golf & CC collected $1,000 as low pro in the annual RP Foundation pro-am at Sparrows Point CC last week. The winning teams were Jim Fitzgerald, Chevy Chase, with Jerry Mayer, Mike Hoffman, Scott Thornton and Jamie Wilen with a best-two-scores low gross of 142, and Mike Johnson, Chestnut Ridge, with Richard Sammis, Charles Fink, Kenny Cooper, and Richard Kohles at 126.

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