Munazza Shaheen is a trailblazer in Pakistan.
She’s the first woman to become a level three qualified referee and is attending her first international event – the 2023 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the world-renowned Royal Melbourne in Australia. However, she has her sights set on refereeing at golf’s biggest stages – The Open and the Masters Tournament.
“How do I feel about it? I feel wonderful. I’m very excited to bring a change,” Said Shaneen.
Her refereeing journey began at the same time as her golfing journey. The rules of golf are complicated and intricate, so Munazza took it upon herself to learn everything after she was told she knew nothing.
“That’s how I picked up the rules book. The chairperson of ladies golf in Pakistan Golf Administration led me to it, and she said that we didn’t have a rules official that was a woman in Pakistan, just one man, so I’d be the second Pakistani and first woman. That’s how I started.”
Thirst for Knowledge
She got her level one qualification in April 2022 before becoming level two certified in October later that year. Her thirst for knowledge never wavered, travelling to St Andrews to attend the Tournament Administrators Referee School, where she passed her level three exam and continued her development earlier this year.
To become level four qualified, she needs international experience, so she connected with The R&A’s Executive Director of Governance, Grant Moir, who provided her with an opportunity to attend the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
“It’s great when we have people come through the levels and be given the opportunity to referee at an international event like this and this in itself is a great opportunity to learn from the experienced referees who are here.
“I’m sure Munazza will take an awful lot from this. Hopefully, what happens is she goes back with a lot more knowledge or experience or ideas and can put that into practice back home in Pakistan,” Moir explained.
Key Championship Role
Munazza’s key role this week as part of the championship rules team is to monitor the pace of play by noting down every time of every group and handle any rulings across three assigned holes each day. She loves the thorough, detailed work and how The R&A rules team comes together with others from the Asia-Pacific to deliver the prestigious amateur championship.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is diverse, hosting players and officials from all corners of the region. The R&A, the Masters Tournament and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) formed the championship to further develop golf throughout the region, including referees.
Moir added, “Globally, The R&A is trying to ensure there are as many qualified referees as possible, everywhere, but also to ensure that there is a spread which makes sure that administration and golf competition and championships are run with a level of consistency and quality, which is beneficial for golfers.
“Particularly at a championship like the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, where players are coming to compete internationally for the first time, it’s important they become accustomed to playing in well-run competitions so they don’t feel intimidated and ensure the competitions they play back home are played under the rules with pace of play procedures, which only experienced administrators can bring is beneficial to elite golfers and golfers in general.”
Munazza’s goal is to attend more international events to gain more experience in her quest to referee at two of golf’s biggest major championships.
She hopes she inspires other women in her home country to follow in her footsteps.
“Every step towards development is an inspiration to others. Every single time you do something new, and people follow, it’s really important.
“It would be my dream to referee The Open or The Masters. It would be a dream for any rules official, so I’ll be over the moon if I get there.”