ON THIS OCCASION MIKE’S DELIGHTED TO BE ‘FLAG HAPPY LINO’

World Cup assistant referee Mike Mullarkey achieves the 'Holey' Grail of an ace

By James Dobbin

Eagle-eyed referee’s assistant Mike Mullarkey, who ran the line during the 2010 FIFA World Cup final between Spain and Holland, showed his vision’s equally as good on the golf course when he achieved a hole-in-one at his local club.

Mullarkey, 45 – a 15-handicapper – who also officiated in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and last week’s Europa League final between Dnipro and Sevilla, scored his ace on the 186-yard, par-three third at Warren GC, in Dawlish Warren.

He said: “I was absolutely delighted. It was my first ace! I struck a five-iron shot nicely and the line was good; the ball rolled over the brow and out of sight into the bowl of the green. I walked up, thinking I had a chance for a two-putt but my mate ahead said it was in! It was a great feeling.

“It’s not easy to fit golf in, but I try to play once a week during the season and twice during the summer. I played a little bit as a kid, in my early teens, with my dad. But I didn’t start playing again properly until 2009.”

Golf is a popular form of relaxation for Premier League officials who spend a vast amount of their time travelling to games up and down the country – and occasionally they get together for a round.

He added: “I have played with some of the guys. Geographically we’re all over the place of course, so it’s not easy. But we do enjoy a round when we’re around the same location.”

It may not compare with officiating in the final of one of the world’s greatest sporting events in front of an estimated television audience of more than 530 million viewers, but the pleasure in moving the flag aside to pull out your ball after achieving your first hole-in-one has its own distinct charms, as the picture – taken at the moment Mullarkey retrieved his ball – clearly shows.

In his day job Mullarkey will often be accused of it by vociferous and misguided fans, but on this occasion he admitted he really was “flag happy!”.