Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Longest Day In Golf

I worked the aptly named “Longest Day in Golf”, aka US Open Sectional Qualifying, yesterday at Lake Merced Golf Club.  Players played one round there and one at the Olympic Club Ocean Course.  Honestly, I don’t think the USGA could have found two hillier courses close enough together to pull this off anywhere else.

My role was as a walking scorer.  We were each supplied with a tablet through which we could enter the scores after each hole, so each player’s score was more or less up to date on the USGA website.  We would also be the players’ access to a rules official if needed.  (I was not there in a rules official capacity.)

The morning round was relatively uneventful.  There were no rulings, no penalties, and one drop I can remember for relief from a sprinkler head.  Lake Merced has very little trouble except for out of bounds.  There are a few spots where there is potential for a lost ball, but they are well out of the normal line of play for players of this level.

The second round was another story.  If you read my last post, from a few weeks ago about CGA State Am qualifying, you’ll remember a player who WD’d on the 14th hole.  Well, it happened again.  This player hit a 330 yard bomb on the 503 yard sixth hole.  He hit an iron to the back of the green, really a pretty good shot, though the eagle putt was downhill and quite quick. 

That’s where the fun began.  He hit his first putt about eight feet by.  Without marking, he stepped in and hit the birdie putt about three feet by, went up and raked that one towards the hole, hit it again before it stopped, and picked it up before it went in the hole.  (I may have missed one or two in there)  The rest of us just looked at each other, confused.  He had not finished the hole.

Putting on my rules official hat, I calculated in my mind that he had committed several breaches:  Two strokes for hitting a ball that was still moving (Rule 14-5, “Playing Moving Ball”), and one more for picking it up (18-2, “Ball at Rest Moved… by Player”).  He needed to replace it and putt out, which he hadn’t done.  (Note:  My rules guru tells me the first violation was probably Rule 1-2, “Exerting Influence on Movement of Ball")

There was a roving official nearby, so I waved him over.  I told him what the player had done and that he hadn’t finished the hole.  The player came over and informed us that he was withdrawing, and asked if he could keep playing, or at least finish the nine.  I knew from my experience at Fountaingrove that the answer was no.  But there is another consideration here.

Because the player had made it to the sectional by qualifying elsewhere, he could not simply withdraw without a good reason, like an injury, without repercussions.  He had taken a spot someone else could have earned.  Therefore, he would face some sort of sanction from the USGA.  The rules committee informed the official that the best thing for him to do would be to tee off on the seventh hole.  Therefore, he would be DQ’d because he had committed a breach—not holing out (Rule 3-2)—on the sixth hole and had not corrected it before starting the next hole.  He teed off, hit another bomb twenty yards past either of the two remaining players (this guy could really smoke the ball), turned and headed back to the clubhouse, taking his girlfriend/caddie and ten of the twelve gallery members with him.

The highlight of the day was one of my players qualifying for the Open.  As I walked up to the 18th green, another scorer waved me over and told me the player was in if he parred 18.  He was on in regulation with a slippery 12-foot birdie putt, which he lagged close and tapped in for par.  I entered the score, and the standings popped up on my tablet.  The player walked over, we shook hands, and I said, “Want to see the good news?”  His eyes lit up when I showed him the standings.  One hundred and ten players teed it up that morning for five spots, and he was tied for fourth.  We were one of the last groups out, and there was nobody close enough to catch him.

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