Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When Making a Hole-In-One is Really a Birdie

Back in my high school days, my dad and I made the drive up north to Arkansas, to play in a scramble with his best friend and their son, now a head pro at a golf course in Clinton's old stomping ground. It was a great foursome, and our main goal was fun, not first place. As the wind picked up, and the clouds started turning dark, we knew the tournament would get called any second, but we had a par-3 to play and play it we did. Everyone hit, and when it was my turn, I struck a 9-iron that looked destined for my wall. The ball landed, started rolling towards the pin and disappeared, "A hole-in-one!," we all thought. The group behind us congratulated us. We wrote down "1" on the scorecard. That was, until we rolled up to the green and realized it had slide past the hole, and down a hidden hill, no more than 18 inches behind the cup. Err, that's a two, not a one, and we shamefully carded it as such.

That story sucked. This story makes mine look like a two-putt for the Masters.

Connor Klein, playing in the first round of the 64th U.S. Junior Amateur at Gold Mountain Golf Club, knocked his tee shot in the cup from 170-yards out for a hole-in-one on the par-3 5th hole, but guess what, he had to write down a two? Why? Because that was the hole Connor and his group got busted for slow play. One shot penalty. Nice two. Yikes.

Via Kitsap News ...

Klein's threesome, which included Alex Church of Timonium, Md., and Andrew Bonner of Ripon, Calif., was warned for slow play. The players were clocked again at the fifth hole and they were all docked a stroke.

The three players appealed to USGA officials. Klein turned out to be the only player penalized, so his score of one became a two.

"It's a birdie," said the USGA's David Staebler, director of the Junior Amateur tournament, shrugging his shoulders.

Oh man. This story makes the old Doc Graves story (a friend of mine, btw, and a man that still stands by that decision so many years later) look like petty larceny.

My biggest problem with this story? As much as it pains me so so so much that this kid lost his ace because of slow play, as we say in golf parlance, "that is the rules." Sure, they might suck at times, and ruin a kid's day (or career), but we all know the rules on slow play, we all know that you get warned, and we all know that you then get put on the clock. If this kid continued to be this slow, it really is, sadly, his fault.

But boy oh boy, to lose an ace in a USGA event because of something like this? I wish he was 21 so I could buy him a beer. Connor has a Twitter account, but hasn't updated it since July 4. I'm surprised last night didn't force him to go pounding out curse words on the social site, but the better for him.

(Also, hats off to Klein ... kid made birdie on the next hole after finding out about this. I like that bounce-back. Instead of taking your frustration out on the officials, take it out on the course. A very important lesson to be learned there.)


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't he be done with the hole when his ball went into the cup. I believe that does "finish" the hole.

Shane B. said...

Actually reaching out to a guy working the tourney, trying to get word on EXACTLY what went down. Will let you know if he calls me back.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the USGA will recognize Connor's Ace in the record books...forget the score!

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