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College Golf Team DQ'd, Falls in Rankings After Rare and Convoluted Rules Violation

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This was in my news feed today:

If you're an Iowa Hawkeyes fan, you're not going to like this. If you're an aspiring golfer of any level, you might want to take some notes. And if you're a rules aficionado, well, enjoy, because this is a pretty wild tale.

The Iowa men's golf team was disqualified from the Marquette Intercollegiate at Erin Hills early this week after an odd confluence of events saw them finish the tournament with only three players. First, an injury forced one golfer to withdraw, leaving the team with four players. And then, a rare — and extremely convoluted — rules violation disqualified another Hawkeye and left the team without enough players to post an official score (In college events, five golfers play for each team with the four best scores counting toward a team score).

OK, let's get to the rules violation. Golfweek's Brentley Romine did a great job summarizing the plight of Iowa freshman Gonzalo Leal. But even summarizing that summary is confusing. Anyway, let's give it a go.

Tied for the lead at five under during the second round, Leal hit a tee shot right on Erin Hills' 12th hole. He then hit a provisional ball and that's when things got wacky. Leal found his provisional ball near what was assumed to be the ball of his playing partner, but believed his first ball was in a hazard (He didn't know for sure because it was a blind tee shot). Leal then invoked Rule 3-3 (the two-ball rule that allows you to play two balls for two scores and then get an official ruling after the round), taking a drop as if his first ball was in the hazard and playing that and his provisional ball. He hit both balls onto the green, but when the group arrived at the green, there were three of his golf balls there. Oh boy.

Is Leal a magician in addition to being a really good golfer? Not quite. Remember when we said his provisional ball was near "what was assumed to be the ball of his playing partner"? Well, apparently, that ball was Leal's provisional ball and his playing partner, Northwestern's Lucas Becht, mistakenly played it. Becht's penalty was relatively simple, though. He took a two-shot penalty and had to replay his second shot (Although from where is unclear).

Still following? OK, good. So it turns out the two balls Leal had played were his original ball and the one he dropped. He played out the hole with the first ball and thought that was that. Wrong.

Since Leal had invoked the two-ball rule for what he believed was his provisional ball and the ball he dropped, he couldn't just go back to playing his original ball. Even though, logically, that seems to make the most sense …

“By hitting his original ball, he actually hit the 'wrong’ ball,' Iowa head coach Tyler Stith told Golfweek. “And since he didn’t correct the mistake and abandoned the other ball, he had no score for the hole and was disqualified.”

Ouch. And it got worse for Iowa. Since the Hawkeyes couldn't post a score, they finished in last place in the 11-team event, picking up 10 head-to-head losses in the process. When the new Golfweek/Sagarin Men's College Golf Ranking came out on Thursday, Iowa fell 35 spots from No. 14 to No. 49.

But according to Golfweek, "The NCAA committee could choose to look at this instance with Iowa and discuss whether tournaments should be excluded from a team’s ranking if it is determined that a bizarre occurrence took place." And if this doesn't constitute "bizarre," then we don't know what does.

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Well, it's not all that convoluted, and had the opposing player identified the ball before he hit it, it would have been really easy.

I don't know why he continued to play his provisional. Either he was virtually certain his ball was in a water hazard (unlikely, given that it wasn't in a water hazard… but still possible for everyone to honestly believe it must be in there - maybe it hit a rock and bounced out or something). If you think your ball is in a water hazard, and you're playing a ball under that idea… you'd never really get to play your provisional.

See Decisions:

Plus, the story above has an error or something. In one sentence it says this: "Leal found his provisional ball near what was assumed to be the ball of his playing partner" - Leal found his provisional ball. But then it also says that "Well, apparently, that ball was Leal's provisional ball and his playing partner, Northwestern's Lucas Becht, mistakenly played it."

Something doesn't add up there. I'm assuming it's bad writing - if Leal "found his provisional ball" he played that and the one he dropped. But then it switches up to him playing his original ball with Becht playing the provisional.

So who played the provisional to the green? Because I think it matters somewhat if Leal did. There are three balls here: Dropped (D), Provisional (P), and Original (O). If Leal played O as the article goes on to say, then I think he (accidentally, but still) actually holed out with a legit ball. He didn't know it, but if he played the original and a dropped ball as a second ball…

Meh, I don't know.

@Rulesman? @Asheville? @Martyn W?

Were it me, and because it's 10:43 and I'm well into my amaretto tonight (🙂)… I'd have:

  • Told the kid he was lucky to have hit his original ball, and counted that score. I don't think you can pick up a ball you started playing under 3-3 though… so I'm not sure about that part. And I'm too lazy to look.
  • Told the other kid he hit a wrong ball, penalized him two strokes, and sent him back to the tee (five minutes had elapsed I'm sure, so his other ball was also lost at that point).

But again, amaretto, and late…


I'll conclude with this simple thought: mark your damn balls and identify them before you hit them.


Okay, I looked some more:

Both of those say DQ for failing to hole out a legitimate ball. So that's probably what ended up being used.

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3 hours ago, iacas said:

Well, it's not all that convoluted, and had the opposing player identified the ball before he hit it, it would have been really easy.

+1.   The kid made a simple mistake which had really bad consequences.  The rule was not convoluted, the aftermath was 😐.   

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When Leal invoked 3-3, the two balls were the dropped ball (with which he never finished the hole) and the provisional. He never played the provisional (his FC did). Since the ball he holed out with was neither of 3-3 balls, it was a wrong ball therefore he had no score for the hole. Pretty straightforward (I think?)

Edited by Martyn W

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Just now, Martyn W said:

When Leal invoked 3-3, the two balls were the dropped ball (with which he never finished the hole) and the provisional. He never played the provisional (his FC did). Therefore he had no score for the hole. Pretty straightforward (I think?)

But what if the provisional was actually his original ball? Which the article - I think - implies that it was?

I mean, if you hole out your original ball but think it's your third provisional ball, when you take it out of the hole and say "oh wait, this was my original ball" you made a par instead of a 10.

Still feeling the effects of the Disaronno, though. 😉

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2 minutes ago, iacas said:

But what if the provisional was actually his original ball? Which the article - I think - implies that it was?

I mean, if you hole out your original ball but think it's your third provisional ball, when you take it out of the hole and say "oh wait, this was my original ball" you made a par instead of a 10.

@iacas, I edited my post to, hopefully, explain that. As soon as he invoked 3-3 he had to play his provisional; the original was a wrong ball at that point.

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1 minute ago, Martyn W said:

@iacas, I edited my post to, hopefully, explain that. As soon as he invoked 3-3 he had to play his provisional; the original was a wrong ball at that point.

Yeah, I think that's it, even if what he thought was his provisional was actually his original.

But seriously people, identify your golf ball before you hit it.

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I need to sit down later to read this out. I was skimming it and couldn’t follow it clearly. 

Yea, mark your ball. Or, have a number system using the numbers on the ball like, 

Original ball is 1, provisional ball is 2, etc... 

Still mark the ball. Someone else could play the exact same ball you do. Unless you get smart and play Snell... 😝

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