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Coaches, players examine how professional rules affect high school golf

Jess Canaley, Ben Traylor, Sports Reporters

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In the world of low intensity sports, the mannerisms and courtesies existing among athletes are uniquely tied to the level of play of those competing. For golfers, the slightest slip of the hand can cost you a single hole, a game or maybe even a championship.

“Depending on the situation, different stroke penalties will occur, typically one but will vary based on different scenarios,” Kevin Stone, varsity men’s golfer and senior, said. “Disregarding rules or having bad etiquette yourself can definitely affect your score.”

For Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) player Lexi Thompson, the common etiquette of the game cost her the championship while competing in the 2017 ANA Inspiration tournament in Rancho Mirage, Calif. last month.

After Thompson mismarked her ball by less than half an inch on a one-foot putt in the 17th hole of Round 3, a viewer called in to LPGA officials, a common practice encouraged by the association to hold players responsible for violations. Thompson was then assessed a four-stroke penalty for the infraction. Because of this, her two-stroke lead on So Yeon Ru of South Korea turned into a two stroke deficit, ultimately costing her the win.

In high school golf, a mismarked ball isn’t as serious of a penalty, but it doesn’t go unnoticed.

“The rules are written in black and white, and we’re all playing under the same rules,” Kelly Kluesner, head coach of the women’s golf team, said. “The only exception to this would be local rules, which only apply to certain courses. Many of the changes are to help speed up the pace of play, while others are to avoid penalizing the girls as much as you may see in the professional league.”

Stone said in high school, instances such as Thompson’s aren’t as common because they don’t receive as much coverage and infractions aren’t so closely observed.

“For the high school level you don’t get as many views, so instances like with Lexi Thompson don’t happen as often,” Stone said. “I feel like I’m good enough, and the guys are good enough to block out other schools’ bad etiquette.”

Similarly, according to Isabella Layman, varsity women’s golfer and senior, high school golf provides a learning curve for players to better understand a game to avoid potential errors.

“A lot of situations like (the Thompson incident) happen in high school golf. Many of the girls don’t know every single rule exactly. You might make a mistake like marking your ball wrong or dropping incorrectly. If you mark your score incorrectly, then you automatically disqualify yourself,” Layman said. “High school golf is pretty much just a learning process, so if you get disqualified, it isn’t like you are shunned or anything for it.

In addition, golfers must also follow specific rules of etiquette that require attention to detail, leaving little room for error. As a result, stipulations on minor infractions have been changed to avoid another incident like Thompson’s.

On April 25, the United States Golf Association and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club jointly presented new protocol on how video evidence can be presented after the fact. The two organizations are responsible for determining legal play for LPGA and the PGA. The resolution, called Decision 34-3/10, while effective immediately, has no effect on Thompson’s loss, and she will not be further compensated by the ANA tournament or the LPGA.

Decision 34-3/10 limits video evidence that is not “reasonably seen by the naked eye,” similar to the way judgements are reached on infractions in high school golf.

Layman said she believes adding sideline personnel equivalent to a referee to help facilitate the game would have the greatest impact on eliminating disputes.

“I think golf etiquette plays a big role in high school because we play against other schools, so we have to make sure that we keep each other’s score correctly and be respectful,” Layman said. “In golf you’re in charge of your own person, and especially in high school the girls don’t know a lot of the rules, so requiring that someone walks around with the teams would help.”


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