Rules Crew at USAPL

The SCGA Rules Crew is back on the road and this week Director Mike Sweeney and Asst. Director Jimmy Becker are on the South Oregon coast at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort where the USGA is concurrently hosting its men’s and women’s Amateur Public Links Championships. Mike and Jimmy are working as Rules Officials from Monday through Wednesday at each Championship, and will be taking photos, reporting on rulings and talking to Southern California’s finest public course players about their experience on Bandon Trails and Old MacDonald, the two courses being used for both championships. Check back daily for our inside-the-ropes reports!

Official websites:

  • There are 18 Southern California residents playing in the APL: www.usapl.org
  • There are 20 Southern California residents playing in the WAPL www.uswapl.org

Thursday, June 30: U.S. WAPL Championship – Match Play Round of 64 – Old MacDonald


By Jimmy Becker

Again, players were treated to perfect weather as the Round of 64 match play portion of the U.S. WAPL Championship began on Wednesday. Some cloud cover to start the day, but the sun came out and the winds were down early. They did pick up a little bit later on though. I was the referee for the 10:10 am match between Grace Na of Oakland, CA and Kimberly Johnson of San Diego, CA. Grace is currently a member of the Pepperdine University golf team and Kimberly just recently graduated from UC-Davis (alma mater of one Mike Sweeney). I thought it was cool that I got to have an all-California matchup in the first round of match play.

Match play is a completely different animal than stroke play. Players do not have to necessarily hole out. Shots, holes or even matches can be conceded. As a referee, it is very important to keep track of everything in the match as you never know when you will be called in to settle a dispute. Today, I did not have to give one ruling; the most I had to do was to indicate which player was away. This is very important because order of play is of the upmost importance in match play as the player who is away must play first (Rule 10-1b). If someone plays out of turn, the opponent can recall the stroke or let it stand.

For the match itself, Grace Na defeated Kimberly Johnson 7 & 6. Na took an early 1 up lead with a birdie at the first hole. Johnson had a chance to square the match at the second hole but she missed a four-foot par putt to just halve the hole. Holes 3 & 4 were halved and Na won the 5th hole with a birdie. She also won the 6th hole with a par, but lost the 7th hole to have her deficit cut to 2 up. Na then won the next five holes and closed out Johnson on the 12th hole to win 7 & 6. Na was able to make a lot of key putts when it mattered and Johnson had a cold putter today despite hitting the ball well.

Starting today, the Golf Channel is showing coverage of both the APL & WAPL Championships when the matches are being played at Old MacDonald. Players may have to deal with television cameras, robotic equipment, cables and other equipment associated with the telecast. On the Notice to Players, cameras on tripods, tripods without cameras, mini-camps on tripods and jib carts are to be treated as immovable obstructions (Rule 24-2). Left of the 7th green is the television broadcast booth and that is treated as a Temporary Immovable Obstruction or TIO. The relief procedure for a TIO can be found in Appendix I, # 7 as is too complicated to describe here.

Six players from Southern California advanced to the Round of 32, including defending champion Emily Tubert out of Burbank. Unfortunately, Mike and I cannot stay for the duration of the championships as we must head back to get ready for the 112th SCGA Amateur Championship at San Gabriel CC next week. We had a great time here at Bandon Dunes. It is an impressive resort and everyone was extremely helpful with anything that anyone needed. The USGA put on a fine show once again and I can’t wait to work another USGA championship.

Thursday, June 30: APL Match Play, Round of 64 at Bandon Trails

By Mike Sweeney

Yesterday, I witnessed history! I saw the first ever hole in one on the par-4 8th hole at Bandon Trails by Derek Ernst from Clovis, Ca. The hole plays 321 yards from the back tees but the USGA had it playing from 299 yards for the first round of match play. Ernst, who attends UNLV, hit a perfect 3 wood to the front of the green and it rode the ridgeline of the green all the way to the back left hole location. It was awesome! Here is a pic of Ernst and his caddie immediately after the hole in one (I had to break protocall for a referee using a camera phone for this special occasion).

As you can imagine, that amazing shot helped cause a shift in momentum in Ernst’s match vs. Ole Miss’s Joe David. At the time, Ernst was 2 down. By hole #12 he was 1 up and would win the match on the 19th hole with both players shooting great rounds of 73. I was the referee for this match and only a few rules questions came up, two of which fall under Rule 13-2 (Improving lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play).

Ernst asked me if he could fix a ball mark in his line of play from off the putting green. The answer to this question depends on where the ball mark is. Ball marks on the putting green may be fixed without restriction, ball marks off the putting green may not be fixed, and in this case the ball mark was off the putting green. David had a situation where he was going to be standing on a divot that was still attached to the ground but partially standing straight up. He asked if he could press down the divot. A player is not allowed to improve his area of intended swing by moving, bending or breaking anything growing or fixed. I informed him that he could not press down the divot however he was permitted to take his normal stance and it is okay if his stance incidentally pressed down the divot.

My assignment is done at this championship but I’m happy to see six SCGA members still in the match play. Those players include two San Diego State Aztecs (JJ Spaun and Todd Baek), Santee’s Daniel Miernicki (who plays at Oregon), San Diego’s James Erkenbeck (who plays at New Mexico), Cerrito’s Kevin Lee, and Roger Dunn Los Angeles member Max Marsico (who attends the University of Penn).

I’ll close with one quick story that I forgot to tell Tuesday. When San Diego State’s JJ Spaun arrived in his shuttle to Old MacDonald for his second round his shuttle driver accidentally locked his clubs in the car. I heard USGA officials discussing over the radio what can be done in a short amount of time to remedy the situation. Should they waive the penalty if he is not able to tee off on time (which they would have done). He was eight minutes away from his tee time, so something had to be done quick. So they broke the back window of the suburban and JJ was able to make his starting time on time. That was a first for all of us on the APL Committee!

Wednesday, June 29: APL Stroke Play, Round 2 at Old MacDonald

By Mike Sweeney

Today was my first glimpse at the newest addition to Bandon Dunes Resort, Old MacDonald (which Jimmy described excellently yesterday). Links style golf is something that most of us in the states are not accustomed to, but is definitely something everyone should experience. Rain was in the forecast today, but we lucked out and managed to stay dry the entire day. Here is a picture of my golf cart.

My assignment in the morning was as a back nine rover. A rover’s duties include assisting with the set up of the golf course, assisting rules officials with rulings, timing groups/players according to the pace of play policy and approving ground under repair. Here is a picture (left) of the USGA staff setting up one of the hole locations. They use a long tape measure to get the hole in the accurate spot. Old MacDonald is a very straight forward golf course rules-wise, as there were few rules questions coming up. One player violated Rule 13-2 when he brushed sand off his line of play from the fringe. This is a 2-stroke penalty as the rule states that a player must not improve his line of play by removing sand or loose soil. Remember, this is only permissible on the putting green, where sand and loose soil are considered loose impediments.

In the afternoon, I was the starter off the 10th tee. A lot of officials think that a job as a starter is a demotion; this is not the case, as you need your strongest rules officials as starters and in the scoring area as these are the two places where a player can get disqualified the fastest (i.e. missing there starting time and signing for a wrong score). Good starters have to disseminate key information to players in a short amount of time. The starter is also the first person the players greet and it’s important to present a welcoming and positive demeanor. All the players were in good spirits as the weather was warming up and everyone was excited about the prospect of shooting a good round and qualifying for match play.

The overnight rains softened the greens just a tad and without much wind, scoring definitely improved. A day after just one golfer (Devon Purser) broke par over at Bandon Trails, there were 15 scores under par today including Southern Californians, JJ Spaun (70), Todd Baek (69), Kevin Fitzgerald (69) and Daniel Miernicki (70). Spaun and Baek are teammates at San Diego State! Each of those players made match play. There are nine Southern Californians that made match play and also an SCGA member that lives in Las Vegas (20 year old Max Marsico, who attends the University of Pennsylvania and will be playing in the SCGA Amateur Championship in two weeks at San Gabriel CC). Also making match play is 2007 State Amateur Champion and Pepperdine senior, Josh Anderson, James Erkenbeck from San Diego (junior at University of New Mexico), Kevin Lee from Cerritos, JJ Holen from Castaic, Bryan Bergna from Riverside (junior at LMU) and Paul Misko from Thousand Oaks. Here is a picture of Fitzgerald and Bergna who were all smiles after realizing they were in the final 64 for match play.

My assignment for Wednesday is to referee match #27 at 12:20 between Derek Ernst, who attends UNLV and Joe David, who attends Ole Miss. The first round of match play will once again switch courses and play on Bandon Trails. We’re crossing our fingers for more great weather today at one of the greatest golf facilities in the world.

Wednesday, June 29: Day 2 - U.S. WAPL Championship – Stroke Play –– Bandon Trails

By Jimmy Becker

Day two of stroke play at the U.S. WAPL Championship was vastly different than the first as the weather was cool, but sunny and not rainy. More importantly, though, was the lack of wind, which is very unusual for this area. The women played Bandon Trails today, which was the third course built at the resort. The course opened in 2005 and is dramatically different than the other three courses at Bandon Dunes. It winds through meadows, dunes and forest and is not the traditional links style course with dramatic elevation changes. It also has high fescue grass all throughout, and Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (1995 Masters Champion) were the golf course architects. Coore & Crenshaw also recently worked on the Pinehurst #2 re-model, which was done in preparation for the 2014 U.S. Open & Women’s Open.

For this championship, the course is playing to a 6,095 yard, par 71. Yesterday, I walked with two groups covering 36 holes of the layout. Again, from a rules standpoint, a fairly quiet day but I did have five total rulings. Most were basic, but two stood out. In the afternoon, a player hit her approach shot into the first green. The shot came up short and rolled back down a steep slope and was deflected by a fellow-competitor’s ball at rest. Rule 19-5a (Ball in motion deflected or stopped by another ball at rest) guides us here. The player who’s ball was at rest and was moved just merely replaces the ball on the spot in which it was moved, the other player who shot deflected the ball must play the ball as it lies.

The other ruling involves the picture shown to the left. A player hit her tee shot right of the eighth hole and it appeared to be embedded in the bunker. Once we got up there, it was evident that the ball was embedded through the green a foot above the bunker. In all USGA Championships and qualifiers, the USGA adopts as a condition of the competition that a player is entitled to relief for an embedded ball through the green as prescribed in Appendix I. Rule 25-2 in this case will tell us that the ball may be lifted, cleaned and dropped, without penalty, as near as possible to the spot where it lay but not nearer the hole. The nearest point in this case would have not been a much better spot and the player would have an awkward stance. She asked what her other options were and I told her that she could proceed under Rule 28 – Ball Unplayable. I explained her three options to her and she decided that she would drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped under penalty of one stroke. The player proceeded to do that and ended up making a bogey on the hole.

At the end of the day, a playoff took place to determine the last two players to fill out the 64 player match play field. Nine players were in the playoff and the playoff lasted six holes and was completed before nightfall. Out of the 64 players, 12 of those are from Southern California. Included in this group are three UCLA players, led by Tiffany Lua of Rowland Heights and defending champion Emily Tubert of Burbank. She attends the University of Arkansas.

On Wednesday, I will be the referee of the 10:10 am match on the Old Mac Donald course. Grace Na out of Oakland, CA (attends Pepperdine University) will face Kimberly Johnson of San Diego, CA (a recent graduate of UC-Davis).

Tuesday, June 28: Day 1 - U.S. WAPL Championship – Stroke Play –– Old MacDonald

By Jimmy Becker

Day one at the 2011 U.S. WAPL Championship was a mixed bag of some good weather in the morning followed by windy, cool, rainy weather in the afternoon. I was the walking referee for the 7:30 a.m. and 1:10 p.m. groups off the 10th tee and there was one Southern California player in my second group of the day, Brittany Mai of Poway. She will be attending Northwestern University in the fall. Besides dealing with the weather, it was a very quiet day rules wise. I had only one rules question all day and the player just wanted to know if her ball was in a bunker or not and as you will see later, there is not always an easy answer to that question.

Since there was not much in the way of rulings on the course today, I definitely want to talk a little more about what Old MacDonald could present in terms of rules issues. It is helpful though to first talk a little more about the course. Opened in June of 2010, Old MacDonald is the fourth course at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, the course is a tribute to the father of American golf course architecture and a driving force in the formation of the USGA, Charles Blair MacDonald. The yardage for this championship is 6,098 and is playing to a Par 71. After the first two holes, you head up a hill to the third fairway and see the real beauty of the golf course, a sprawling valley of massive undulating greens, pot bunkers, and gorse bushes. It had the look and feel of the courses that are part of the Rota for the Open Championship. The weather today added to that feel with low clouds, winds sustained at 20-25 mph and constant showers during the afternoon.

From a rules standpoint, the course is fairly straightforward, but there are some unique items out there. As Mike stated earlier in this blog, each putting green has white dots painted on it to help players/officials discern between putting green and “fringe” or other through the green areas. The USGA has also adopted the local rule for immovable obstructions near the putting green (Appendix I, d). USGA staff explained that since sprinkler heads are located in closely mown areas near the green and could impact the line of play, it was necessary to implement this local rule.

The bunkers are probably the biggest issues on the golf course. As you can see in some of the photos, there are very large wood pilings located inside the bunker. Even though these wood pilings are man-made structures, the USGA has declared them to be an integral part of the course in which no relief is available. However, many of these same bunkers have steps leading into them, and the steps have been declared to be immovable obstructions (Rule 24-2). In addition, players are allowed to remove stones or redshots from bunkers and they are deemed to be movable obstruction (Rule 24-1). Committees usually institute this local rule when the sizes of some of these stones are large enough where they can pose a safety issue to the player if they stroke one when playing a stroke.

Old MacDonald really tested the players today, as the stroke average was 82.59 and it very possible that the match play qualifying score could be around 160, which is unusually high for this event. Today, the WAPL moves to Bandon Trails to finish off the stroke play portion of the event and the forecast calls for cool, cloudy conditions with some rain in the morning tapering off to showers late in the day. The wind is supposed die down to 10-15 mph which will definitely make the players happy. Match play begins on Wednesday on Old MacDonald.

Tuesday, June 28: APL Stroke Play, Round 1 at Bandon Trails

By Mike Sweeney

We were met with calm, overcast conditions in the morning and those that went off early had an advantage over those going off later in the day with rain in the forecast. I was the referee for two groups Monday which included two SCGA members. In the morning, I walked with a group that included Roger Dunn Los Angeles member Max Marsico, who is currently in second place with an even par 70. In the afternoon, I walked with a group that included Daniel Miernicki from San Diego (and 1st Team All Pac-10 at Oregon) who struggled with a 76. The rain and wind came around 1 p.m. and we were met with showers and tough scoring conditions all afternoon.

The USGA changed the par at Bandon Trails from 71 to 70, making the par-5 3rd hole a par-4 513 monster. It played as the toughest hole on Monday as the wind shifted and was blowing in the opposite direction it normally does. Only one player broke par and the scoring average was 78.5.The main rulings that came up at Bandon Trails were lost balls in the tall fescue off the fairways and unplayable lies in those same fescue areas. Every time a player hit an errant tee shot, I suggested that they hit a provisional ball in case they couldn’t find their original. There is nothing worse in a tournament than having to drive someone back to the tee after a five-minute search.

Many Southern Californians are in the hunt, including Murrieta’s Josh Anderson (72), San Diego’s James Erkenbeck (73) and Cerritos’s Kevin Lee (74). Unfortunately, Tim Hogarth had to withdraw during his round today when he tweaked his hand injury playing a punch shot out of the tall grass. He was hoping he could drive it straight and avoid shots like that!

Round 2 will be played at Old MacDonald and more rain and wind is in store for us. After today's round, the field will be cut to the low 64 players for the match play portion of the event.

Monday, June 27

Here’s a report from Mike on his rules committee meeting Sunday night, where the USGA staff reviewed the local rules and assignments for the week with all the rules officials.

So far I’ve run into two SCGA Players, Josh Anderson from Murrieta and Tim Hogarth from Northridge. United Airlines left Anderson’s clubs in San Francisco so he missed his 2:30 practice round time and has to wait until the clubs get sent up on the next flight. He’s not alone, supposedly a number of players have had their clubs left in SF by United!

Hogarth is coming off of an 8-week stretch of not swinging a club due to a fracture in his left hand. He is cautiously optimistic about his chances here this week as he doesn’t know how he will play after the layoff. He played a practice round on Old MacDonald and when asked what he thought of the course, sad it was “not exactly my cup of tea. I like courses that are a lot tighter off the tee with smaller greens. These greens are way bigger than I’m used to.”

We were greeted at our meeting with two surprise guests, USGA Executive Director Mike Davis and the Chairman of their Championship Committee, Tom O’Toole. Both are huge fans of Bandon Dunes and wanted to express their thanks to the host committee and staff in person for donating two of their courses for the entire week. O’Toole made it a point to discuss the recent U.S. Open and the media attention brought to the low scores. He says, that contrary to what the media is reporting, the USGA was okay with 16 under par breaking scoring records at the Open and was extremely happy that Rory Mcllroy won his first major at a USGA championship. I did talk to Mike Davis for a few minutes about next year’s Open at Olympic Club, who said he was aware that we just held the State Amateur there and wanted me to send him the course stats for the championship. Davis and O’Toole are heading to Olympic Club this week to check out the course and they will be extremely happy with the firmness of the greens and fairways.

The local rules sheet is fairly extensive but here are three interesting rules that are being adopted:

  • Putting Green Perimeters: are identified by white paint dots (pictured right) – between the dots the perimeter of the green is defined by a straight line (This local rule is necessary as it is impossible to know where the green starts and stops).
  • Immovable Obstructions close to putting greens: Relief for intervention under the local rule in Appendix I is available (this local rule is necessary as players will be putting from off the green often).
  • Stones in bunkers (including stone-like “redshots”) are movable obstructions, Rule 24-1.

More pictures and player interviews will be posted throughout the week as round 1 of stroke play starts at 7:30 a.m. Monday morning.


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