The SCGA Rules Crew is back on the road as Asst. Director of Rules & Competitions Jimmy Becker attends this week's U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. Read below for his daily blog posts to brush up on your rules of golf and more!
Today, the competition heated up as we transitioned from stroke to match play. Sixty-four players advanced to match play and today I was the referee in the 8:18 a.m. match. The match was the 16th seeded Mai Dechathipat out of Howey in the Hills, Florida pitted against the 49th seed Allyssa Ferrell out of Edgerton, Wisconsin. I was thankful for being in the third match of the day as everyone on site was greeted with stifling heat and humidity (low to mid 90’s, heat index near 100). There are not many trees on the course, so shade was definitely at a premium.
What are a referee’s duties in match play? Basically, we are there to assist the players with the Rules and act on any breach of the Rules. If a referee has been appointed by the Committee (as in this case), the referee’s decision is final (Rule 34-2). Unlike the first two days, I had a ruling right out of the gate on the first hole. A player hit their ball into a lateral water hazard marked as environmentally sensitive (ESA). The player took relief under Rule 26-1 (2 club lengths from where it last crossed the margin of the hazard). In this instance though, a cart path was adjacent to the hazard and the two club lengths put her on the cart path. So, I had her drop on the cart path and the ball came to rest on some grass in between the cart path and the hazard. At this point, she had a ball in play as she satisfied the requirement for relief under Rule 26-1c, but now she would have to stand on the cart path to play the stroke. She wanted relief from the path under Rule 24-2b (i). To satisfy this requirement, we must first find her nearest point of relief (the nearest point that gets the players off the condition free on stance, area of intended swing, lie of ball). From there, the player get one club length not closer to hole to drop the ball from the nearest point of relief. We got her ball back in play and moved on.
The rest of the day was fairly quiet and the match was tight throughout. No player was ever more than 1up through 12 holes and the quality of golf was high as there were five birdies between the two players in the first nine holes of the match. On Hole 13, Dechathipat hit another ball into the lateral water hazard treated as ESA and ended up losing that hole to put Ferrell two up in the match. Both players struggled on the par 5 14th hole but Dechathipat three putted to lose the hole and Ferrell won the 15th hole with a birdie to win the match 4 & 3.
At this point, five Southern California players have won their matches with a few still matches going on out on the course. Included in winning matches were the following as of 3:24 EDT (with still some matches out on course).
• Elisabeth Bernabe out of Anaheim Hills (who also qualified for this year U.S. Women’s Open)
• 2010 U.S. WAPL Champion Emily Tubert of Burbank
• 2012 Curtis Cup Team member Tiffany Lua of Rowland Heights
• Demi Frances Runas (attends UC Davis) out of Torrance
• Rachel Morris (attends USC) out of Carlsbad
Once again, it was a great week here at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship and I look forward to coming back to California tomorrow to help the rest of the Rules Crew prepare for the 101st California Amateur Championship, set to be held at La Cumbre CC in Santa Barbara.
I just walked into my hotel room at 8:52 p.m. after a long second day at the 36th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. Today, I was on the 15th hole as the rules official. The 15th hole is a 360-yard par 4 that has a dogleg right with fescue on both sides and out of bounds left and behind the green. For the most part it is played down wind and was a fairly easy hole for the players (5th easiest hole at a 4.115 average today). On the right side of the hole though are the little pot bunkers (pictured) that cannot be seen from the tee or the fairway. These bunkers are also surrounded by tall, thick fescue grass.
I had two minor rulings today. During the first one, a player wanted relief from a yardage stone in the middle of the fairway. I denied her relief because when I asked her to take her normal stance like she would for the stroke, the obstruction did not interfere at all. The second ruling was a little more interesting but fairly simple. A player had marked and lifted her ball from the putting green. Her fellow competitor was off the green and hit a pitch shot that struck and moved the ball marker. So what happens in this situation? Since a ball marker on a green indicates where a ball is located, when a fellow-competitor’s ball moves that ball marker, the player must replace the ball or ball marker on the spot from which it was moved (Rule 20-3). The fellow competitor plays her ball as it lies.
Although it was a quiet day when I was sitting on the 15th hole, the real fun came later as I was in charge of running the playoff to fill the field of 64 players for match play. 64 players advance to the match play portion and if there are any ties for the 64th spot, a sudden death playoff occurs. Fortunately for me, we had a small playoff with four players tied for 62nd place. Therefore, the playoff was four players for the last three qualifying spots. The playoff began on the 10th hole at Neshanic Valley at 7:45 p.m. and we figured we could go three holes max because it gets dark around 8:40 p.m. Luckily, the playoff only lasted one hole as three players made par and one player made double bogey and was eliminated.
The real fun of this championship begins tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. with the match play portion. Out of the 64 players that advanced, 12 are from Southern California, including the 2010 WAPL Champion Emily Tubert of Burbank. Three players from USC (Doris Chen, Rachel Morris, and Lisa McCloskey) and three players from UCLA (Tiffany Lua, Lee Lopez, and Ani Gulugian) also advanced to match pIay. I will be the referee with the 8:18 a.m. group of Mai Dechathipat of Howey in the Hills, Florida and Allyssa Ferrell of Edgerton, Wisconsin. It’ll be a hot one tomorrow, with forecast showing 95 degrees of sunshine with humidity around 70%. Thank goodness I go out early! Until then, see you all tomorrow!
I just finished my duties for the first day at Neshanic Valley GC for the 36th U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. This year, all officials are assigned to zones during the stroke play portion of the championship and today I on was on the 4th hole, a 503-yard par 5. There is a lateral water hazard of the left side of the hole that is also treated as an environmentally sensitive area (ESA). On the right side of the hole, there is high fescue grass which makes finding the ball extremely difficult.
Before the round started, I went out to the hole to look for any trouble areas and tried to see where rules issue could occur. If assigned to a hole, it is a great idea to go out in advance and scope the hole for potential issues so you are not caught off guard with anything that may happen. After spending some time on the hole, I thought that a few balls would be hit into the fescue and many balls would end up in the lateral water hazard. I could not have been more wrong. Only two balls were hit into the lateral water hazard and 12 to 15 balls were hit into the fescue, leaving my job pretty easy. I had only two rulings all day. The first involved the high fescue grass.
A player topped her first tee shot into the high fescue (pictured left) situated in front of the teeing area. After a brief search, she decided she wanted to proceed under stroke and distance (Rule 27-1a) and returned to the tee. It is important to note that a player can proceed under stroke and distance (under penalty) at any time during the play of a hole. Now hitting three off the tee, she topped it again in almost a similar position. This time, we were able to locate her ball (she did identify it as hers), but she felt that she could not advance it. In this situation, the player declared the ball unplayable (Rule 28) and wanted to know what her options were. Under Rule 28, I told her she had three options: (a) proceed under stroke and distance and return to the tee, (b) drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that spot on which the ball is to dropped with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped or (c) drop a ball within two club lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole. The player chose option (a) and returned to the tee playing 5.
The second ruling involved the lateral water hazard and the concept of “known or virtually certain.” The player hit her tee shot left, hitting some trees located in the hazard. I didn't see the shot, so the player stated that she hooked her tee shot and saw the ball hit the trees, but could not find it. She assumed it was in the hazard. For a player to proceed under the water hazard rule, the player must have knowledge or virtual certainty that the ball came to rest in the lateral water hazard. What does this term “known or virtually certain” mean? Decision 26-1/1 covers this and to paraphrase, a player and the fellow competitors must have 99.9% certainty that the ball came to rest in a hazard. This is where other players in the group can be helpful. The other players in this particular group stated that they saw it hit the trees and kick left farther into the hazard. Since the other players in the group physically saw the ball come to rest in the hazard, we then can proceed giving the player lateral water hazard relief since there is knowledge or virtual certainty.
Besides the two rulings, it was a very quiet day in what were ideal weather conditions. Temperatures were in the low 70’s with a slight breeze and cloud cover. The forecast is similar for tomorrow, with slightly warmer temperatures. Currently, 12 players from Southern California are in contention to make match play including 2010 U.S. WAPL Champion and 2012 Curtis Cup Team member Emily Tubert out of Burbank as well as fellow 2012 Curtis Cup member Tiffany Lua of Rowland Heights. Tomorrow, I am assigned to Hole No. 15 as well as the playoff (if necessary) to help reduce the field down to 64 players for the match play portion. See you all tomorrow!
For full scores from the first round of the WAPL, click here.
For the next few days, I will be officiating at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at Neshanic Valley GC in Neshanic Valley, New Jersey. The host site is roughly 20-25 minutes south of USGA headquarters in Far Hills and is one three USGA championships to be held in New Jersey this year (USGA Men’s State Team and U.S. Senior Amateur Championship).
I arrived late Friday night and yesterday was able to take an in-depth tour of the course. Neshanic Valley is a 27-hole facility that opened in 2004 and the Hurdzan/Fry Golf Course design rolls through farmland in Somerset County; spread over 420 acres. For the purposes of this championship, the Meadow will act as the front nine and the Lake as the back nine. In the five U.S. WAPL championships I have attended, I have never seen a site like this that really does not have a myriad of rules issues. The golf course is very generous in terms of fairway widths, is fairly wide open with not many trees and if the wind stays down, scores could be good. I’ll provide more on the course in the next few days.
Yesterday evening, the player’s dinner was held at USGA headquarters in New Jersey and Annika Sorenstam, featured on the cover of the current issue of FORE Magazine, was the guest speaker. Sorenstam has won 90 tournaments worldwide including 10 majors and three U.S. Women’s Opens (1995, 1996, 2006). In addition, the Mickey Wright Room was officially unveiled at the USGA Museum (pictured top). Players and officials got to tour the museum and hit putts on the putting green behind the museum using clubs that were using in the early portion of the 20th century.
We had a rules meeting this morning and there are really just two main issues that could challenge players and officials this week. The first issue is if players do stray off the fairway, there is very high fescue grass (pictured left), which will make it very difficult to search for balls. Remember under the Rules, players have five minutes to look for their ball once the player or caddie has begun the search. Players would be wise to utilize Rule 27-2 (Provisional Ball) if they think their ball may be lost outside a water hazard.
The second issue is that the majority of holes have environmentally sensitive areas (ESA’s). All of these areas are either lateral water hazards or regular water hazards and are signified by a red or yellow stakes with a green cap on the top. Appendix I, Section 2b provides players and officials guidance on how to take relief from an ESA (whether the ball is in it or not), since players are prohibited from playing from these areas or entering these areas.
During the stroke play portion of the championship, officials will be assigned to a particular hole for the entire day. Monday, I will be on hole No. 4, a 503-yard par 5. Until then, enjoy the final day of the U.S. Open!