Editorial – Another Unnecessary Black Eye for Golf’s Ruling Bodies

If you haven’t seen or heard it by now, Haotong Li was penalized two strokes on the last hole of the Dubai Desert Classic for having his caddie standing on an extension of his line of play as he was preparing to take his stance for a putt.  A look at the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psvtcEDvmVA) shows Li’s caddie moving out of the way as Li was walking into his stance to hit a putt on the final hole.

The wording of Rule 10.2b(4) states, “When a player begins taking a stance for the stroke and until the stroke is made, the player’s caddie must not deliberately stand in a location on or close to an extension of the line of play behind the ball for any reason.” The R&A’s Martin Slumbers supported the European Tour’s ruling by saying the rule does not allow for any discretion by the referee or rules officials, but the USGA and R&A official interpretation says, “There is no set procedure for determining when a player has begun to take a stance.” So the Interpretation, by definition, requires discretion, completely contradicting Slumbers. Some guidance is offered further in the Interpretation, saying, “If a player has his or her feet or body close to a position where useful guidance on aiming at the intended target could be given, it should be decided that the player has begun to take his or her stance.” However, a look at the video clearly shows 1) Li’s caddie beginning to move before useful guidance could be given, as Li was not yet facing the ball when his caddie started to move, 2) Li’s left foot was nowhere near its final position; 3) Li’s putter wasn’t even behind the ball.

In my opinion as someone who administers the Rules and who made a decent score on the official USGA Rules test, I firmly believe the ruling was in error. And I don’t care if paid rules officials and the R&A say it was correct. The 2019 re-write of the Rules of Golf was designed to prevent goofy rulings like this, but yet again we see a penalty levied that clearly far outweighed any perceived crime – and again, I don’t believe one occurred. I always go by the tenet that if there is debate as to whether someone violated a rule, he likely didn’t. And that’s the way I will continue to make my rulings. It’s time for the all the tours, the USGA and R&A to do the same.

By Mark Harman, USGTF National Course Director

“PRO” File – Touring Professional Cameron Champ

He’s known for being the longest hitter in professional golf, but if that’s all you have, you can’t become a champ. And that is exactly what Cameron Champ is. The Tour rookie won the Sanderson Farms Championship in late 2018 and appears poised for more success.

Champ first burst upon the national scene as an amateur in 2017 at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where he was in the top 10 after two rounds before falling back. He then qualified for the Web.com Tour, winning the Utah Championship in 2018, and finished sixth on the money list to earn his Tour card for 2018-19. His win at the Sanderson Farms Championship means Champ will be playing on the Tour for at least two more seasons, but given his talent and skill, keeping his Tour card is probably the least of his worries.

What separates Champ from other long hitters is the smoothness of his action. Although his driver swing speed is regularly clocked at 129 mph, it appears he’s hitting wedges. He led the Web.com Tour in driving distance in 2018 at over 340 yards, although during his rookie Tour season he has not come close to approaching that. Look for Champ to be a champ for a long time.
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USGTF Regional Action Announced

Southeast -This year’s tournament is returning to a USGTF favorite, GlenLakes Country Club in Weeki Wachee, Florida, with a new date of Saturday and Sunday, May 18-19. This private course is challenging, beautiful and impeccably maintained. Mature stands of oak and pine, water features, undulating hills and sand traps provide endless variations of play. A prize fund of $1,000 and the Southeast Trophy is assured with a field of 12 players. It is also a good opportunity to catch up with fellow members and plan future events for the section. Entry deadline is May 10. Questions, contact region director Mike Stevens at ams1127@msn.com. Entries should be sent to the USGTF office at:

USGTF 200 S. Indian River Drive, Suite #206 Fort Pierce, FL 34950

If paying with credit card, call the office directly at 888-346-3290.

Southwest – The USGTF Southwest Region Championship will be held Saturday and Sunday, May 4-5, at Ridgeview Ranch Golf Course in Plano, Texas. Region director Bruce Sims is the host. A practice round is available Friday, May 3, for a cart fee, and a dinner will be held that evening. The entry fee is $225, and an optional $20 skins game is available. For more information and to enter, please contact Sims at (214) 475-5168.

Northwest – The USGTF Northwest Region Championship will be held Wednesday and Thursday, May 15-16, 2019, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, California, with region director Nathan Guerrero serving as tournament host. The entry fee of $295 includes two days of golf and prize money, and division play will be based upon the number of entrants. To enter, send your name, age, gender, telephone number, email address and a check for $295.00 to Nathan Guerrero, USGTF Northwest Director, 736 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. The entry deadline is April 20, 2019.

Northeast – The USGTF Northeast Region championship will be held Friday, June 21, with tee times beginning at 12:00 noon, at Mercer Oaks West in West Windsor, New Jersey. The entry fee is $165 and there will be prize money in each division, as well as event champion prize money. Practice rounds are available at a discounted rate from the out of county rate. To enter for for more information, please call USGTF Northeast Region director Bob Corbo at 609 -520-0040, or email him at simductivegolf@gmail.com.

Central – The 2019 USGTF Central Region Championship, a 36-hole stroke play event, will be held Sunday and Monday August 4-5, at Pheasant Run Golf Course in Canton, Michigan. For more information and to register, please contact Central Region director Brent Davies at (248) 701-6843 or e-mail at btkadavies@comcast.net.

U.S. Pro Hickory Coming This Month

The annual USGTF-sponsored Unites States Professional Hickory Championship at historic Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club in Tampa, Florida, will take place on Monday, February 25, 2019. The championship is open to male and female golf professionals and hosted by Mike Stevens, USGTF Southeast Region director. This tournament is a testament to the history and heritage of our game as it was first played with hickory-shafted golf clubs. It honors the memory of John Shippen, America’s first golf professional, and the 1925 Florida Open, in which all the prominent pros of the day played. Information and entry forms can be obtained at www.usprohickory.com, or contact Stevens at ams1127@msn.com. Clubs are provided for participants by the tournament committee, if needed.