Knowing the rules of any game you play is important, whether it be Tiddlywinks or, in Friday’s case, golf.
During Friday’s final round of play at the Bubba Smart Invitational at Pine Bluff Country Club, Hot Springs’ Kirsten Garner was victim to not knowing the rules.
Garner led the event after Thursday’s opening round of 1-over 72 gave her a three-stroke advantage over Cabot’s Kaylee Benton and Forrest City’s Elizabeth Moon. Four holes into Friday’s round, Garner pulled her tee shot left on the 18th hole and assumed the ball was out of bounds according to the rules sheet handed out by tournament officials at the start of the event.
PBCC golf pro Reggie Grant was called out to evaluate the situation and after calling the PGA to discuss the matter, administered a three-stroke penalty to Garner for playing the wrong ball.
Grant’s decision was wrong and basically cost Garner a shot of dethroning two-time defending champ Benton and claiming her first Bubba Smart trophy.
When all the dust had settled, Grant realized the mistake he made and awarded Garner three strokes at the end of the round. But it was too late. The damage had been done and of all the golfers that turned in scorecards at the end of the day that weren’t low enough to win, Grant felt worse than all of them.
The rules of golf are pretty standard for the most part. But there are times like these when you have to really look into the book to decipher a situation. Garner had options on the hole that could have prevented her from taking a big number. At 14 years old, I can totally understand why she is not familiar with those rules. I have an 8-year old daughter that plays competitive golf and that is one of the things I am trying to do with her: teach her the rules along the way. But I don’t know all of them. And I can honestly say I could have probably allowed my daughter to make the same mistake.
But it’s what it did to Garner’s psyche that doomed the teenager. Even after the penalty was incurred, Garner was still in control of her game. She was 2-under after four holes with a one-shot lead and had a lot of golf to play. But she didn’t handle the situation with, well, maturity. And that is expected.
I feel bad for Garner and for Grant. I hope it will serve as a learning tool for this talented young athlete to know the rules of the game as she continues her golfing career. She is a great striker of the ball and will be a tough contender as she grows.
I hope it serves as a learning experience for Grant as he had to suffer the consequences of changing the outcome of an event he worked so hard to make perfect.
Grant sat in his office after everyone left and looked through scorecards, pondering the events that transpired and how his decisions changed it, and you could read his demeanor as one of deflation.
It’s over now but both of these individuals have to move on and continue to make positive strides to be better. Garner may wind up being the rules interpreter for the LPGA because of this. Grant will continue to run PBCC and put on quality events.
Consider it a triple bogey in life and look to birdie the next one.
Chan Davis is a sports writer for The Commercial. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.