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A Minute Too Soon

Billy Pabst Jr.’s dream to play in the U.S. Open may have died because — get this — he hit a tee shot seconds early
By Ryan French

Some golf rules are just dumb. 

One minute. One minute may have cost Billy Pabst Jr. a shot to play in the U.S. Open. 

Pabst, 18, is headed to Penn State next year on a golf scholarship. Like thousands of others, he teed it up at his local U.S. Open qualifying site with designs on advancing to sectionals. Glen Oak Country Club in Clarks Summit, Pa., had about 60 players competing for three spots on Monday. The site also experienced weather delays. 

Pabst bogeyed the 2nd hole, but he had parred the other 11 holes when the horn blew to suspend play. The field was sent back out after a 30-minute delay. After Pabst completed one more hole, the horn blew again. This delay lasted about an hour and a half. 

Pabst was outside eating lunch when he noticed everyone heading for the course. He said no announcement was made outside, where about 10 of the players had gathered to wait out the delay. According to other players in the field, an announcement was made inside the clubhouse. 

Pabst and playing partner Peter Reilly headed to the 14th tee. Pabst checked his phone, and he saw a notice on the leaderboard that play would resume at 3 p.m. When the two got to the tee, Reilly went through his pre-shot routine and hit his tee shot. Pabst followed. As they picked up their bags and headed down the fairway, the siren to restart sounded. 

Pabst parred 14 and 15, bogeyed 16, parred 17 and then made a 6-footer on the last for eagle to shoot an even-par round of 71. Reilly shot 82.

When Pabst and Reilly got to the scoring tent, a rules official asked if they had teed off before the horn. Both said yes. The rules officials gathered, then informed both players they were being DQ’d for playing during a delay.

Pabst accepted the verdict and left the course to purchase a new phone. (“I had an iPhone 7,” he said. “I was happy to get a new one.”) When he turned on his new phone, he saw an email with his scorecard (online scoring systems send your card to you). It showed a 2-over round of 73. Pabst was confused. Soon after a call came from a rules official saying the committee had reconvened and determined the violation was only a two-stroke penalty.

I talked to a rules official not associated with the event to get clarification on the ruling. He said Rule 5.7.c basically states that a player must start at the time the committee stipulates and not before. Breaking this rule results in a DQ except when the player restarts less than less than 5 minutes early (Rule 5.3.a, exception 2). 

With his 73, Pabst moved into a five-way playoff for the alternate spots in the sectionals. Had he avoided the penalty, he would have been in a two-for-one playoff for the final spot. On the first playoff hole, a par-5, Pabst drove it into trouble and had to pitch out, leaving himself 270 yards. He hit it to six feet and two-putted to stay alive. He birdied the 5th hole to claim the first alternate spot. Link to leaderboard here.

Now Pabst plays the waiting game.

3 thoughts on “A Minute Too Soon”

  1. According to Rule 5.3, “A starting time set by the Committee is treated as an exact time (for example, 9 am means 9:00:00 am, not any time until 9:01 am).”

    If the “horn” determines the “starting time” for resumption of play, then this means that every player that tees off more than 1 second after the horn blows should be assessed the general penalty on their first hole.

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