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VOL. 128 | NO. 125 | Thursday, June 27, 2013

Vic Fleming

Pro Relieved Near Loo, Amateur Pays Out Wazoo

By Vic Fleming

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Did you ever wonder if in golf you get a lift from the loo? Or if there’s a penalty for breaking and entering while on the course? Tourneys in May spoke to these issues. Kinda.

The 2013 Volvo World Match Play Championship in Kavarna, Bulgaria, was won by Graeme McDowell, who bested Thongchai Jaidee in the final match. Ho hum. For present purposes, let’s go to McDowell’s May 19 quarterfinal match with Nicolas Colsaerts. On hole 10, a short par-4, Colasaerts sprayed his tee shot right of the fairway, near the green, into a thicket marked as a hazard.

I won’t cite the rules chapter and verse, but when I’ve hit a ball into a hazard, I have options – three, I think. One is to play the ball as it lies, without penalty, which is sometimes impossible. A second is to go backward as far as I want, keeping the point where the ball had lain between the flagstick and myself, and drop the ball with a one-stroke penalty. This, too, is often impossible.

The third option is to drop the ball two club-lengths from the point where the ball’s line of flight intersects the hazard-line, with a one-stroke penalty. This, frankly, was Colasaerts’ only viable choice. The heck of it, though, was that his ball flew right over an on-course bathroom building abutting the hazard. The rules official said, correctly, that he had to drop the ball in a toilet stall inside this structure – and as McDowell was preparing to do so, the official looked out at the crowd and yelled, “Can we have some privacy, please?”

The bathroom facility is deemed an immovable, manmade obstacle, from which the rules provide (and yes, this is the terminology) that the player may “take relief.” One doesn’t have to hit from inside the loo any more than one has to hit off a cart path. Colasaerts opted to find (again, this is the actual term) the “nearest point of relief,” where he dropped the ball without any additional penalty. And while he may have been flushed by the experience, excellent golfer that he is, he hit his third shot onto the green and drained the par putt.

Around the time that McDowell was winning his final match in Bulgaria, 21 year-old Mike Miller made a hole-in-one in an amateur event in Elmsford, N.Y., where the prize for making an ace was two years’ usage of a new Lincoln. As is often the case in such events, the car was right there by the tee box.

According to a report by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times, after realizing his ball had gone into the cup, Miller “took a flying leap onto the hood,” shattering the windshield “with his rear end.” Can it get any worse? Yes. Apparently, this young man was playing in a group with the man who raised him. Bob Miller said of his son, “Thank God, he turned his body around.”

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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