Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Amazing Spiderwoman

            Hopefully, by now you’ve heard about the amazing “Spiderwoman,” who essentially risked her life and played through intense pain just to finish a qualifying round. 
            On the fourth hole at the qualifier for the ISPS Handa Australian Open, the LPGA’s season opener, Daneila Holmqvist felt an intense stabbing pain just above her ankle.  She noticed a small eight-legged critter running from her and the caddies quickly identified it as a black widow.  Now the amazing part starts.  She grabbed a tee from her pocket to slice open the wound and squeezed as much of the venom out as possible.  “It was not the best looking thing I’ve done,” she said, “but I had to get as much out of me as I could.”
            Given that black widow bites are known to have been deadly to full grown adults as well as children, a trip to the hospital would seem like to most reasonable next step.  Instead, she kept playing – for fourteen more holes.  I’m reminded of Bill Murray in Caddyshack when the priest asks if he should continue in the pouring rain.  Bill’s character, Carl Spackler, replies in his now iconic accent, “I’d keep playing.  I don’t think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for quite a while.”  Daniela unfortunately shot 74 and did not qualify for the event, admitting she felt a bit dizzy and tired after the round.  I think she should be given a sponsor’s invite based on her merit in the situation alone (I suppose stupidity and ignorance for your safety can be considered merit in this case, I mean, she did at least squeeze the venom out). That isn’t the case and she’s on to her next event.
            The situation allows me to dig into my Rules book and go over two situations in particular that apply or could apply to her case.

Discontinuing Play

            Clearly, in Holmqvist’s case she had to act quickly, so the disruption of play may not have been long.  But there are instances when players are and are not permitted to discontinue play of their own accord.  Rule 6-8 gives us four main reasons a player may discontinue play:

1) The Committee has suspended play.  This is pretty clear, if the Committee tells you first that you may stop, then go ahead and stop.  In some cases, the Committee may suspend play requiring you to stop immediately because of a dangerous situation.

2)  The player believes there is danger from lightening.  So the player is able to stop play if he (or she) alone believes the thunder sound is just a bit too close.  Report to the Committee immediately.

3) The player is seeking a decision from the Committee on a doubtful or disputed point (see Rules 2-5 and 34-3).  There is a limit to this.  First, you must immediately report to the Committee.  If the Committee is not readily available, it is not acceptable to wait an undue amount of time for an official to arrive.  You may be allowed to discontinue play briefly under this clause, but there are plenty of situations where a player could be subject to an undue delay penalty (Rule 6-7) if they wait an inordinate amount of time.

4) There is some other good reason to discontinue play such as sudden illness.  Ken Venturi’s U.S. Open at Congressional comes to mind. This would also be the clause under which Daniela discontinued play.  Make sure you report to the Committee as soon as practicable.  The penalty for discontinuing play without a good reason to do so is disqualification.

Rule 6-8 also states that bad weather is not a good reason, of itself, to discontinue play.  Sorry fair weather fans.

            To cover Daniela specifically, Decision 6-8/3a rules on discontinuing play due to a physical problem:

Q. During a round, a player is incapacitated by heat exhaustion, a bee sting or because he has been struck by a golf ball.  The player reports his problem to the Committee and requests the Committee to allow him some time to recuperate.  Should the Committee comply with the request?

A. The matter is up to the Committee.  Rule 6-8a(iv) permits a player to discontinue play because of sudden illness and the player incurs no penalty if he reports to the Committee as soon as practicable and the Committee considers his reason satisfactory.  It would seem reasonable for the Committee to allow a player 10 or 15 minutes to recuperate from such a physical problem but ordinarily allowing more time than that would be inadvisable.

A bite from a black widow is a bit more severe than a bee sting, so I think Holmqvist was clearly safe from penalty and had the right to discontinue play for a few minutes. 

Other Dangerous Situations

            There are two decisions under 1-4 that discuss dangerous situations as the term refers to wildlife or poisonous plants.  Decision 1-4/10 permits a player relief if his ball comes to rest in an area surrounded by bees or next to a rattlesnake or other dangerous wildlife.  “It is unreasonable to expect the player to play from such a dangerous situation and unfair to require the player to incur a penalty…”  Had Holmqvist been approaching her ball and found it near a black widow or several widows, this Decision would have exempted her from playing that ball and allowed her to substitute and play a ball in a safer spot (within one club-length from the nearest spot that is not dangerous).
            Decision 1-4/11 further clarifies the meaning of “Dangerous Situation” and rules that a ball coming to rest in an area of poisonous plants would not be a dangerous situation.  “Decision 1-4/10 contemplates a situation which is unrelated to conditions normally encountered on the course.  Unpleasant lies are a common occurrence which players must accept.”  In other words, with rattlers, bees and spiders, neither you nor course have control or knowledge of where they might be.  In the case of plants that are stationary, you shouldn’t be hitting it there.

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