Sunday, May 10, 2015

1st US Women's Amateur Four-Ball Notes

For those of you who were looking for a wrap-up of the US Amateur Four-Ball at Olympic Club, there was no more to share.  I worked checkpoint #9 on day 2 and had absolutely no groups miss the checkpoint.  I then followed as a second observer in Nathan Smith and Todd White’s first round match on their way to victory, but nothing notable occurred relating to my role as the observer.  So I decided to skip to Amateur Four-Ball Wrap-Up and we’re on to the US Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at Pacific Dunes.
Two rounds of stroke play are now in the books and I made it 35 holes before there was a notable ruling.  Despite that, it was an eventful first couple of days with some very unique Rules situations that I will share.

The Drop Zone You Never Want to Need
From the Blue Stake Up the Left Side of #11

                On the 11th Hole the left green-side bunker has about a yard or two between its left edge and the cliff down to the beach.  For half of the bunker there is room for a player to drop when the ball crosses the margin of the lateral water hazard.  However, as you can see in the picture, past a certain point, there is really no available area to drop in.  So a dropping zone has been provided with the catch that it may only be used for a ball which crosses the margin of the water hazard beyond the blue stake. If you want my opinion, it’s probably an easier shot to use stroke and distance.
From the Blue Stake to the Drop Zone You Never Want to Need

Blue Drop Zones
                Fox Sports will be televising some of the match play portion of the championship.  And with television coverage comes – TIOs.  The USGA has done a wonderful job of making the relief situations from the TIOs incredibly easy to handle by providing mandatory drop zones anytime a ball is in, on, under or has physical interference from the TIO.  This is not a revelation in the Rules.  The use of the blue drop zone to correspond to the blue lines used to define the limits of the TIO is, however, a wonderful stroke of genius that I had to share below.
The Blue Drop Zone near the TIO (TV Tower) behind the 14th Green

Defining Bunkers
                There are several occasions out here where the line between bunker and sand dune are quite blurry.  In those instances they have installed blue dowel rods to define the margins of the bunker.  The stakes are inside the bunker and the margin is defined by the outside edges at ground level, stake-to-stake.  Another very bright move, but also something that requires a very poor shot to come into play.

Defining Putting Greens
                The most frequent question over the first two days was, “Is this on the green?”  For those of you who have played Pacific Dunes, or any of the Bandon Dunes courses, you know that the line between putting green and through the green is quite blurred.  For the championship, it is actually quite clear where the putting green starts and fairway stops, but not when standing directly over it.  You actually have to take a few steps back and it’s usually fairly easy to see the mow line.  There are a few areas where even a few steps back is not enough and we’ve been told to give the player the benefit of the doubt if it’s not 100% clear.

Course Setup
                Ask and you shall receive.  When I received the invitation to work the event I told the SIC (Staff in Charge) to put me to work, and if any help was needed with setup I would be there.  Sure enough I was asked to help with setup this morning and it was an incredible experience for a number of reasons:
1) It’s always fun for me to do course setup, and even more fun for a USGA Championship.  Getting up early to be able to use the tape and go out with the hole cutter in the morning is just the way to do it.
2) Pacific Dunes is my favorite course in the world.  To pass up the opportunity to do setup on my favorite course (including my favorite hole seen below) would have been idiotic.

Setting the Tee Markers on My Favorite Hole in the World, #11 at Pacific Dunes
3) The setup plan for this championship is unique due to the normal maintenance rotation, layout and cart restrictions.  So we did not set up 1-9 or 9-18, but rather 4-12 in a crazily-ordered loop that I cannot re-create from memory.  Much to my enjoyment I was assigned to the “coastal” nine with David Staebler who is always a joy to work with and has been great to learn from.  So not only was the rotation unique but we also walked the course setup.  The maintenance truck carried the tee markers, we carried the tape measure, paint, putter, level, golf balls and hole markers, and then we walked the coastal setup which included holes 4-12, but started on 7 and ended on 9.  You figure that one out! 
Running the Tape and Testing Hole Locations on the 11th Green

My One Ruling
                So after 35-holes of relative calm (ok just about absolutely nothing but players playing golf and tracking hole finish times), the final hole of the day was simply nutty.  Between 17 and 18 Barton asked how they were doing for time (they had made the first three checkpoints and as the first group following the starter time without catching the group 24 minutes ahead of them, staying ahead of pace was all they had).  They had put the flagstick in 3 minutes over pace, so with that info Barton told the group they needed to pick it up and unfortunately rushed through the 18th hole. 
This lead to one provisional ball and a brief search on the tee shot, another slightly longer search on the approach/lay-up and then a ball collision after a stroke from off the putting green that was as simple as it gets.  Rules 18-5 and 19-5 applied, Barton, whose ball struck the other, played her ball as it lay and her fellow-competitor put the moved ball back. No penalty, phew! What was nerve racking was I saw the fellow-competitor start to reach down for her ball while Barton’s ball was motoring toward it and I was about to shout “Don’t touch that ball!” when she stopped on her own and let the collision happen.
So I finally had an incident for the Rules Incident card…

My Assignments
Lila Barton and Marissa Mar Surveying Putts on the 10th Green
                The championship had us walking with groups for the first two rounds of stroke-play, and today I was lucky enough to have Marissa Mar and Lila Barton as one of my two sides. They played incredibly well and it was fun officiating for the two of them outside of collegiate events at Stanford.
The schedule for the rest of the week (subject to changes by the SIC): I’m off in the first match tomorrow, so I’ll have the 1 and 32 seeds.  I’ll observe two matches on Tuesday and then I will be the Referee for a semi-final match on Wednesday before I head back for home and prepare for Women’s Open Qualifying a week from tomorrow.
                It’s been an honor working this championship and I look forward to more to share over the next few days.

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