Penalty costs high-schooler spot in U.S. Open

RSS

This week's U.S. Open sectional qualifiers produced many tales of celebration as players booked their tickets to Oakmont. But for every tear of joy, there's usually another player in tears for a different reason.

Tropical Storm Colin pushed the conclusion of the Jacksonville, Fla., qualifier to Tuesday at Timuquana Country Club. Four players qualified, but amateur Won Jun Lee wasn't among that group because of a costly penalty.

Lee, a 17-year-old high school junior at Saddlebrook Academy outside Tampa, was in contention when he opted to repair a pitch mark his ball made behind the 11th green during his second round. According to Jacksonville.com's Garry Smits, the move was witnessed by Lee's playing partner, Tim Wilkinson, who called in a rules official.

The repair counted as a violation of Rule 13-2, which prevents players from improving the area of an intended stance or swing by "creating or eliminating irregularities of surface."

The subsequent two-shot penalty gave Lee a double bogey on the hole. He ended up posting 5-under 139 for the qualifier, falling one shot short of a 5-for-2 playoff for the final spots. Without the penalty, he would have qualified outright.

"I said, 'You can't do that ... you can't tap down pitch marks behind the ball," said Wilkinson, who qualified himself after rounds of 69-68. "He said, 'No, I didn't,' and I said, 'Yes, you did ... I just watched you do it.' Sorry, that was an admission of guilt to me."

Wilkinson has made 13 starts on the PGA Tour this season, highlighted by a T-4 finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson. According to Smits, he saw Lee skirting the rule "several times" earlier in the qualifier and had even warned him during Monday's rain delay that he was risking a potential penalty.

"I saw a couple of possible infractions (Monday) and I had my eyes open today," Wilkinson said.