Sarah Brown will never know if she was on the verge of logging her best Duramed Futures Tour finish or even if she might have mounted a torrid back-nine charge in the final round to win last week’s The International in Concord, N.H.
A rules official’s mistake took away her chance.
The fallout’s shaking out this week at the Duramed Futures Tour headquarters.
Brown, 18, of Lopatcong, N.J., started the final round at Concord three shots off the lead but was disqualified at the turn when rules officials declared her Ping Tour-W wedge had non-conforming grooves.
Brown left in tears.
Turns out, her Ping Tour-W wedge, the XG model, was conforming after all.
While Duramed Futures Tour CEO Zayra Calderon can’t remedy the wrong for Brown, she said she’s intent on preventing the mistake from happening again.
“The most important element of this issue is the player,” Calderon said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
That’s why Calderon contacted Brown to apologize for the mistake, express the tour’s regret and communicate actions being taken to prevent a similar mistake.
“It’s important to understand this is a complex issue,” Calderon said. “When the USGA was making plans and transitioning [to the new grooves rules], it had to be concerned about the potential for some mistakes.”
Calderon said she wishes the rules officials involved would have taken more time to use resources available to them before disqualifying Brown. The model of the Ping Tour-W in question was marked XG on the hosel, which is coding for 2010 grooves. The USGA website identifies the club as conforming.
Keith Brown, caddying for his daughter, told Golfweek he pleaded with rules officials to allow her to finish the round and make sure they were making the right decision before disqualifying her. The magazine identified Jim Linyard and Kelly Wergin as the rules officials.
“I asked (Linyard) what he would do if he was wrong,” Brown told Golfweek. “What if he disqualified Sarah and later found out he was wrong? How would he rectify that? He refused to answer. He said: ‘The club is illegal. Sarah is disqualified.’ That was it. It was like giving someone the death penalty on hearsay.”
Calderon said the Tour is reviewing how the ruling was made to “clearly, clearly define the protocol” for making future rulings.
Calderon said it’s unfortunate, but she can’t change the result for Brown.
“You can’t predict outcomes, it’s impossible,” Calderon said. “Once a decision’s made, it’s made. We are sensitive to it. We looked at everything we can do. We think we’ve taken correct actions.”
Asked if the rules officials face discipline, Calderon said umpires and officials in all sports make mistakes, what’s important is they own up to them. She said she believes the rules officials in question are “passionate” about their jobs and sincerely believed they were doing the right thing.