College golfer sets course record in US Open qualifier, then gets himself disqualified

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stories in the golf in recent months have focused on darker elements of the game: greed, selfishness, division. But at its best, golf is a game where honesty and fairness reign. Here's a story of doing the right thing even when it hurts.

Tommy Kuhl is a fifth-year senior at Illinois who is one of the finest collegiate players in the country. He averages over 70 per round, and is coming in third in the Big Ten Championships. Last weekend, he played in a US qualifier at Illini Country Club, and brought the round of his life to a course-record 62. His impressive play in the qualifiers took him one step closer to the US Open; There is only one more qualifying tournament left.

There was just one problem.

After his round, Kuhl was walking with teammates when one denounced aerated putting greens. (Golf courses aerate the green — punching holes in the grass — to make the turf firmer again. This is necessary, but it makes putting much harder.)

An aerated green as it cost Tommy Kuhl dearly. (Getty Images)

monday as cue notes, Kuhl realized that he had made a terrible mistake on the course by repairing the marks his ball had hit on the greens. According to The Rules of Golf, Rule 13.1c(2) allows repair of almost any damage On the green, “including all types of damage (such as ball marks, shoe damage, indentations from clubs or flagsticks, animal damage, etc.), except aeration holes, natural surface imperfections, or natural wear and tear of the hole.” (Emphasis in original.) The rule was created to speed the pace of golf play, so that players could not repair marks throughout the green.

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For Kuhl, the result was this: he had the Rules of Golf, and thus had signed the wrong scorecard. Once that happens, there is only one solution: disqualification.

“I felt sick to my stomach,” Kuhl told Ryan French of Monday Q, “I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep if I didn't tell the rules officer.”

He did, and was soon disqualified. He will have to wait another year to try to qualify for the US Open. (Other players apparently also repaired ball marks on the course, but did not play well enough to advance through qualifying. The question is why a US Open qualifier would even play on a course with aerated greens.) was played, that's another story entirely.)

This is where the Laws of Golf become difficult to defend, as the letter of the law and the spirit of the law diverge. It is impossible to know much Kuhl helped himself by repairing the green, but if he had repaired every mark between himself and the hole, it would still be there today. Putting on aerated greens is difficult at best, borderline impossible at worst; The fact that Kuhl is still managing a course record is a testament to his skill.

Yet, overall, Kuhl violates the rules of golf. He didn't get caught, but he knew he had crossed the line, and that was enough for him.