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July 26 — A rules official erred in disqualifying Sarah Brown from the final round of the Futures Tour’s The International at Concord (N.H.) event for using wedges with nonconforming grooves.
Failure to communicate. “Regarding Sarah, we ultimately made a mistake,” Futures Tour public relations manager Joely Pique said in an e-mail to New England Golf Monthly. “[Futures Tour chief executive] Zayra Calderon has called Sarah to apologize. There was miscommunication on whether the club conformed that made this an unfortunate situation. We are still gathering information so we can ensure it will never happen again.”
Brown was three shots back of third-round leader and eventual winner Jenny Shin at Concord’s Beaver Meadow Golf Course when she started her final round Sunday. She was about to make the turn when an official informed her of her DQ.
Golfweek reported that an unidentified person told the official sometime during Brown’s front nine that the 18-year-old from New Jersey may have used nonconforming wedges. The official, who remained anonymous, reportedly checked with the USGA’s website to determine that the wedges were nonconforming.
Pack it up. Rather than let her finish play and further investigate the issue, the official told Brown to pack up her bag and leave.
A Ping representative told New England Golf Monthly earlier Monday that he could not confirm whether Brown’s clubs conformed to the USGA standard. It turned out that her Ping Tour-W wedges with 54 degrees of loft and the letters “XG” (as in the Roman numeral “10,” for “2010,” and “G” for “grooves, according to Golfweek) stamped on the hosel were, indeed, legal under the USGA’s new grooves policy.
“Unfortunately, Sarah Brown was the victim of an inaccurate ruling regarding the conformity of her Ping Tour-W wedge,” Ping chairman & CEO John Solheim said in a statement to Golfweek. “The wedge is properly identified as conforming to the 2010 ‘New Groove Rule.’ This has been confirmed by the USGA.
Disappointed. “We’re disappointed that the rules officials at the Futures Tour event took the action they did without properly investigating the situation,” Solheim continued. “We’ve received an apology from the Futures Tour and more importantly, they’ll be apologizing to Sarah for the mistake.”
Brown was at 2-over 38 for her round and 3-under for the tourney when the official bounced her. The golfer’s father and caddy, Keith Brown, took issue with the official’s attitude.
Arrogance of power. “There’s nothing that can be done to rectify the situation,” he told Golfweek. “It’s not that [the rules official] made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. It was the arrogance to say, ‘I’m pulling her off the course.’ I said, ‘Let her finish the round and check with the USGA.’”
That’s what usually occurs in similar situations. Officials DQ’d amateur Erynne Lee from a U.S. Women’s Open qualifying round for using nonconforming wedges, Golfweek noted.
The difference was that the powers-that-be let Lee finish her round, looked into the issue, and then disqualified her. Lee reportedly used nonconforming 56- and 6-degree Ping Tour-W wedges.
Cheating charges. The grooves issue was something of a distraction at the beginning of the 2010 season, after the USGA required professional players to use clubs with rounder grooves. Things came to a head when PGA Tour player Scott McCarron accused Phil Mickelson of cheating for using Ping wedges manufactured before April 1, 1990.
The USGA allowed such wedges due to a settlement of a 1990 Ping lawsuit against the golf governing body. Earlier this year, Ping waived its rights under the settlement, allowing the USGA to prohibit pros from using Ping Eye 2 irons and wedges that do not meet the new conditions.
A Futures Tour newbie, Brown is ranked 106th on the Futures Tour money list, with career earnings of $2,921. She has made four cuts in eight events and her best finish to date was a tie for 21st.

(Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. Kay also writes the Boston Golf Examiner and National Golf Examiner blogs.)

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