On Tuesday, we told you the story of amateur golfer Chris Crawford, who realized a dream when he holed a 40-foot birdie putt on his final hole of a 36-hole sectional qualifier to secure a spot in next week's U.S. Open at Oakmont.
Today, we bring you the nightmarish story of Won Jun Lee, a 17-year-old from South Korea, who missed out on a spot at Oakmont in the most crushing way imaginable -- not understanding one of the many tedious rules of golf.
Lee, seventh in the World Junior Rankings, received a two-stroke penalty on the 11th hole during the second round after using a club to tamp down a pitch mark that his ball had left when landing behind the green.
According to golf rule 13-2, players are not allowed to repair such marks off the green when they might interfere with their swing.
Playing partner Tim Wilkinson called for an official at that point because he said Lee had already skirted the rule several times in the first round and another time at the second hole in the second round.
Instead of a par, the two-stroke penalty gave Lee a double-bogey six and a score of 68 instead of 66. At 5-under 139 for two rounds, Lee finished one-shot out of a five-for-two spots playoff to get into the U.S. Open.
More from Smits:
Without the penalty, Lee would have tied Wilkinson for second at 7-under and the five players who finished 6-under would have gone to a playoff for one spot instead of two.
“I had to say something ... it’s unfortunate because he’s a very, very good player,” said Wilkinson, a PGA Tour member. “I wanted him to realize that you’ve got to respect the game. And it’s about the rest of the field, too.”
Wilkinson said Lee initially denied tapping down the pitch mark.
“I said, ‘you can’t do that ... you can’t tap down pitch marks behind the ball,’” Wilkinson said. “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.”
Yikes. Smits also reported that Lee left the course in tears and was unavailable for comment.