Hey CPG, what are your thoughts about former NCAA Champion Doris Chen's disqualification from an LPGA Q-series event when her mom kicked her ball back in bounds and she knowingly played it without penalty? - G. Sunstrem - Rochester, NY
First of all, teamwork makes the dream work. Personally, I love feel good stories in the game of golf and have always believed that no golfer ever truly "makes it" without the help of others. It's one of the things that makes our game great. Whether it's Arnold Palmer and the mentorship and support of his dad Deacon Palmer or the careful guidance of Marc O'Hair to his son Sean. Parents play a key role.
The thing we have to realize in this particular case is that this type of stuff happens all the time. Parent's want whats best for their kids. In full disclosure, my mom Tammy had sex with a local Oldsmobile Scramble official in the fall of 1988 when questions arose about my amateur status that put my eligibility in to question. Was she vilified? Was the issue splashed all over social media? No! Instead, the official went through a painful marriage separation and our team made the regional finals.
Back to the case at hand. Although Doris and her mother Yuh-Guey Lin may not have gotten the result they were looking for, I think this was a very smart gamble on their part. Why? Because in the game of golf, blowing a ball OB comes with a stroke and distance penalty, the costliest in the game. It can be an absolute round killer. So if Yuh-Guey was planning on lending a helping hand, this was a great spot to do it.
Put yourself in Yuh-Guey's shoes. You're all alone strolling along the tree line left of the pivotal 17th fairway and your daughter's ball rattles amongst the tree tops and finally settles out of bounds. Instinctively, you realize you need to act, and quickly, but how? Sadly, this is where Yuh-Guey made her first mistake. She elected to kick the ball. Although there are instances where kicking the ball is a solid play, this was not one of them. Anytime you are in an extremely wooded area, kicking the ball brings several risks in to play. Such as:
1. It makes too much noise. Especially this time of year. Dry, crispy leaves can make a thunderous "whooshing" sound that can be easily heard by anyone within earshot as your foot comes crashing through the underbrush.
2. Uneven terrain. If you're on hardpan (Say, OB left on #18 at St. Andrews) and want to give it a kick you can rely on a smooth and unencumbered roll back in to play. But here, Yuh-Guey found herself in a thick, wooded area. Even if she made solid contact with her foot, any roll she got would be inconsistent at best.
3. Trees. Deeply wooded areas are inherently loaded with trees that serve as unwanted obstacles. There is alway the chance that any kick could hit a nearby tree and the resulting ricochet could make a bad situation even worse.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but Yuh-Guey would have been much better off going with a pick-up and underhand toss technique in order to avoid the three areas outlined above.
The next mistake Yuh-Guey made was being the person who found the ball. This is always a tell-tale sign that something's up. After her successful (although risky) 'kick' back in to play, she should have told herself that her job was done here and moved on down the fairway. Instead, she stuck around and brought unwanted attention to herself. Sure enough, a homeowner who witnessed the kick came outside and fingered Yuh-Guey immediately. Her hubris was her downfall.
She probably thought that the sheer audacity of kicking her daughters ball back in play would make it almost too unbelievable for a homeowner to report. Nobody could be that bat-shit crazy. Right? It reminds me a little of the whispers we used to hear about Katilda Woods throwing Tiger's ball out of bunkers in AJGA events back in the early 90's. Compelling evidence but just too crazy to follow up on.
The sad part of this story is that it was all so unnecessary. Doris has already won nearly $1,000 in 12 events on the Symetra Tour so far this season ($83.33 per event), so money couldn't have been a factor. Sadly, we'll probably never know the real motivation.
I know I've been tough on Yuh-Guey, but let's not let Doris completely off the hook here. Her inability to hire a caddy that tows the company line has played a major role here. This is an area of her game that she needs to tighten up going forward and I feel confident she will.
My hope is that Doris and her mother can learn from this episode. Until the dust settles, I would recommend they stick with more 'under the radar' stroke saving techniques such as questionable drops or the use of non-conforming clubs. In closing, I'm sure this will just be a blip on the radar screen of her career and I'm sure the players on the LPGA tour will welcome her with open arms.