As some of you have seen, on May 13, I reached the finals of the Florida State Mid-Amateur. Unfortunately, the story that day was not the golf, but rather what happened during the rain delay that interrupted the tied match after 16 holes.
GolfChannel.com writer Ryan Lavner wrote an accurate, detailed article that explored the incident from all angles. When I was interviewed by Ryan last week, I was hesitant to give more than the minimum because I was unsure of what I should say. Much of my conversation with him was off the record, and over the past week others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing from the match.
My objective here is to stand up and say the truth, after receiving encouragement and support from prominent amateur golfers, friends and family.
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When my name was announced on the first tee, my opponent’s caddie immediately asked an off color question. I laughed off the timing of that question, along with many other examples of bad etiquette to come. Alcohol appeared to be influencing his behavior. I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor. On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated because I was forced to back off my shot two different times when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the match referee following our group.
The ruling that came from the caddie’s comments on the ninth hole started because of a simple question that I posed: “Was that advice?” I thought this was the only way to slow down the caddie, clean up the etiquette and play a gentlemanly match. I felt justified in my decision, especially since my opponent then asked his caddie, “Why did you say that?” The caddie recused himself from the match, but he didn’t leave the property.
After calling the ruling on 9, my hope was that the match would move in a more gentlemanly direction, but the opposite proved true. The match turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee. Up ahead on the green, I missed my 30-footer for birdie. My opponent had a 15-footer to win the hole, and I conceded his putt. It didn’t matter to me that I was giving up my 2-up advantage. I was sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.
The rest of the match went smoothly. We were each playing decent golf, and he made a great birdie on 16 to square the match. Then it started pouring, and it looked like we were in for a lengthy delay. Instead of sitting in the shelter, getting sprayed by rain, my plan was to go to my car for dry clothes and sit in the clubhouse to watch the end of the Players Championship. It was a quiet, rainy Sunday, and there weren’t many people on property.
I didn’t even get my bag out of my car when the caddie reappeared and said he’d like to apologize. I most likely had a smile on my face, because I was ready to put the past behind us, and he punched me in the face. I was knocked to the ground, and by the time I looked up, he was walking away, to my surprise, toward the clubhouse. The pro shop is a separate building, so that’s where I immediately went for help. The inside of my mouth was bleeding and my face was throbbing. I realized my hand was also hurting –that’s what broke my fall instead of my head. Over the past week, I have visited my primary care doctor, who referred me for X-rays and CT scans of my cranial and facial bones. Thankfully, everything has come back negative.
The pro shop employee called the police and was extremely helpful, getting me ice and offering any help I needed. The police arrived, and the deputy concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify pressing charges. I gave a recorded sworn statement to the deputy recapping the events.
The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf. Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated “ex-caddie” punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.
The FSGA gave me one option when the rain stopped. I had to play. My opponent had the option to concede the match and take responsibility for his caddie, but he told me he had nothing to do with what occurred.
It was impossible for me to continue because of physical and emotional distress, pulsing pain in my face, dizziness and cuts on my right hand from catching my fall, so I withdrew. I am surprised the FSGA decided not to suspend the event and resume it at a later time.
Since then, I’ve been a part of and made aware of countless meetings at the FSGA, and I’m confident they will reevaluate their policies to prevent anything like this from happening again.
To be clear, the purpose of this statement is to get the full truth out and explain the circumstances of my withdrawal. I’m obviously disappointed in the outcome. I’ve had overwhelming support from people who are equally disappointed with the way things ended, and I hope now that we can move on.