Slow-play penalty changes ace to a 2

Just when you think you’ve seen everything in golf, something else happens to make you rub your eyes and scratch your head.

In Monday’s opening round of qualifying at the U.S. Junior Amateur in Bremerton, Wash., 17-year-old Connor Klein of Lone Tree, Colo., made a hole-in-one on the 170-yard fifth hole, his 14th hole of the day.

Unfortunately, Klein, whose group already had been warned for slow play at the turn, reached the checkpoint at No. 5 still behind the required pace of play. As a result, he and his two playing partners each were penalized one stroke on the hole.

When Klein’s appeal of the penalty later in the day was rejected by U.S. Golf Association officials, that ace officially became a birdie. (For the record, the penalties lodged against the other two players in his group were rescinded.)

“Poor play is not held against the group,” USGA official David Staebler, the director of the championship, told Golfweek. “It’s what else that player is doing. Are they making an effort to play promptly? And after receiving a warning, is it apparent to the rules committee that that player is doing anything different from before to get his group back in position?

“Unfortunately, we can’t change our policy because someone made a 1. I wish it could have come on a different hole for him.”

Two holes after being warned for slow play, Klein pushed his tee shot way to the right and took all of the allotted five minutes to find his ball.

Klein wound up shooting 82 and 78 for the 36 holes of qualifying and did not qualify for match play.

In an e-mail to Golfweek, Klein said, “I’d like to reserve any comments about my hole-in-one until the tournament is completed on Saturday. The focus should be placed on the players who are still competing and their accomplishments. I’m in communication with the tournament director now to get clarity around receiving credit for the hole-in-one, becoming only the 12th player in history with an ace.”

--Joe Juliano