Fifty-eight penalty shots might seem like something of a joke, but it is far from it and happened to unfortunate Lee Ann Walker at the Senior LPGA Championship.
While 59 is the magic number that most professionals dream of scoring courtesy of the round of their lives, Walker picked up just one shy of that figure in penalty shots after being found to be on the wrong side one of the new rules brought in this year.
The 47-year-old American Walker was playing in her first professional event of 2019, and had yet to experience the new ruling—rule 10.2b—preventing caddies from providing assistance and lining up putts for their employers.
Having shot rounds of 85 and 74 at the French Lick Resort in Indiana, Walker was never going to trouble the leaders—even before she was hit with the staggering 58 penalty shots.
It wasn’t until the fifth hole of her second round that Walker’s playing partners noticed her breaching the new rules, after which she continued within the regulations. But it left the LPGA with a dilemma of what to do.
She was not disqualified immediately as she had not deliberately signed her card incorrectly, and the end outcome from the LPGA deliberations was to add the penalty shots retrospectively.
Having sat through footage of Walker’s first round and the opening five holes of her second round, she received 42 penalty shots for the opening round and 16 more for the second round with 21 and eight putts respectively deemed to be worthy of two shot penalties.
That left Walker with rounds of 127 and 90 with her two-round total of 217 three more than what Senior LPGA Championship winner Helen Alfredsson scored across all four rounds.
The confusion over the new rule came about due to the fact that Lee Ann Walker hadn’t played in a professional event for more than seven years, and more than a decade since her 13-year stint on the LPGA came to an end having first got her card in 1995. She now spends her time in real estate.
“This is my first competitive round since 2011 or 2012,” Lee Ann Walker said in an interview with Golfweek afterwards. “I knew there were rules changes. I just honestly didn’t know them. Just plain and simple. My stupidity for not going over the rules changes.
“I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t upset. I was just like, ‘that’s going to add a ton to my scores’. At that point what can you do?
“This may be my claim to fame. Not exactly how I was looking to do it.”
LPGA rules official Marty Robinson revealed the process: “We had her recreate the times that that (a putt being lined up by the caddie) happened.”
Chinese star Haotong Li was one of the first professionals to fall foul of the new rule back in January when he was handed a two-shot penalty during the Dubai Desert Classic after officials deemed his caddie had lined a putt up before moving off the line.