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Golfer Calls Penalty on Self at Q-School, Gets Disqualified, Now Has No Job

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You can play golf many ways, but the rules only give you two paths -- you either follow them and earn respect or break them and become that guy.

At the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School, where nerves go to die, J.P. Hayes became a guy we can all respect a little more. A 43-year-old journeyman that has won on both the PGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour, Hayes was trying, like thousands of his golfing peers, to make it through the second stage of Q-School to the all important final stage, where you either get another crack at the PGA or the solid consolation prize of the Nationwide.

Hayes won't be getting either. This is because he broke one of the many rules in golf that can cause you to be disqualified. Hayes played a non-conforming golf ball for one hole in the first round, and figured out he'd broke a big rule while laying in his hotel room a day later.

On his 12th hole of the first round at Deerwood Country Club last Wednesday, Hayes' caddie reached into his golf bag, pulled out a ball and flipped it to Hayes, who missed the green with his tee shot. He then chipped on and marked his ball. It was then that Hayes realized the ball was not the same model Titleist with which he had started his round. That was in violation of the one-ball rule, which stipulates that a player must play the same model throughout a round.

"I realized there was a penalty and I called an official over," Hayes said. "He said the penalty was two shots and that I had to finish the hole with that ball and then change back to the original ball."

Two-shot penalty, no big deal, Hayes still shot a 74 after the penalty strokes and followed that up with a 71 in the second round. That was when he came to this horrible realization while hanging in his digs that he had done more than just evoke a two-shot penalty. Hayes might be in danger of disqualification.

"It was a Titleist prototype, and somehow it had gotten into my bag," he said. "It had been four weeks since Titleist gave me some prototype balls and I tested them. I have no idea how or why it was still in there."

He could have said nothing and kept playing. But he couldn't have lived with himself knowing he had possibly broken the rules.

"I called an official in Houston that night and said, 'I think I may have a problem,' " Hayes said. "He said they'd call Titleist the next day. I pretty much knew at that point I was going to be disqualified."

In golf, especially big tour golf, you can play one ball and one ball only. Hayes broke that rule when his caddy tossed him a different Titleist during the round. Failing to abide by the one-ball rule is a two-shot penalty. Failing to play a conforming golf ball, which Hayes did by using the prototype, is means for a DQ.

While I could never imagine being in a place to make it through Q-School, the rules in golf are the rules in golf and you have to live by the wedge and die by the wedge. While it might seem a little ridiculous that such a small infraction kicks you from the tournament, and any chance of having a regular schedule in 2009, he made the right decision and again proved that golf is the truest form of gamesmanship there is in sports.

Was Hayes mad about what happened or pissed at his caddy for throwing him the wrong ball? "I'm kind of at a point in my career where if I have a light year, it might be a good thing," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing less and spending more time with my family.

"It's not the end of the world. It will be fine. It is fine."

As our good friend Ali G would say, respect Hayes. True respect.

Posted Nov 19, 2008 11:40AM By Shane Bacon (RSS feed),

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