Walker, Unaware of New Rule, Sets Record for Penalty Strokes
I should be able to look up Lee Ann Walker, professional golfer, and find out anything I need to know about her career. But no, you won’t find anything on the internet today about previous decades, only one round of golf played this week. Have an interesting day like that, and your new claim to fame might follow you all of your days.
Apparently, at the Senior LPGA Championship, Walker broke my long-standing record for most penalty strokes in a single 18-hole round. Of course, mine was legitimate. I hit every bunker, spent several shots getting out of each one, every lake, some twice in the same hole. I visited every bush, tree and rock, and made out-of-bounds my summer home. Walker, on the other hand, made one simple error due to forgetting that a new rule had been enacted, and she made it over and over and over. On the LPGA tour, you can’t have a caddie line up the putts for you. If they do, you must step away, address the ball again, and the caddie must vacate the premises where the line runs through.
As Walker explained it, her debut at the LPGA Senior was her first round of competitive golf in a long time, and that she doesn’t watch golf all that regularly. She was aware of rules changes, but hadn’t really internalized them. I understand this. In my primary profession, it’s “How can you call yourself a such and such when you don’t even know such and such, and have never heard of so and so?” It’s because we already put in our time, and are at least in part, done. Walker came to play golf, the way she always plays golf.
What brought the rule violation to Walker’s attention was a brief consultation with her two playing partners. If it were a Saturday afternoon on a municipal course, one might say “Gee, thanks guys. With friends like you, who needs enemies?” However, this is professional golf, requiring a rational but precise rule book. Everyone did the right thing. To inform Walker was correct. For her to summon a Marshall was correct, and to accept the verdict honorably with a civilized demeanor was correct. It all went down the way it was supposed to go down. There are no remaining stigmas, and nothing was done maliciously. Walker looks forward to another crack at Pete Dye and his French Lick course. Incidentally, she played the rest of the round at one over – pretty good. Too bad to waste it on a 58 penalty stroke day for a 129.
We all see consultations on the tee, fairway, and everywhere else between players and caddies. However, I’ve always thought that once a golfer is putting, he or she should be pretty much on their own. A caddie’s job should be to get their player to the green. Past that, a reminder about certain features of that green are helpful, but the actual line and distance of the putt is up to the skill of the person swinging the club.
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And while we’re on the subject of caddie consultations, I might as well ask. If Lee Ann Walker wasn’t aware of the rules change, why didn’t the caddie know? Had the on-course consultant also been out of the loop for years, and equally unaware of the rule change? If not, it seems as though the player was the one left holding the bag.
I hope that Walker will come to see the humor of this, and not think of it much otherwise.Â She’s only 47, has another day job now at home in North Carolina, and the anxieties of Q school are far behind her. She’ll be back.
Meanwhile, I’m going out this weekend, trying to avoid recapturing the new penalty stroke record.