Caddie’s bunker mistake costs player match in rare ruling at U.S. Amateur

Segundo Oliva Pinto

Segundo Oliva Pinto's U.S. Amateur championship came to a close in a brutal way.

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The U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes has been widely cherished by golf fans. While many of us are limited to our hometowns, at least on TV we can enjoy the famous golf resort and one of the game’s best events.

On Thursday night, that viewing experience unveiled an unfortunate ruling for one Round of 16 competitor and his caddie.

Segundo Oliva Pinto had grinded his way into a tie with Tyler Strafaci entering the par-5 18th hole. After finding a green side bunker with his third shot, Pinto was analyzing where to land his bunker shot to get as close as possible. Just moments before stepping into the bunker, Pinto’s caddie — a local looper from the resort — bent over and touched the sand with his hand. Big deal? According to the Rules of Golf that classifies as testing the conditions of the bunker. 

Rule 12.1/a states that before making a stroke at a ball in a bunker, a player must not deliberately touch sand in the bunker with a hand, club, rake or other object to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the next stroke. The player’s caddie must abide by the same set of rules.

In match play, the penalty for such an infraction is loss of hole, and in a tied match on 18 a loss of the match as well. As you can hear in the clip above, the caddie was quickly thrust into a conversation with rules officials, and he denied touching the sand, despite contrary evidence.

Pinto, a rising junior at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, was forced to accept the penalty and move on. Asked afterward about it, Pinto said his caddie did not discuss the incident with him immediately, and “at this point, it doesn’t really matter. What happened happened.”

Pinto was obviously disappointed in the moment, but with a little time he would post on Instagram about his friendship with the caddie.

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A senior editor for GOLF.com, Zak joined the staff GOLF staff three weeks after college graduation. He is the utility infielder of the brand, spanning digital, print and video. His main duty is as a host for various GOLF.com video properties and its award-winning podcasts. When the Masters comes around, be sure to tune in to hear him and fellow staffers recount the most memorable tournaments in Augusta National history on A Pod Unlike Any Other.