U.S. Open hopeful DQs himself after rare aerated-greens violation

Tommy Kuhl on Day 3 of the 2023 Big Ten Men's Golf Championship, April 30, 2023 at Galloway National Golf Club in Galloway, N.J.

Illinois' Tommy Khul at the 2023 Big Ten Championship in April.

Ben Solomon / Big Ten Conference

Tommy Kuhl, a senior at the University of Illinois, had just played the round of his life. His 62 broke the course record at the Illini Golf Club, in Springfield, Ill., and earned him a spot in U.S. Open sectional qualifying. And he did it all on aerated greens.

Then he had to disqualify himself.

As Ryan French of reports, Kuhl had completed his round at the U.S. Open local qualifier and was with a group of fellow Illinois golfers watching one of their teammates, Adrian Dumont De Chassart, battle in a playoff for the last of five available spots. That’s when another of Kuhl’s teammates, Jackson Buchanan, who himself had shot 64 to qualify, mentioned to Kuhl the aerated greens they had just played.

“I felt sick to my stomach,” Kuhl told French of that moment. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t tell the rules official.”

In that moment, Kuhl had realized he had been fixing aeration marks on the greens throughout his round, which meant he would have to disqualify himself.

Since 2019, golfers have been allowed to fix “damage on the putting green” without penalty under rule 13.1c(2). But the rule also specifically prohibits repairing damage on the putting green that results from “normal practices for maintaining the overall condition of the putting green (such as aeration holes and grooves from vertical mowing).”

A rules official told French a local rule could have been enacted to allow for the repair of aeration marks on the green, but was not.

“I should know better,” Kuhl said. “It comes down to me. I should know that rule.”

He informed a rules official and was disqualified (although he is officially listed on the Chicago District Golf Association leaderboard as having withdrawn).

Other pros who played the qualifier told French they also had fixed aeration marks during the round and should be disqualified as well, but none of them shot low enough scores to have qualified.

There was one bit of good news for Kuhl and the rest of the Illini squad. His DQ rendered moot the playoff, meaning De Chassart was through to sectionals.

Kuhl had a legitimate chance to make the field at Los Angeles Country Club. He had just finished third at the Big Ten Championships and averaged just over 70 during his senior season for the Illini. He, De Chassart, Buchanan and the rest of the Big Ten champion Illini will play as the top seed at the NCAA Bath Regional next week in Michigan.

Kuhl will continue on his final season at Illinois with a clean conscience for doing the right thing and, hopefully, not have to deal with aerated greens for at least a little while.

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