Stung by slow-play penalty, college star falls 1 stroke short of national-title shot

Ben James

Ben James hits a shot Monday during the NCAA Division I golf championships.

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Ben James says what happened stings. 

He says it’s the rules. 

“But it sucks,” he says.

His frustration? In a story written by Golf Digest’s Tod Leonard, James said he was assessed a one-shot penalty for slow play during Friday’s first round of the NCAA Division I golf championships — and one stroke was the margin between James and eventual winner Hiroshi Tai of Georgia Tech. Leonard talked to James, a University of Virginia sophomore, after Monday’s final round, and you can read Leonard’s complete story here

The slow-play infraction, James told Golf Digest, occurred on the 17th hole on the Omni La Costa’s North Course, and both James and playing partner Baard Skogen of Texas Tech were penalized, though the third member of the group, Ben Lorenz of Oklahoma, was not. James, ranked fifth in the world among amateurs, finished his first round with a one-round 73, followed with rounds of 71, 69 and a final-round 73 and ended up in a six-way tie for second.

“It’s a crazy game,” James told Golf Digest. “One shot. It’s the rules, but it sucks. It stings. There’s such a fine line in golf.”

James told Golf Digest that the group had been warned for slow play on the 14th hole, after James and Skogen each carded double bogeys on the 13th hole, and Lorenz a bogey. “A lot of unfortunate events,” James told Golf Digest. “… We weren’t trying to slow-up play. We were just trying to play our best golf.”

James also told Golf Digest he spoke to NCAA officials for a half-hour about the incident

Notably, two of the five other runners-up suffered particularly brutal finishes in efforts to catch Tai. On the 18th, Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent, who already has a PGA Tour card, lipped out a 10-foot putt that would’ve forced a playoff, and you can watch that stroke below via a video shot by Golfweek’s Cameron Jourdan.  

Auburn’s Jackson Koivon, meanwhile, hit the flagstick with his second shot on the 9th hole (his finishing hole), it ricocheted backward, and he could manage only a par. “That was an awful break,” analyst John Cook said on the Golf Channel broadcast. 

You can watch that below

Editor’s note: To read the story on James from Golf Digest’s Tod Leonard, please click here.   

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at