On Tuesday, former University of Texas All-American Gavin Hall was trying to earn his way onto the Korn Ferry Tour, after a strong season on the PGA Tour Canada. Hall seemed to be off to a good start after shooting 66 in the opening round of the second stage of Q-School at Plantation Preserve Golf Club in Florida.
That was until he was disqualified about an hour after finishing his round for a rules infraction he didn’t know he had committed.
According to a report from Firepit Collective’s mini-tour insider Ryan French, a caddie in the group reached out to rules officials after the round to alert them of a possible violation on the 6th hole.
The 6th at Plantation Preserve (below) is a short dogleg left par-4 with water down the left, meaning if you bite off more than you can chew on the dogleg and rinse your tee shot, there isn’t anywhere to drop in the fairway because your ball’s last entry point would be back near the tee.
The South Florida PGA (the PGA Tour usually lets local PGA sections conduct qualifying stages of Q-schools and other qualifiers like it) tournament director told French that Hall hit his tee shot down the left side and all three players saw the ball splash. Hall re-teed, which meant he was declaring the ball lost in the penalty area, and even if he found it, he would have to play the second tee ball. Hall was not playing a provisional. According to Rule 18.3(a), if the player is aware that the only possible place the original ball could be lost is in a penalty area, a provisional ball is not allowed and a ball played from where the previous stroke was made becomes the player’s ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance.
A player is allowed a provisional “when a ball might be lost in a penalty area but also might be lost somewhere else on the course.” This was not the case in Hall’s situation, because if the ball was not in the penalty area, Hall likely would have found it easily.
After Hall and his caddie wandered down the fairway, the caddie discovered a surprise: Hall’s first ball on the bank of the penalty area. Seemingly unaware of the rule, Hall played his original ball back into the fairway and got up-and-down for a wild 4. Or what Hall thought was a 4. No one in the group to that point had questioned Hall’s decision to play the first ball.
This is where things got messy, according to French.
Apparently, another caddie in the group said something on the next tee about Hall possibly committing an infraction, but not loud enough for Hall to hear. Once Hall teed off on the 7th hole, his disqualification fate would be sealed. Until then, he could have gone back to the 6th fairway and invoked rule 3-3, which allows players to play another ball if unsure of the ruling. Hall, had he done that, likely would have salvaged a bogey or double while figuring out the matter later. (UPDATE: According to further reporting from French, which he published on Twitter Wednesday evening, a player and the caddie in question both said they mentioned the infraction to Hall en route to the 6th green.)
Trouble was, Hall played on, unaware of his violation; he birdied his final three holes and signed for what he believed was a 66. French said nothing was mentioned about the situation at scoring by either of the three players or caddies in the group. (UPDATE: According to French’s update, the caddie said he did not bring up the infraction to officials during the round or in the scoring area but said he did say something to a player in the group on 18.)
But nearly an hour after Hall finished his round, French reported, the caddie who questioned the ruling on the 7th tee called a rules official, who then had to tell Hall he was disqualified.
Hall’s 66 would have had him in a tie for 12th with 54 holes to go. The top 18 and ties from the second stage will advance to next month’s final stage of qualifying.