The threesome of Texas A&M’s Ty Dunlap, UCF’s Greg Eason and Arizona State’s Jon Rahm faced a one-stroke slow-play penalty when they were cited for two bad times in the third round of stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Men’s Championship. After a long deliberation, it was determined that Dunlap and Eason were the guilty parties, while Rahm was absolved, keeping ASU’s match play hopes alive.
The extra stroke proved costly for Texas A&M, pushing them out of solo sixth and into a four-way tie for eighth. The top eight teams advance to match play, so Texas A&M found themselves in a 4-for-3 playoff with New Mexico, UNLV and Arizona State, where A&M was the lone team to be eliminated, according to GolfChannel.com’s Ryan Lavner.
“I feel like they earned a spot in match play,” Aggies coach J.T. Higgins said afterward, “and they got it taken away from them.”
Dunlap, who received the penalty stroked, made a 40-footer for par on the last hole to keep A&M’s title hopes alive.
In the parking lot after the round, Dunlap said: “We could have made time par, yes, and we didn’t, and that’s all that matters. It just kind of hurts right now. We’re just going to deal with it and come back better next year and make sure we don’t have to rely on being inside the bubble by one or two. It was fully in our control today to shoot a good round and be the No. 2 or 3 seed, and we didn’t do it. Because we didn’t, we’re not going to be in match play.”
This was the second slow-play penalty assessed in the stroke-play portion of the NCAAs. On Wednesday, UCLA’s Jonathan Garrick was docked a shot for failing to get back into position. It was the first slow-play penalty at the NCAAs since 2011.
Asked if he felt like the NCAA was trying to make a statement this week, Higgins replied: “I think so. We need to play faster, there’s no doubt about it. But to not have it enforced all year, and then at your national championship all of a sudden it becomes a major issue? I don’t know what to say.”
Said Dunlap: “Whether they were trying to make a point or not, I don’t think they are. They’re trying to be fair, and the ruling is that the second checkpoint missed, you get penalized. They made a decision and that’s the way it went, and that’s the way we have to live with it.”
I feel for ASU, but slow play is a SERIOUS problem in college golf. I’ve been saying this for a while (not sure if I’ve written it) and I’ll say it again: College is where people develop bad habits when it comes to slow play. They do an excellent job keeping things moving at the junior golf level. At both AJGA and USGA events, they instill the fear of God in you, so the pace of play is reasonable (four-and-a-half-hour rounds).
Then, you get to college and there’s virtually no monitoring and there was never the threat of getting penalized, at least in my experience. Clearly, the NCAA has changed its approach, but that needs to happen throughout the year, not just at finals.