Korean LPGA rules controversy led to wiped scores, official's resignation
Golf Culture

Korean LPGA rules controversy led to wiped scores, official’s resignation

A look at the 12th green at Erin Hills from in back of the hole A look at the 12th green at Erin Hills from in back of the hole

A rules official with the Korean LPGA resigned after a furor over a controversial set of penalties were handed out in one of that tour's majors over an unclear line between what counted as a putting surface and what didn't.

After the first round of the KB Financial Star Championship at Black Stone Golf Club in Icheon, South Korea, Hye Jin Choi and You-Na Park were each penalized two shots for picking up and marking their golf balls on surfaces later deemed to be fringe, though both believed they were on a putting surface. Choi held the first-round lead until she was given the penalty.

It appears the boundary between green and fringe was unclear. It was later found out four other players made the same mistake. Instead of penalizing all six players, the penalties on Choi and Park were rescinded. This led to a late-night player committee meeting, which led to several players threatening to withdraw either if the penalties were rescinded or applied.

Ultimately, the KLPGA chose to wipe out first-round scores amid the controversy. The event was reduced to a 54-hole affair, with a shotgun start for the originally scheduled third (second) and third (fourth) rounds. Some 11 players withdrew ahead of the cut, choosing not to play the full marathon of 36 holes knowing they would likely miss the cut.

Reuters reported lead rules official Jin-Ha Choi resigned over the matter.

“We deeply apologize to players, golf fans and sponsors who helped organize the tournament,” the KLPGA said in a statement. “We will do better to meet the expectations of those who love the KLPGA and will do our best to prevent similar cases from happening again.”

The final round was played in brutally difficult conditions, with just one player breaking par. Hae Rym Kim shot a final-round 79 to win on 4-under total, beating Ji Young Park by two shots.

At the 2015 US Open, the USGA faced a situation with ambiguous boundaries between the putting surfaces and other areas of the course, as all areas were fescue grass. The USGA painted white outline dots around the putting surfaces to define them clearly for all players.

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Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

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