3-Stroke Slow Play Penalty Costs South Carolina

The University of South Carolina men’s golf team will not be competing to advance to the team portion of the NCAA National Championship on Monday as the Gamecocks’ three-round total came up two shots short of the qualifying number.

Playing at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the 7,550-yard par-72 layout has a time par of five hours and five minutes, but players were still having trouble keeping up with the expected pace of play, which resulted in four slow play penalties being dolled out in the first round.

In Friday’s first round, South Carolina freshman Ryan Hall was among the four offenders who were hit with penalties. Hall, along with playing partner Nathan Jeansonne of LSU, missed three of the four time checkpoints, resulting in three-stroke penalties being levied against the student-athletes.

“There were multiple times where the two of them (Jeansonne and Hall) had times over 45 seconds,” NCAA committee chair Brad Hurlbut told

Hall’s team-best even-par 72 was bumped up to a 3-over par 75. Two rounds later, the Gamecocks score was two shots shy of advancing to the 15-team final round that would determine the eight teams that qualify for match play.

An additional part that makes the penalties so hurtful is the lack of enforcement placed on pace of play throughout the season. However, in the postseason, checkpoint timings are the norm and penalties are handed out after players miss their second checkpoint. 

“It hurts,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “We had a lot of golf to play and we didn’t play well. The three strokes are big now, but it happened in the first round and we had plenty of time to make up for it.

“I respect the rules officials and everyone involved in the tournament and what they’re trying to do, but I’ve been around this game a long time and I believe things should be looked at with common sense and equity. I don’t fault the people involved at all. I just wonder was the system, what happened to us, applied to the rest of the field?”

McDonald said that the players were running between holes and having coaches rake bunkers to speed up play, but they were still hit with the penalties. The coach also noted that Hall’s group was more than a hole ahead of the group behind them, which brought into question the consistency of the enforcement.

“You do all you can, but it is difficult because they don’t see it all year,” McDonald said. “… There were bad times and missed checkpoints, [but] there were bad times and missed checkpoints in every round we played, every group I walked with.

“My point is, if we got three shots on that, why aren’t there shots flying all over the place?”

South Carolina will return on Monday morning to root on senior Will Miles as he plays in a 3-for-1 playoff to earn the ninth and final individual qualifying spot. 

The individual national champion will be crowned on Monday as well as Oklahoma State’s Matthew Wolff leads teammate Austin Eckroat by two strokes heading into the final round.