The saga of Doris Chen getting disqualified at the LPGA Tour’s Q-Series took an ugly turn on Monday as both Chen and her caddie, Alex Valer, spoke to GolfChannel.com’s Randall Mell, but offered differing accounts with the looper calling out the player.
During the 7th round of the Q-Series, Chen pulled her ball left of the fairway and out of bounds. In the search for the ball, which was eventually found in bounds, a homeowner watching the action near where Chen’s ball was played accused a spectator, later identified as Chen’s mother, of moving the golf ball from an out of bounds position to an inbounds position.
What happened next has become a confusing series of conflicting accounts. The LPGA would go on to disqualify Chen for having played a ball from an improper position beings that she was informed her ball had been moved from its original resting place, but decided to play it anyway (the fact that it was played from in bounds when it was previously out of bounds only made the situation worse, although the penalty would remain since she was made aware of the ball being moved).
“I feel hurt,” Chen told Mell. “People are calling me a cheater, with inflammatory words. I’m not a cheater. I never intend to cheat, and I’ve never told my family or friends to move my ball if I push my shot in the woods.”
Chen posted to her Instagram on Monday a statement, which read in part, “I thought I knew the rules clearly. I have to firmly clarify that my caddie, the volunteer (who assisted in the search for my ball) nor I at the time who were searching for my ball saw anything suspicious. I did not hear or see anything, nor did I do anything that would interfere. I found the ball and hit it.”
That was the statement that instigated Valer, the caddie, to reach out to Mell in an effort to set the record straight by telling his side of the story.
“It’s a mess,” said Valer, who caddies on the LPGA and Symetra Tours regularly, but was in his first event working for Chen. “Doris did the wrong thing. I’m just trying to do the right thing, to be fair to all those players at Q-Series who have worked so hard for a whole year.
Valer said that while they were looking for Chen’s ball, it was her mother who announced that it had been found. Chen’s side of things conflict with Valer’s in that instance; she said her mother was not around during the search having been further up the hole.
While both corroborate that the homeowner explained that a spectator had moved the ball, Chen said that the fact that the ball had been previously out of bounds never came up nor did the homeowner identify who moved the ball. Valer again disputed that account, saying the homeowner pointed directly at Chen’s mother and said, “That person right there kicked your ball,” according to Valer.
Valer confirmed Chen’s point that the ball being OB wasn’t originally brought up, but given the found ball’s close proximity to the boundary line was cause for a potential “disaster.”
Valer lobbied to call a rules official, but Chen declined.
“Doris said, ‘No, I’m going to play the ball,’” Valer said. “I told her, ‘If you don’t talk to a rules official, you could be disqualified.’”
Valer said he implored her to talk to a rules official multiple times over the final two holes, but Chen declined. He said he was also asked by Chen to keep quiet about the rules infraction should he be asked by the officials, which he was. Valer said he told them his side of the story.
The rules officials then went and talked to the homeowner and came to their decision to disqualify Chen.
“We have thoroughly reviewed the facts in this case (both prior to the ruling and afterwards) and there is no ambiguity in the facts or the ruling,” the LPGA rules committee responded in a statement. “The player has accepted the penalty and any further dialogue on this matter will be between the LPGA and the player.”