Doris Chen won the women’s NCAA individual championship four years ago and the U.S. Junior Amateur eight years ago. Despite her impressive résumé, Chen hasn’t been able to find a consistent place in professional golf, and after a bizarre penalty earlier this week, she’ll be without LPGA Tour status for another season.
Playing in this week’s qualifying school, known as the Q-Series, Chen hit a drive on the 17th hole out of bounds. However, when Chen reached the ball, it was in bounds.
According to a homeowner on the boundary line of Pinehurst who was watching the action, a woman, who was later identified as Chen’s mother, moved the ball back in bounds. Chen, not knowing that her ball was moved back into play, proceeded to play her ball as she normally would, resulting in a disqualification under Rule 15-3b for playing a wrong ball from an altered lie.
LPGA Q-Series DRAMA as Doris Chen is DQ’d after wrongly playing a ball that her mother moved from the OB posts ??
— GolfMagic.com (@GolfMagic) November 4, 2018
“Doris Chen’s drive on the 17th hole in round 7 came to rest out of bounds,” the LPGA said in a statement. “An outside agency moved her ball back in bounds. Ms. Chen and her caddie were made aware that the ball had been moved. Doris elected to play the ball, which was a wrong ball by definition, from its altered lie. Ms. Chen did not correct her error before teeing off on the next hole, thus resulting in the DQ penalty.”
In the aftermath, Chen explained via GolfDigest.com that she and her caddie did not know the ball was moved from out of bounds to in bounds. Instead, Chen was told someone had kicked the ball while looking for it. Misinterpreting the rule and not being aware that her ball was advantageously moved back in bounds, Chen played her next shot from where she came upon the ball.
“My caddie and I didn’t see anything happen. We were looking for the ball. I didn’t see the ball move,” Chen said. “It was just what the homeowner said. In my mind, I thought I was just supposed to play the ball as it lied. I realize now I should have called for a rules official to investigate.
“(My mother) told me that she didn’t (move the ball) and she doesn’t know. And if she did, it may be by accident and she wasn’t aware.”
“What I would like to say is that it was a misunderstanding,” Chen concluded. “It was a stressful week and not my intention for any of it to happen. I was not directly involved in any way, but I take the responsibility and accept the ruling.
“I was not trying to cheat and I am not a cheater.”
Chen has played the last three seasons on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit, and has made just over $12,000.
This story has been updated for clarity and to reflect the latest information on the matter.