Tommy Kuhl has had an incredible season as a fifth-year senior on the University of Illinois golf team. He’s finished in the top-16 in all 11 of his tournament appearances this year, including a third-place individual finish at the Big Ten Championship at the end of April.
He was well on his way to continuing an incredible 2023 when he shot a course-record 62 in the U.S. Open local qualifier at Illini Country Club in Springfield, Ill., before a conversation with his teammates changed everything.
Kuhn and some of his Illini teammates were following teammate Adrien Dumont de Chassart as he tried to claim the final qualifying spot in a playoff. That’s when Illini sophomore Jackson Buchanan lamented how difficult the course had played due to its aerated greens. The comment stopped Kuhl in his tracks.
“I felt sick to my stomach,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t tell the rules official.”
Despite a 2019 rules change allowing golfers to fix spike marks on the green, no such rule was in place for fixing aeration marks. Kuhl realized he had fixed aeration marks several times during his record-setting round, and immediately sought out a rules official to explain what he’d done. He knew his dream of playing in the U.S. Open would have to wait at least another year.
“I should know better. It comes down to me,” Kuhl said. “I should know that rule.”
U of Illinois standout @tkuhlgolf shot a course record 62 today to win US Open local
And then he DQ’d himself
I was afraid I had another cheating scandal on my hands. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is a story about honesty, integrity, and the..https://t.co/wrVyFk8cLK
— Monday Q Info (@acaseofthegolf1) May 9, 2023
Shortly after consulting with a rules official about what he had done, Kuhl was informed that he had been disqualified. Thanks to that DQ, Buchanan took home medalist honors after carding a 64, and de Chassart advanced without a playoff.
Ryan French spoke with several of Kuhl’s friends and teammates, and all of them spoke highly about him as a golfer and a person.
“He’s always been a stand-up guy,” said PGA Tour pro Nick Hardy, a former Illini teammate.
After helping the Illini to an eighth straight Big Ten team championship, Kuhl will be teeing it up in NCAA regionals next week at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath, Mich. He was also selected to represent the United States in the Palmer Cup at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, Pa., next month.
Kuhl may not have advanced in qualifying, but he certainly showed integrity and character. And as the Palmer Cup’s namesake once said, golf demands that.
“Success in this game depends less on strength of body,” Palmer said, “than strength of mind and character.”