The U.S. Amateur Championship is the pinnacle of amateur golf, and unfortunately for Segundo Oliva Pinto, his run towards golf immortality was derailed by an overzealous local caddie.
Oliva Pinto, who transferred to Arkansas this summer, was facing a greenside bunker shot in the round of 16 against Georgia Tech’s Tyler Strafaci. All square, Oliva Pinto was attempting to get up-and-down to save par on the closing hole at Bandon Dunes when his caddie stepped into the sand and touched the surface.
With the American-style links course dealing with its normally turbulent winds, Oliva Pinto’s caddie appeared to be trying to gain some idea of how the lie would play from the windswept bunker.
Strafaci’s father, caddying for his son, noticed the local caddie appear to test the surface and called over a rules official.
It all came down to the 18th hole.
And then this happened.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) August 14, 2020
After a lengthy discussion, including one in which the caddie denied touching the sand, the rules official deemed Oliva Pinto’s caddie to have breached Rule 12.2b, which states a player or caddie must not “deliberately touch sand in the bunker with a hand, club, rake or other object to test the condition of the sand to learn information for the next stroke.”
Oliva Pinto was unaware of his caddie’s actions originally as he surveyed the shot from both inside the bunker and on the green.
“As soon as I get back there, the referee comes up and asks my caddie what happened, and I’m completely shocked,” Oliva Pinto said. “I’m just trying to get this shot near (the hole) and try and make an up-and-down and win the match. He touched the sand or something, and that’s a penalty.”
“I was reading my putt and saw him duck down. I didn’t see him touch the sand, so I didn’t think I was right to make a decision on it, but my dad saw it and he’s going to fight to the death for me,” Strafaci said. “It sucks that it came down to that because it was a phenomenal match.”
The penalty for the breach is loss of hole, and in Oliva Pinto’s case, a loss of the match.
Worst caddy move ever…EVER. Match play, US AM, all square, 18th hole, greenside bunker; caddy decides to build a sandcastle & deny it.
— Martin McSports (@MartinMcSports) August 14, 2020
Despite his denial, the caddie offered no explanation to Oliva Pinto.
“He didn’t say anything,” Oliva Pinto said. “At this point, it doesn’t really matter. What happened, happened. He can say anything, but it won’t change what happened.”
Strafaci advanced into Friday’s quarterfinals against amateur stalwart Stewart Hagestad.