Rules Blog: The Espirito Santo Trophy
Grant Moir, Director – Rules of Golf, gives an account of his time at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship for the Espirito Santo Trophy, held at Olivos and Buenos Aires golf clubs in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
With the courses at both Buenos Aires and Olivos golf clubs marked, it’s time to concentrate on some paperwork. I need to finalise the conditions of the competition, produce a draft of the Local Rules, establish the pace of play policy and work out the maximum times that we allow for play of each course. In terms of the Local Rules, the most unusual feature is at Buenos Aires Golf Club where we have power lines and towers that could come into play at the 7th, 8th and 9th holes. It is decided to introduce a provision that a player must replay the stroke if the ball strikes the power line or the tower, which is the customary way of dealing with such features.
We always try to produce a draft a few days in advance so that when officials arrive to review the course they can take the draft with them and check that they understand and agree with the manner in which we intend to deal with any unusual features on the course.
Often we have to write the Conditions and Local Rules in a fairly technical way. To ensure that they are properly understood by the team captains and players, who come from over 50 countries for the Espirito Santo and over 70 for the Eisenhower, we also provide a Notice which gives a simple guide to the most important points, and we ask the captains to run through this guide with their players prior to the first round.
Paperwork done, we take Sunday afternoon off to watch Boca Juniors versus Hurican in the Argentine league. While the game itself is not a classic, the experience is fantastic. It is actually quite hard to watch the game as the crowd is so mesmerising. There is singing, dancing and drumming at each end of the stadium for the entire match, despite the fact that it is something of a meaningless mid-table fixture.
Back to golf, and we have the meeting with the team captains today. We always stress the pace of play policy, and the fact that we don’t want to give penalties for slow play, but that we will time players who fail to respond to our requests for them to speed up. The meeting last about an hour.
The following day, the day of the Opening Ceromony, we have a meeting with the Rules officials where we run through all the paperwork and highlight the areas where we expect they will be busy. There is no doubt that there will be more rulings at Buenos Aires due to the prevalence of water so we assign more officials to that course than Olivos.
Wednesday: time to get started! The golf clubs are about 50 minutes away from our hotel in central Buenos Aires, so we set off on the first shuttle bus of the day at 5.30am. At 8am the Championship is underway and the USA, playing with Argentina, get off to a flyer at Olivos. The day ends with USA leading, with France and the hosts tied for second place.
The breeze gets up at Buenos Aires Golf Club where I am based today, and this poses quite a challenge. Our Local Rule requiring replay of a stroke which strikes the power lines or towers comes into play a few times.
I’m busy dealing with pace of play issues, and a couple of groups need to be “put on the clock” to get them back into position. This means that each player in the group is timed when making their strokes, with a maximum of 40 seconds allowed. If a player exceeds the time permitted for a stroke on two occasions then a one-stroke penalty is applied. One player from Finland gets a bad time, but the group get back into position quite soon after that and so they are taken off the clock without any penalties arising.
My only ruling of the day occurs when I see a player from Guam about to drop two club-lengths away from a cart path on the advice of her caddie. I advise her that she needs to establish the nearest point of relief and can then drop within one club-length of that point, not nearer to the hole.
Before Korea tee off on Thursday, I speak with Mr Dong Wook Kim, the Executive Director of the Korea Golf Association. He thought his team had been very nervous on the first day and had struggled to a team-score of one over at Olivos, nine behind the USA. He’s expecting better things today at Buenos Aires. And it becomes apparent fairly quickly that his expectations are not misplaced, as one of the team birdies five of the first six holes. The two scores from three that count for the Koreans today are a nine-under-par 63 and a seven-under 65, as they smash the best-ever one day total by six strokes.
We have quite an interesting day on the Rules side of things as electrical storms are forecast, and then we have quite a significant bush fire just off the course behind the 16th tee. Fortunately we manage to dodge the storm and the fire is put out before it becomes a danger to the players.
Friday dawns and the field is split in two, with the top teams playing round three at Buenos Aires, and then Olivos on Saturday, and the bottom half doing the opposite. The tee positions and hole positions stay the same for both days, so teams in the lower half can still move into the top half over the last two days.
Korea surge away from the pack with another impressive display. They have counting scores of six under and four under for a ten-under-par total. It is good to see that a lot of local Korean golfers have come out to support their team.
I have a few rulings relating to water hazards – one of them is with Jessica Korda of the USA. She is playing in the event for the second time, but first time around she represented the Czech Republic as a 13-year-old in 2006. She’s the daughter of former Australian Open tennis champion Peter Korda.
The final day is upon us and I head to Olivos Golf Club where the top half of the field is playing. Everyone expects a victory for Korea, but it is game-on for the silver and bronze medals. I haven’t been back to Olivos since the Sunday before, so I go out early and reacquaint myself with the course. I also look over the written record of rulings that the officials have had over the first three days of the Championship so I know what sort of thing has happened.
As it transpires, it’s quite a quiet day on the rules front. I have to assist Pia Halbig from Germany playing in the second last group with an unplayable ball ruling after she has missed the ball when trying to play a very difficult shot from the base of a tree – so difficult, in fact, that she had to crawl to her ball under low-lying branches. Given that she had just missed the ball in front of a decent number of spectators, she handled herself extremely well in unfortunate circumstances.
Korea close out the Championship with steady under-par scoring, with the USA holding onto second place. There is a real tussle for third spot, which is eventually shared by South Africa, France and Sweden. We don’t use a tie-break method for second or a third spot, so they all get bronze medals.
So to the close of the Espirito Santo, and a gala dinner, with music and dancing. The women were looking to party after a gruelling week of golf, while the captains of the men’s teams tried hard to get their boys to bed in advance of the Eisenhower!