Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship Blog

Claire Hargan, Rules Manager writes about her experiences as a referee at the 2013 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the Nanshan International Golf Club in China.

The 2013 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) was only the fifth staging of the event, but with the success of previous winners such as Hideki Matsuyama (2010 and 2011 Champion) and Guan Tianlang (2012 Champion), the event is already one of the highest profile amateur events. This year 118 golfers from 34 countries competed for the title along with a place in the 2014 Masters Tournament and International Final Qualifying for the 2014 Open Championship.

My colleague Ed Johnson (Manager, Amateur Championships) and I were fortunate to be invited to assist the chief referee Greg Fitzhardinge, from Australia, with the course marking, course set-up and refereeing during the Championship.

During our first look around the course on the Sunday afternoon it was immediately obvious that this was no ordinary amateur event. The Championship would have the largest TV audience of any amateur golf event in the world. From a Rules point of view that meant that many of the challenges of professional tour events would also have to be faced here, with TV towers, leaderboards, TV cables, advertising boards, hospitality tents and so on, all to cater for in the Local Rules.

Greg, Ed and I spent most of Monday and Tuesday finishing off the course marking (there were numerous water hazards and lateral water hazards to stake and line), writing the Local Rules and trying to communicate with the greenkeeping staff regarding what we needed. The number of English speakers in this part of China is limited and our Chinese even more limited, but fortunately several of the other referees spoke the language and were able to act as interpreters for us once they arrived on site.

On the Wednesday evening there was a players’ meeting, and it was decided to take this opportunity to give a short pace of play presentation. The presentation included showing a film clip to help to explain the pace of play condition which would be in place for the event (View here).

Two previous winners of the AAC were penalised at Major Championships in 2013 and it was felt that it was important to implement a strict pace of play policy at this year’s Championship and to educate the players accordingly. The policy proved a great success during the Championship with the majority of players being extremely cooperative when asked to make up time on the group in front. Only five groups were timed on the first day with three bad times being given to separate players. Under the pace of play policy in force, this meant that each of these three players received a warning and were advised that an additional bad time would result in them receiving a one stroke penalty. No groups required to be timed during the final three rounds and 19 of the 21 groups completed their fourth and final round within the scheduled time. That was pretty good overall.

The first round of the Championship was to begin at 6.45am on the Thursday morning with a two tee start from the 1st and 10th tees; however the 10th tee starters were very nearly behind their scheduled time from the beginning.

All players in the opening group had arrived at the tee well in advance of their start time, only for one player to disappear at 6.40am. His caddie was sent to find the player with no luck, but at 6.44am and 55 seconds he reappeared on the tee and all was well. Unfortunately, just three games later, a player appeared just under five minutes late for his tee time and so this resulted in that player receiving a two stroke penalty. Under Rule 6-3 if a player arrives at his starting point, ready to play, within five minutes after his starting time he is penalised two strokes in stroke play (or loss of hole in match play). If the player had arrived more than five minutes after his starting time the penalty would have been disqualification.

As well as timing several groups during the opening round I was also kept busy with the occasional ruling. My most complicated ruling of the day involved a player whose second shot at the 18th hole came to rest on dry land but within the margins of a lateral water hazard with an advertising banner on his line of play. Due to the difficulty of moving these banners we had defined these to be temporary immovable obstructions (TIOs) within the Local Rules. This Local Rule allows a player to take line of sight relief from the TIO and this is one of few Rules where the player is permitted to take relief from a situation even when his ball lies in a lateral water hazard.

The player took relief from the TIO under my instruction and the ball ended up back in play within the lateral water hazard but still on dry land…good drop! Unfortunately the player only managed to progress the ball a few inches and it ran back down the slope and into deep water. As the ball was played from within the hazard and came to rest in the same hazard, Rule 26-2a now applied. This is not a Rule that comes up very often and it is easy to get confused, so I quickly referred to my Rule book before advising the player of his options. He decided to go back to where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, i.e. after his second shot, and drop a ball within two club lengths of that point, under penalty of one stroke. Fortunately the player found the green with his next shot and I left them to complete their round.

The morning of the second day was relatively quiet with the players making good time to their schedule, however just as I started to relax, the wind picked up and the drivable par 4, 14th hole suddenly became a very busy spot. In the space of just four groups myself and Jay Chang, a referee from the Korea Golf Association, were called to eight or nine rulings between us on that one hole, including: relief from casual water (Rule 25-2), relief from both a TIO and then a cart path (Local Rule and Rule 24-2), relief from a Lateral Water Hazard (Rule 26-1), relief from a TIO for a ball lying in a lateral water hazard (Local Rule) and an Unplayable Ball (Rule 28).

There was one very unfortunate ruling near the end of the second round when one player realised after he had returned his card that his score did not include a two stroke penalty that he had incurred during the round. The player returned to the recording area to advise the recorder that his marker had made a mistake on his scorecard and asked that he be allowed to correct the card. It is however the responsibility of the player to check his score and sign for it at the end of the round (Rule 6-6b) and once the score card has been returned to the Committee no further alteration may be made to the card (Rule 6-6c). The player had therefore signed for a lower score than he had actually taken and unfortunately the Committee had no choice but to disqualify the player (Rule 6-6d).

There was a cut to the top 60 players and ties after round two and as the majority of the 61 players that made the cut kept within their scheduled pace of play, rounds three and four were relatively quiet for me. There was one rather unusual ruling during the third round when a player’s ball struck a cart path and bounced almost 80 yards over the back of the green and under an underpass to another part of the course. The ball had not crossed any boundaries of the course and so although he was given relief from the cart path, he was left with the choice of playing the ball over the underpass (and the road above) or to declare the ball unplayable and go back and play again from where he played his previous stroke under penalty of stroke and distance. The player chose to play the ball from where it lay and he successfully got the ball back onto the correct part of the golf course. It just shows that even when you think you have all the bases covered when it comes to defining the golf course and writing the Local Rules there is always something that you will have missed – always expect the unexpected! On some golf courses with underpasses, boundaries are introduced to stop a player from having the option of playing over a road and / or underpass.

The cold and windy conditions during the first two rounds resulted in only the Champion, Lee Chang-Woo of Korea, finishing the four rounds under par with a final score of -3. The 19- year-old will now go on to play in The 2014 Masters at Augusta and both he and runner up Shohei Hasegawa (Japan) will compete in Final Qualifying for The Open Championship.

From a personal point of view it was a great experience to be involved in such a big multi-national Amateur event, while also getting the opportunity to meet, work with and learn from referees and other officials from around the world.