Par for the Course: USGA proposing rules changes that will eliminate penalties

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At first glance, it seems like the U.S. Golf Association is proposing a whole new set of rules. That is because there are 30 changes proposed along with 140 overall changes to the rules book, as outlined this week by Joe Foley, manager of rules outreach and programming for the USGA.

Among them are the elimination of penalties for:

  • Touching the line of a putt.
  • Moving the ball during a search.
  • Moving loose impediments in a bunker or water hazard.
  • Ball drop procedure from any height, but within the area.

The USGA also is dealing with the pace of play reducing ball search time from five to three minutes, plus 40 seconds to play a shot. Spike marks on a green can be repaired.

Kelly emphasized that all of this and much more is in the proposal stage, and that for the past six months into Aug. 31, he and eight members of a team have been charting input from golfers and golf officials throughout the nation on these subjects. The new rules, which would be touched up as a result of the golf public’s views, will be adopted next year by the USGA for implementation Jan. 1, 2019.

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Randy Hodsdon, tournament director for the Maine State Golf Association, is considered by many to be the Pine Tree State’s foremost authority on the rules of golf. While he has not had an opportunity during the busy MSGA tournament season to study what is on the table, he did offer a viewpoint on some of the proposed changes.

“There are a lot of things in play here,” Hodsdon said. “What bothers me more than anything is the new rule on the drop area.”

He explained that relief without a penalty and the drop area of 20 inches, in his opinion does not need to eliminate the club length rule of the past. Overall, he said, however, that he will not be vocal on rules until he sees the final draft which will be made public next year.

“There are other things I like the least,” he said, ” and it will be interesting to see what they tweak.”

MSGA executive director Nancy Storey thinks touching up the rules is a positive.

“I think it will help with the pace of play, with ease of understanding and with encouraging people to play by the rules,” Storey said.

“Let’s face it,” she said philosophically, “you have to be deeply knowledgeable about the rules of golf to understand the decisions book. If players were expected to know all the decisions before they went out to play, the game would go extinct in a hurry.”

Because Aug. 31 is just 25 days away, neither Foley nor any members of that USGA team will make it to Maine to listen to their views on the proposed rules changes. He did indicate that the new rules, once agreed upon by the USGA, will be available everywhere the sport is played for golf public scrutinization — even In Maine.

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Left-hander Jack Wyman of Portland has won the 2017 Dr. Leonardo Buck MSGA Player of the Year Award, after having won the Maine Amateur at Brunswick (69-68-74-211 -5) and being the low amateur at the Charlie’s Maine State Open at Augusta (72-65—137, -3), and reaching the quarterfinal round at the Match Play Invitational.

Wyman amassed 574 points, to second-place Joe Alvaraz’s 394. Area players Greg Chapman of Fox Ridge was tied for sixth with 301, Will Kannegeiser of Martindale was tied for eighth with 295, and Joe Baker of Martindale was 14th with 255.

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Ruby Haylock of Hartford, who plays at Turner Highlands (93-90—183), won the girls’ 13-15 division of the 81st Maine Junior Championship Aug. 1-2 at Val Halla, which was the best showing among area players in that tournament. Sibling Jade Haylock (57-47) was sixth in the 12 and under bracket.

In girls’ 16-18, Stephanie Rodrigue of Fox Ridge and Lewiston was fifth (84-83—167), and Janelle Bryant of Gray seventh (94-88—182). In the largest group, boys’ 16-18, Evan Glicos of Martindale (86-91—177) and Alex Robert of Lewiston (86-91—177) tied for 23rd.

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This will be an active tournament week for the MSGA with the annual ‘B’ and ‘C’ Championship on tap Aug. 8-9 at Fairlawn. The Weekly Tour takes place Aug. 11-12 at Penobscot Valley, and there are three Junior Tour events: Aug. 7 at Nonesuch River, Aug. 8 at Biddeford-Saco and Aug. 10 at Toddy Brook.

Bill Kennedy
Bill Kennedy
Bill Kennedy

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