For most of us, showing up to a course with aerated greens is so demoralizing that the round is over before it even starts. Now imagine that scenario at a local U.S. Open qualifying site, which players faced Monday at the Illini Country Club in Springfield, Illinois.
For Tommy Kuhl, it was just another obstacle to overcome on the way to Los Angeles Country Club, which he was one step closer to doing after going thermonuclear on the beaten greens. Kuhl, a fifth-year senior at Illinois, shot a course-record 62 to easily clinch the medalist honors and advance to the U.S. Open Final Qualifying. Or at least he thought so.
If Q Info first reported on Twitter on Monday, Kuhl went outside to follow some of his teammates after setting Illini CC on fire. While watching colleague Adrien Dumont de Chassart compete in the play-offs for the final of five spots up for grabs, another teammate, Jackson Buchanan, talked about how difficult it was to play on the aerated greens all day for Kuhl .
The moment Kuhl heard that, French writes, he knew something was wrong.
“I felt sick,” Kuhl said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t tell the rules official.”
Kuhl realized that he had repaired aeration marks several times during the round, which is not allowed under the rules of golf. In 2019, when many of the rules were simplified, Rule 13.1c(2) was amended to allow repair of “almost any damage to the putting green.” The key word there is of course ‘almost’. As the rule states, “any damage” includes ball marks, damage to shoes (spike marks), nicks from a bat or flagpole, damage to animals, etc. Unfortunately, that etc. did not include aeration marks, nor did it include natural surfaces. imperfections or natural wear of the hole.
As regulator Todd Bailey told Q on Monday, Kuhl would have been within his rights to fix the aeration marks if a local rule had been issued on Monday. That wasn’t the case, and once Kuhl realized he had fixed them multiple times, he had to DQ himself.
“I should know better. It’s on me. I should know that rule,” Kuhl said.
Numerous players from the Illini CC qualifier who spoke to Monday Q made it clear that they also recorded aeration marks throughout the round, although none of them qualified. Kuhl was the unlucky one among them who happened to have a career day, which rightfully put LACC in his crosshairs. Sadly, that dream is dead, but at least Kuhl won’t have nightmares about a rule violation he didn’t admit to.