Bizarre rules violation costs player a tournament on a four-inch putt

A U.S. Junior Girls’ match has ended on one of the cruelest possible rules decisions in golf.

Erica Shepherd and Elizabeth Moon were playing for a spot in the U.S. Girls’ Junior finals at the Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo. The head-to-head match had gone to extra holes, and on the 19th hole, Shepherd made par.

Moon had a birdie putt from less than four feet away to win the match and advance to the finals. But she missed the putt, leaving a four-inch comeback … and that’s where the trouble began.

In most match play situations where the hole will be halved if one player makes an easy putt, the opposing player will wave off the need for the putt. But in this case, Shepherd didn’t concede the putt—she’d had her eyes closed in anticipation of possibly losing the match, and by the time she opened them, Moon was already dragging her ball back, apparently in expectation of being granted the putt.

“I didn’t say that was good,” Shepherd said, and that was that … Moon lost the hole and the match by violating Rule 18-2. Shepherd tried to protest that she would have conceded the putt if given more time, but rules officials wouldn’t bend.

“I mean, we both tried to get it to where that putt was given to her but it just – it’s the Rules of Golf,” Shepherd said, according to Golfweek. “You can’t.”

Moon obviously violated the rule by acting too quickly. All too often, the rules of golf are punitive far beyond common sense—penalizing a player for signing an incorrect scorecard, for instance. But this is a case where there was literally no other option but to cost Moon the match, as infuriating and embarrassing as that might be.

Elizabeth Moon (orange shirt) lost to Erica Shepherd on a controversial ruling. (via @golfweek)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.