2005: Hensby apologizes for Bay Hill walkoff

Australian Mark Hensby caught a good deal of grief when he failed to finish the first round of the Bay Hill Invitational March 18. Nine over par standing on the 18th tee, Hensby pulled his drive out of bounds, then never re-teed. He walked the hole alongside fellow competitors Andre Stolz and Mike Weir, shook their hands after they putted out, marked an ‘X’ on his card and departed without explanation. The Golf Channel and several publications (including Golfweek) took him to task for his abrupt departure. Bay Hill’s Arnold Palmer termed it “unprofessional.”

At The Players Championship last week, Hensby said there was a reason behind what transpired: He said the ball he hit out of bounds at 18 was the last golf ball he had. When his weather-delayed round had started that morning, he had 11 holes to play and “three or four” Titleist Pro V1 balls in his bag. He hit one in the water at the par-4 11th hole, and his caddie gave one or two balls away (he normally uses a ball for three holes). Hensby did have some options to finish the round: Though a player cannot borrow a club from a competitor, under the Rules of Golf he is allowed to borrow a golf ball, provided it’s the same model he is playing. Of the 12 players either directly ahead of or behind him, no fewer than three played the Pro V1 ball. He also could have sent his caddie to the pro shop to get more golf balls.

“We could have (gone to the pro shop), no doubt,” Hensby said at TPC. “And when I look back I probably should have done that, because I probably wouldn’t have caught all the crap that I caught for it. The bottom line is I was 9 over par and I would have looked stupid going back (for more golf balls).”

Hensby has written a letter of apology to Palmer.

“If I had it to do over again, I would go back and get some balls and finish the round,” Hensby said. “Everybody just thinks I walked off. I walked up the whole hole, shook their hands, went in the scoring tent. Maybe I should have explained it, but at that point in time I didn’t feel like I had to. It’s not my job. If they (Tour officials) want to know, they can come and find me.”

– Rex Hoggard and Jeff Babineau

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