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Walker Cup: Rules violation doesn’t cost GB&I

ABERDEEN, Scotland – Great Britain & Ireland might lead 3-1 after the morning foursomes of the 43rd Walker Cup, but by all rights they should be tied 2-2. Only the intricacies of the rules of golf saved the home team from potential disaster.

Andy Sullivan and Jack Senior won their match 2 and 1 over Kelly Kraft and Russell Henley, but they could have lost the match had information come to light earlier.

Jack Senior’s brother, Joe, caddied for him in the morning session. There is nothing in the conditions of the Walker Cup to prohibit family members caddying. However, there is condition that bans professional golfers from caddying. Joe Senior is a professional golfer and therefore breached the rule.

Fortunately for GB&I, that information only came to light after the result of the match had been posted. Under rule 2-5, Doubt as to Procedure, Disputes and Claims, Senior and Sullivan’s win stands.

“We were alerted to the fact that Jack Senior’s caddie may be a professional golfer after the match had finished,” explained R&A chief executive Peter Dawson. “We verified with Jack that was in fact the case. There is a condition of competition of the Walker Cup that professional golfers should not caddie.

“The breach of that condition was discovered after the match had finished. Had it been discovered during the match, an adjustment to the state of the match would have had to have been made and the caddie would have had to have been changed mid-round. But because it wasn’t discovered until after the result had been officially declared, the rules of golf say that the result should stand, and the result does stand and it remains 3-1 to Great Britain & Ireland.”

The breach only came to light during a discussion between BBC commentators Paul Eales and Maureen Madill. They were wrapping up the morning session when former European Tour pro Eales identified Joe Senior as a professional golfer.

As R&A director of Rules David Rickman pointed out: “A player is prohibited from having a professional caddie serve as his caddie during a stipulated round.”

Had the breach been noticed during the match, then the penalty would have been loss of hole for each hole the breach occurred with a maximum loss of two holes, and a change of the caddie.

Joe Senior will not caddie for the next three sessions. Brother Jack teed off in the singles with Alan Dunbar’s caddie alongside him.

“We have consulted both team captains, we have consulted the senior officials of the United States Golf Association, and everyone is entirely happy that under the traditions and ethos of this match, that the situation should be left lie and no one but no one has any problem with that,” Dawson said.

“We also have to be satisfied after the result was declared that the player did not knowingly keep this information to himself and knowingly breach the rules and we are satisfied that is not the case.”

Even though the conditions of the competition are contained on both sides of one sheet of paper, GB& I captain Nigel Edwards was unaware that a breach might have occurred.

“We weren’t aware of it, certainly I wasn’t aware of it as captain,” Edwards said.

As expected, U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve did not take issue with the matter. “I’m fine, these guys played golf, he didn’t have any influence and I’m perfect with the decision.”

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