DQ’d rookie to Futures Tour: $2K not enough

Sarah Brown at the 2009 Junior Solheim Cup.

Sarah Brown at the 2009 Junior Solheim Cup.

Sarah Brown, the Duramed Futures Tour rookie wrongly disqualified from last week’s event, has been offered $2,000 by the tour for its mistake. However, her father told Golfweek that she deserves more.

Brown’s father, Keith, said Wednesday that Zayra Calderon, the tour’s chief executive officer, proposed $2,000 as compensation. Tour officials would not confirm any offer but said they have apologized to Sarah Brown and her father, which the Browns confirmed. The amount would cover Brown’s entry fees for the final four events of the year.

Brown, 18, of Lopatcong, N.J., was removed from the course with nine holes remaining in last week’s The International at Concord in New Hampshire after a rules official determined that she was using a wedge with nonconforming grooves.

The Browns claimed that the wedge was conforming. It turned out they were correct: the wedge, a Ping Tour-W, is on the U.S. Golf Association’s list of wedges that comply with the 2010 condition of competition regarding grooves.

A player usually is allowed to finish the round when there is a questionable ruling that may result in disqualification. That way, the player’s score can stand if the ruling is not upheld.

“It’s not that (the rules official) made a mistake,” Keith Brown said. “Everyone makes mistakes. It was the arrogance to say, ‘I’m pulling her off the course.’ ”

The rules officials, identified as Jim Linyard and Kelly Wergin, are employees of the Duramed Futures Tour. Golfweek has been unable to reach them for comment. Futures Tour officials would not disclose whether any disciplinary action has been taken against them.

Keith Brown said he is not satisfied with the tour’s compensation. “It’s like punching someone in the nose and taking their wallet,” Keith Brown said. “The tour wants to return the wallet and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ What about the punch in the nose?”

The Browns are asking for:

• $5,638, the amount Sarah Brown would’ve earned had she finished The International at Concord at 8-under 208. She was 3 under par for the event when she was removed from the golf course with nine holes remaining.

• A waiver of the entry fee to 2010 LPGA Q-School, a $5,000 value. Brown advanced to the finals last year, finishing 84th.

• An annual seminar for Duramed Futures Tour rules official outlining how to handle difficult situations. “I’d like it to be called the Sarah Brown Seminar,” Keith Brown said.

“I went through a lot that day,” said Sarah Brown, who began the day at 5 under par, three shots off the lead, but was 2 over at the turn. “It was upsetting and humiliating for me to be in that situation.”

A spokeswoman for the Duramed Futures Tour would not comment on a proposed settlement but took responsibility for the mistake.

“We’ve owned up to our mistake and explained the situation to Sarah, but we do not plan to discuss any internal handling of the situation,” said Joely Pique, the tour’s public-relations manager.

The grooves rule was enacted by most major professional tours beginning this year to reduce spin on shots from the rough and emphasize driving accuracy. However, the Duramed Futures Tour delayed adopting the rule until July out of concern for its players being able to secure new equipment.

photo

Ping Tour-W wedge

Brown’s wedge was stamped with an “XG” on the hosel (“X’’ indicating the Roman numeral 10 to signify 2010 and “G’’ for grooves), and the Web site indeed showed the wedge to be conforming. The wedge in question is the fifth of five Tour-W 54/10 (54 degrees of loft, 10 degrees of bounce) wedges listed on the Web site.

Keith Brown said he would like to avoid litigation, but “anything is on the table” if the Duramed Futures Tour does not agree to the conditions. Brown said he has been contacted by attorneys who read about the incident and are willing to take his case on contingency. Brown said the firms claim to be able to win a six-figure settlement.

“There are other people who’d go for the jugular,” Keith Brown said. “I don’t want any part of it. I don’t think that’s right. I’m not the McDonald’s lady with the cup of coffee.”

The Browns would like to be compensated with earnings equal to those for players who finished The International at 8 under par. Brown missed a 12-foot birdie putt as a rules official sifted through her bag, which was in Brown’s line of vision.

That putt would’ve put her at 4 under par. Brown’s best score on the back nine at Beaver Meadow Golf Course during the tournament was 4 under, Keith Brown said.

“There’s no guarantees, but they should give her the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

The Browns would like the earnings to count on the money list, if the additional earnings would bump her over any important thresholds. The top 90 on the money list earn Futures Tour status for 2011. The top five earn LPGA status, while Nos. 6-10 earn conditional status. Nos. 11-20 earn exemptions into the final stage of Q-School.

Brown is No. 106 on the Futures Tour money list, with $2,921. The Browns’ desired earnings from The International would give her $8,559 and move her to 48th in earnings.

Keith Brown also said that should Sarah Brown cross any thresholds with the additional earnings (i.e. top 20, top 90, etc.), they do not want another player bumped out of that threshold by Brown’s presence. In other words, the No. 90 finisher on the money list would remain No. 90 even if passed by Brown.

“I worked so hard to get where I wanted,” Sarah Brown said. She was a 2009 AJGA first-team All-American. “I got cheated out of my best finish (of my pro career) and my biggest paycheck. That was the hardest part.”

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