Caddie in wrong-ball dispute calls out Ahn

Shi Hyun Ahn during the 2008 HSBC Women's Champions.

Shi Hyun Ahn during the 2008 HSBC Women's Champions.

The double-DQ in Canada last week involving Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung is a tangled web of he said/she said. LPGA officials say any discussion of an alleged cover-up (i.e. cheating) at the CN Canadian Women’s Open is irresponsible. Shi Hyun Ahn’s caddie, Tim Hegna, has told the LPGA in multiple interviews, however, that his player signed her scorecard knowing she had played the wrong ball, and then asked him to keep it quiet.

“I know the truth,” Hegna told the blog site Waggle Room. “I know the Rules of Golf. What (Ahn) did was not right.”

In a phone interview with Golfweek, Hegna replayed the events from Round 1 on the 18th green, saying he first noticed Ahn had played the wrong Titleist when she handed him her ball and putter after tapping in for par on the final hole. 

photo

Tim Hegna, Shi Hyun Ahn's caddie

According to Hegna, the conversation went like this:

Hegna: This is a Titleist 6. We played the wrong ball. 

Ahn: Didn’t you look at it? 

Hegna: Well, obviously not. You need to tell the other girl (Chung) before she putts. 

Ahn didn’t respond, and Chung holed out. Both players proceeded to the scoring area to sign their scorecards. Moments later, Hegna walked to the clubhouse with both players, Chung’s caddie and Chung’s manager. At the locker-room door, Ahn told Hegna what time to meet him on Friday and added: “Don’t say anything.”

Hegna stood shocked, and then walked away.

Ahn’s agent, Vicki Lee, however, said no words were exchanged between Ahn and her caddie regarding the wrong ball before signing her scorecard. In fact, Lee maintains Ahn didn’t know until Chung approached her outside the scoring area. Chung claims to have first noticed the mistake when she went to autograph what she thought was her ball for the walking scorer.

“(Ahn) doesn’t understand why this is happening,” Lee said. “This was an honest mistake.”

Chung’s caddie, Chris Benz, offers a vastly different explanation of what happened outside the scoring area. Benz noticed his player had the wrong ball on the 18th green, and voiced his concerns to the third caddie in the group, Donna Earley. 

He didn’t mention it to Chung, however, until after she signed her scorecard. Benz said he approached Hegna and asked if knew the balls had been switched. “(Tim) said, ‘That’s not my job; I don’t care about it.’ ” 

Hegna denies saying that. In fact, he said Benz told him: “I’m not saying anything.’’

As if this story couldn’t get more garbled, Benz said he approached both players near the 18th green about playing the wrong ball. He told them they needed to find a rules official, and after speaking to each other in Korean, the players agreed. Benz said they then went to the clubhouse looking for an official.

Hegna has no knowledge of this discussion, and asked why his player would discuss Friday’s plans if they planned to turn themselves in. 

According to the LPGA, players did go to head rules official Doug Brecht not long after signing their scorecards.

“Ultimately, the Rules of Golf were adhered to,” LPGA spokesman David Higdon said Sept. 3 in an e-mail.

On Friday of tournament week, Hegna sought out Earley to ask for advice. She sent him to Michelle Ellis, president of the LPGA’s Player Board. Ellis told Hegna they needed to “look into this.” Hegna spoke to a rules official on Sunday. This week, he talked again to Ellis and Board VP Sherri Steinhauer, as well as LPGA vice president Jane Geddes.

Hegna plans to work the Monday qualifier next week at the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship in Rogers, Ark. He has been caddying for 14 months and was a playing professional off and on for 20 years. In 2007, the Minnesota PGA Section suspended Hegna for “improper conduct,’’ a spokesman told Golfweek, without elaborating. Hegna confirmed, saying the five-year suspension was due to money owed to a sponsor. He met Ahn for the first time last week in Canada.

“This is the truth,” Hegna said. “(Ahn) didn’t turn herself in when she should’ve.”

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