Nichols: Neither Ariya Jutanugarn nor Amy Olson were cheating so let's move on

amy olson Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

Nichols: Neither Ariya Jutanugarn nor Amy Olson were cheating so let's move on

LPGA Tour

Nichols: Neither Ariya Jutanugarn nor Amy Olson were cheating so let's move on

By

Both Ariya Jutanugarn and Amy Olson had never heard the term “backstopping” before this week’s event in Thailand. Same goes for Stacy Lewis. Brittany Lincicome just happened to hear about it from a few players earlier this week at her club. The members were discussing backstopping on the PGA Tour.

The incident that occurred on the 18th Friday was not the unveiling of a secret society of LPGA backstoppers. It was a couple of players intending to speed up play. And for those who know both Jutanguarn and Olson, it’s easy to believe every word they say.

“I’m going to walk like (to) mark my ball,” said Jutanugarn after Saturday’s round, “and then I saw Amy was ready, so I let (her) hit and that was it.”

For Olson and Jutanugarn and many other players on the LPGA, this was an education in Rule 15.3/1. The LPGA didn’t dole out any penalties because the players didn’t agree to leave Jutanugarn’s ball there to help Olson. Both have stated that was not their intent.

But, as Olson said, in the future, she will always have a player mark her ball to avoid the appearance of anything improper occurring. She has learned from it.

Olson, 26, won an NCAA record 20 events at North Dakota State and has taken her game to a new level as a professional in recent years. She’s not a household name among golf fans, but for anyone who has met the pure-hearted pro, the word “cheater” does not apply. Not in the slightest.

The same goes for No. 1 Jutanugarn.

When asked after the round if it was difficult to focus with accusations of cheating floating around the internet, Jutanugarn was clear.

“Actually, it’s not that tough,” she said, “because one thing we know is we (were) not cheating. We not talk, we not agree with that, like help each other, nothing.”

When Jutanugarn saw Olson at the turn on Saturday, they gave each other a hug.

In a television interview before the third round, Olson was also asked about being labeled a cheater.

“All I can say is that was not my intent,” said Olson, “and it does hurt to have that label associated with you and I’m hoping that for people that know me, they know that that would never be something I would do.”

Golfweek reached out to several players via text to see if they’d ever seen backstopping on tour. Austin Ernst said she’s never seen it happen firsthand. Lindy Duncan said she’s never heard of it being a concern. Cristie Kerr said the entire exchange between Jutanugarn and Olson was “completely innocent.”

“I don’t think Amy was trying to cheat,” said Ryann O’Toole. “I don’t think May was trying to help. I think it was purely a ‘Your ball’s not in my way, I’ll go because I’m ready to play.’ ”

This incident should not and will not define Olson or Jutanugarn. They’re imperfect people playing an imperfect game. Learning as they go.

Believe what they say and move on.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home