TRINITY, Texas – Call it patriotic penalty strokes.
Sam Bennett of Team USA, senior at Texas A&M, was playing the opening hole of the final round of the Spirit International Amateur Championship at Whispering Pines Golf Club when he reached into his golf bag and noticed something was wrong. There was a 58-degree Ping sand wedge he didn’t recognize.
“I was like, ‘Oh, shit!” said Bennett.
It turned out to belong to his teammate Rachel Heck. That left him with 15 clubs in his bag, a violation of Rule 4.1b, which limits the number of clubs a player may carry to 14. The penalty is two strokes per hole and is applied based on when the player became aware of the violation.
When he made the discovery, Bennett turned to his teammate James Piot and asked, ‘What should I do? This club is in my bag.” Bennett noted that Piot told him, “You can’t help it. Just tell the rules officer.”
Team USA assistant captain Alli Jarrett handed the wedge back to Heck, who played in the group behind the American men. It’s unclear which player accidentally put the club in Bennett’s bag, but either way, neither Heck nor Bennett counted their clubs before parting. Having a 15th club was something he had never done before and probably never will.
According to Team USA captain Stacy Lewis, Heck believes she leaned her bat against Bennett’s bag as she applied temporary star and stripe tattoos to the cheeks of her male teammates, Bennett and Michigan State Amateur Champion James Piot.
Heck and her teammate Rose Zhang already had a star on their right cheek and a heart on their left cheek, just like they had at the Curtis Cup earlier this year.
Asked for the roundup where their facial tattoos were, Piot said, “We’ve debated it, but it’s not going to happen.”
But it did, and as Heck applied one to Piot’s face, Bennett must have picked up her wedge and unknowingly put it in his bag.
“Honestly, I don’t know how it got there,” Bennett said.
He didn’t mind the double bogey at the start. He birdied five of the next 10 holes and made a total of seven birdies en route to 3-under 69 and rallied from a three-stroke deficit to win the men’s competition. But Team USA’s men finished with a silver medal, losing by one stroke to Team Sweden. Consider this a lesson learned.
After the round, Heck gave her version of what happened: “At the firing range I helped Sam get his facial tattoo on and I put my baton on his bag and I think he accidentally put it in his bag and I didn’t keep an eye on it,” she said. “I found out just before I turned and I felt absolutely terrible. That should have cost me, not him. It really motivated me. I wanted to contribute to the team and make sure we came out on top, because I knew if we didn’t, I’d feel like it was partly my fault.”
Heck shot 67, the low round of the day, helping Team USA claim the women’s team competition.