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Decof, Ping attorney in suit against USGA, dies

January 03, 2011

Leonard Decof, the celebrated attorney who represented Ping during the original Eye 2 controversy, died Dec. 31. Decof was 86.

Decof, who graduated from Yale and then received his law degree from Harvard, practiced in the areas of medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury law, antitrust, and commercial litigation at Decof & Decof--the firm he founded in 1975--in Providence, R.I. Decof argued several cases before the Supreme Court, but is known best in golf circles for the Ping case as well as being retained by Callaway Golf as special counsel.

Decof's work on the Ping suit came to the fore early last year when several PGA Tour players used old Ping Eye 2 wedges as an attempt to circumvent the new groove rule. Those clubs were grandfathered in 1990 as part of a settlement of a suit Ping had filed against the USGA. Many questioned at the time why the tour simply didn't close the loophole by prohibiting the use of the clubs in its tournaments.

The fact is, they couldn't. Decof had made certain of that 20 years earlier.

"The PGA Tour has always conformed to USGA rules," Decof told Golf Digest. "When we settled the case, I drew up a protocol that said that before the PGA Tour could depart from the USGA that detailed hearings had to be held."

Decof went on to add that the protocol provided for a five-person commission made up of those with expertise on the issue and that all interested parties would be allowed to state their case. "The commission would make a decision based on the evidence," he said.

-- E. Michael Johnson