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A former college All-American suffers a painful Q School DQ

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.

October 19, 2022
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An hour after shooting 66 in the first round of Korn Ferry Tour Q school, Gavin Hall received a phone call that he had been DQ’d. A caddie in Hall’s group had reached out to a rules official well after the round was over, sealing Hall’s fate. Players get DQ’d all the time, but something about this story stinks.

Hall had a very good career at the University of Texas, including making multiple All-Big 12 teams. As a senior, he earned All-American honorable mention after finishing outside the top 22 just once. But after turning pro in 2017, Hall has battled injuries and the driver yips. He seemed to have turned a corner recently, with a stretch of good play that included finishing 17th on the Order of Merit on PGA Tour Canada, exempting him into second stage of Q School.

The sixth hole at the Plantation Preserve Golf Club in Plantation, Fla., is a 375-yard par 4, dogleg left, with water up the entire left side. According to Brett Graf, tournament director for the South Florida PGA, Hall hit a ball up the left that all three players in the group saw splash in the water. With nowhere down the fairway to drop, he then hit a second ball off the tee that landed in play. According to Rule 18.3(a), when the only two outcomes for a shot are that the ball is in the penalty area or in play, a provisional is not allowed. When Hall hit his second tee shot, he was effectively declaring that his first was in the penalty area; therefore, he had to play his second ball, even if the first one was found. But nobody knew that. Or so it seemed. (Update: A player and the caddie in question say that the player did in fact bring this up to Hall. While walking to the green, the player asked, “Are you sure you can play that?”)

As the group approached their tee shots, Hall’s caddie located his original ball on the bank of the penalty area. Hall hacked it out onto the fairway, essentially playing the wrong ball. He chipped onto the green and made the putt for what would have been a par. No one in the group, including the caddies, questioned Hall playing the original ball.

According to sources, on the next tee a caddie in the group muttered something about a possible rules infraction on the previous hole. It was said so softly the source doesn’t think Hall heard it. If Hall had been made aware of the rules infraction before teeing off, he could have returned to the previous fairway, taken a penalty for playing the wrong ball and completed the hole, likely making a triple or quadruple bogey. Once he teed off on the seventh hole, Hall was destined for a DQ.

(Update: According to a player in the group, Hall called for a rules official on the seventh green, when his ball was touching the hazard line. He didn’t call for a rules official on 6.)

Hall birdied his last three holes and signed for what he thought was a 66. Nothing was said in scoring about the possible rules violation, to Hall or his caddie or any other player in the group. Only when the caddie in question called the rules official nearly an hour after the round did Hall learn his fate. (Update: The caddie in question said he did say something to a player in the group on 18, prior to going into scoring, but nothing was said in scoring. The player and caddie then went to practice for a few hours, went home to check the rules, and the caddie made the call to the rules official.)

That’s a tough pill to swallow.

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