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Rhode Island golfer suffers grooves DQ in U.S. Open qualifier

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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This week is all about the professionals playing at in the Players Championship, but for some amateurs out there, this week was just as big, as countless players teed it up in U.S. Open Local Qualifying tournaments around the country.

University of Rhode Island golfer Taylor Fontaine was one of the brave few that showed up at Newport (R.I.) Country Club to play in blustery conditions that had most players slamming their clubs in anger, as 20 of 67 players in the field managed to break 80 on the day.

Fontaine was one of the lucky few, firing a 76 to grab one of five spots and advance to Section Qualifying. But unfortunately, this story doesn't have a happy ending. As Golf Digest's Mike Stachura wrote, the lead official of the qualifier called him over soon after to discuss a potential violation that had to do with his wedge being non-conforming to the USGA's new grooves rule.

The wedge in question, a Titleist Vokey Design, was actually given to him by a buddy, after Fontaine received an e-mail from the USGA and realized his wedges were non-confirming. After taking his friend's word, he thought he was fine. But he was wrong.

The club was only questioned after a player in his group notified an official that he wasn't sure it was legal. I understand the decision to play by the rules, but maybe the whistle-blower could have done it before Fontaine signed the scorecard? It just seems like sour grapes to me.

Of course, Fontaine isn't the first, after 16-year-old Erynne Lee earned a spot in last year's U.S. Women's Open and was disqualified for using wedges with non-conforming grooves.

Look, I have no problem with the decision, because Fontaine should have known better, but the USGA should really look at updating its conforming/non-conforming database. Maybe they could, I don't know, add some pictures so players know if they're looking at the right club.

But at the end of the day, Fontaine is still at fault for not asking an official to check his clubs before he started his round. Talk about a tough way to learn the USGA's groove rule.

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