Patriotic penalty: Team USA’s Sam Bennett overcomes penalty for a 15th club likely picked up during face paint application

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TRINITY, Texas – Call it patriotic penalty strokes.

Team USA’s Sam Bennett, a senior at Texas A&M, was playing the first 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 club he didn’t recognize.

It turned out it was a pitching wedge that belonged to his teammate Rachel Heck. That gave him 15 clubs in his bag a violation of Rule 4.1b, which limits the number of clubs a player can carry to 14. The penalty is two strokes per hole and applies based on when the player became aware of the breach.

Team USA assistant captain Alli Jarrett returned the wedge to Heck, who was playing in the group behind the American men. According to Team USA captain Stacy Lewis, Heck figures she leaned her club against Bennett’s bag when she applied stars and stripes temporary tattoos to the cheeks of her male teammates, Bennett and U.S. Amateur champion James Piot of Michigan State.

Heck and her fellow teammate Rose Zhang already were rocking a star on their right cheeks and a heart on their left cheeks.

Asked before the round where their face tattoos were, Piot said, “We debated it but not going to happen.”

But it did happen, and while Heck was applying one on Piot’s face, Bennett must have picked up her wedge and inserted it into his bag unknowingly.

Bennett didn’t let the double bogey at the first dampen his spirits. He birdied five of the next 10 holes to claim the lead at 6 under in the men’s competition.

This story will be updated after the round.