The need for diligence when signing scorecards

There has been a lot of talk of late about rules and the signing of scorecards and the impact both are having on the game, several high profile incidents ensuring discussion on these issues and possible remedies continues.

While the incident I am about to relate is not quite in the category of those of Lexi Thompson (ANA Inspiration) or Dustin Johnson (US Open) it was significant at the time and for me a little bit of a gut-wrencher and may be of interest to golf lovers.

In the 1975 Dunlop Masters at the fabulous Ganton Golf Club near Scarborough in England I was caddying for Australian Graham Marsh who was playing just his sixth tournament of the year in Europe having focused much of his attention in Japan earlier in the year.

Marsh had recorded several good finishes in Europe that year when he did play however including a runner-up finish in Sweden and a 6th place finish at the Open Championship just two behind the playoff between the winner Tom Watson and Jack Newton. He would therefore start as one of the favourites to win the Dunlop Masters and further enhance his growing reputation in world golf.

It was early October and a week ahead of the Piccadilly World Match Play at Wentworth where Marsh was scheduled to play Tom Watson in the opening round.

Marsh had arrived into Scarborough later than would normally be the case in the preparation for an event of this nature having played the Japan Open the previous week and had little time for preparation ahead of the opening round which in those days in events such as these were played on Wednesdays.

In that opening round conditions were demanding, in fact Marsh’ opening round of 70 gave him a one-shot lead over South Africa’s Dale Hayes, at least at that stage.

Ganton’s back nine holes contain two very similar par fours and, unbeknown to Marsh, his playing partner in round one and the man signing his card, David Chillas of Scotland, has recorded a birdie 3 where Marsh had actually had a par and a 4 where he had in fact birdied and so while the total added up to the correct amount of 70, that the scores had been transposed and signed for would mean Marsh would be disqualified.

Interestingly, Marsh did not find out until later in the evening. A diligent golf journalist back in the media centre had been looking over the scores well after play had finished for the day and compared the scores as they had come in from the course and those on Marsh’s actual signed card and noticed the discrepancy.

The journalist called Marsh at his hotel and explained the situation. Marsh headed back to the course and when he discovered and confirmed what had happened he had no alternative but to disqualify himself.

Chillas was mortified when he found out but Marsh sought him out the following morning to assure him that it was his (Marsh’s) responsibility to check the scores and there were no hard feelings.

I had been staying in accommodation other than those in which Marsh was staying and in an era where there were no mobile phones or any other real means of contacting each other, as such, I was still unaware when I headed to the golf course early the following morning to get the pin positions for round two.

Back then caddies were still required to carry out their own survey each day to determine where the pins were cut. Now, of course, that information is provided to all and sundry as, with so many professional caddies involved in the modern day, the traffic on the golf course early each day would be intolerable if all were required to chase their own pin positions.

As I walked past an early opening news agency that morning I noticed the headline on a billboard which read ‘Marsh disqualified’.

It took a while to register that the headline was referring to Graham but once I had and read the full story I headed back to my own bed and breakfast lodgings before going to visit Graham.

It was disappointing as Graham had played beautifully on a tough and demanding day and on a layout with which he was essentially unfamiliar only to lose out to  the stroke of a pencil.

I felt sorry for Graham, for David Chillas and of course myself and before long Graham and his wife and myself headed south to Wentworth to get in some early practice for the World Match Play.