Auburn, Ala.—Rule 13-4 of the USGA Rules of Golf states that “Except as provided in the Rules, before making a stroke at a ball that is in a hazard (whether a bunker or a water hazard) or that, having been lifted from a hazard, may be dropped or placed in the hazard, the player must not:
a. Test the condition of the hazard or any similar hazard;
b. Touch the ground in the hazard or water in the water hazard with his hand or a club; or
c. Touch or move a loose impediment lying in or touching the hazard.
For former Auburn University golfer Blayne Barber, section c of that rule came into play in the most unfortunate of ways recently. Playing in the first round of PGA Tour Qualifying, Barber found himself in bunker and accidently touched a leaf while making his swing. Realizing his mistake a little later in the round, he penalized himself one stroke and continued to play.
Unfortunately for Barber that wasn’t the last of his penalties to come. Talking with former Auburn teammate Michael Hebert, Barber realized the penalty for his mistake was actually two strokes. Despite the fact that a two-stroke penalty would have still put him five shots inside the cut line for advancing, Barber knew what he had to do.
“I still didn't know,” Barber said. “I went and looked it up and saw that it was two shots. That's when I started discussing it with Shane, my caddy. I was trying to figure out...I wasn't 100-percent sure in the bunker; you said it didn't move. I started wrestling with it. Obviously, I didn't want to have touched it because that meant I was done. That's when I started going through that whole battle and decision and figuring out whether I'd actually touched it.
“I just got to the point where I knew that I'd touched the leaf,” he added. “I felt like I needed to make that move and do the right thing and not kind of brush the rules aside -- but abide by them. I got in touch with the tour and had a conference call with a couple rules officials and one of the operating officers of the tour. They were very helpful and very kind and they tried to interpret the rule as best they could. If it was to help me, then they were trying to do that. I'm the one--the fault is my own. I didn't know the penalty correctly. That's what happened.”
The decision was one that had a bigger impact on Barber than just a single tournament. Advancing in the Q School means a golfer is one step closer to making his dream come of being on the PGA Tour. Instead Barber must now have to earn his way by Monday qualifying or getting sponsor exemptions on both the PGA and Web.com Tours. Barber said that’s just something he has come to terms with following his decision.
“This is what I do for a living now,” Barber said. “I feel like it’s what I’m called to do and what I love to do. To have to do it every single day the rest of my life and for so much to be riding on Q School if I were to continue to play well in the fall and get my card, it would change my whole career.
"If I always had that in the back of my mind as a question mark, and if I always wondered whether I should have made it through in the first place and had success, then it would have weighed on me forever because this is what I do every single day.
“It’s the rules and I can’t change the rules,” he added. “It’s a mistake I made and I want to adhere to them. That’s why I did it. I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do. It’s something I felt strongly about. I wanted to fix it and I was not expecting any reaction from it at all. I was just doing what felt right in my heart and it turned into this.”
Planning to be married to long-time girlfriend Morgan Stanford on Dec. 15, Barber said the decision he made was one that impacted not only his future, but the future of his family. With that weighing on his mind he said there was no other decision for him to make in the end and it’s one he’s at peace with now.
“I knew I had done the right thing, and it just...I feel like I could just move on and put it in the past,” Barber said. “The entire week leading up to it, when people would ask me about Q School and congratulate me on playing well, etc., I didn't really want to talk about.
"Nobody else knew what I was going through and what I was dealing with and so although I had played well and moved on, I still wasn't excited about it. I didn't want to practice, I didn't want to go play, I just wanted to avoid it all. It just felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, just kind of put it in the past and move on and go to the next thing."
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