Masters teach Guan a lesson

Penalty on amateur Tianlong Guan at Masters causes stir in golf circles.

Three warnings and then bam, Masters referee John Paramor penalizes 14-year-old amateur Tianlang Guan one stroke on hole 17, giving him a bogey.

The Chinese whiz kid signed for a 75 and just barely made the weekend cut at Augusta National.

Slow play, by PGA standards, is anything over 40 seconds. If most public courses upheld those same rules, there would be nobody breaking par.

My favourite quote on turtle golf comes from superstar sports columnist Rick Reilly, who wrote about a guy in Chattanooga winning $60 million in a Big Game lottery and buying himself a golf course.

Penned Reilly, who wrote about his rules had he bought a course: “No tee times for women. No tee times for kids. No tee times for men. If you can play in less than 3 1/2 hours, get out there. If not, we’ve saved the midnight-to-2 a.m., window for you.”

Reilly also made fun of the amateurs who march off yardage like they’re Tiger Woods.

“No pacing off yardage. Does it really matter whether you’re 230 or 231 yards from the hole? That’s still three seven-irons and a canoe for you.”

And one more about the chump who takes endless practice swings.

“No practice swings. We’re seen your practice swing. It’s slow, graceful and bears absolutely no resemblance to the hideous chop you end up using, so why bother?”

I was lucky enough to follow John Daly practically run around Predator Ridge in 1993. He takes about two seconds before making a shot.

Daly picked on smiling Predator pro Sandy Kurceba, ripping him for slow play on the greens and making fun of his golf shirt.

“You take all that time and leave it (a putt) two feet short,” shouted Daly to Kurceba after a marathon putt on No. 10.

Later on the 13th hole, Daly yelled: “Are you awake down there?” as Kurceba checked out another monster putt.

The punishment given Guan caused plenty of Hot Stove League debate in social media circles Friday.

From The Guardian in England: “…it transpires [Guan] was penalised (sic) a stroke for slow play on 17 by some corpulent, waddling, officious buffoon.” and “…the lad’s 14 for goodness sake, surely the officials could have made do with a stern bollocking.”

From Editor Sam Weinman (@samweinman): “The Guan penalty would be a lot easier to stomach if this sort of penalty was a regular occurrence. Last slow penalty in a major was 2004.”

From @WittyGolfer to @GolfDigestMag’s Twitter handle: “No class giving him the penalty, Tiger can walk around putts for 12 mins, he & others will never be stroked.”

And from Yahoo! Sports golf blogger (@shanebacon): “Augusta officials also announced they plan to tell all kids at the tournament Santa is not real.”

Many others mentioned how slow play was happening all over the course, and why would officials make an example of a young teen?

The Augusta club, well known for its old guard and stuffiness, oozes beauty and history. As the hilarious CBS sportscaster David Feherty has noted, fun is secondary come Thursday. I doubt this penalty stroke would have been dealt at any of the three other Majors.

Said Feherty: “They don’t do comedy at the Masters. The Masters, for me, is like holding onto a really big collection of gas for a week. It’s like having my buttocks surgically clenched at Augusta General Hospital on Wednesday, and surgically unclenched on Monday on the way to Hilton Head.”

Some guy named Gravy Train tried to lighten the mood on the PGA blog site, writing: “(Jason) Dufner was penalized 30 strokes for Dufnering.”

Still with golf, I was joking in the newsroom that if Fred Couples or Sergio Garcia kept playing well and won the Masters, it would mark the first time a Vernon man claimed the green jacket.

Surely, we can call Couples a local since he played in both the 2000 and 2008 Skins Games at Predator Ridge, earning $165,000 while living here and then putting his name on The Rise Golf Course in the Bella Vista.

And Garcia pocketed $100G in the 2000 Skins contest and then wrote a cheque for a couple of places up at the Ridge. So he’s kind of local.

The cool thing about the Masters and the other three Majors is that anybody who took in one, or both, of the Skins Games probably has a story about ‘08 champion Camilo Villegas, Mike Weir (in both Skins games), Phil Mickelson (won $50G in 2000) or Garcia. Who can forget when the 2000 group, which included lefties Weir and Mickelson, switched clubs on a par-3? That was priceless.

They, along with Greg Norman (collected $100G in ‘08) and Colin Montgomerie (blanked in ‘08), made memories everywhere they stopped along the course. I got close enough to Mickelson I was tempted to swipe his wallet. I believe Dan Gaudet of Vernon found Norman’s Platinum MasterCard and bought drinks for an hour before he turned it in to the lost and found.

They were awesome to the media, and while the event was more of a sideshow than a tournament, I’m sure they treasure the experience. And it’s always more fun pulling for a pro athlete on TV when you’ve kind of been in their space.

So, come on Freddie and Sergio. One of you bring home that green blazer.