Former NCAA champion Doris Chen was disqualified from the LPGA's qualifying tournament over the weekend when she played a ball her mother moved back into play after the tee shot went out of bounds.
Golf Channel and Golfweek both reported that a homeowner along the course in Pinehurst, North Carolina, had witnessed the infraction and provided a description of the woman, later identified as Yue-Guey Lin.
Alex Valer, Chen's caddie, told Golf Channel: "Doris did the wrong thing.''
Chen tried to clarify the situation in a statement she released on Twitter.
"I did not have any direct involvement, nor was it my intention for it to happen,'' she wrote. "It was a stressful week and I did my best in terms of resolving it at the moment. Unfortunately, I did not have the best judgement at the moment and this resulted (in) a ruling. It was my responsibility as a player to call for a rules official at the time to investigate, whether the event to be true or mistaken. However, I thought I knew the rules clearly. I have to firmly clarify that my caddie, the volunteer nor I at the time we were searching for the ball saw anything suspicious. I did not hear or see anything, nor did I do anything that would interfere. I found the ball and hit it.''
The LPGA's qualifying event is called Q-Series, an eight-round tournament that rewards the top players with playing status for 2019.
Chen, who won the NCAA title while at USC in 2014, has been playing on the developmental Symetra Tour.
"Doris Chen's drive on the 17th hole in round 7 came to rest out of bounds," the LPGA said in a statement. "An outside agency moved her ball back in bounds. Ms. Chen and her caddie were made aware that the ball had been moved. Doris elected to play the ball, which was a wrong ball by definition, from its altered lie. Ms. Chen did not correct her error before teeing off on the next hole, thus resulting in the DQ penalty."
Because her tee shot was deemed to be out of bounds, Chen needed to go back to the tee and hit again. She was in violation of Rule 15-3b.
In an interview with Golf Channel on Monday, Chen said: "I feel hurt. People are calling me a cheater, with inflammatory words. I'm not a cheater. I never intend to cheat, and I've never told my family or friends to move my ball if I push my shot in the woods.''
Valer, Chen's caddie, told Golf Channel that he told Chen they should call in a rules official -- which she did not do. "I told her, 'If you sign the scorecard, there is a possibility you will be disqualified.'"