Golf's complicated rulebook found another victim Tuesday, this time at the U.S. Amateur, where former Drexel golfer Chris Crawford was disqualified for using a distance-measuring device that had an activated slope reader accessed by his fill-in caddie.
Crawford, 23, who lives outside of Philadelphia, got off to a good start earlier in his second round of stroke-play qualifying at Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles and was in position to make the 64-player match play when he heard his caddie mention something about slope when getting a yardage from his distance-measuring device.
"I was a little flustered and knew something was wrong," Crawford said via phone on Tuesday night. "I asked my caddie what the deal was with his range finder. When he said it had a slope adjustment, I knew instantly that I had to disqualify myself. I notified the walking scorer in my group, and after getting in touch with a rules official I learned it would have been a 2-shot penalty if I had used it just once, but the second time is a disqualification. I have my own range finder and I know the rule, but I didn't think his would have that."
A slope reader can be on a distance-measuring device, but it cannot be accessed. The information that Crawford was given caused him to believe it was being used; he checked and it was on. If it had been turned off, there would have been no violation. But instead, Crawford was deemed in violation of Rule 14-3 "for multiple uses of a distance-measuring device with the slope feature activated by his caddie," according to the United States Golf Association, which administers the tournament.
In 2014, the USGA began allowing the use of such devices as part of a local rule that has been adopted for all of its amateur events but not the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open or U.S. Senior Open. Distance-measuring devices are not allowed on the PGA, European or LPGA tours, and not on the Web.com Tour except in some experimental instances.
The stroke-play rounds of the U.S. Amateur were contested at Bel-Air and Riviera Country Club, where the match-play portion of the tournament begins Wednesday.
Crawford said he had intended to bring his own caddie to Los Angeles for the tournament, but that he became ill. So he hired a local caddie on Monday at Riviera, where he shot 73, and another Tuesday at Bel-Air, where he was 2 under for his round and 1 over for the tournament when he discovered the infraction.
"I was so upset and flustered by the situation," said Crawford, who did not name the caddie. "I know some people in that situation would have gone berserk. I'm obviously mad. I still am right now and will be for quite a while. I didn't say anything to him. What can I really say at that point?"
Crawford, who qualified for the U.S. Open last year at Oakmont and this year at Erin Hills (he went through local and sectional qualifying to make it and missed the cut in both events), said this was his fifth U.S. Amateur and he had never qualified for match play.
Asked if the slope device on the range finder really would have given him an advantage -- and if anyone would have known had he not said anything -- Crawford said he never considered playing on.
"I didn't gain an advantage but I know the rules," he said. "[The late amateur] Bobby Jones said you might as well congratulate a man for not robbing a bank [if you applaud him for disqualifying himself] in that situation. I knew what the rule was and I didn't have a choice. I know nobody else would have known. But I knew. I knew what the rules was. It's just the way it is."
Crawford, who has pro aspirations and will assess his path soon, said he traveled to California with his mom, Karen.
"This is the biggest amateur tournament, and it's a commitment financially," he said. "To have it end in such a disappointing way is pretty crushing."
Thirteen golfers who posted a score of 4 over for 36 holes will compete in a playoff Wednesday morning for the final eight spots in the match-play field. Hayden Wood, of Edmund, Oklahoma, was stroke-play medalist after rounds of 64-67.