England’s Laura Davies found her way into the final of the £400,000 WPGA International Matchplay at Gleneagles in bizarre circumstances. Her opponent and fellow Solheim Cup team-mate Sophie Gustafson from Sweden was penalised at the first extra hole after her caddie hitched a lift on a buggy between the first and 18th holes.
Davies will face Scotland’s Janice Moodie in the final after the Glaswegian defeated Sweden’s Carin Koch after carding eight birdies in her 2&1 win.
In a thrilling match, Gustafson, the top seed, was two down with two holes to play, and then rattled off a par and a birdie to force extra time with the former World number one.
But her American caddie, Chuck Hoersch, went to the toilet after the 18th hole, and in a bid to catch the group up on the first tee, he jumped on a buggy, which is against Tournament rules that state ‘Players and their caddies must walk at all times unless authorised by the Tournament committee’.
After making a tricky five-foot putt for a half on the first sudden death hole, match referee David Pepper held the group on the second tee after Tournament Director and Chief referee Ian Randell spotted the incident and met the group.
Davies was agreeable to forget about the misdemeanour and carry on. But in golf, waiving of the R&A rules is not permitted and the Swede was penalised with the loss of hole, and therefore the match.
Afterwards, a shocked Davies felt sorry for both Hoersch and her friend Gustafson.
“There were absolutely no advantages at all,” said Davies of Hoersch getting a lift.
“You could say that 36-holes in one day and an extra ride on a cart might be an advantage, but I know it makes no difference, you know it makes no difference.
“But the rules have to be there so someone doesn’t keep getting on a cart.”
“Sophie's a great friend and I just feel so sorry for her.”
"I saw Chuck take the ride, but decided not to say anything. But it was on the second tee that the referees got together and it's a rule of golf so there was no way we could agree to waive it. It's certainly not the way I would have wanted to go through.” Tournament director Randell had the invidious task of informing the Swede.
“It’s actually a Tournament rule,” said Randell after the incident. “It is on our Tournament rules card and it applies to every Ladies European Tour event and is a standard rule across all Tours under rule 33-1/9.5.
“Unfortunately, once a referee had seen it, and I saw it, Sophie’s side were aware of it and Laura’s caddie had seen that Chuck had taken a shuttle service, therefore they cannot agree to waive the rules of golf.
“It’s a sad situation unfortunately - I don’t write the rules, but we have the task of administering them when they apply.
Hoersch was devastated,
“What can I say? I have just lost a great player the chance to win a great Tournament. It was far too good a match for me to be the deciding factor.
“I am so sorry that I have just cost Sophie the chance to win, I knew the rules, but in a bid to catch up with the group on the first tee, I made a mistake.”
And Gustafson, who will play Koch to decide the third and fourth place, spoke to the media briefly before her last round of the week.
“We all know it is a bad situation,” said Gustafson. “I don’t mind losing a Tournament when it is my fault, but when it’s not, well, it sucks to be honest.
“Chuck didn’t mean to do it and unfortunately for me, it has cost me the chance of getting into the final of a great event.”
In the matches to decide the rest of the top 12 places, Spain’s Paula Marti beat Swede Catrin Nilsmark 2&1. Another Swede, Maria Hjorth, emerged victorious over France’s Marie Laure de Lorenzi by 4&3.
American Laura Diaz took a two hole win against Norway’s Tour rookie Suzann Pettersen, and Germany’s Elisabeth Esterl won by one hole over Scot Kathryn Marshall.
Diaz takes on Hjorth to decide 5th and 6th place, Pettersen meets de Lorenzi for 7th and 8th spot, Marti takes on Esterl to decide ninth and 10th and Nilsmark meets Marshall for 11th and 12th spot.