A great day for Andrea Kraus at The Honors Course suddenly turned awful Tuesday. And despite her attorney skills, the Baltimore resident couldn't do anything about it.
Kraus had just closed out Maggie Leef of Brookfield, Wis., 8 and 6 in the round of 32 of the USGA Senior Women's Amateur when she was told she was being disqualified because of something her caddie, Randy Duckett, was seen using on the 11th hole -- the one before the match ended.
Kraus was done in by a gizmo, a thingamajig -- a divot repair tool with an inch or so of yarn attached. The longtime Honors caddie uses it to check wind direction.
In USGA terminology, the piece of yarn made his divot tool an "artificial device" used "for the purpose of ... measuring ... conditions that might affect [the golfer's] play." That is specifically prohibited in No. 14-3b of the Rules of Golf, and the prescribed penalty is disqualification.
Even Leef said Kraus gained no advantage from the mini weathervane.
"It was not a factor in this match, not in the least," said Leef, who called the decision "the mulligan of mulligans" for her but was not able to take advantage of it.
"I didn't play much better, unfortunately," she said after losing 4 and 3 to Nancy Smith of North Port, Fla., who got into match play in a nine-way playoff for six spots and then beat the No. 2 seed Monday as the only playoff survivor to advance.
"My heart was breaking for [Andrea]. My heart was breaking for Duck, the caddie," Leef said. "It was really just an unfortunate situation. I do not think this device gave any more help than throwing grass up in the air, but I understand the Rules of Golf are the rules of golf, and I honor them."
Despite her frustration, Kraus was not criticizing Duckett.
"He's devastated," she said. "And it's the player's responsibility to know the Rules of Golf and make sure they're not violated. I just think this is a rule that should be tweaked, or at least the penalty should be loss of hole, not a DQ."
Kraus got support from virtually everyone at the course, but no relief.
"I feel terrible. The caddies here are my responsibility," said Honors head professional Henrik Simonsen. "It's very, very unfortunate, but we've seen Duck use it before. I've never thought of it as a rules violation, ever, and I feel I have a pretty good grasp of the rules. But a USGA official called him on it, and that's the rule.
"What makes it all the more heartbreaking, I think, is that the match was over and the player had won handily."
Duckett was disconsolate afterward, telling the Times Free Press, "I thought we had a good chance of winning the [championship] flag."
He said he has used the modified tool in the NCAA championship, U.S. Mid-Amateur and Tennessee Golf Association tournaments at the course as well as for regular rounds with members.
"Duck is part of the culture of the club, and everybody loves him. He's one of our most requested caddies," Simonsen said.
Both Kraus and Leef are moving on to Virginia Beach, Va., for the USGA Women's Mid-Amateur this weekend.
Like her caddie, Kraus thought she could go far in this tournament. She lost last year in the second round to fellow Maryland resident and friend Lisa Schlesinger, who was the qualifying medalist this year and is in the quarterfinals.
"I've been playing very well. I was hoping Lisa and I would be in the final," said Kraus, who has played in "25 or 26" USGA events and could be in another state-team tournament after the Mid-Amateur.
"Now I just have to put a smile on my face and take my medicine."
Putting smiles on faces in tough situations is something Leef knows. She did not qualify for the Senior Amateur last year when first eligible, but she found another memorable way to celebrate her 50th birthday. In October she went with a Living Hope ministry team from the church she attends while staying at her condo in South Carolina to a makeshift village in the countryside out from Cape Town, South Africa.
The settlement has probably 80 percent unemployment, Leef said, and limited water and electricity supplies.
The main purpose of the trip was to help the people there check the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus, but in her 12 days there Leef fulfilled more of an encourager role. Part of that was in teaching children Bible stories, songs and other lessons.
"You would feed them something as simple as peanut butter sandwiches and an apple, banana or cookie, and you would get the biggest smiles," Leef said in a story appearing on the USGA website.
"I was at my South Carolina church when they announced their mission trips for the year, and this one just haunted me -- and kept haunting me," she said Tuesday. "It was something that got into my mind and wouldn't go away, and I'm so thankful I made that trip.
"It does help put days like today in perspective, for sure."