It’s not often you see someone shoot a course record in a U.S. Open qualifier. It’s even less often you see that person disqualify themself from the competition afterward.
That’s what happened to Illinois golfer Tommy Kuhl this week.
Kuhl was playing in a local qualifier at Illini Country Club in Springfield, Ill., this week and shot a 10-under 62 — setting the course record in the process. He appeared on his way to the U.S. Open. Until, of course, he wasn’t.
During the round, a teammate mentioned the aerated greens were giving him problems. Apparently, Kuhl fixed some of the aerification marks on the green, which is against the rules. Although the rules recently changed to allow players to fix spike marks, they can’t fix aerification unless a local rule is enacted,” rules analyst Todd Bailey told Monday Q’s Ryan French.
So, in the spirit of Bobby Jones — who famously assessed a penalty against himself in the 1925 U.S. Open before losing the tournament by one shot — Kuhl went to the rules officials about what he did. As a result, he was disqualified, meaning he won’t be playing in the U.S. Open next month.
“I felt sick to my stomach,” Kuhl said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t tell the rules official.”
According to rule 13.1c(2), which was changed in 2019, golfers can “repair damage on the putting green without penalty by taking reasonable actions to restore the putting green as nearly as possible to its original condition.” However, there are limits to what players can repair. The rule lists “damage caused by a person or outside influence,” including ball marks, spike marks, scrapes or indentations caused by the flagstick, old hole plugs, turf plugs and scrapes or indentations caused by maintenance vehicles. Aerification marks aren’t part of that group.
“I should know better,” Kuhl said. “It comes down to me. I should know that rule.”
Kuhl is a fifth-year senior at Illinois and sits second on the team with a 70.25 stroke average. He was also named to the 2023 All-Big Ten Championships team and has shot 75% of his rounds at par or better.
Because Kuhl was disqualified, one of his teammates qualified for the U.S. Open without a playoff. Adrien Dumont de Chassart was preparing for a playoff hole to take the last spot in the qualifier, but will now get ready for the June event. Dumont de Chassart leads Illinois this season with a 69.63 stroke average as the Fighting Illini prepare for the NCAA Regional.