June 9, 2024

Nasa Hataoka, the world’s 19th-ranked female golfer, was disqualified from the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Saturday after exceeding the allotted time to find her missing ball.


The Japanese golfer sat third overall at 6-under entering the ninth hole, and after depositing her golf ball into a thick bundle of shrubbery on the bayside golf course, she made a miraculous discovery to avoid a stroke penalty. The problem: players are allotted just three minutes to search before they are required to accept the penalty, a time limit the LPGA determined Hataoka exceeded.


The LPGA confirmed the disciplinary decision in a statement Saturday: “After reviewing video footage provided to the LPGA following the round, it was determined that the search for Nasa’s ball lasted longer than the three minutes allowed under Rule 18.2a. After three minutes of search, the ball is considered lost, and the player must proceed under stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b).”


These rules clarify that a player must complete their search within three minutes, otherwise, they are required to accept a one-stroke penalty and reposition the ball at the spot of their previous swing. As the hole was Hataoka’s final outing of the day, she was required to correct the mistake before returning to their scorecard, which she failed to do.


Hataoka’s search commanded the assistance of more than a dozen people, which ultimately ended when a cameraman found the ball. Among these volunteers was Golf Channel on-course reporter Tom Abbott who, while noting that there was “concern” regarding the search’s duration, noted that there was no one timing and added, “There doesn’t seem to be any chat about the time it took to find the ball.”


The LPGA’s decision sparked considerable outrage within the golfing community, stemming primarily from the attending official allowing Hataoka to complete the hole in real time and only suspending her upon video review later. Among these critics was South Korean golfer Jenny Shin, who is currently leading the event after 36 holes at -10.


Jenny Shin of South Korea spoke up on behalf of her disqualified rival.

“This is probably controversial,” Shin posted to Twitter. “Nasa Hataoka getting DQed because someone thought it was 25 seconds over three minutes after the scorecard was signed, should not be happening. Should someone be timing to prevent this? Maybe.


“However, if I heard correctly, there was a rules official who was present to help her take an unplayable and all players/caddies in the group did not mention anything to the official or even after the fact. This is probably costing her dearly for the Olympics coming up. Not ideal.”


As Shin notes, Hataoka’s disqualification could have disastrous consequences for the upcoming Olympic games in Paris, for which qualification is determined by selecting up to two golfers from the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings. Hataoka’s compatriot Ayaka Furue is in close pursuit of the disqualified golfer and the participants will be decided on June 24.

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