There are many ways to lose a match on the 18th hole, but caddie involvement is rarely one of them. Ultimately, the actions of Segundo Oliva Pinto’s caddie on the final hole of his Round-of-16 match against Tyler Strafaci on Thursday afternoon was the deciding factor in sending Oliva Pinto home early.
Strafaci, who will come back for a fifth year at Georgia Tech, and Oliva Pinto, who will transfer from UNC-Wilmington to Arkansas, engaged in a back-and-forth duel all afternoon at Bandon Dunes. Strafaci was 2 up after winning back-to-back holes at Nos. 11 and 12, but Oliva Pinto won Nos. 13 and 16 to pull even.
They were tied playing the par-5 18th hole.
Oliva Pinto had hit his ball into a bunker right of the green on the final hole. His local caddie, who works at the resort, bent down and rubbed his hand over the sand in the back of the bunker.
According to Rule 12.2b, which names restrictions on touching the sand in a bunker, a player may not deliberately touch sand in the bunker with his or her hand, a club or rake or any other object in an effort to test the condition of the sand and learn information for the next stroke.
Even though it wasn’t Oliva Pinto who committed the rules breach, he still suffered the consequences because his caddie is considered part of his side. Rule 10.3c states that the player is responsible for his caddie’s actions and any rule breach.
In match play, the penalty for breaching 12.2b is the loss of hole (in stroke play, it would be different – a general penalty, which is two strokes).
Strafaci even inquired about that when informed that Oliva Pinto would lose the hole – and the match – because of his caddie’s action.
“I was reading my putt over there and I saw the caddie go down and put his hand down, I didn’t see it touch the sand or what,” Strafaci told Golf Channel after winning the match. “My dad saw it and I guess a couple other people saw it. I just feel so bad for him. That was one of the best matches I’ve ever played, back and forth.”
The action by Oliva Pinto’s caddie was also clearly visible on the Golf Channel broadcast.
Strafaci, a winner earlier this summer at both the North & South Amateur and the Palmetto Amateur, expressed remorse for Oliva Pinto. It’s not the way any player wants to win, but Strafaci said he would try to make the win count.
“I’m going to make it worth something,” he said. “I’m going to go out and try to win my match tomorrow and keep moving.”
Oliva Pinto was one of four players from Argentina to make the match-play bracket, and one of two to advance as far as the Round of 16. He and countryman Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira both lost Thursday afternoon.
Asked about the actions of his caddie, Oliva Pinto said he was concentrating on the next shot and trying to win the match before learning what had unfolded in the bunker.
“As soon as I get there, the referee comes up and asks my caddie what happened,” he told Golf Channel. “I’m completely shocked, I’m just trying to get this shot, make an up and down and win the match.
“Apparently he touched the sand or something. That’s a penalty, it’s a hole so the match ended there.”
In Friday morning’s quarterfinals, Strafaci will meet Stewart Hagestad, who won the first match of the afternoon, 4 and 3, over Harrison Ott.