In a club championship match many years ago, I was so nervous at the start that I hit it all over creation, lost multiple balls and was quickly in a 4-down hole. After miraculously working it back to 1 down through nine holes, I lost my swing yet again and subsequently lost two balls on each of the next three holes.
Standing on the 13th tee, I realised I had gone full “Tin Cup”, and I was down to one golf ball in my bag. Rather than come up clutch, I snap-hooked one into the woods, and had to do the unthinkable – I had to ask the guy who was beating me if I could borrow a ball. It remains the most embarrassing moment I’ve ever endured in my golf life (possibly my life in general).
Here’s the thing: after I got dusted 5&4, I got to shake hands and be on my merry way. Rick Garboski, a local teaching pro who found himself in a similar situation on the weekend at the Hoag Classic, had to play on, allowing the embarrassment to linger much, much longer.
But Garboski took it in stride. Having qualified for the PGA Tour Champions event via a Monday qualifier, the club pro at California’s Newport Beach Country Club was just happy to be playing in a big-time event on his home course. Mark Calcavecchia, a 10-time PGA Tour winner who was playing alongside Garboski in Saturday’s second round, alerted the Twitter world to his playing partner’s gaffe:
Saw something today that was an all time 1st in 41 years of pro golf. Rick Groboski ran out of balls. Only had 3. Thought he had 6. Anyways after 2 balls in the drink on 4 had to borrow a ball. 2 shot penalty. Then had to drop back a group to wait for locker room guy to bring
— Mark Calcavecchia (@MarkCalc) March 6, 2022
For those wondering, Garboski violated the One Ball Rule, which was in effect at the Hoag Classic. The rule states that a player can only use one specific brand and model of a golf ball during a round. One of the more infamous violations of this rule came on the PGA Tour in November 2019, when Russell Henley realised he had accidentally used a different ball than his usual Titleist Pro V1x during the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He figured he had used the ball on four holes in the middle of his round, meaning he’d be penalised two strokes on each of those holes. His two-under 69 became a six-over 77 after he was penalised eight strokes.
Garboski, of course, didn’t accidentally put a new ball into play. He simply ran out of the Titleist Pro V1x Left Dash golf balls he was using, thinking he had more in his bag prior to the second round. According to PGATour.com, Garboski had given a number of souvenir balls to young fans throughout the week, and he failed to replenish. When he hit two shots into the penalty area at the par-3 fourth hole, his bag was empty.
As Calcavecchia went on to explain in another tweet, Garboski’s troubles weren’t over with the One Ball Rule. Because he had to wait so long for somebody to go back to the locker room to get him extra golf balls, Garboski dropped back a group, joining the twosome behind him. He was then given a one-stroke penalty for undue delay.
“Felt bad for him, but it was kind of funny,” wrote Calcavecchia. Garboski later agreed:
Calc. Can’t argue – it’s freaking hilarious. Total rookie move on my part. Bad combo of trying to keep a light bag – along with giving too many balls away to kids along the way. No such thing as bad publicity, right? 😜
— Rick Garboski (@Garboski) March 6, 2022
Part of the reason Garboski was such a good sport about it, besides it being his first PGA Tour Champions start, was that he thought he was going to be disqualified after the fourth hole. But rules officials informed him that he would be allowed to play on under the rules. He ultimately signed for a 9 at the fourth hole and a double-bogey at the next hole, and wound up finishing with a nine-over 80.
“It’s an unfortunate error, and I’m going to laugh about it,” Garboski said on Sunday. “I’m just so thankful that the tour officials here figured out a way for me to actually finish. I didn’t mind the penalties, because I just wanted to be able to play today.”