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SI Jinx Files: 10-Year-Old Sandbagger DQ'd

Thanks to reader Don for this unbylined Globe and Mail story on 10-year-old, 30-handicapper Kayla Parsons' DQ from the World Amateur Handicap Championship "because officials determined her scores were inconsistent with her handicap." The young lady is a recent graduate of SI's Faces in the Crowd.

But it was her rapidly improving play that caught the attention of tournament director Dave Macpherson, who raised a Spokian eyebrow after Parsons posted a second round 88 to go with her opening round 98 and lead the field by some 18 strokes. It certainly was good -- maybe too good.

It should be noted that in the past, players are routinely disqualified from the event where handicaps are scrutinized in order to protect the field from so-called ‘sandbaggers’ and those who simply improve their game too quickly in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Officials consulted the USGA’s publication, “Odds of Shooting an Exceptional Tournament Score,” and noted that Kayla’s performance was literally off the charts and so there was no choice but to disqualify her.

Kayla’s father said there was no sandbagging going on here -- he simply put it down to good old fashioned practice.

“She’d been working hard on the range with her coach every day, but not playing and posting scores,” he told “And she said she’d never played a course this easy before. Her home course is more difficult.”

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Reader Comments (41)

who in their right mind even offers a handicapped competition for juniors??!
09.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterme
Based on his comments, Dad will be able to teach her really nuanced definitions of prevarication and obfuscation. So she's got that going for her.
09.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
98 and 88 is entirely possible. she should have been re-rated after the 88 from 30 to 16. DQ is awful harsh for a 10 year old.
09.2.2011 | Unregistered Commentermambizzle
Who cares if she was dq'd from this competition. Isn't an 88 for a 10 year old pretty darn good. Do I hear scholarship?!?
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMRP
Cheating of all types is unfortunately rampant in junior golf, at least in west Tx/NM/CO area. And I don't suspect we are unique. I've seen a 13 on a hole be reported as, and signed off on, as a 7. The other competitor kid was not watching as he had his own troubles on the other side of the fairway, and so he just took the first kid's word for it. Not until after the scores were posted did it become apparent that the score wasn't even close....
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
"Officials consulted the USGA’s publication, “Odds of Shooting an Exceptional Tournament Score,” and noted that Kayla’s performance was literally off the charts..."

Steve reread "How Lie With Statistics" and calls bullshit on the USGA.
Obviously there's alot of sandbaggin' in golf but ya gotta catch 'm or produce overwhelming circumstantial evidence. Reducing that to a chart sounds way oversimplified.
(btw, I don't compete but have posted 98, 87 & 74 in a 10 day period. Granted, not competition but...)
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
I played a regional junior event in Germany growing up...not sure what my handicap was back then, but I remember shooting 93-74 on the same day...
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex H
why are 10 yr olds even in a competition? Cant they just go and hit the ball and call each other dirty names?
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHolden Caulfield
The score differential is not that extreme it seems to me. Especialy for one so young who has practiced a lot in a short period of time. I think the disqualification is bunk, stigmitizing the girl is a low shot.
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJim
"why are 10 yr olds even in a competition? Cant they just go and hit the ball and call each other dirty names?" Holden Caulfield

Your right, why promote healthy competition when we can push profane behavior in 10 year olds. I wish I was as cool as you.
09.2.2011 | Unregistered Commentercalvin coolidge
I think she's my new scramble partner.
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterAverage Golfer
Bet her dad is a sandbagger too.
Perhaps the only reason she is the youngest to compete at the Pro AM is because the other talented young ladies HER AGE were busy competing in the US KIDS World championships in Pinehurst. By the looks of her scores last year she was not so good that she wouldn't have found fierce competition in her own back yard.

She finished 66 out of 73 there. Funny how this stat is not on her web page either...

Competing in this type of tournament as an alternative is a real disservice to all involved.
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrace
@Grace She has a website?? oh my, poor girl, can we say Todd Marinovich
Shooting 88 as a 30 'capper is basically impossible. I'm a 14 or so and regularly shoot above that on mid-to-high 120s slopes.

Here are the course ratings/slopes (assuming second round was also Panther's Run).

72 7089 148 75.2
72 6706 143 72.9
72 6267 133 70.8
72 5546 118 68.5
72 5023 123 70.0

Not sure what tees they played, probably 5546 or 5023, but the easiest slope on the course is +5 from "average".

A ten year old 30 'capper shooting 88 in competition and also claiming to have two HIO under her belt? Improbable.
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSeán O'Nuallain

Such big expectations for such a young girl with little international or national results to justify the "prodigy Claims"

I feel sad for this young lady.... Looks like she will be in sports illustrated as well...perhaps that story should be about the emotional damage that overzealous parents can inflict on the children they love most
09.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrace
>Shooting 88 as a 30 'capper is basically impossible.
No its not - i posted 88 in my very first tournament i ever played in (after i played golf for 2 months) - it was on an easy desert course where not much could go wrong - it took me another 6 months to achieve this on a difficult course (i practiced alot in this time). So DQ´ing her might have been a bit harsh...
09.3.2011 | Unregistered Commenterkafka01
Practising a lot with a teacher, without playing any tournament, is called, at my country, sandbagging. That girl is not guilty but her parents. If you improve your level you should play more tournaments in order to match your handicap to your skills. That`s being ethical and her parents are not teaching her this very important thing.
09.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMoi
What kind of crazy comment is that? "Practising a lot with a teacher, without playing any tournament, is called, at my country, "

... it's called Practice for a reason - Remind me never to visit your country Moi.
09.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
She is no sandbagger, I see this girl every week and she is good and can have some amazing rounds, she plays with the high school girls and can keep up half the time. her nerves just take over alot because she is so young

Read more:
09.3.2011 | Unregistered Commenterscgolfer
Sounds like the incident on the Futures Tour(?) where the young woman was DQed by an overzealous twit because she was using an illegal wedge. Only she wasn't. Maybe this girl has been pushed by her parents. But she is 10 years old and hasn't yet reached the plateau where she regresses toward her mean. Bad reasoning all around, as Steve points out. I have a decent handicap and can shoot between 70 and 90 on successive days, depending on the phase of the moon. Or something. Of course, the 90 might never see the computer if it wasn't shot in a tournament and entered by my Pro. I guess that makes me a reverse sandbagger, but I bet I'm not alone in that either.
@scgolfer If she is good, and has amazing rounds keeping up with high school girls, she shouldn't have a 30 handicap. Good players with high handicaps are, by definition, sandbaggers
@scgolfer - I don't dispute she might be good but if she is good I dispute her 30 index. A good player does not legitimately carry a 30. If she can keep up with the high school girls "half the time" and her index is based on her ten (of 20) best differentials what should her index be? High school girls (assuming team) seem to shoot on average in the low to mid 90s. Simplifying, but in most cases that's going to translate to a ~20 index or so.

If inclined to statistics rage look away now.

Chart doesn't go to -12 or -13 which I'd guess is the absolute minimum number of strokes by which she bested her index.

Her other rounds in the tournament are more inline with a 30 index so perhaps she's not quite as good as presented. Perhaps she should be better described as good for her age.

Still doesn't make the 88 anything less than highly improbable. It simply doesn't happen more than once in a blue moon to 30 'cappers on courses rated more difficult than average. Even if it is all legit, even if she's innocent of sandbagging and just had the round of her life, the committee basically has to make this decision for the protection of the field. Of course, they could also switch to gross scoring and avoid the silliness that is the USGA handicapping system in the first place.
09.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSeán O'Nuallain
@Holden Caulfield: When I was 10, I not only played in tournaments, but I also called a penalty on myself for playing the wrong ball on the 17th hole when I was battling for the win in a big regional junior tournament. Don't underestimate 10-year-olds, quite a few of them are smarter and more honest that their parents.
09.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
By the way, I remember a 30-handicap kid once shooting a 90 in a tournament at my home club - and it was the annual "use only three irons and a putter"-tournament, no less. An 88 is certainly plausible.
09.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
I am Kayla's swing coach. Kayla is an extremely focused girl with a natural athletic golf swing. At the time she was entered into the tournament, she carried a 30 handicap. Her parents are of the highest character and posted all of her rounds up to about a month and a half of the World Amateur Handicap Championship. We had been working on an adjusted hand position at the top of her backswing. Also have been working on a better move from the top. It takes between 28-41 days to save a physical, repetitive change to muscle memory. It's my opinion that the changes we made were becoming second nature right around the time time of the tournament. Her rounds were 98, 88, 105, 104. The first two courses were not very difficult. The second had no trouble on it at all. It was an extremely easy course. The last two rounds were on courses comparable in difficulty to her home courses.

This kid hasn't a dishonest bone in her body. Neither do her parents. She's been part of the First Tee Program for at least 4 years... instilling into her the 9 core character values of the program. The integrity and character she displays everyday because of great parenting and her involvement in the First Tee Program, is truly an inspiration to all who see her. She handled herself with poise for the last three days of the tournament. Although she was DQ'd, they allowed her to finish the tournament but her scores would not be posted.

As far as the comments regarding her parents pushing her. They actually have to pull Kayla off the course. Kayla absolutely loves this game and has a determination to be the best. I'm certain she will be an LPGA Tour player. It's her dream... and her determination and practice ethic will make her a great competitor at the highest ranks.

I know it's easier for people to think the worst in situations like this, but with regard to the Parsons family... their relationship is founded on respect for each other and respect for others. And for Kayla... respect for the game. It's an honor to be her swing coach. It's an honor to be a part of this amazing family's journey with their child. For anyone to speculate sandbagging? You're way off the mark. Kayla and her family are beyond reproach in this matter.

Tom Garber
4 Time RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship Finalist
09.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Garber
@Tom: Why did she stop posting scores 1.5months before the tournament? Perhaps if she were practicing AND playing/posting scores this whole Dairy Queen situation would never have happened.

as a fellow Canuck...much respect for the ReMax finals...Cdn players usually know how to whack a ball on the ground with a stick...I wish more of em would get their butts on TOUR though.
09.4.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Thanks for the response johnnycz. I do know that she was playing a lot of 9 hoe rounds, but not full 18 hole rounds. She was practicing a lot! She's never played in a handicapped tournament before, so we weren't really thinking about the whole "handicap" thing. All of her previous tournaments were gross score. I didn't even know she was playing in it until about a week before the tournament.

Personally, this particular tournament doesn't hold much clout in the competitive amateur ranks. It's a fantastic tournament for the weekend player and for groups that make it a tradition to be part of it. It's more about the fun that is had, rather than the scores shot. I think the 19th Hole at the Convention Center is the highlight for the majority of participants. I think the golf is secondary. It doesn't attract the amateur that focuses on golf as a career or holds extremely low handicaps. The truly competitive amateur, so to speak.

It's a great tournament for the average golfer. I think that's who they cater to. And it's fantastic for the Myrtle Beach area! I hope they continue to grow and get even more participants year after year. I ask that nobody boycott this tournament. I believe the whole situation with Kayla falls under the umbrella of "rub of the green." It is what it is.

Tom Garber
09.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Garber
Tom- are you saying that a girl with LPGA aspirations, has a swing coach, is dedicated to golf, has a website and is willing to enter the largest amateur tournament in the world hasn't played a round that could be posted in the last 45 days? Isn't the summertime when junior golfers play the most golf? No school, etc. Also, I am no expert, but doesn't the USGA allow players to combine 9 hole scores to post for accurate handicaps.

From where I sit, it appears that her parents tried to manipulate the system to gain (even more) media exposure for this amazing 10 year old golfer.

I hope her the best, yet this one smells fishy...
@Tom: My how times have changed. Growing up in Calgary, I was VERY VERY VERY fortunate to have access to a 36hole facility and all I basically did was PLAY PLAY PLAY in the morning...practice/work in the afternoons (or vice versa) and posted every score on the club's RCGA hdcp was funny watching my dad take 3 years to learn how to enter a differential but I digress...these days Jr golfers just don't PLAY enough golf, they just hang around the range/green, talk alot of garbage, play with their smartphones, and seem bummed out when it's time to go out on the course and qualify for the interclub team...they're turning into plastic golfers IMO. They like the IDEA of golf, but don't like what it takes to BE a golfer.

The big Myrtle Beach tourney is a giant hit-and-giggle anyways. Winning net tournaments shouldn't be on any aspiring jr golfer's radar...if it was a family vacation built around the tournament...then OK...but there are alot of other things for a 10 yr old golfer to play in that will be a better use of his/her valuable time.
09.5.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
ahhh...I get it now. The tournament was for adults.

Shame on the adults for the DQ of a little kid. Not too smart.

SI jinx, indeed

Good luck Kayla. You have a long long way to go just to catch up with the better junior girls out there. Just keep working at it and you'll catch up to them.

And I hope you don't get burned out and I especially hope that you don't let the adults steal the fun from golf.
09.5.2011 | Unregistered Commenterme
"This one smells fishy."
Perceive the smell as you will, my friend... but we can't be any more honest than we've been. There are those who will use your same reasoning and thought processes, but the truth will always be the truth. And the truth is that she practiced a lot! She also played some par 3 courses for fun. She's still a kid and does what a kid does. She has fun!

And her parents would never manipulate the handicap system. C'mon... please stop assuming and accept that there are truly honest people in the world.
09.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Garber
Tom, I appreciate your patience with people who look at the situation from afar. As someone else who is looking at the situation from afar, however, I feel that the rules are made to ensure a level playing field. A handicap is supposed to indicate how good a player can expect to be -- not her average scores, but her BETTER (literally, her best 10) scores. Whether she or her parents were trying to manipulate the system isn't an issue for me. I don't want to ascribe a motive. But I firmly believe that a 30 handicap was NOT a fair representation of what she could be reasonably expected to shoot, and that's why I would support the officials.
09.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCBell
CBell, I support the officials, too! The decision to DQ her was the only avenue they could take. We accept that. I believe in the USGA handicap system... it's there to keep fair play in tact. I'm only defending the Parson family and their integrity. All representation of Kayla's handicap was completely honest and above board. Her level of play prior to her body getting used to the changes we made in her swing, was a 30 handicap... end of story. We never expected her to shoot that low. All her scores prior to the tournament were to a 30 handicap. It's just sad that people immediately play the "cheat" card when something like this happens. So quick to point fingers when congratulations are in order.

I am ecstatic that she shot two great rounds. It just shows she's improving. As for those doubters and haters out there reading this thread... please try to restore your belief that amazing things can happen to those who diligently pursue greatness. So when they attain a goal or accomplish what is said to be unlikely, you can share in that moment with them, rather than respond from the muck and mire of doubt and skepticism.

By the way... I spent the day with Kayla and her family today. They cooked out and we sat around with friends and the World Amateur Handicap Championship was never mentioned. This family has moved on. Everyone else should too. It just isn't that important.

Tom Garber
09.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Garber
They HAD to disqualify her or the betting line in Vegas would've been all messed up.
09.6.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTest
People are disqualified from this event EVERY YEAR. Some go ballistic, while others chalk it up to playing the round of their lives at the best/worst time. It's in the rules that you can be DQ'd if you stray outside the norms of your handicap, as everyone in the field knows. The fact that it happened to a youngster doesn't change that, and she was probably one of several dozen that were DQ'd this year. I am glad to see that the player and her family are better sports about it than some folks in here.
09.6.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug
I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I say that scgolfer is likely Kayla's father. They're from SC (South Carolina) and he's the only person other than her coach defending the girl and her family. Poor name choice there buddy. If you're going to post as an anonymous poster, pick a less conspicuous name. People are pathetic.
09.6.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Tom Garber writes: "It takes between 28-41 days to save a physical, repetitive change to muscle memory."

Dude, can you squeeze me in for a lesson? Thnx!!
09.6.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTiger W.
Joe.... There are a lot of golfers in South Carolina. That name could be for one of thousands of SC of residents. I will promise you this... Kayla's father has not posted in this forum. I asked him not to. The facts have been posted... and all that's left to post would be comments of speculation (like yours) and comments from those who just like to argue. There are much more interesting topics and issues in this world that could be discussed. Why not focus on them?

This will be my last post in this thread. I hope the remainder of 2011 will be amazing for you all!

Tom Garber
09.7.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Garber
Wow, led the field by 18 and got DQ'd?

I hope they do that to the pros. Imagine if they DQ'd Tiger everytime he led the field by 18!

So this girl is a +30 golfer. On a par 72, that's a 102. She shot a 98 (+26 for the course, - 4 for her), and an 88 (+16 course, -14 her). That doesn't sound too improbable. She could have had a very good day of driving and happens!
09.8.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimonB

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