One of the most exciting shootouts in the Rosauers Open Invitational’s memorable 30-year history was replaced by perhaps the event’s most controversial ending.
North Idaho College coach Russell Grove birdied six of the last seven holes for an apparent two-stroke victory over Brady Sharp, who fired an 11-under 60, the lowest tournament round in the 27 Rosauers’ staged at Indian Canyon.
Minutes after Grove finished, rules officials took Grove, his caddy, and playing partners Derek Berg and Jason Molner and their caddies to No. 6. It was determined Grove violated rule 13-2 by improving his lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play, apparently by moving a live branch.
The two-shot penalty dropped Grove into a tie with Sharp at 16-under 197. The Walla Walla Country Club assistant pro won the playoff with a birdie on No. 18 after Grove’s 15-footer burned the left edge.
The awards ceremony was surreal as the low amateurs were honored and Sharp received the trophy and $11,000 check while Grove was in conversation with PGA Pacific Northwest Section officials 40 feet away.
“It’s unfortunate what happened to Russell, you don’t want to see that kind of sutff,” Sharp said. “I went into the playoff just knowing I needed to hit the right shots and that’s what I did.”
Berg, who started the day with a two-shot lead, told officials on No. 12 about Grove’s possible rules violation. Officials questioned players and caddies on the 13th tee box and it sounded as if the matter was resolved with no infraction.
“I thought that, too,” Grove said. “I wish (Berg) would have brought it up when it occurred and not when I jumped ahead of him (on the leaderboard).”
Grove hit driver on No. 6 right of the green and a spectator found his ball in some small bushes. He chipped near the front of the green and got up-and-down for par.
Grove said Berg’s contention was that “after I marked it, identified the ball and put it back, that I moved a branch that was in my line of where I was going to go.”
Grove said “it was all a blur” but he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. He said four people nearby told him they didn’t see a violation.
Berg, an assistant pro at Sahalee in Sammamish, Washington, who finished tied for third, wasn’t available for comment.
A three-member rules committee made its decision after returning to the location following the round.
“We determined off the evidence of three of the four (Berg, Berg’s caddy and Molner’s caddy) that were paying attention that he’d broken the rule,” said Molly Cooper, director of tournament and member programs for the Pacific Northwest Section. “All of the information matched. They mentioned a branch had been moved and the branch was in the location exactly as they had described when we got over there.”
Sharp and Grove had remarkable rounds. Sharp, playing four groups ahead of Grove, turned in 6-under 29 with a series of close-range birdie putts.
“It was one of those days where I didn’t make a lot of long putts but I made everything I saw,” the 32-year-old Sharp said.
Sharp’s eagle putt on No. 18 for 59 raced 4 feet by but he made the return putt.
Grove, after a two-putt birdie on 12, made birdie putts of 30 feet on No. 13, 14 feet on No. 14 and 12 feet on No. 16 to pull even with Sharp. He chipped to 2 feet for birdie on 17 and drained a 12-footer on 18 for 8-under 63.
It became a 65 when the penalty was announced about 20 minutes after his round.
“I was comfortable out there, confident,” said Grove, who won the Oregon Open by six shots over Berg in June. “I played well coming down the stretch – and nobody can take that away.”
Tournament officials presented a $125,000 check to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.