In doing right thing, Hayes is due some good karma

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J.P. Hayes disqualified himself from q-school after realizing he played with a non-conforming, prototype golf ball.
November 20, 2008
Craig Dolch, Contributor

J.P. Hayes has never seen the TV show "My Name Is Earl," but he understands the concept of karma.

"I believe if you do good things, good things will happen to you," Hayes said by phone Thursday from his home in El Paso, Texas.

But Hayes wants to make this point very clear: He didn't disqualify himself last week from the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament -- for using a non-conforming ball on one hole -- because he wants something good to happen to him. He just did what he thinks every other professional golfer would have done.

"I hesitate to say this is a good thing," Hayes said. "It was either cheat or don't cheat, and I don't cheat. I would hate for people to look at this and see me come across as a hero. I just did what I was supposed to do."


Even if that means the 43-year-old Hayes can't earn full-exempt status on the PGA TOUR in 2009.

In doing so, Hayes has probably received more national attention in the last two days than he got during a two-decade career on the TOUR that included two wins, three runner-up finishes and more than $7 million in earnings.

He was featured Thursday morning on "The Dan Patrick Show," as well as being a talking point on ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption." A Google search of "J.P. Hayes" and "disqualifies" showed more than 9,700 results.

"I'm totally shocked by the attention," Hayes said.

Here's the back story: Hayes was playing in last week's second-stage qualifier at Deerwood Country Club in Kingwood, Texas. He had just played a full wedge shot into the 11th hole, so as his custom, he took that ball out of play on the 12th tee, a par-3. His caddie threw him a new ball and he hit a tee shot that missed the green before chipping on. When he marked his ball, he realized it was not the same model ball with which he started the round.

So he told a rules official he had used a different ball during his round, and was told to assess a two-shot penalty to his first-round score, turning a 72 into a 74. That was the only time he used the ball.

"The rules official made the correction decision," Hayes said. "I just didn't give him the correct information."

It wasn't until he shot a 71 in the second round when Hayes saw another ball in his hotel room that made him realize the ball he used -- a prototype that Titleist had sent him for testing -- might not be on the USGA's list of conforming balls. He contacted a TOUR rules official who after checking the list, told Hayes he would have to disqualify himself.

"The ball wasn't blank, like many prototypes are," Hayes said. "It had "Titleist" and a number on it, but it didn't have the exact name of the ball on the other side of the ball."

That's where a bit of bad luck came in. Hayes has a habit of using the ball's logo to line up his shots on all tee shots except for par-3s. "If it had been a par-4 or a par-5, I would have noticed it right away and none of this would have happened," he said.

But it has happened, and now Hayes, who would have needed to shoot a 70 and a 69 -- or some combination that added up to 139 -- to finish in the top 20 and advance to next month's final stage of q-school, is looking at playing less tournament golf. After finishing a career-worst 176th on this year's money list, Hayes will probably only earn his way into 10-12 events next year as a past champion and veteran member. He says he will also try to Monday qualify and ask for sponsor exemptions.

"This isn't the end of the world," Hayes said. "I'm still a golfer. And to be honest, I don't want to say I'm burned out, but spending more time at home with my family at this stage of my life isn't the worst thing to happen to me."

That would have been if he hadn't done the right thing. Karma is not one to mess around with.

Craig Dolch is a freelance columnist for PGATOUR.COM. His opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the PGA TOUR.