UNIVERSITY PARK - Quincy Gildea stood over her ball Thursday during the District 6 girls golf championships at the Penn State White Course and held out her club past the ball toward the green, just like she's done before every shot of her high school career.
The only difference between how she did it in the tournament and every other time she's done it is that Thursday it was called a violation.
That violation ended up leading to Gildea's disqualification and erasing her score of 89 - which was Hollidaysburg's best score - from the Lady Tigers' team total. With Gildea's score, Hollidaysburg bested State College, 374-384, for the District 6 championship and clinched a berth at the PIAA Western Regionals at Tom's Run in Blairsville next week.
Without her score, State College topped Hollidaysburg, 384-392, when the Lady Tigers had to substitute alternate Abby Love's 107 for Gildea's 89.
Hollidaysburg's season is now over thanks to a rule violation that likely at least 75 percent of golfers have no idea exists.
Rule 8-2 in the United States Golf Association's rule book states the following: "Except on the putting green, a player may have the line of play indicated to him by anyone, but no one may be positioned by the player on or close to the line or an extension of the line beyond the hole while the stroke is being made. Any mark placed by the player or with his knowledge to indicate the line must be removed before the stroke is made."
According to assistant golf professional Steve Eskey, who was the club pro presiding over the event, Gildea violated rule 8-2.
"The assistant golf professional went out to observe what she did," Tournament Director Dean Rossi said. "He was contacted by two individuals that were following their group. The pro is charge of interpreting the rules of golf in the competitions. He observed her and found she was in violation. She said she had been doing it. He told her she was in violation and explained the rule to her. He told her to stop, and that was it."
Like many golfers, Gildea goes through the same pre-swing routine every time she hits the ball. Earlier this season, Hollidaysburg golf coach Bernie Jubeck asked some professionals whether her routine was legal.
"I spoke to two different professionals, because I thought that might be a violation, but both of those gentlemen didn't think it was a violation the way I explained it to them," Jubeck said. "I checked it out, because I was worried it might be called, but the two people I talked to gave me the impression that it was okay."
Eskey, however, deemed it wasn't.
"[Eskey] came in to me and explained she was in violation of a rule," Rossi said. "I said the player is mine [because Rossi is Hollidaysburg's athletic director], and it involves me, and because it was my player, I removed myself from the decision. I had nothing to do with it.
"I called the PIAA and talked to Mark Byers, and [he and Eskey] discussed the rule. Mark agreed the pro was in control, and if there was a rule violation, the PIAA would uphold it. There is appeal process to contact the USGA. I asked Steve if we could call USGA for a final appeal. We called. Two different USGA people said the rule was violated. She turned her scorecard in with the improper score. Her score was wrong, and that's why she was disqualified."
The result of the decision left both Gildea and Rossi overcome with emotion. Both Rossi and Jubeck hugged Gildea and offered their support as teammates gathered around her as the State College girls accepted their District 6 Championship trophy despite finishing 10 strokes behind the Lady Tigers.
The decision also meant Gildea had to forfeit a medal for finishing fourth place overall in the individual competition.
Of course, there is precedence in golf for these types of situations.
In 2010, Dustin Johnson blew a chance to win the PGA Championship when he committed a rule violation in the sand, but Johnson is a professional whose job it is to know the rules of golf. He gets paid to know the rules and play by those rules.
Gildea, a junior in high school, is playing golf for free. She's playing a sport through her school, and just like in the classroom, playing sports in high school or junior high should be about learning.
Gildea had no idea what she was doing was wrong. She had been told by her coach what she was doing was fine, and she'd played every hole of her career the same way. Hundreds of people have watched her play, and none said anything. Until Wednesday - when it mattered the most.
Neither Rossi or Jubeck saw Gildea play Wednesday as both were monitoring other groups, but neither was even sure why Gildea's action was ruled a violation even after the ruling.
"For as long as I've known Quincy and seen her play, which has been years, she's always played that way," Jubeck said. "She stands behind the ball. She puts the club head out. I've never seen her touch the grass, just dangle it out there and get a read. I've never seen Quincy pound the ground in front her."
Throughout the entire ordeal, Gildea may not have become a district champion like her and her Hollidaysburg teammates deserved to be, but she did prove that she's a good person, not a cheater like a disqualification usually implies.
"We talked about the negative, but Quincy admitted it, that she did what [Eskey] said she did, and sometimes players wouldn't say that," Jubeck said. "I respect her and her integrity. Certainly we're disappointed, but I want it to be known that she showed complete honestly and integrity with the game."
Though Gildea was just trying to do the right thing by the game's rules, the game of golf did her wrong.
The record books may show State College won the district title Wednesday, but Hollidaysburg can take solace that they were not only the best team on the course Wednesday but the best off it thanks to the way everyone stood by Gildea.
"It's not Quincy's fault. It's probably my fault, because I didn't tell her," Jubeck said. "She went out and shot an 89. She did what she did all the time. I'm proud of her, and I'm proud of all the girls. This is a life lesson learned, unfortunately, for Hollidaysburg."
Mike Boytim can be reached at 946-7521 or firstname.lastname@example.org