Seminole Golf Club president Jimmy Dunne touched the third rail of golf last week. As a result, plans for the upcoming Stephens Cup are evolving in regard to pace of play.
The club recently sent a letter to college golf coaches notifying them that there was to be no on-course conversation between players and coaches at the upcoming Stephens Cup in order to facilitate pace-of-play rules at Seminole.
That mandate now has been altered and coaches will have contact with players, within prescribed guidelines. The tournament is scheduled to be played at the Florida club Oct. 9-12.
GGP’s Sean Fairholm reported on Seminole’s letter last week and the reaction to it was swift and divided, as well as global in nature. Many applauded the initiative, thinking it is needed in the American college game. Others were opposed, with one prominent college coach calling it “an insult to our profession.” Another equally prominent coach pulled his team from the event, stating that he would not have entered the event in the first place if this policy had been disclosed. “Coaches need to coach” was his attitude.
Dunne, characteristically, was unfazed. Few things in golf bother the former caddie as much as slow play, and the reports he heard from the inaugural Stephens Cup, played at the Alotian Golf Club in 2021, caused his hair to stand up.
“Maybe we are a bit obsessed about it, but we don’t have a slow-play problem at Seminole. Everybody talks about slow play. We do something about it”.
Jimmy Dunne, president, Seminole Golf Club
There is a sign at Seminole that encapsulates the club’s attitude about pace of play. It says “Play well, play fast. Play poorly, play faster.” Seminole takes the issue seriously. Caddies are empowered and expected to tell members and guests alike to pick up the pace when required.
“Maybe we are a bit obsessed about it, but we don’t have a slow-play problem at Seminole,” Dunne said. “Everybody talks about slow play. We do something about it”.
Dunne tells an interesting tale about pace of play in big-time amateur golf events. He was onsite at Royal Lytham and St. Annes in 2015 when his good friend Spider Miller captained the American Walker Cup team. It was a beat-down, the British lads waxing the United States side, 16½-9½. Shortly afterward, Dunne told Miller that he hated the lengthy on-course conversations between the American players in foursomes. Miller felt Dunne was onto something.
“He made sense,” Miller said last week. “Our boys don’t play foursomes, they are used to playing by themselves and being in a world of their own. They tried to compensate with extensive conversations.”
At Los Angeles Country Club two years later, Miller returned as captain and forbade “caucusing,” as he called it. Players were told to hit their shot and move on, with no chatter or advice. The U.S. squad won 19-7, avenging the defeat at Lytham.
By week’s end, Dunne relented a bit for the Stephens Cup, with conditions. He told the coaches it was up to them to figure out how to play in slightly more than four hours. He promised more rules officials, forecaddies to rake hazards, and he brought in the American Junior Golf Association to oversee it all. Penalty shots for slow play will be assessed at Seminole this fall when warranted.