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The hole played too long.

And so, for two Michigan golfers and 14 others, tournament officials said, "So long."

Dearborn Heights' Joe Juszczyk and Okemos' Eric Lilleboe were part of a mass disqualification at a mini-tour tournament in Buckeye, Arizona, this week when six groups in a row mistakenly played a par 3 from the wrong tee box.

Sixteen players out of the 60-person field at the Outlaw Tour's Verrado Founders Championship were removed from the field during Monday's first round of the three-day tournament.

"It's pretty unfortunate, with a lot of guys going home," Juszczyk said over the phone from Arizona on Wednesday. "In the end, they move on and probably laugh about it later."

Or, much later, as the case may be.

There are limited options for athletes to earn a living right now, especially golfers, except at the very low levels of the touring circuit. Arizona is one place that's still holding professional golf tournaments, with ex-Michigan State golfer Sarah Burnham winning a tournament, $2,800 and some toilet paper last week.

Anyway, here's what went down in Buckeye.

The par-3 third hole on the Founder’s Course at Verrado Golf Club had a series of separate tee boxes, as is standard on desert courses. Coming off the second green, there was the back tee box perched up and to the right. Being a pro tour, the back tees are almost always played. From that tee, the hole was playing 235 yards. One group after another hit from those tees, six in all.

That is, until a rules official approached that sixth group and asked what their yardage was on the hole.

More: Michigan's Rocket Mortgage Classic, Senior PGA appear in serious jeopardy

The official tee box, the one with the official, brown, rectangle Outlaw Tour markers, was another 30 yards over, and up a small hill. That yardage, the official tournament yardage, was 204.

"We saw groups in front of us, and they finished the hole, we parked behind them and watched them play their shots and didn't really think anything of it," Juszczyk said. "It's one of those subconscious things where we'd just get up and get our yardage, and then we'd hit. The same as the group behind us. And this went on for six groups, until somebody finally caught the mistake on the sixth group.

"I'm convinced if that happened 20 more times, I'm not convinced I would've spotted the error."

The "guilty" parties were approached at two points — the earlier groups were addressed after their round was over, while others, including Juszczyk and Lilleboe's, were stopped at the turn.

Tournament officials were left with a choice: Give the two-stroke penalty to everyone who messed it up — as they were allowed to do to that sixth group because they hadn't finished the hole yet — or issue the mass disqualifications.

Tournament officials decided the rules of golf required the latter, in order to keep the integrity of the tour.

And just like that, Juszczyk and Lilleboe were out their $775 entry fee, and denied a chance to recoup that cash in the tournament. First prize would have paid around $5,000, and Lilleboe was 5 under and leading through his first nine holes. Juszcyk was 1 under.

"We're always playing the back tees, so it's kind of a habit thing," Juszczyk said. 

"This particular instance, it got us pretty good."

A couple things contributed to the confusion.

For starters, while many tours pull off the non-used tee markers, the Outlaw Tour does not. Then, given all the coronavirus concerns out there, the pre-round talk from tournament officials focused almost exclusively on that, like don't remove the pins, don't high-five each other, stay in your own carts, etc. Because of that, tournament officials didn't hand out any tip sheets, but issued just the scorecards.

Typically, when a tee is moved up, there will be a notice on a piece of paper given to all the golfers, or an announcement made.

That wasn't the case here.

And so even though the players who were DQ'd didn't have an advantage but actually a disadvantage — they played the downhill par 3 at more than 30 yards longer than those who weren't DQ'd — rules are rules.

The ordeal has led to some bad headlines for the tour, with Outlaw Tour tournament director Jesse Burghart even taking to Twitter to defend the DQ decision and to call out the "peanut gallery."

"I definitely understand why were were disqualified, and I understand that it's our responsibility to play from the right tee boxes," Juszczyk said. "It's a fluke thing.

"But there's a couple simple things they could do."

Meanwhile, Juszczyk, 33, who played at Wayne State, and Lilleboe, 32, who played at Ferris State and won won last year's Michigan Open, will carry on with their careers.

The two are roommates in Mesa, Arizona, each with plenty of family back in Michigan, which is among the hardest-hit states by the coronavirus.

So they know, one DQ is unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of things, well ...

They'll laugh about it later, if they haven't already.

"It definitely stings a little," Juszczyk said. "But there are kind of some bigger issues going on in the world right now than a little bit of money."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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