Friday 15 December 2017

McGrane caught up in Lara extra club episode

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

DAMIEN McGrane last night spoke candidly of his central role in the bizarre '15th club in the bag' incident that caused Spain's Jose Manuel Lara to be disqualified from the €1.6m BMW International Open in Cologne.

McGrane was the man who caught Lara's Argentinian caddie Mathias Vinson red-handed as he tried to dump an extra driver he discovered in Lara's bag. The incident occurred on the second hole of the Gut Larchenof course in Thursday's first round.

McGrane was playing alongside Lara and Sweden's Peter Hedblom. The Irishman was last to tee off and was making his way up the fairway when Vinson's actions raised suspicions in his mind.

The caddie had moved swiftly into a clump of thick bushes while Lara walked ahead. It might have appeared to onlookers that Vinson was taking a toilet break, but McGrane's instinct told him something was not right.

"I walked slightly past the situation, but then I returned. I had a feeling that what I saw was not right, not normal, so I doubled back and asked the caddie what the hell was going on.

"He openly admitted to me 'I have too many clubs.' He had a bit of a breakdown, was very apologetic, very sincere, but he did it all wrong. I said 'you'd better tell your boss what's going on, and what you have done.'

"Lara was already up at his ball and Hedblom was up at his ball. I was 100 yards behind. The caddie went and told his boss what happened.

"While he was doing that, I told Hedblom we had a situation because he was marking Lara's card.

"I explained to him (Hedblom) what I thought was happening. It was up to Lara to tell us rather than negotiating with the caddie, but he (the caddie) came clean straight away.

"I told Lara he needed to get a referee and find out where he stood. Was every shot or swing he made a penalty? It turned out it was two shots for every hole he played when he had the extra club, so it was four extra shots. Lara took it on the chin and played on.

"We then went ahead and finished the game. At the end of the round it was my responsibility to report what happened to the tournament director.

"The situation definitely didn't help my golf. I wouldn't say there was tension between the players, but there was tension in our group because our caddies weren't too happy with the other guy.


"So you had three players and three caddies and there was some tension there. For me, I was just trying to finish 18 holes and leave whatever was to happen to the tournament director and he dealt with it," said McGrane.

Technically, Lara scored 69 and with the four-shot penalty had to sign for a 73.

McGrane, who returned a four-over-par 76, only found out about Lara's disqualification on Thursday night via the internet. He was slightly surprised because he had thought the four-shot penalty was all that would happen, but a Tour statement yesterday outlined the reasons for the DQ.

John Paramor, chief referee of the European Tour, told Lara he was disqualified because a player is responsible for his caddie's actions. Vinson was banned from caddying "indefinitely," the Tour said in a statement.

"The penalty of disqualification was imposed with John Paramor and tournament director David Williams believing a serious attempt to circumvent the rules was made by the caddie," the statement said.

"Following an interview with Jose Manuel Lara, it was established that he had NO prior knowledge of the 15th club in his bag, or the attempt to dispose of the 15th club."

The incident was reminiscent of a mistake by Irish caddie Myles Byrne in the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham. Byrne discovered an extra driver in his player Ian Woosnam's bag after they teed off. Woosie got a two-shot penalty and that ended up costing him a chance of winning the Open.

Against that background, McGrane and Hedblom played their second round yesterday and the Irishman posted a 66 for two-under-par to make the cut.

"My back was to the wall so I had no choice but to go out and do whatever it took to get around and get a score. It's nice when you pull it off and nice to make the weekend because it gives me an extra couple of rounds before the Irish Open next week," said McGrane.

BMW International,

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