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Unplayable hole leads to cancellation of third round at NCAA D-III Women’s Championship

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The third round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championship was canceled with almost 60% of the 151-player field finished with play.

The reason? An unplayable hole.

While severe weather rolled in and suspended play late Thursday afternoon, it wasn’t rain or lightning that prompted the decision. Instead, it was because of a hole location that was, as the NCAA determined, too severe for play.

The hole in question was the 308-yard, par-4 sixth at Mission Inn and Resort’s El Campeon Course in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida. According to coaches, the hole had been cut on a 5-percent slope on the right side of the green – and later in the day, course staff watered the putting surface in an attempt to soften the severity of the slope.

It didn’t help much. Around 8 p.m. ET, the NCAA Division III women’s golf committee finalized the decision to revert the championship back to 36-hole scores and, with more thunderstorms in the forecast for Friday afternoon, shorten the event to 54 holes.

“Throughout Round 3 on Thursday, and despite efforts to improve conditions, it became apparent that the pin placement on hole No. 6 ... was unplayable,” the committee said in statement provided to GolfChannel.com. “After play was suspended due to lightning late Thursday afternoon, the committee analyzed numerous different options on how to complete the tournament in the time allotted.”

Multiple videos of players putting to the hole were shared with GolfChannel.com, and they showed 10- to 20-foot putts from below the hole either stopping short of the cup or rolling past it, but all eventually losing momentum and returning basically to the players’ feet.

The NCAA is responsible for placing the pins each round, not the course.

Also, this is the eighth time that this championship has been contested at Mission Inn.

“They should’ve known not to put [the hole] there,” said one coach, who added that there were also four questionable hole locations in Tuesday’s first round. “They just said they were sorry and they felt bad.”

Golfstat’s live scoring page, which has since erased the Round 3 stats, showed No. 6 as playing more than a shot-and-a-half over par, by far the toughest on the golf course, with 29 others (triple bogeys or worse) and, somehow, five birdies.

“I saw two of the birdies,” added the same coach. “One would’ve gone 25 yards off the green if it didn’t go in.”

Before the third-round scores were scrapped, Claremont Mudd Scripps had posted four scores of 79 or better to gain two shots on 36-hole leader George Fox University. Instead, George Fox, at 45 over, will keep its five-shot lead entering Friday’s final round. Emory had also closed its gap between it and George Fox to seven shots thanks to the round of the championship so far, a 17-over 309, but it will now revert back to a 10-shot deficit.

A cut was also made to the top 15 teams, with 14 other teams being eliminated from the competition based on their 36-hole scores. The committee also elected to advance six additional individuals not on advancing teams, 12 players total, to the final round, which will start Friday at 8 a.m. ET.

One coach told GolfChannel.com that coaches were probably split on the NCAA’s decision to cancel the round, but he personally felt it was the right call.

“I think so,” the coach said while adding of the sixth hole: “It was ridiculous.”