Controversy over an alleged rules violation during the final round of the MIAA Individual Stroke Play Golf Championships, Thursday at Eagle’s Nest Country Club, left the official result in limbo for more than 24 hours. The controversy surrounding Thursday’s events will certainly linger for a while longer, but what is now set in stone is the fact that Loyola’s Braden Decapite and St. Paul’s Matt Guy will share the 2023 tournament title, having been declared co-champions by the MIAA.

Initially, Guy was declared the outright winner at the conclusion of the event on Friday. This occurred after a lengthy deliberation about whether Loyola Blakefield junior Braden Decapite should suffer a two-stroke penalty for allegedly teeing off outside the tee box area on the 16th hole.

Guy accused Decapite of the violation at the time of his shot. Decapite insisted his shot was legal. With the topic still in dispute, Decapite was asked to play both his original ball, on which he made a bogey, and a provisional shot on which he finished with a par which reverted to a double bogey after the assessment of a two-stroke penalty. At the conclusion of the tournament, the tournament committee ruled that there was a violation and counted a double bogey as Decapite’s score on the 16th, leaving him one shot behind Guy at tournament’s end.

On Friday, after a formal protest by Loyola and consultation with experts on the rules of golf, the MIAA reversed its decision, declaring that Decapite would not be penalized for his play on the 16th hole, which meant that he and Guy finished the event dead-even at 144 strokes each. The basis for reversing the decision lies in the fact that there was not indisputable evidence of the violation. Under the rules of golf, when there is a rules dispute between two players, absent indisputable evidence, the benefit of the doubt goes to the player accused of the violation.

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“It was an unusual circumstance,” said MIAA Executive Director Paul Bernstorf in explaining the length of time it took to resolve the debate. “The tournament committee made what it believed was the correct decision at the conclusion of the tournament, but after consultation with local golf officials they reversed that decision on Friday, meaning the two golfers finished tied. Our rules ordinarily require a playoff to resolve the tie, but in this case we made an education-based decision to declare co-champions.”

The statement that was sent to MIAA coaches of Friday said that “after much discussion, research and new information, we have decided to crown both Matthew Guy and Braden Decapite co-champions. We wanted to get this right, and golf is a funny sport with many rules and interpretations of rules….for the sake of the players, we do not take this lightly.”

Any hard feelings Decapite may have felt on Thursday seemed to dissipate with Friday’s surprise announcement.

“I’m still in a little bit of shock,” he said. “Obviously, I’m really happy — and I’m happy to share the title with Matt Guy.”

Despite bogeying the 17th hole, Decapite saved par on 18 to stay in contention.

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He said that a changed mental state helped him to play better on the back nine.

“I just started to enjoy the moment and have fun,” he said. “It’s not that often that you’re in a position to win a golf tournament. My game has been in a good spot the last couple of weeks, and I’ve worked hard. So it feels really good to win.”

Loyola coach Ryan Keeney said that there was some vindication in the new decision.

“Obviously, I didn’t agree with yesterday’s decision and I’m thrilled that the ruling was overturned,” he said. “And while I’m gratified with today’s decision, I still think that Braden should have won the golf tournament.”

Decapite acknowledged that he was “startled” when Guy alleged the infraction, which may have influenced his play down the stretch.

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Following Thursday’s round, Guy explained his thoughts on the original ruling.

“Braden Decapite, who received the penalty, played better golf than me today and he played better than me yesterday,” Guy said. “But I have to play by the rules of golf. I think it was reasonable that I would make the call-out that there was a penalty, so, yes, I think it was controversial.”

As for his performance in earning a share of the title, Guys said, “(Wednesday) I had trouble with my driver. But I kind of fixed that. I don’t know the exact number, but I think I hit 15 out of 18 greens. I only had one three-putt. Just making putts when I need to and hitting greens. I kind of figured it out from there.”

Nevertheless, things eventually worked out after a long process.

Keeney said that Decapite’s hard work paid off.

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“(Winning the title) is something we’ve talked about all season.

“He does everything well,” Keeney added. “He’s patient, he trusts his work and he’s really focused. I had faith that he would have a chance to win it.”

Guy also played well, carding a 71 to join teammates Oliver Clark (5th place), Tommy Sharps (6th), Colin Vineberg (8th) and Adler Dodson to take the team title, which was not impacted by the decisions surrounding the individual results, with a record-low 586 strokes over the two-day event. It was the 12th team title for the Crusaders in program history. The Dons (596) and Gilman (601) followed the leaders.

Mount St. Joseph’s Aiden Tudor and Gilman’s Bennett Epenshade tied for second place ahead of Clark and Sharps. Loyola’s Patrick Eskildsen finished one spot ahead of Calvert Hall’s Caleb Itzoe with Gilman’s Charlie Fenwick and Loyola’s Mason Coleman tied for 10th place.

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