SPOKANE — Russell Grove walked off the 18th green thinking he had won the Rosauers Open Invitational by two shots.
Then he found out he had to go win it again.
Grove, the North Idaho College men’s and women’s golf coach, was assessed a two-stroke penalty after the round for an incident on the sixth hole during Sunday’s final round. That meant he ultimately finished tied for first with Walla Walla Country Club pro Brady Sharp, who shot an 11-under 60 in the final round.
In the first hole of the playoff, Grove parred the par-5 18 and Sharp birdied for the win in a stunning development.
“Honestly the playoff was like a blur. I was just so blindsided (by the penalty),” Grove said.
On the sixth hole, a driveable par-4, Grove hit his tee shot right of the green, into a bush. Some 20 people following the final group, which included Grove and second-round leader Derek Berg, helped look for the ball.
Grove said he moved some branches to help identify his ball. He said he “had to move a couple things” to get his body in there and take a stance in the bush. He blasted out toward the tee, off a tree, nearly holed the chip from some 30 yards out, and made an all-world par 4.
Or so he thought.
Grove pulled even with Berg, a professional from Sahalee County Club in Sammamish, Wash., on the 12th hole. The two figured they were tied for the lead, not knowing what kind of round Sharp was having.
At that point, Grove noticed Berg talking to a rules official, who later came over and talked to Grove, and said everything was fine, Grove said.
Grove had six birdies on the back nine en route to a 30. His birdie at 16 tied him with Sharp, who finished at 16-under 197. Grove then birdied the final two holes.
But Berg refused to sign Grove’s scorecard. Grove and Berg and rules offcials went back out to the sixth hole to look at the bush Grove played from.
“Apparently Derek saw me move a branch in the bush to improve my swing,” Grove said. “The fact he could see something 60 yards away when I had people around me that didn’t see anything wrong. And for him to not bring it up until I caught him ... nothing more needs to be said.”
“I felt I had proceeded under the rules of golf,” Grove said. “We all agreed it was a 4” when the group left the green. “If he saw something, he should have said something right while it happened.”
Grove said it was basically his word against Berg’s, and since Berg refused to sign the scorecard, Grove said he had to sign for a 6 on the sixth hole, or be disqualified.
Grove ended up signing for a 65. Berg finished tied for third at 13 under, three shots back, following a 70.
Grove said he could not appeal the ruling.
“The whole thing, the way it was handled, the way it was brought up, when it was brought up, it was bush league if you ask me,” said Grove, who won the Oregon Open Invitational last month and then nearly qualified for the PGA Championship.
“I was absolutely blindsided, but the way I played coming down the stretch, nobody can take that away from me,” Grove said. “If anything, it’s going to fuel me.”
Billy Bomar of Prairie Falls tied for 39th at even-par 213 after a final-round 67.
Other local finishers: Reid Hatley, Hayden Lake (T44, 72 on Sunday, 1-over 214), Brent Walsh, Coeur d’Alene Golf Club (T50, 71, 2-over 215), Austin Westphal, Avoldale (T-50, 71, 2-over 215), Jess Wingett, The Highlands (T58, 69, 4-over 217) and Matthew Nosbaum, Circling Raven (T66, 75, 5-over 218).