A record high score is, in most cases, one of the most glorious moments in sports.
Whether it’s the Texas Rangers pounding the Baltimore Orioles 30-3 in a 2007 MLB game, the Chicago Bears stomping the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL Championship, or the splendid 2017 NBA All-Star Game that featured a combined 374 points, players and fans alike love the satisfying spectacle of superlative scoring in sports.
But someone needs to tell Trey Bilardello of Jupiter, Florida, that the spectacle of setting a high score does not apply to golf.
Bilardello carded a 131-over-par 202 — an average of 11.2 strokes per hole — at a U.S. Amateur qualifying event Monday at Mayacoo Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, according to Golf Digest — a dark cloud of willful ineptitude in the Sunshine State.
The key there is “willful,” because Bilardello’s performance was intentional and so egregious that it got him disqualified from competition by the Florida State Golf Association.
According to Golf Digest, the FSGA and its parent, the USGA, were in no mood to allow Bilardello to get away with his tomfoolery, which included intentionally “scooting” the ball around with his club, each contact between face and ball counting as at least one stroke and possibly incurring penalty strokes as well for hitting a moving ball.
“The Florida State Golf Association, after consulting with the United States Golf Association, has disqualified Trey Bilardello under Rule 1.2 for serious misconduct and failing to play in the spirit of the game,” Beth Major, USGA senior director of championship communications, told Golf Digest.
Bilardello started off well enough. He is a 2.2 handicap, not exactly a PGA Tour professional but not terrible either, and his first two holes resulted in pars.
But somewhere around the time things went a bit sideways, he decided that if he was going to miss the cut, why not get his name into the history books with the worst round ever?
“His disqualification was deemed appropriate as a result of the individual’s failure to show consideration for other players — deliberately playing away from the hole to run up his score,” Major said.
Kristian Fortis, who will play competitive golf at La Salle University and who was in Bilardello’s group, told Golf Digest he’d never seen anything quite like Bilardello’s epic meltdown.
“After the first nine, he said that he wanted to shoot the highest recorded score in USGA history,” Fortis said. “He just did not care. He was really rude to a lot of the officials, too. Something was off.”
It wasn’t his first offense. Last month, Bilardello was disqualified from the Minor League Golf Tour for “detrimental conduct” at the Summer Abacoa Open, Golf Digest reported.
“There have been two instances in the past 30 days where a player has damaged golf course property during one of our events,” MLGT said in a statement June 21. “Both resulting in a financial responsibility for the tour and a major strain on the relationship of those two venues. There is and will continue to be a zero tolerance policy for behavior unbecoming a professional. Any player behaving inappropriately will face possible suspension from the MLGT.
“There is no place for this in professional golf. The majority of the venues that host our events do it as a favor to support tournament golf and help provide an avenue for players to develop their game to hopefully reach the next level. The MLGT and the participants in each event are guests of the host venue and will treat the course and the staff with the upmost respect.”
Bilardello is perhaps best known as a caddie rather than a player; he has carried clubs for PGA Tour pro Matt Every this season and has also done work for Jim Herman and LPGA players Annie Park and Moriya Jutanugarn.
Bilardello’s father, Dann, played parts of eight seasons in Major League Baseball with the Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres, hitting .204 in 1,041 career plate appearances.
Maybe Dann’s son should have found a way to hit the golf ball two more times to get his score up to Dad’s batting average.
After all, Bilardello was already showing blatant disrespect for the game, as his playing partner pointed out.
“He would chip shots and scoot his ball around on the tee box just to add strokes, and then he would just pipe a 2-iron down the middle of the fairway, hit it on the green and then just scoot his ball around again with his putter,” Fortis said, according to Golf Channel. “He’d be right next to the hole and then I guess he’d think to himself that he didn’t have enough strokes and he’d hit his ball in the opposite direction of the hole.”
The net effect was so egregious that Bilardello broke the computerized scoring system, which doesn’t have a means to submit a single-hole score higher than 19, kind of like a scoreboard in a basketball arena that only has a solid 1 for the hundreds digit and would be foiled by a team reaching 200 points in a game. The original submitted score came in as a 194 rather than 202 because eight strokes simply defied the ability of the scoreboard to record them; only Bilardello’s hand-signed card with the true score stood as evidence that things were even worse than they at first appeared.
Fortis, who made the cut with a 76, noted that his playing partner clowning around was certainly not within the spirit of the sport of golf.
“There are people there trying to shoot a good score and go full at it,” he said, “and there’s this guy out here just kind of chipping around the course and not really giving any effort.”
Scott Turner, director of tournament operations for MLGT, confirmed to Golf Digest that Bilardello’s suspension is indefinite, saying only that “there are avenues” for him to clear the suspension and return to competition if and when he gets himself right mentally.
Golf Digest reported that Bilardello’s history of bad behavior goes beyond his actions on a golf course.
In 2014, he was arrested in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, on charges of first-degree domestic battery by strangulation.
Back in 2007, Bilardello was accused of rigging a contest to become “Caddie for a Day” for Ken Duke. His defense, that everyone else was circumventing the rules and therefore he had to cheat as well, speaks volumes about his character.
Until Bilardello can learn to respect the game, he can remain suspended. His antics were a distraction and a liability for not just his partner but for every group playing behind him.
As for his “record,” wipe it off the books or give him a giant asterisk. Even futility deserves the dignity of an honest effort.
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