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Ben James Penalized in Quest for NCAA Individual Title

Ben James Penalized in Quest for NCAA Individual Title

Ben James has had many shining moments representing the University of Virginia golf team, but one frustrating Friday round may stick with him for a while. The sophomore star felt a one-stroke penalty for slow play took him out of contention for the individual NCAA Men's Championship.



It all went down in the first round at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California. James, the fifth-ranked amateur in the world, found himself on the clock with his group getting backed up. On the par-4 17th hole, both James and his Texas Tech opponent received a shot added to their scorecards for playing too slowly.


According to James, the group had only exceeded the pace of play guidelines by about a minute. What made it feel even worse was that their third playing partner from Oklahoma avoided the penalty. “A lot of unfortunate events," James said. "... We weren’t trying to slow up play. We were just trying to play our best golf.”


The extra shot ballooned James' score on the day to a disappointing one-over-par 73. He knew right away it could be the difference in chasing a national title. Over the next two rounds, James battled back with rounds of 71 and 69 to put himself in the mix heading into the final 18 holes.


But despite another strong performance on Monday, a 15-foot birdie putt slid by on the 72nd hole, leaving James just a shot back of the champion. In the aftermath, it was hard for him not to think about what could have been without that first round penalty.


“It’s a crazy game,” James told Golf Digest on Monday evening. “One shot. It’s the rules, but it sucks. It stings. There’s such a fine line in golf.”


Always one to learn from any experience, James will now put this behind him and focus on team match play. But he may just use it as motivation going forward in his career.



While the slow play penalty was unfortunate, James proved his abilities over the final three rounds in nearly overcoming the deficit. Coming up just short of the individual title may light a fire inside the talented sophomore. With two more years left at UVA, he has plenty more opportunities ahead to finish the job. James continues to show he has what it takes to compete against the best competitors. Golf fans won't be surprised if this narrow defeat serves as extra motivation as his career trajectory continues upward.



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Sarah has a strong background in sports journalism, with a degree in journalism from a top university in the US. She has covered men's professional golf for over 10 years, attending major tournaments around the world and building an extensive network within the men's golf community. Her writing is known for its in-depth analysis, insider access, and ability to bring the drama and excitement of professional golf to life for readers.

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