Never mind David Clarke’s finish at the British Open. Or Japan’s win at the FIFA World Cup of soccer for that matter. Merritt had every bit as much sporting drama take place on its very own home turf this past weekend.

The Coquihalla Ladies’ Open golf tournament, played Saturday and Sunday at the Merritt Golf & Country Club, required a two-hole playoff to determine a winner, only to see that decision reversed by a technical ruling and a new champion crowned.

“Due to an incorrect ball drop following an ‘unplayable lie’, the player lost the playoff,” was the official statement by MGCC head pro Sydney van Rensburg. “They didn’t know at the time that what they were doing was wrong.”

The two golfers involved in the ruling, and left to reflect on the bizarre turn of events, were Karen Mairvalin of Kamloops and Mary Lou Harkness from Oliver. Tied at 162 after 36-holes of regulation play, the pair were required to take part in an immediate playoff to determine first place.

On the first extra hole of play, Mairvalin put her drive high up on the hillside to the left of the fairway. After declaring an ‘unplayable lie’, she proceeded to take a one-shot penalty and ‘drop’ her ball in playable rough further back towards where they had teed off. Both golfers then continued to battle their way through the first hole, each winding up with a double bogey.

Mairvalin parred the second extra hole, while Harkness double-bogeyed once more, thereby handing apparent victory to her Kamloops’ opponent. The two shook hands and made their way amicably towards the clubhouse.

It wasn’t until both players were packing their clubs away in their vehicles that the rules violation was identified and reported.

The two finalists, along with van Rensburg and former Merritt club professional Andy Wahnschaff, made their way back out on course, where it was determined that Mairvalin had indeed played “an incorrect drop”. As a result, Harkness was deemed the winner of the playoff, and declared this year’s Coquihalla Open champion.

“It was very unfortunate that both the player and their marker agreed to the drop,” stated van Rensburg. “The wrong procedure was taken.”

Harkness admitted that she, too, was unaware of the rule, and any violation by her opponent.

“I was totally focused on my next shot,” she said, “and didn’t pay any attention to them managing their ball.”

Harkness went on to add, “I heard a lot of conversation afterwards from people who had been on that same hillside, and had also played ‘an unplayable lie’ incorrectly. It makes you aware of how important it is to know the rules of golf. And if in doubt, ask for a ruling.”

While the way that she won left Harkness feeling a little bittersweet, she was nevertheless delighted with the unexpected victory.

“I broke my wrist last year, and had to have a plate and three screws surgically inserted. Plus, we just sold our house, and I have been busy packing for the last three weeks. I’ve hardly had time to play any golf. I really didn’t expect to do very well at all on the weekend.”

This is Harkness’s first Coquihalla title in the fifteen or more years that she has been attending the event.

“It’s one of my favorite tournaments,” she declared. “I love Merritt. I love the course.”

The next major event at the Merritt golf course will be the Murray GM Invitational Men’s Open, scheduled for the August 5-7 weekend. The tournament already has a full slate of 120 entries, as well as a waiting list.