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By Joel Beall
It had to be an error, a scoreboard malfunction. That was the consensus as word spread through social media that a player shot a 194—that would be 123-over par—at a U.S. Amateur qualifier. After all, there is a 2.4 handicap index limit to enter the USGA event. Vanity indexes are routinely exposed at such competitions, but never to this degree.
Actually, the score was wrong. It was even worse than that.
On Monday afternoon, Korn Ferry Tour player Justin Hueber tweeted out the card in question from Mayacoo Lakes C.C. in West Palm Beach, which is hosting one of Florida’s U.S. Am qualifiers. Though Hueber blurred out the player’s name, it was relatively easy to deduce it was the score of Trey Bilardello.
A name recognisable only to the most avid fan, Bilardello is a professional caddie, spending most of the 2019 season with PGA Tour player Matt Every, looping for him as recently as last week’s John Deere Classic. Bilardello has also worked for Jim Herman and LPGA Tour players Annie Park and Moriya Jutanugarn.
The son of former Major League Baseball catcher Dann Bilardello, Trey is also a competitive player, participating in various mini-tour and PGA Tour Monday qualifiers over the past decade. However, Bilardello maintains amateur status. As of the latest GHIN revision, his handicap figure was 2.2.
That index is on the higher end of the competitive amateur spectrum, yet a number indicating a golfer who can usually break 80, or at the very least 90, in a U.S. Am qualifier. An opinion backed up by his past play; earlier this year he shot an 81 at a pre-qualifier—that is, a qualifier to get into the Monday qualifier—at the Honda Classic, with scores in the mid-70s posted on the Minor League Golf Tour.
So when Bilardello’s name was associated with an astronomical score, something didn’t add up.
According to Darin Green, director of rules & competitions for the Florida State Golf Association, the 194 was incorrect . . . on the low end. Bilardello’s actual score was 202, with pars on his first two holes and one on the final.
“There’s a glitch in our online scoring system,” Green told Golf Digest. The issue prevented individual hole scores greater than 19 from being submitted.
How did a 2.2 handicap hand in a 202? Green would not comment on what happened, only stating, “The 202 was the score given to us and signed.” But on Tuesday afternoon, the FSGA reversed its decision, disqualifying Bilardello after the event had ended.
“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.
Multiple sources told Golf Digest that Bilardello, starting on his third hole, began deliberately missing shots, particularly around the green. What triggered this reaction, or the motive behind it, remains unclear. But Bilardello’s group was the first off Mayacoo Lakes’ second nine, and his pace held up the rest of the field. The USGA confirmed Bilardello’s actions, stating they were “making a mockery of the game.”
“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.
Attempts to reach Kristian Fortis, an incoming freshman at La Salle University who played with Bilardello, were unsuccessful. Players playing in the group behind also did not respond to texts and calls about the situation.
This is not the first time Bilardello’s character has come into question.
Bilardello’s Minor League Golf Tour profile shows consecutive “DID NOT FINISH” appearances in early June. Sources told Golf Digest that Bilardello was suspended from the MLGT following those events for detrimental conduct at the Summer Abacoa Open in Jupiter, Fla. Scott Turner, the director of tournament operations for MLGT, confirmed Bilardello is suspended for an incident. Following the Summer Abacoa Open, the circuit released the following statement regarding “behaviour unbecoming a professional”:
“There have been two instances in the past 30 days where a player has damaged golf course property during one of our events. 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 behaviour 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 favour 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 utmost respect.”
An online search also reveals that Bilardello was arrested in 2014 in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. on a charge of first-degree domestic battery by strangulation. Additionally, there is a 2007 Santa Cruz Live article detailing Bilardello’s bid for a “Caddie for a Day” contest for Ken Duke, where a commentator accuses Trey of cheating the ballot to win. Bilardello responded, explaining that others were circumventing the rules and his actions were merely a response to proxy voting.
A Florida number listed as Bilardello’s is no longer in service, and Golf Digest was unable to connect with him via social channels. An email to Every’s representatives about Bilardello has not been returned. Turner said that while Bilardello’s suspension is indefinite, there are avenues for him to return.
(Golf Digest’s Stephen Hennessey contributed to the reporting of this story.)