A Gentleman's Game
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by Laramie Boyd
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If you ask every professional athlete what other sport they would like to play and be successful
at, the overwhelming majority would say GOLF! No other sport would come close. Golf has a strange fascination all its own. It is difficult.
It is humbling. It is a challenge. But in spite of what might appear to be reasons not to play the game, it has an attraction no other
game can match.
The Professional Golf Association, known widely as the PGA, is the governing
body and rule maker of the sport in America. And to say the least, it has developed some rules that border on strange. Take, for example,
the notion that every player is responsible to report any violation of the rules he has committed. No referee or game official needs
to call a foul on him, even though they are on the course and on the lookout for rule violators. If the player breaks a rule, he must
confess and turn himself in, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. This could eventually result in disqualification or strokes added
on to their score. Furthermore, if some fan following the golfers during a match reports seeing a violation, and a TV replay shows
that it did happen, the same consequences could result. And as ridiculous as it may sound, if a television viewer at home calls in
a suspected rule violation, the same scenario could be repeated. In the game of golf, unlike some other sports, enforcement is uniform,
harsh, and permanent.
There is a good deal of negative attitudes towards some of the rules
of golf and it centers around the involvement of the golfing fan in the enforcement of the rules. To imagine that a fan who sees a
holding foul in a football game would have any influence in a penalty situation on the field is absurd, even if it was shown to be
true. Or a sideline fan in a basketball game who sees a player step out of bounds requiring a TV replay of the action and a possible
foul called. That won't happen. So why is it accepted in the great game of golf? One argument goes something like this: If a golfer
is found to have committed a rule violation, by whatever means available, and is not called to answer for it, and is allowed to play
on as if nothing had happened and maybe even win a tournament, it would be a travesty and a mockery of the game of golf, which is
a gentleman's game.
Some very interesting, if not strange to the non-golfer, disqualifications
are on record. One golfer was picking up his ball from the green and a TV viewer called in to say the ball moved before the golfer
touched it. The golfer said it didn't, a rules official saw the replay and said it did. The player was disqualified. Another player's
ball started rolling down an incline as the golfer picked up a twig off the grass. The player was disqualified for "removing s loose
impediment which might have influenced the ball's movement." Yet another player hit his ball under a tree branch. The grass was wet,
so the player put a towel down to keep his pants dry. He was disqualified for "building up his stance" before hitting the ball.
A rookie player in a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament hit her ball behind a rock. She was allowed to drop the ball
over to the side. She was later disqualified because she dropped the ball 12" closer to the hole on the green, which was 160 yards
away. Another golfer was in a sand trap and his club touched the sand. He was given a 2 stroke penalty. He lost the tournament by
Another ruling involved a player who hit his ball in a ravine. A single strand of weed was directly in front of his ball.
He brushed it aside, hit his ball, and it hit the weed. He called an official over, explained what happened, was disqualified, and
lost the tournament after leading it for three rounds.
So it seems that sometimes
in golf you are penalized for being honest and respectful to the rules, punished for playing the game fairly. The great Bobby Jones,
who won more amateur rounds of golf than any man in history, called a penalty on himself when he accidentally touched his ball with
his club before swinging at it. This caused him to lose a tournament, yet he was congratulated by the world of golf for his sportsmanship
gesture. When interviewed afterwards, he was asked if he felt he had done a great thing for the game of golf. He answered by saying,
"If I didn't disqualify myself for breaking a rule, you may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank." What he did was what he
was supposed to do, and a man doesn't need praise for that. For the most part, the true spirit of sportmanship in the great game of
golf is still alive and well today.