Not Without Sin

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2010, 12:25 am

Wrong calls and wrong balls.

In the last week or so, we’ve been reminded yet again how golf is different from other sports but also how the people who play golf aren’t as different as those in the game would like us to think.

We’re reminded of that in New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter’s wrong-call controversy and in the LPGA’s wrong-ball debacle.

Golf may be different, its rules and culture different than other sports, but it’s played by human beings who are as flawed as athletes from any other sport.

Golf’s not without sin. We’ve seen high-profile accusations of cheating among the game’s biggest names over the years. We’re hearing ugly whispers about it now in the women’s game.

Golf isn’t immune from athletes getting caught up pursuing success at the expense of character, from choosing achievement over personal integrity. The difference, ultimately, is in the virtue of the game and what it demands, more so than in the virtue of the people who play it.

Wrong calls and wrong balls.

In the last week or so, we’ve seen Jeter hoodwink umpires into believing he was hit by a pitch in a game for first place against the Tampa Bay Rays. And we’ve become aware of LPGA commissioner Mike Whan addressing tour members’ concerns about “way too many” suspicious rules incidents in their game this year.

In the end, the resolutions in these matters differed not so much because of the differences in the people who play the games but in the differences in the games themselves, in the history, standards, culture and expectations within each game.

Jeter pretended he was hit by a pitch when he knew the ball never touched him but struck the handle of his bat. He was awarded first base with his ruse. And even though replays clearly showed he was not hit, Jeter won’t be vilified as a cheater by his fellow pros.

“It’s part of the game,” Jeter told reporters. “It’s my job to get on base.”

Within the culture of his sport, Jeter is a clever competitor, a guy who used the accepted practices of his game to help his team. His sport’s standards molded his behavior. His acting was a byproduct of his sport’s culture.

The LPGA’s wrong-ball debacle is complicated.

If you missed it, Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung were disqualified from the CN Canadian Women’s Open for playing the wrong balls at the final hole in the first round.

It’s complicated because though it was ruled that the players ultimately turned themselves in, there were reports of questionable intentions. Ahn’s caddie, Tim Hegna, told both Golfweek and the Web site Waggle Room, that his player knew she played the wrong ball and wanted to cover it up. It’s complicated because there ended up being multiple versions of what happened, a problem that threatened to grow messier as it ignited outrage among tour players over other accusations.

“There have been way too many suspicious incidents this year,” tour veteran Katherine Hull told Golfweek. “And if people aren’t going to play by the rules, they don’t deserve to play.”

Ultimately, Whan intervened, not just in settling the wrong-ball issue, but in addressing larger player concerns about possible cheating. He spent an hour addressing the matters in a mandatory player meeting at last week’s P&G NW Arkansas Championship.

“The resolution was that there was no wrongdoing,” Jane Geddes, the LPGA’s senior vice president of tournament operations, said of the wrong-ball violation. “There was no cheating. The players in question hit the wrong balls. It was discovered after the round, and as soon as they discovered it, they went to find the officials.”

Geddes said Whan laid out the ruling for all the players and opened the meeting for discussion.

“We addressed all of it,” Geddes said. “We took our time. Mike delivered a couple important messages. The first thing he said is that he would protect the game of golf. The second thing is that he would make sure if there was any disagreement, or a judgment needed to be made, he would make sure all the facts were available before he made a call.

“True to his word, he made sure we got all the facts. He talked to all the players and caddies. There was a lot of hearsay and allegations, but the fact of the matter is that regardless who said what, the players did the right thing. They went to a rules official, and they disqualified themselves. That’s the worst penalty somebody could get.”

Geddes is an 11-time LPGA winner with two major championships to her credit. She said she found the entire issue disappointing, but she also acknowledged that the game’s not without sin.

“Everyone feels bad that we even have to address this,” Geddes said. “But I know as a former player, cheating’s been around a long time.”

Geddes said Whan shared a story from LPGA founder and Hall of Famer Louise Suggs with his players during the mandatory meeting. Suggs told Whan what he was dealing with was nothing new. She shared issues she dealt with in the tour’s earliest days.

“Things happen on every tour, everywhere,” Geddes said. “It’s not how the game’s supposed to be played, but we can’t control everyone’s actions. We can only have control when we know things are happening.”

Whan reminded players the nature of their game demands more of them, including their responsibility to call each other out “when in doubt.”

“Hopefully, what the meeting satisfied is players knowing Mike would protect the game,” Geddes said. “Secondly, he would do everything in his power to get all the facts in a situation. Thirdly, if he found somebody cheating, he wouldn’t take it lightly. He would take whatever action was deserved.”

Geddes said that included the possibility of suspensions.

Because while the game of golf may be virtuous, the people who play it aren’t necessarily any more virtuous than athletes from other sports. The game’s higher standard demands more vigilance from its overseers and players alike. It demands wrong balls get right calls.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm