SIs Bamberger Did the Right Thing


One of the first things they teach you as a reporter is to make sure not to become part of the story. One of the first things they teach you in golf is that the rules are sacrosanct.
Over the weekend at the Samsung World Championship, Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Michael Bamberger found himself squarely on the horns of a dilemma. As a writer he was there to report, not create the news. As a former caddie on the European and American PGA Tours, he had seen something that didnt look right.
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie's drop at the 7th hole Saturday led to her eventual disqualification.
Sunday, after consulting with his editor, Bamberger decided to bring the rules infraction he thought he had seen Saturday to the attention of LPGA officials.
Oh and by the way, the infraction just happened to have been committed, unknowingly Bamberger believes, by Michelle Wie in her first tournament as a pro. And oh by the way II, the subsequent investigation resulted in Wies disqualification from the tournament.
For what its worth, Bamberger is one of the smartest and best golf writers in the business. His book, To The Linksland, is, in my opinion, one of the best books relating to golf I have ever read. Bambergers experiences as a caddie have provided him with an inside knowledge of the game rare among journalists.
When I caught up with Bamberger by cell phone Sunday night he was driving from Palm Desert to LAX to catch a red-eye back to his home in Pennsylvania. He told me he had been following Wies group Saturday when he thought he saw something wrong.
It didnt look like a good drop, he said.
It looked, he said, like Wie had inadvertently dropped her golf ball closer to the hole while seeking relief from an unplayable lie on the seventh hole. He waited until Wie and her playing partner, Grace Park, comprising the final pairing of the day, cleared the area. Then he paced it off. It still looked like the drop had been improper.
He asked Wie about it in her Saturday post-round press conference and wasnt convinced by Wies explanation that she and her caddie, Greg Johnston, had taken enough time with the drop procedure.
Sunday morning Bamberger returned to the spot and paced it off again, reaching the same conclusion. This, Bamberger told me, was when he began agonizing over becoming part of the story. He called his editor at Sports Illustrated, Jim Herre, and they talked about it. Herre advised him to contact a rules official. And that is what Bamberger did.
LPGA officials subsequently determined, after consulting Wie and Johnston, that what Bamberger thought he had seen was, in fact, what had happened. Wie was disqualified (more than 24 hours after the infraction). And all hell broke loose in and around the press room.
Eventually the dust settled. And, by the end of the day, Michelle Wie and her family agreed the right decision had been made.
When I caught up with B.J. Wie, Michelles father, by cell phone late Sunday he, too, was driving with his family to Los Angeles. Michelle is getting over it, B.J. Wie told me. A violation is a violation. We accept that. No hard feelings.
The only other question that I had for Bamberger at that point was whether he thought Wies rules impropriety had been, in any way, intentional.
Totally not, he said without hesitation. Michelle Wie is a great kid and a great player. This was not willful cheating.
Wie and her caddie made a mistake. They paid for it. We can now all move on from this.
Meanwhile its my opinion that Michael Bamberger did the correct thing on all counts. Doing the correct thing sometimes means a reporter cant avoid becoming part of the story.
This time the story didnt have a happy ending.
But it had the right ending.
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