The Penalties in Golf are Serious Indeed

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Imagine, if you will, a football player leaping offsides, then walking up to an official and saying, I realize that we just scored a touchdown, but I was a little too quick coming off the ball. Im afraid youre going to have to call it back and penalize me.
 
Or a basketball player shamefacedly approaching a referee and admitting, Hey, I got him. He missed the shot that would have won the game, and I certainly didnt mean to, but I got him on the arm. Ill take the foul and watch him go to the free-throw line.
 
A baseball player rounds third and scores on a single to right, but as he crosses home plate with the winning run, he confesses. Oh lordy lordy, I didnt touch third base. I know that means that we lose the game, but I have to be honest. Call me 'out.
 
Its good for a belly laugh, I guess. If hes a golfer, though, those little scenarios arent funny at all. A golfer is expected to fess up, regardless of the consequence. Thats if he realizes he made a mistake and speaks up immediately. If he unknowingly commits an infraction, the penalty is severe indeed. Disqualification, perhaps?
 
Just this year, for instance, Greg Norman has faced disqualification twice for violating the same rule. Seems that, after all those years as a professional, he still occasionally misinterprets the rule for dropping a ball after it goes in the water. It happened first at the Honda Classic, which was bad enough. That was close to home in Palm Beach, Fla. The second time it happened, it was really a doozy ' the BMW Asian Open. That was in Shanghai, China, a good 10,000 miles from where he regularly beds down for the night.
 
Sometimes the penalty is for something you have no idea you are even violating. David Frost was DQd for missing a starting time for a pro-am, for goodness sakes! It was at the Byron Nelson, and Frost swears he didnt even know he was supposed to participate. Oh, well
 
Last week at the Buick Championship in Hartford, another one was called which tipped the scales of incredulity. This time the guilty party was Dudley Hart. He got the boot in the middle of the second round when his 3-iron turned up with a badly bent shaft. He swears he doesnt remember kicking it, throwing it or tampering with it in any way to cause the kink.
 
That, of course, is a violation of ol rule 411, the one that states if you start the round with a non-conforming club, youre outta here.
 
Jon Brendle was the tour official who had the unpleasant lot of informing Hart of the consequences.
 
Somebody could have kicked the bag in the locker room or something like that, but the USGA takes it that you're responsible for checking your clubs before you play. They take that stand on it, Brendle said.

Brendle, being the gentlemen that he is, gave Hart the chance to come up with a plausible story. Just about anything that Hart said would have been plausible enough. But Hart was stumped. So, Brendle had no choice but administer the old heave-ho.
 
Had he been able to say he did it in the first four holes - he just can't play with it and there's no disqualification, Brendle said. But in this case, since he couldn't tell us and he was honest enough not to make up a story about it, he got the bad end of that.
 
Of course, Hart probably has made up excuses a thousand times to tell his wife why he didnt stop at the store on the way home for a quart of milk. But he had to tell one about why the club was bent. And he froze.
 
The weird thing about it is, said Brendle, if you were out practicing and you went and got a drink and I fell over your bag and didn't say anything to you and you went over to the tee and then you started your round and pulled out a club that was bent, you'd get disqualified for it because at the first tee you're responsible for checking your equipment.
 
Had he been able to tell us that he tripped over it after play was started or something, then he can't play that club.
 
Brendle even would have helped him think of an excuse, it seems. If his caddie said after we pulled it out, I threw something over there or I kicked the bag or something like that on the second hole, if he could have come up with any kind of story like that - but nothing like that was there. He couldn't come up with a story.
 
Hart, incidentally, never saw the 3-iron during the day. He said he hadnt used it during the round, nor had he hit it during his warm-up. His caddy pulled it when he was about to play it on of his fourth hole - the 13th. Hmmm, something doesnt look right, the caddy said. The club was bent like a hockey stick.

Brendle, who hates these disqualification situations, tried everything he knows to keep it from happening this time. He urged Hart to think ' now, what really happened? Think about it, now
 
But Hart, who is nothing if not brutally honest, couldnt come up with an explanation. Brendle, as befits the rules of golf, had to do his duty. Hart was ejected.
 
Now, if only Brendle were a line judge and Hart were a lineman. Can you imagine that scenario? Not on your life!
 
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