Half in the Bottle


Of the many lessons the game of golf teaches us, one of the most applicable is the value of consulting with an expert, rather than boldly rushing in and leaving your fate in the hands of blind ambition.
Surely, Harry Bradshaw would not be the first golfer to see his championship hopes dashed by the devastating impact of a bottle. Only in his case, it was quite literal.
After an opening-round 68, the Irish golfer was contending for the Open Championship at Royal St. Georges, when during the second round, his tee shot on the fifth hole flew into the semi-rough, settling into the bottom half of a broken beer bottle.
Unlike todays tournaments, where it is fairly easy to beckon a tournament official for a ruling, in 1949, rules officials were not instantly available. Rather than hail an official, and await their arrival and then their decision, Bradshaw decided to take matters into his own hands.
Choosing a sand wedge and closing his eyes as tightly as he could, Bradshaw took a mighty swing at the brown glass-encased ball, resulting in a shower of glass splinters and advancing the ball some thirty yards. Now laying two, Bradshaw seemed unnerved by the incident and proceeded to record a six on the hole.
He would finish with a 77 for the day and follow that up with rounds of 68 and 70 to finish in a tie with South African Bobby Locke. In the 36-hole-playoff, Bradshaw was soundly defeated by Locke, 135 to 147.
Bradshaw would later admit that he had no idea whether he was entitled to take relief from the bottle, and his actions clearly indicated that he had no interest in consulting with an expert who might have ruled in his favor. While this latter point has been hotly debated as to the ambiguity of the governing rule at that time (which was shortly thereafter clarified) and as to whether relief would have been granted, one thing is for sure, without at least asking for a ruling, no one will ever know whether a ruling would have been made in his favor.
Bradshaws ball coming to rest in a broken bottle was a cruel twist of fate. However, whether it was due to nerves, impatience, or a poorly defined rule, Bradshaw chose to act without consulting an expert and had to live with the results of actions. Those actions may have cost him the 1949 Open Championship.
Copyright 2007 Matthew E. Adams Fairways of Life
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Editor's Note: Matt Adams is a reporter for The Golf Channel, equipment expert, twenty-year veteran of the golf industry and speaker. In addition, he is a New York Times and USAToday bestselling coauthor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and author of Fairways of Life, Wisdom and Inspiration from the Greatest Game. Fairways of Life uses golf as a metaphor for life and features a Foreword by Arnold Palmer. To sign up for Adams Golf Wisdom email quotes or for more information, go to www.FairwaysofLife.com.