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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Arizona caps an improbable journey with a title

By Ryan LavnerMay 24, 2018, 3:49 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – Five hours before the final match at the NCAA Women’s Championship, Arizona coach Laura Ianello sat cross-legged on a couch in the Holiday Inn lobby and broke down four times in a half-hour interview.

It’s been that kind of exhausting season.

From poor play to stunning midseason defections to a stroke-play collapse, Ianello has felt uneasy for months. She has felt like she was losing control. Felt like her carefully crafted roster was coming apart.

So to even have a chance to win a NCAA title?

“I know what this team has gone through,” she said, beginning to tear up, “and you don’t get these opportunities all the time. So I want it for them. This could be so life-changing for so many of them.”

A moment that seemed impossible six months ago became reality Wednesday at Karsten Creek.

Arizona continued its magical run through the match-play bracket and knocked off top-ranked Alabama to capture its third NCAA title, with junior Haley Moore – who first rose to fame by making the cut at an LPGA major as a 16-year-old – rolling in a 4-footer to earn the clinching point in extra holes.

All throughout nationals Arizona was fueled by momentum and adrenaline, but this was no Cinderella squad. The Wildcats were ranked ninth in the country. They won twice this spring. They had four medalists. They were one of the longest-hitting teams in the country.

But even before a miracle end to NCAA stroke play, Arizona needed some help just to get here.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

On Christmas Day, one of the team’s best players, Krystal Quihuis, texted Ianello that she was turning pro. It may have been a gift to her parents, for their years of sacrifice, but it was a lump of coal in Ianello’s stocking.

“I was absolutely heartbroken,” she said. “It was devastating.”

Even more bad news arrived a few weeks later, when junior Gigi Stoll told Ianello that she was unhappy, homesick and wanted to return to Portland, Ore. Just like that, a promising season had gone off the rails.

Ianello offered her a full release, but Stoll looked around, found no other suitors and decided to remain with the team – as long as she signed a contract of expected behavior.

“It was the most exhausting two months of my life,” Ianello said. “We care so much about these freakin’ girls, and we’re like, Come on, this is just a small, little picture of your life, so you don’t realize what you’re possibly giving up. It’s so hard to see that sometimes.”

Stoll eventually bought in, but the rest of the team was blindsided by Quihuis’ decision.

“We became even more motivated to prove we were a great team,” said junior Bianca Pagdanganan.

It also helped that Yu-Sang Hou joined the squad in January. The morale immediately improved, not least because the players now could poke fun at Hou; on her fourth day on campus she nearly burned down the dorm when she forgot to add water to her mac-and-cheese.

Early on Ianello and assistant Derek Radley organized a team retreat at a hotel in Tucson. There the players created Oprah-inspired vision boards and completed exercises blindfolded and delivered 60-second speeches to break down barriers. At the end of the session, they created T-shirts that they donned all spring. They splashed “The Great Eight” on the front, put the state of Arizona and each player’s country of origin on the sleeves, and on the back printed their names and a slogan: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

“I can’t think of anything else that better embodies this team,” Radley said.

This spring, they rallied together and finished no worse than fourth in a tournament. Through three rounds of stroke play here at the NCAA Championship, they used their distance advantage and sat third in the standings. Then they shot 17 over par in the final round, tumbling outside the top-8 cut line.

They were down to their final chance on the 72nd hole, needing an eagle to tie, as Pagdanganan lined up her 30-footer. She dramatically drained the putt, then gathered her teammates on the range.

“This means we were meant to be in the top 8,” she said. Less than an hour later, they beat Baylor in the team playoff to earn the last match-play berth.

Ianello was so amped up from the frenetic finish that she slept only three hours on Monday night, but they continued to roll and knocked off top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals, beating a pair of Player of the Year contenders, Lilia Vu and Patty Tavatanakit, in the process. In the afternoon semifinals, they jumped all over Stanford and won easily.

It was a cute story, the last team into the match-play field reaching the final match, but a stiffer challenge awaited the Wildcats Wednesday.

Alabama was the top-ranked team in the country. The Tide were a whopping 110 under par for the season, boasting three first-team All-Americans who were so dominant in their first two matches that they trailed for only two of the 99 holes they played.

Ianello already seemed to be bracing for the result on the eve of the final match.

“Win or lose,” she said, “this has been a hell of a ride.”

But their wild ride continued Wednesday, as Hou won four holes in a row to start the back nine and defeat Alabama’s best player, Lauren Stephenson, who had the best single-season scoring average (69.5) in Division I history.

Then sophomore Sandra Nordaas – the main beneficiary after Quihuis left at the midway point of the season – held on for a 1-up victory over Angelica Moresco.

And so Arizona’s national-title hopes hinged on the success of its most mercurial player, Moore. In the anchor match against Lakareber Abe, Moore jumped out to a 2-up lead at the turn but lost the first three holes on the back nine.

By the time Radley sped back to help Moore, in the 12th fairway, she was frazzled.

“But seeing me,” Radley said, “I saw a sense of calm wash over her.”

Moore played solidly for the rest of the back nine and took a 1-up lead into the home hole. She didn’t flinch when Abe hit one of the shots of the entire championship – a smoked 3-wood to 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie and force extras – and then gave herself 4 feet for the win on the first playoff hole. She sank the putt and within seconds was mobbed by her teammates.

In the giddy aftermath, Ianello could barely speak. She wandered around the green in a daze, looking for someone, anyone, to hug.

The most trying year of her career had somehow ended in a title.

“At some moments, it felt impossible,” she said. “But I underestimated these young women a little bit.”

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Pac-12 continues to dominate women's golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 3:04 am

Arizona's national women's golf championship marked the fourth consecutive year in‌ which the women's Division I national title was won by a Pac-12 Conference team. All four championships were won by different schools (Stanford, 2015; Washington, 2016; Arizona State, 2017; Arizona, 2018). The Pac-12 is the only conference to win four straight golf championships (men or women) with four different schools.

Here are some other statistical notes from the just-concluded NCAA Div. I Women's Golf Championship:

• This is the second time that Arizona has won the national title the year after rival Arizona State won it. The last time was 1996.

• Arizona now has three women's golf national championships. The previous two came in 1996 and 2000.

• Arizona is only the sixth school to win three or more Div. I women's golf championships, joining Arizona State (8), Duke (6), San Jose State (3), UCLA (3) and USC (3).

• Arizona's Haley Moore, who earned the clinching point on the 19th hole of her match with Alabama's Lakareber Abe, was the only Arizona player to win all three of her matches this week.

• Alabama's Kristen Gillman and Cheyenne Knight also went 3-0. Gillman did not trail in any match.

• Since the match-play format was instituted in 2015, Arizona is the lowest seed (8) to claim the national title. The seeds claiming the national championship were Stanford (4) in 2015; Washington (4) in 2016; and Arizona State (3) in 2017.

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High school seniors win U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 1:44 am

TEQUESTA, Fla. - The 18-year-old Hammer, from Houston, is set to play at Texas next fall. Barber, from Stuart, Fla., also is 18. He's headed to LSU.

''Growing up watching U.S. Opens and U.S. Amateurs on TV, I just knew being a USGA champion is something that I desperately wanted,'' said Hammer, who qualified for a U.S. Open three years ago at 15. ''And to finally do it, it feels incredible. It feels as good, if not better, than I thought it would. And especially being able to do it with Garrett. It's really cool to share this moment.''

Hammer and Cole won the par-4 eighth with a birdie to take a 2-up lead. They took the par-4 10th with a par, won the par-5 13th with an eagle - Barber hit a 4-iron from 235 yards to 3 feet - and halved the next two holes to end the match.

''Cole didn't want me to hit 4-iron,'' Barber said. ''He didn't think I could get it there. I was like, 'I got it.' So I hit it hard, hit pretty much a perfect shot. It was a crazy shot.''

The 32-year-old Dull is from Winter Park, Fla., and the 42-year-old Brooke from Altamonte Springs, Fla.

''Cole Hammer is a special player,'' Brooke said. ''Obviously, he's going to Texas (and) I'm not saying he is Jordan Spieth, but there are certain things that he does.''

In the morning semifinals, Hammer and Barber beat Idaho high school teammates Carson Barry and Sam Tidd, 5 and 4, and Brooke and Dull topped former Seattle University teammates Kyle Cornett and Patrick Sato, 4 and 3.

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Watch: Pumped up Beef deadlifts 485 lbs.

By Grill Room TeamMay 24, 2018, 12:19 am

Andrew "Beef" Johnston has been playing some solid golf on the European Tour this season, and he is clearly pumped up for one of the biggest weeks of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Judging from the video below, Beef will have no problems lifting the trophy on Sunday as he reportedly deadlifted 220 kg ... (Googles kilogram to pounds converter, enters numbers) ... that's 485 lbs!

@beefgolf with a new deadlift PB 220kg ! #youcantgowronggettingstrong

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