September 28, 2010

In Golf, Cheating is Still Cheating: After accepting his medal for winning a junior golf tournament, 14-year-old Wisconsin golfer Zach Nash learned that he'd been carrying 15 clubs, one more than the rules allowed. He turned himself in, like so many golfers before him, and was disqualified. The Los Angeles Times covers this anomalous tradition in sports. "Even the slightest imputation of cheating, maybe you can get away with that in other sports, but not in golf," said golf historian Steve Schlossman.

posted by rcade to golf at 12:16 PM - 8 comments

Good for him. Sadly, there are so many rules and variations that you only really learn them by getting it wrong a lot of the time. It's probably small consolation to him now, but he'll never do it again, so maybe better now than in the Open.

posted by JJ at 12:26 PM on September 28, 2010

If he realized it himself at his house, do you think he would have returned it? Its a lot easier to to the right thing when there's someone else who knows what you did, especially the golf pro he probably looks up to.

I do believe that golf is a much "cleaner" sport than others, but the way everyone talks about how it is the only sport where no one cheats is a little ridiculous. Just think about it, for every time someone turns themselves in when no on else would have known, who knows how many times people have made the other decision. The thing is, no one knows so golf still gets to have its pristine image.

posted by Andy1087 at 12:56 PM on September 28, 2010

Golfers are so damn noble.

Other sports people could learn from this.

posted by Drood at 01:01 PM on September 28, 2010

[never mind, JJ beat me to it]

posted by grum@work at 01:14 PM on September 28, 2010

Good thing Jeter doesn't play golf.

posted by apoch at 02:54 PM on September 28, 2010

Big difference between breaking a very clear rule and using a club that was exempted from a new ruling.

Anyway, my real point is that the 15 club violation almost always happens due to carelessness rather than a conscious attempt to break a rule. A guy takes a couple wedges/putters/drivers along on a practice round to see which one they want to go with, forgets about the extra club, and there you go. To me, it would make more sense to have a "can not use more than 14 clubs during a round" rule, but I suppose that'd be impossible to supervise.

Beyond that, I'm with Andy... to believe that there is no cheating in golf is ridiculous, plenty of cheating in the lower ranks, and I'm pretty sure even in the PGA there is a good amount of violations that no one knows about.

posted by dviking at 05:58 PM on September 28, 2010

As far as the rules go, this is a harsh one. As dviking points out, this is almost always caused by someone carrying (but not using) an extra club through carelessness or oversight. Having not used said extra club, they have gained no advantage, so it seems harsh to penalise the infraction, but it's the only way to police it and stop people bringing 30 clubs out with them and the pace of play slowing down even more as they try to decide what to hit. I for one think that 14 is already too many clubs. The notion of the "matched set" of irons is relatively modern. I'd rather see players restricted to eight clubs: effectively, a driver, a fairway wood, a 3, 5, 7 and 9 iron, a sand wedge and a putter.

You can then make the choices as to what lofts you have on your irons and where you want to leave gaps in your armory. I think what you'd then see would be a lot more inventive golf shots having to be played with guys having to force clubs or hit half shots with them, and thereby show us some real talent and skill, rather than just being able to repeat one swing like a machine.

On the cheating thing - I never made it to the top level, but I played a lot of high level amateur stuff and a bit of lower level professional stuff until 1999. From my own experiences, I'd suggest that although the vast majority of players are honest and will call penalties on themselves, there are plenty who aren't and don't. It takes a bit of nerve to call your playing partner on cheating, and it can distract you from your own game (and raise your adrenaline levels when you're trying to remain calm), so I suspect a lot of guys just turn a blind eye to it. I never did, and had to call people out maybe 10 times in my proper golfing career for non-accidental infractions (and probably twice as many for accidental ones).

The worst case resulted in me refusing to sign the scorecard of the party in question after he flatly denied that having hit his bunker shot (and left the ball in the bunker) he then took a swipe at (and hit) the sand in anger before playing his next shot. Luckily for me, an official saw it too and backed me up. The moron refused to back down (and accept the penalty shots), so the official was left with no choice but to disqualify him. He got a one year ban (although that might have been as much for his foul language as anything else).

My big worry is that the money involved in golf now makes cheating more likely. In my day, you played the qualifying schools to try and get on the tour where, if you were really lucky, you might win enough money to cover your expenses and keep your card for the next year. If you were really REALLY lucky, you might play four great rounds in a row and win a tournament, and thereby cover your expenses for a couple of years and maybe even get yourself an exemption.

These days, if you get through tour school onto the PGA Tour, you will be teeing it up every single week and being only four good days from a million dollars. Even if you like flying first class and staying in fancy hotels, that's going to cover your travel costs for your whole career. Five top ten finishes in the year will do the same thing. Win a couple of tournaments a year a couple of years in a row and you're never going to have to worry about money again (unless you're an idiot).

In other words, the tour card before won you the right to work hard and hope for the best; now, it's more like winning the lottery. With that kind of reward at the end of the rainbow, we're surely reaching a point where guys are going to be more tempted not to report themselves if they mess something up.

posted by JJ at 08:00 AM on September 29, 2010

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