Senior British Open 2010-Hole #13 Final Round

My Clutziest Move Ever

Ok, I confess.  When I refill the coffee maker at home, I spill half the beans.  When I pour laundry detergent in the washing machine, I have to vacuum the spill off the floor.  But now I’ve taken my clutziness to the golf course.  So was the case at this year’s Senior British Open at Carnoustie.  Playing the final round with long-time friend, Loren Roberts, we arrived at the par 3 13th.  Lauren had hit his approach into the front bunker, mine was 40 feet or more past the hole and on the green.

As Loren pulled his sandwedge from his golf bag and headed for the bunker, I made a quick decision to hurry and mark my ball.  With my putter in hand, I bent over to mark my ball.  In case you’re wondering, flexibility isn’t my issue these days with all the Yoga I’ve been doing.  Somehow, my putter shaft hit my leg and fell to the ground, nudging my ball a couple of inches.  Since I was in the process of marking my ball, I placed the coin in the position where I was going to mark the ball, then moved the ball back to it’s original position.

I called Loren over after he hit his bunker shot and asked him if he knew what to do.  He didn’t see what I had done and properly suggested I call for an official.  When the official arrived, I reenacted what happened.  The official properly explained that I had caused my ball that was in play to move with the club (or at least with something other than the marking coin).  The result was to replace the ball in it’s original position and add a penalty stroke.  I two-putted for a bogie and went on to shoot an even-par 71 and finished t24th.  (Incidently, had I already marked the ball and left the ball on the green, it still would be a penalty since the ball is in play even when a coin is behind it.)

But I believe in the law, “what goes around, comes around”.  Golf is one of the rare sports where we players will call a penalty on ourselves if we have violated a rule.   It’s a sport that we take pride that eventhough noone might see our infraction, we know and do the right thing.  It’s one of the great aspects of our sport, so different from the antics that go on in other sports.  Take Soccer for example, where players will try to fool the referees and are considered “heroes” if they do.  I recently had dinner with Anson Dorrance, the most celebrated collegiate soccer coach in the United States with 23 National Championships with his University of North Carolina women.  Anson agreed that his sport needs a make-over in this department.  Though not on the level as the pro’s, this lack of sportsmanship and integrity has infiltrated the collegiate ranks.  As a coach, he fights this battle with his players on a daily basis.

As I walked to the 14th tee, though I felt badly about the penalty and the ramifications that would have on my finish in the tournament, I felt good about the way I had handled the situation.  The 14th was the easiest hole on the course and a good birdie opportunity.  Playing downwind, the play was a 3 wood off the tee, needing to avoid the small pot bunker in the left side of the fairway and keep short of the gourse at the 300 yard mark.  I pulled my three wood slightly and it was heading right for that small bunker, a sure cost of a stroke should it go in, when all of a sudden the ball hopped perfectly over the bunker and into the fairway.  From there I hit a six iron on the green and two-putted for my birdie.  In a sense, I got the stroke back with good fortune on the very next shot.  What goes around does come around.