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Monday, May 3, 2010

A lesson we can learn from a professional golfer

For some people, golf isn’t a true ‘sport”, though for many the legendary Arnold Palmer put that argument to rest decades ago.

Regardless, a recent act on the course by a professional golfer reminded us that doing the right thing, while exceedingly difficult at times, brings its own rewards.

England’s Brian Davis has never won a PGA Tour event. At the recent tour stop in South Carolina, he was involved in a sudden-death playoff with veteran Jim Furyk. On the first extra hole, Davis apparently, on his backswing, caused a small twig on the ground near his ball to move.

That is, unfortunately and perhaps unfairly, something that calls for a two-stroke penalty.

The thing is, the player pretty much has to “call it” on him or herself.

Davis thought he saw the twig move, so he called over an on-course official and the “slow motion” video replay confirmed what he thought he saw—movement.

He had indeed called a two-stroke penalty against himself, and he lost the tournament as a result—and about $400,000 in possible winnings.

Team sports would be turned upside down if suddenly we had soccer players saying to referees—“don’t call that a penalty—I was diving” or if baseball outfielders admitted they trapped a ball when the umpire ruled that they caught it.

I’m not suggesting a wholesale change in approach- I’m simply calling to mind that there are higher ideals that we can indeed aspire to in sports, even when we—and our own children—play in highly competitive environments

We all want to win and young people should train and work and do all the right things to improve their skills and play hard and well—but at the end of the day, winning isn’t everything.

Davis’ honesty touched the tournament organizers. That doesn’t make up for $400,000—or does it, in a much more important way?

Davis should long be remembered for his rather remarkable honesty. He set the bar too high for most of us, but it’s good to know there is still a bar.

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