How many of you out there play golf? Do you play by the rules as set forth by the USGA or do you drop a ball on the tee and hack it around the course? For those of you who play by the official rules, I assume that you fill out a scorecard during your round. You write down what you scored on each hole and tally them up at the end of the front and back nine to give you your total score for the day. If you are like me, you even keep track of your fairway shots, green shots, and putts. This allows for even more data to be taken into consideration the next time you head out to practice.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of a potential state champion – Adam Van Houten. Five years ago, Adam was staring a state title right in the face. He had busted his butt all the way through high school hitting balls and putting many long hours away on the practice green. He was honing his skills to be able to say that he truly was the best in his state. In 2005, he was set to take the title, finishing with a seven-stroke lead in the state finals. He finished the round, signed his scorecard, and walked to the clubhouse.
Then Van Houten noticed that he had made a mistake on his scorecard. The person keeping score that day had written a 5 on a hole where Adam had actually received a 6. The final scored turned out correct, so Adam signed it. But, under the rules he signed an invalid scorecard. As soon as he signed the invalid scorecard, he should have been disqualified by the rules of the USGA. What should he do? Should he just keep quiet and see what panned out? Maybe no one will catch the mistake. After all, the final score came out correct, right?
Whose fault was this? Was it his playing partner’s fault for writing down the wrong score? Or was it his fault for not double-checking his score against the official scorecard. Regardless of whose fault it truly was, Adam had signed for an invalid score and risked losing the title one way or the other. If he admitted it, then he would lose the title and be disqualified, but he would feel better about himself in the future. He would hate himself now, sure, but in the future he would know he made the right decision. If he ignored it, becoming the newest Ohio state champion, he ran the risk of someone catching him in the future and then living with the turmoil of losing the trophy for cheating. What was Adam to do?
Adam sucked it up. He admitted that he had signed for the wrong score, was disqualified, and was not crowned as the state’s best. But, just when all is thought to be lost, a mere five years later, he was rewarded for his honesty. Adam received a spot on the Sports Illustrated Sportsmanship of the Decade list. And not only that, but the Ohio State High School Athletic Association honored him with a commemorative medal for his honesty.
So, the next time you are on the golf course, are you going to use the foot wedge to knock a ball out from under that tree? Are you going to take a 6 when you know you should really write down an 8? Are you going to fudge the numbers so your handicap goes down just a little bit before the choose up this weekend? Regardless if you are playing in a sanctioned tournament where the rules truly do matter, pay attention to why these rules were created in the first place. In some circles, rules were meant to be broken. But on the golf course, they are taken very seriously. Attitude, appearance, maturity, and honesty are important parts of the game. Adam Van Houten showed not only the state of Ohio that he was an honest and genuine individual but he inspired the number one sports magazine to consider him a true athlete.