The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 10, 2013

Goodwin: Golf has tendency to expose a player's character

By Clair Goodwin
Special to The Globe

— Important business decisions or expensive deals are made regularly on golf courses.

The biggest reason, I suspect, is that the game has a tendency to expose true character, especially under the pressure of competition, whether in a pro-am or in a dollar-dollar-dollar Nassau.

A businessman really needs to know that the executive with whom you have just shaken hands on the first tee is honest and forthright. You don’t want to sign a contract with someone who cheats if he thinks no one is watching or who twists the rules to suit his own ends. If those traits are exposed in golf, they also might bob to the surface later in important business decisions

I have played with such people. But never twice.

Cheaters or rules-benders get messy reputations that they can seldom completely repair.

I’m not talking about some guy who misses a stroke when adding up the score on a disastrous hole. Anyone can make a mistake.

I know. I lost my amateur status for a full year because I sold a set of golf clubs. My only excuse was that I had hit a few practice balls with the clubs, didn’t like them and decided that since they were “used” I could sell them to a buddy.

Not so.

I guess I must have had doubts about the transaction because I later turned myself in by asking the USGA about the rule on selling golf clubs. I was informed that I had made a big mistake.

Did I feel the punishment unjust? No. Ignorance is not an excuse. I should have known better or I should have checked first.

I can honestly say that I haven’t intentionally broken a rule or taken off a stroke. But I also can’t say with certitude that such instances haven’t happened.  

I was disqualified once for signing an incorrect scorecard. I had the correct scores on each hole. But the tournament committee decided that I had goofed in adding up my 18-hole total. The committee was wrong. I was not responsible for putting down a correct score for the round, but only for the hole-by-hole numbers.

To keep everything smooth, I didn’t rant and rave. I wasn’t going to win anything. I did, however, advise a couple of committee members of their misreading of the rule.

Cheating becomes almost second nature to some golfers. One of the worst I ever played with was a nice guy who hit three or four balls in the water on one hole and when I asked what he had shot on that hole replied matter-of-factly: “Give me a 5.” I declined and handed his scorecard to him. He signed it. But, thankfully, he didn’t turn it in.

I know guys who are considered “cheats” by their playing companions, but no one challenges them. They continue playing their regular weekend games. His companions would gripe about this guy’s antics but never confront him. Too bad. A rebuke here or there or an invitation to play with another group might have straightened him out. I eventually wearied of the constant complaining and dropped out of the game.

Golf has no place for cheaters, particularly those whose infractions are chronic.

On the whole, though, I consider golfers to be an honest bunch. There may be a bad apple here or there, but they usually don’t last as the word about them spreads.

For the most part, I would shake the hands with most golfers and do business with them.

Skins game

Peoria Ridge Golf Course in Miami, Okla., will host a 2-man skins game on Monday, Feb.25. The format will be a scramble.

Entry fee is $220 per team. Golfers will be playing for $200 per hole based on a full field. The first 36 teams so sign up will compete. Players may sign up by calling the Peoria Ridge pro shop, 918-542-7676.

A shotgun start is scheduled at 11 a.m. Lunch is planned from 10 to 11.