2006: Web of intrigue

by John Steinbreder

I may be something of a dinosaur when it comes to technology, and I’m often subjected to the chortles of my teenage daughter as she watches me try to execute something as simple as an iTunes download. That can be a humiliating experience, to be sure, but I know a good thing when I see one. So, I am all about the pleasures and advantages the modern world gives us, especially as it relates to golf.

But I am not talking about equipment here, though I am enamored of the added distance and accuracy I get from the clubs and balls currently in my bag. Rather, my focus is the many other benefits the advances in technology have brought to the game.

And fortunately, there is not a governing body trying to take any of them away.

Let’s start with the U.S. Golf Association’s GHIN handicap program, which provides easy electronic access to handicaps for any and all golfers who have one. For one thing, it makes it simpler for club tournament organizers – usually the already overworked assistant professionals – to assemble handicap numbers for their fields. It also can be used with some effectiveness to ferret out sandbaggers and get a true picture of how well someone is supposed to play (though it remains relatively simple for anyone intent on cheating to put misleading scores into the system and avoid detection).

My friend Jenkins and I occasionally get a kick out of examining on the computer the past scores of our playing partners and opponents. That not only gives us a sense of how our friends and foes have been playing in recent weeks, but also can provide some fodder for abuse if one has posted, say, a couple of rounds in the 90s when he usually shoots 10 strokes lower.

It also is comical to come across the fellow, and I know more than one, who has scores going back five or six years, either because he has been playing so infrequently or simply is not very good about keeping track of his rounds. Whatever the discovery, you can be sure it will be revealed on the first tee, and within earshot of the entire group, so we can hear about that 75 carded during the Clinton administration or those 14 scores all logged during the same day last spring.

After all, what are friends for?

And speaking of friends, is there a better method of assembling a foursome for the coming weekend than e-mail, a quick, efficient and discreet way to see who’s around and who wants to play? I much prefer that process to those inevitable games of telephone tag for a Saturday Nassau, and I find it makes it easier – and a little less intimidating – to expand beyond your usual set of partners.

I also like the fact that e-mail eliminates the possibility of anybody leaving incriminating messages on family answering machines regarding golf games that have yet to be cleared on the home front – or rationalized with a reasonable cover story.

And I have come to believe that the Internet may be the best possible way to distribute the classic golf joke or story, especially as my friends and I enter our second half-century and find it increasingly difficult to remember anything we were told more than 10 minutes ago.

Alas, into each life some rain must fall, and anyone overly thrilled with all that the computer has brought golf need only think about what happened to Jenkins one recent summer. The man had played a lot of golf for a five-month period, both at his home club and also on some of the country’s swankiest layouts. And he had done so quietly, more or less without the knowledge of the top executives at his place of employment.

Or so he thought. But one day, as he walked down the first fairway at his club with his immediate boss, he listened in horror as that man commented not only on all the golf Jenkins had played that year, but also where he had played it.

His superior, it seems, had been browsing the Internet and stumbled upon Jenkins’ handicap records. It was the technological equivalent of having a deep tan (with a white glove hand), and Jenkins was busted.

As for the consequences of that unveiling, let’s just say that my friend’s bonus that year lacked its usual heft. And to protect himself against such an outing in the future, Jenkins began doing what many of my club professional friends say has become something of a common practice – not posting all of his scores.

“People don’t want to get caught by their bosses if they have been playing a lot of golf,” one tells me. “And their bosses know where to get the information.”

Talk about a performance review.























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