Tait: Taylor handles USGA error with class

Full marks to England’s Lauren Taylor for the way she’s handled the news that she has been kicked out of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, but the USGA goes to the bottom of the class for a colossal screw-up.

Officials at the governing body should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

The U.S. Golf Association told Taylor at the beginning of this month that she was in this year’s U.S. Women’s Open after winning the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship last year. Taylor made history when she won the championship at Royal Portrush. At 16, she was the youngest winner in championship history.

The USGA even put out a press release stating the English player was in the field. Then the governing body realized its error. Seems the USGA meant the exemption for this year’s Ladies British Amateur champion, not last year’s. They’ve now withdrawn Taylor’s exemption.

"This unfortunate case is simply the result of a miscommunication of the exemption category as it was originally intended," said Joe Goode, the USGA's managing director of communications. "Certainly we discussed a number of solutions to this situation, including making good on the exemption. But doing so would have eliminated a spot for another player. We felt it was best to face our error and support the exemption category as it was originally intended. We realize that doesn't minimize Ms. Taylor's disappointment, and for that we are truly sorry."

So now Taylor and her family have cancelled their plans to spend a week in July in Kohler, Wis. The English girl could have been forgiven for being angry, but she has displayed magnanimity that belies her teenage years.

“Mistakes happen, and the USGA has just made an honest mistake,” Taylor said. “It’s just unfortunate it’s happened to me. But golf is full of ups and downs, and this is one of the downs. Hopefully I can rise above it.”

I’m not surprised by her reaction. I’m fortunate enough to play at the same golf club, Woburn, as the precocious teenager, so I know a little of her personality. She handles herself with a maturity that some adults would do well to copy. She comes out of this whole sorry saga with her head held high.

The same can’t be said of the USGA. The governing body sulks away from this mess with its tail between its legs. How the USGA could offer her a place in arguably the greatest championship in women’s golf one week and then withdraw it three weeks later beggars belief.

No wonder Taylor thought her parents were kidding when they told her the exemption had been withdrawn. After all, it’s a pretty sick joke.

The USGA should have had the decency to honor the original exemption. This is an organization that prides itself on upholding the spirit of the game. So much so that, in conjunction with the R&A, the second paragraph of the Rules of Golf defines the spirit of the game, stressing discipline, courtesy, integrity and sportsmanship.

The USGA should heed its own words because the association hasn’t acted with integrity in this matter, nor has it shown the Taylor family much courtesy. To renege on a promise isn’t my idea of sportsmanship, either.

The fair solution to this sorry mess would be to give Taylor a spot in this year’s field and start the intended exemption category for the Ladies British winner in 2013. That would have been in keeping with the “spirit of the game.”

The current situation is just unfair.

- Beth Ann Baldry contributed

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