2001: Our Opinion - Sportmanship still the rule, not exception

In the coming weeks, golf fans will be inundated with the final images of the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, Mass., watching Justin Leonard’s fateful putt crash into the cup at the 17th hole and the unharnessed revelry of victory carrying the U.S. players, wives and caddies onto the green in celebration.

Poor sportsmanship? Poor judgment? In hindsight, considering the magnitude of the moment, we’d like to believe it was more the latter than the former. In fact, perhaps the reason the incident made such an indelible ripple in the sports world – here we are, still talking about it nearly two years later – is that in golf, such controversial incidents seem to occur so rarely.

Instead, we are far more likely to witness the sportsmanship and spirit of the game exhibited by Donna Andrews at the Williams Championship in Tulsa, Okla. Williams finished one shot out of a possible playoff in Tulsa, and afterward, it was easy to identify the single stroke that cost her the most. It was the one-stroke penalty Andrews incurred for double-hitting a putt for par at the 18th hole in her second-round 62.

A penalty Andrews called on herself.

Only in golf do the rules of the game and the enforcement of those rules rest so squarely on the shoulders of the competitors. Can you imagine the quarterback of an NFL team asking that a touchdown be rescinded because, in his heart, he believed his left tackle might have moved a nanosecond before the snap? Or a player in the NBA finals approaching a referee to tell him the 3-pointer with which he was just credited should have counted as 2 – his foot was on the line.

Out of the question? In golf, it’s not so far-fetched. Even the television replays proved inconclusive whether Andrews double-hit her final tap-in for a would-be par and a 61. But Andrews detected a strangeness in the stroke, and didn’t think the second point of contact she felt could have been her putter hitting the ground. Perhaps the blade of her putter, after making initial contact, grazed the top of the ball once more on its path to the cup.

The seed of doubt was enough for Andrews to call the penalty (Rule 14-4), and she signed for a bogey 5 instead of a par 4, resulting in a 62, not a 61. Had she not called the penalty, Andrews said, “I wouldn’t have felt good about myself. That’s what is really important in the game of life.”

Bobby Jones once called a one-stroke penalty on himself when he thought he saw his ball move slightly in the rough during the 1925 U.S. Open. Nobody else had seen the ball move. He eventually would lose a 36-hole playoff for the championship.

When Jones was lauded for his integrity in penalizing himself, he retorted, “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”

That’s golf, our great game.

The Bandon blueprint

High-end public golf is, by definition, expensive. And the two courses at Bandon Dunes (see Golfweek Preferred, beginning on p23) are no exceptions. But Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes are more than just another couple of $150 rounds.

They are models of golf in its purist form and they are to be celebrated for it. Caddies are encouraged but not required. Carts are discouraged and, unless you have a good reason, prohibited. The land on which the courses sit is not adjacent to any commercial developer’s profit dream.

The designs of David McLay Kidd and Tom Doak carefully are integrated with the surroundings. And the locals have taken quickly to the quiet style of owner Mike Keiser, a man determined to push for his vision without shoving anybody out of the way.

In short, Bandon Dunes is something of a blueprint. The people that made it happen got it right.

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