An act of contrition for a troubled golfer

Making a call on a possible violation always has been at the heart of Pete Blaisdell’s passion for being a top-echelon rules official.

Fielding a call about a violation is a different story.

“It shook me up. I wasn’t sure how to react,” Blaisdell said from his home in New Hampshire as he related an eerie telephone call he got, though it’s one that might speak volumes to how sacred some see the Rules of Golf.

Listening to a woman who called his house Tuesday evening, Blaisdell was told that she was calling on behalf of her husband. The man wanted to speak to Blaisdell, but she warned that he was sick and heavily medicated. The man then got on the phone and said that he used to play in U.S. Golf Association qualifiers more than 10 years ago and he had an incident during a Public Links qualifier that required Blaisdell being called into a dispute on a putting green at Gardner (Mass.) Municipal Golf Course.

It seems a playing competitor had insisted that this man’s golf ball had moved after the man had addressed it. The accused denied the ball had moved. One official wasn’t sure how to proceed, so Blaisdell was summoned.

While he concedes he doesn’t remember the incident, only that he vaguely recalls the man’s name, Blaisdell confirms that the way the caller recounted the story agrees with the way in which he would have handled such matters. The man said Blaisdell asked both players what happened, but because it was the ultimate “he said, he said” scenario, the veteran rules official ruled in favor of the player accused. No penalty, for there was no indisputable proof the ball had moved.

So why the call all these years later? Turns out the man has pancreatic cancer and he told Blaisdell that he had come home to die, but first he needed to clear his conscience. “I want you to know that the ball did move and I cheated,” the man told Blaisdell. “I have carried this with me for years, and I wanted to get it off my chest.”

The man told Blaisdell that it was the only time he cheated, but it was the reason he stopped playing the game. He also apologized for lying to Blaisdell.

“I was floored. I didn’t know what to do,” Blaisdell said. “So I just listened.”

But finally, Blaisdell told the man that the apology was accepted and that he would pray for him. He did, too, because Wednesday morning, Blaisdell said he went to a church near his house and lit a candle and prayed for the man.

Then he came home to discover that his story, posted earlier in the day on golfclubatlas.com, had initiated plenty of discussion with members, the majority of whom considered it a powerful testament to the reverence with which the game is extended.

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