When a friendly fourball turned sour

Asian Tour Qualifying School at Suvarnabhumi Golf & Country Club on January 12, 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour/Asian Tour via Getty Images)

Christina Kim has been the talk of Twitter after spotting a rules violation when playing Pinehurst No. 9’s par-3 17th hole at the LPGA Tour’s Q-Series.

As Dewi Weber prepared to hit, the group’s third player, Kendall Dye, signalled to Weber’s caddie asking if Weber had hit 8-iron. The caddie confirmed. Unfortunately for the pair, the interaction was against the rules and although Weber was unaware of what was happening behind her, Kim called the penalty after consulting a rules official with both players pinged two strokes post-round. For clarity, if Dye had peeked in Weber’s bag, no penalty would have occurred. It’s the fact she asked that the rule was broken. 

This brought me back to an incident not that long ago when my curly-haired companion, Alan and I left the arse grooves of our office chairs still warm to find a first tee. 

“What time are you meant to be playing lads,” a voice of authority called out from the practice putting green. 

When I answered, the member told me, “you should be a four-ball soI’ve been keeping an eye on the system all afternoon and it’s nothing but fours from now until seven.” 

“Some of us were working,” I mumbled.  

Out from a ditch our two playing partners reluctantly appeared; myself and Alan’s catch-up interrupted by uninvited guests. Paying very little for 18-holes, however, we could hardly argue and after all four of us were introduced and had hit down the fairway, a friendly wager was suggested by one of our adopted playing partners. 

“Let’s play for a fiver so,” I agreed, me taking a handicap of 10 and Alan a ropey 28. 

“One, one and one is enough,” he answered, declaring 18 while his partner in crime matched Alan’s disobedient 28. 

They seemed alright at first, largely keeping to themselves as we blissfully ignored the match to regale our weekend shenanigans. It was only after we made the turn 3-down having played well that I began to wonder what was happening. 

An 18-handicapper pushing 60 years of age, my tormenter was outdriving me by 40 yards consistently. When his bombs went astray, his partner conveniently came in with the score to halve or win a hole, despite him going AWOL before miraculously popping up on the green. It wasn’t until Alan called me over on 10 that it clicked. 

“Your man’s dropping more balls than an Irish cricketer,” he said. 

It didn’t matter where on the golf course he’d hit it to that point; be it the gorse, the lake or the woods, the 28-handicapper’s crusty Top Flite would appear like an apparition. 

“Cheating for a euro? No wonder he wasn’t keen on the fiver, I laughed incredulously. 

“Should we call them out?” Alan asked. 

“It’s sad enough that they feel the need to break the rules without us getting in a row over it,” I said. “But there’s no way we’re letting them win.” 

PGA TOUR – 2005 Michelin Championship at Las Vegas – First Round (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Where Alan and I had walked side by side to that point, suddenly our focus shifted to the rambling robbers and sure enough, the stray balls that sprouted like mushrooms ripe for the picking when we hadn’t been looking, weren’t anywhere to be found anymore. 

I could feel their frustration as I stepped on their toes, counting out three minutes in Mississippis… ‘one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi’ as their dimpled white pills deviated from the plan.  

But we still had a match to win and I’d few shots to play with on the way home. As the setting sun began to draw light from the blue skied evening, Alan, who’d played every bit like a 28-handicapper through 15 holes, finally resurrected. He took out 16 and 17 for the team, pulling off shots so removed from his potential that you’d swear he’d been possessed by the ghost of Ben Hogan himself. 

And so, it all came down to 18. A carry over water to a tight pinthe depth perception of the putting surface difficult to gauge as dusk took hold. It was our honour, still 1-downAlan stepped up first with two shots on the hole, adrenaline coursing through his veins as he tried to come to terms with finding the middle of the clubface on his previous approach. But with a euro at stake, he choked; shot tracer showing a shank that just about reached the water. It was all down to me. 

I knew it wasn’t life or death but as Bill Shankly would attest , it felt much more serious than that. Accounting for adrenaline, I pulled eight and flushed it to 25 feet. Neither Bonnie nor Clyde hit the green.  

The occasion became too much for our opposing 28 as he duffed his chip. 

“He’ll find that one,” I whispered to Alan. But when his partner, my nemesis, barely snuck within my ball in two, I knew two putts would do. 

Match-halved; handshakes exchanged instead of euros. It was the sweetest non-victory I’d ever tasted. Justice for a game founded on integrity. A lesson to always book a three-ball, even when you’re just two 

Only the satisfaction felt on the final green failed to linger. Regret seeped through and it’s seeing someone like Kim come under fire for being brave enough to call out an infraction that makes me wish I could turn back the clock. For what it’s worth, Weber and Dye accepted the penalty and cited ignorance of the rule. They weren’t trying to cheat.

Our particular match wasn’t even an official competition, rather a friendly four-ball turned sour but as a custodian of the game, maybe I could’ve made those boys think twice before trying their luck the next time. After all, we, the players are the last line of defence when it comes to preserving the integrity of this great game. Euro or no euro, it’s our duty to do so.

 



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