Good for Webb Simpson/Why I like golfers

How can I write this without sounding smug? Maybe it isn’t possible.

In many sports, there is much effort to attempt to violate rules without being caught. Can an offensive lineman find a way to grab some jersey of a defensive player without getting caught, NBA guys try to influence refs whenever possible, baseball has had corked bats, steroids and pitchers with foreign substances.

In golf? We have guys trying for their first PGA Tour event who call penalties upon themselves.

Ron Green Jr., of the Charlotte Observer blogs about Webb Simpson calling a penalty upon himself late in Sunday\’s round. The penalty for having a ball move after address was a costly one. Simpson, who finished second earlier this season at the Transitions Championships, ended up in a playoff with Bubba Watson and then lost in that playoff.

Here is Ron’s take. I say he got it right.

“Simpson, who moved with his wife,  Dowd, to Charlotte last August, was leading the New Orleans tournament by one stroke over his friend Bubba Watson Sunday when his ball moved as he addressed a six-inch par putt on the 15th hole. The rule may not be fair — Simpson didn’t cause the ball to move, the wind apparently did — but golf’s rules are sacrosanct so he paid the one-stroke penalty and ultimately lost to Watson on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.

   It was one of those moments the player gets it right no matter how painful the cost. Simpson was trying to win his first PGA Tour event but he saw the violation immediately and called for a rules official. He had a stroke added on the 15th hole, turning a par into a bogey, and it was the difference in holding his first trophy and the accompanying Masters invitation and a second-place finish to a friend.

   That’s the thing about golf. It’s about calling your own violations. It’s not like basketball or football where players and teams are always trying to influence officials to make a call — or not make a call — without getting it right. Golfers, the overwhelming majority of them anyway, want to get it right. The game gets easier with a clear conscience.

   Simpson has been close a few times now and hasn’t yet won his first tournament but he won a legion of admirers Sunday for how he handled a difficult situation. Hopefully, he knows how much of a winner he was on Sunday in New Orleans.”

I probably need to add a disclaimer here that I once played a round of golf with Webb Simpson. I was working in Raleigh, N.C., (where he grew up) and he was probably 13 or 14. It was clear he was going to be a good player. He could really play at that age. Seemed like a nice kid. But I would feel the same way about this regardless of who the player involved was.

Stories like this make me feel proud to be a golfer. It also reminds me of when I played in junior golf tournaments around the state. There were many times when I would stay at my aunt’s home in the Twin Cities and she would take me to tournaments. She was a teacher and always raved at how well behaved junior golfers were.

I think that people who truly appreciate the game know that there is a right way and a wrong way to act on the golf course. There are certainly some jerks on the golf course, but I do think that you find way more good than bad.

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