Every stroke counts – or should, anyway
Julie Williams brings up a very important point about the challenge of honesty in high school golf (“An honest appraisal of golf’s best asset,” Jan. 14).
Kids (and sometimes coaches) are dishonest at all levels, even at the lower levels of the sport, which is where I coached for 15 years, before I retired from coaching in 2017. My small private school played in a league of other small independent schools. Most years, I had as few as two or three students who were actually “golfers” – kids who liked the game, understood the game and were playing other than simply to get a P.E. credit.
I am an unapologetic old-school fuddy-duddy, and I took great pains to ensure that all of my team members understood the spirit of the game. I preached that golf does not build your character; golf reveals your character. Our league used to have the coaches play between the student matches in the league championship, but eventually moved to have an adult walk with each group as an official scorer and de facto referee due to concerns about accurate scorekeeping.
However, even having an adult along with a match does not preclude “trouble with counting.” In a dual match, the opposing coach and I played behind the last group of kids and were joined by one of the other team’s worst players. That particular kid was so bad that I did not bother to closely monitor his score as there was no way he would be counting in the match (in our league, we simply totaled the four best scores of the kids who played, relying on the players to monitor themselves).
When we finished our nine holes, we walked up to the other students who already had tallied the scores and thought we had won. The student with us reported a score easily 10 strokes better than he actually shot, suddenly giving the other team a two-stroke victory. I stood there dumbfounded when the other coach did not speak up.
I kicked myself for not keeping his score so that I could refute his account with an accurate number. My team appropriately applauded the other team’s “win,” and we had a lively discussion in the van ride home. The gist of which was to thank my players for their sportsmanship in a tough situation and to point out how sad it was for that kid to so obviously lie (and their coach's complicity in that lie) to win an inconsequential high school golf match.
Walking scorers would work, if they can be found
I agree with Julie Williams, that a walking scorer probably would be the best way to curtail miscounting in high school golf; I’m just not sure how easy it would be to get enough qualified scorers to assist in this effort (“An honest appraisal of golf’s best asset,” Jan. 14).
I coach high school golf myself and have seen numerous golfers – from other teams and my own team – miscount their strokes. Sometimes players come to me after a match and complain that one of their opponents (or teammates) didn’t count correctly. Some of them have missed medaling by a stroke, while the golfer who couldn’t count got all the accolades at the end of a match. I speak to my team all the time about the importance of counting correctly, both their own scores and those of their opponents. They’re to verify scores and reconcile disagreements before teeing off on the following hole. When they disagree with a score that one of their own teammates has reported (one that has not been challenged by the scorer from the other team), I thank them for coming to me and tell them that I’ll keep an eye out at the next match, but that I have to catch their errors myself before I can accuse anyone of miscounting.
When I was a golf parent (before I was a coach), I watched as many of my daughters’ matches as I could. I kept their scores and the scores of the other members of their group. I’m a golfer myself and always keep score for my foursome. Rarely do I have to ask someone’s score at the end of a hole, because I’ve been paying attention and know what they shot before they tell me. This isn’t always the case, though, with some of the parents who watch their daughters on the teams I’ve coached. I float between groups and see only certain shots or certain holes, not the entire match of any one golfer. When I ask a parent how his or her daughter’s group is doing, the parent often is unsure. Many of them are not golfers themselves (or not golfers who closely adhere to the rules).
That was evident when a parent from another team and I were watching his daughter from across the fairway as she attempted a shot from thick rough. It’s clear to me (even from afar) when someone has taken her practice swings, addressed the ball, and then whiffed. That’s what happened with this golfer. I said to the father she’d have to count that, and he said, “Who’s to say that wasn’t a practice swing?” I replied, “Golf is a game of integrity,” and walked off.
Because the small galleries at most high school matches are composed of family members who are there to watch their daughter/sister/granddaughter, etc., it could prove difficult finding qualified, objective scorers. If enough volunteers could be found, however, I would welcome them walking as official scorers with each group. In this capacity, they could verify scores at the conclusion of each hole and bring some much-needed validity to scoring in high school golf.
(Gaughan coaches the junior-varsity girls team at Mercy McAuley High School in Cincinnati.)
Good equipment can lead to improvement
In response to reader Baird Heide about “Good clubs can do only so much for a golfer” (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Jan. 14), I want to assure him that today’s golf-club technology is much better than 20 years ago.
With data that we ascertain from TrackMan, we know performance specifications of our equipment. We also know that golf equipment influences a golfer’s swing.
If someone is a serious golfer, wanting to improve to the best of his ability, golf clubs that perform best for that individual will make a difference. Too many golfers become complacent with their handicap, thinking they cannot improve from where they are. If equipment alterations (good golf clubs) are made with swing-principle changes, golfers can improve dramatically. It takes both to improve. Ask any touring pro how important his equipment is.
(Mitchell founded Mitchell Golf Equipment Co. and is a half-century member of the PGA of America.)
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