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  • Alistair Tait

What Golf Is All About

News that Waterloo-Oxford District Secondary School has won the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association Golf Championship won’t filter through to most golf fans except those who live in the Kitchener–Waterloo region of Ontario, Canada.

Pity, because that victory signifies what golf is all about.

As reported on the CTV News Kitchener website, Waterloo Oxford would have automatically taken the top prize if not for having an ineligible player, whose score couldn’t count towards the team score.

Nineteen-year-old Zach Hart was allowed to compete as an alternate because he missed a year of school due to a brain tumour, and another year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Waterloo Oxford wasn’t allowed to include Hart’s score in the team score, only the scores of the other three team members.

Consequently, Bluevale Collegiate was declared the winning team. Except that didn’t sit right with one Bluevale team member. Said team member realised it was a hollow victory. Bluevale’s golf coach Jason Forget told CTV News:

“I forget which one, but one of them pretty quickly said, ‘This doesn't feel right. Can we just like forfeit or, let them win somehow?’”

Every member of the Bluevale team disqualified themselves to let Waterloo Oxford win.

“That is the proudest and the neatest thing I've witnessed,” added Forget, a high school coach for 16 years.

Can you imagine teams in other sports doing a similar “right” thing in this win at all costs world we now live in? Er, no. One of the reasons golf is still the best game ever invented is thanks to actions like that of the Bluevale team.

Our game is replete with examples of doing the right thing. How many golfers have called penalties on themselves even though no one else would have known they’d committed an infraction? That happens at all levels of golf.

How many golfers have been gracious in both victory and defeat? We can probably count the number of times on the fingers of one hand in the history of golf where golfers have walked away from each other without shaking hands or embracing . Win, lose or draw, you always sportingly acknowledge your opponent.

I’m reminded of Jack Nicklaus putting his arm around Tom Watson as they walked off the 72nd green at Turnberry in the 1977 Open Championship after losing to Watson. Mind you, what else did we expect from the man who so graciously and famously conceded Tony Jacklin’s putt in the 1969 Ryder Cup?

How about Ernie Els winning the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham? Even though it was his second time lifting the old claret jug, the South African couldn’t really savour the victory because he felt so badly for friend Adam Scott, who bogeyed the last four holes to hand Els the championship.

Nick Faldo wasn’t known as a warm and cuddly individual in his playing days, yet his first thought on winning the 1996 Masters was to embrace old nemesis Greg Norman to try to console the Australian after he threw away the major he craved so much.

How many times have we heard golfers say “good shot,” or “well done”, or “well played” or simply give an opponent a thumbs up of to celebrate excellent play? That also happens at every level of a game where sportsmanship, etiquette and doing the right is just as important as playing the game itself.

In an age when booing and yobbish behaviour seems to be becoming more acceptable, when failure to recognise the talents of a player simply because he or she doesn’t come from the same continent is accepted, the actions of the Bluevale team reminds us of what golf is all about it: Doing the right thing.

I tip my hat to the Bluevale Collegiate golfers. Well done lads.

#JustSaying: “A champion isn’t a champion because he wins, but because of how he conducts himself.” Doug Sanders

Photograph courtesy of the Ladies European Tour

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