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Summer 2000

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Honor code costs T’breds the title

     A t least he wasn’t alone. Far from it. When a top Thoroughbreds golfer, Phil Gehring ’01, had his championship-playoff score disqualified on a technicality, Sports Illustrated online reported that he was in good company: the same fate befell a Division I college golfer and even the world-class professional Padraig Harrington around the same time.

Unlike sports with referees or umpires, golf relies on the honor and accuracy of the players to keep their own scores as they move from hole to hole. To eliminate any chance of cooking the scorecards, the rules call for disqualification even for inconsequential errors or honest mistakes promptly acknowledged. As SI put it on May 29, “the most harmless violation on the books”—Harrington’s sin of forgetting to sign his scorecard—“was paid for with golf’s equivalent of the death penalty.”

But SI also argued that such strict accountability, and the players’ acceptance of it, may be one of golf’s finest qualities. When a North Carolina State golfer was DQ’d for a scorecard error in a regional Divison I playoff this spring, SI quoted a philosophical Wolfpack coach Richard Sykes: “That was a dagger in the chest, but it happens in golf. . . . I’m glad the mistake was caught.” And after his oversight at the Benson and Hedges International Open, Harrington was quoted as saying, “I would have hated to find out in six months and know I hadn’t won fair and square.”

When Skidmore’s Gehring mistakenly signed for a 70 instead of the 71 strokes he actually shot during the third round of the Division III national championships in May, his DQ meant that the Thoroughbreds had to count the high score they would have chosen to drop that day, a 79. After a rain-out of the tourney’s final day washed away any last chance to change the standings, the difference between 79 and 71 made all the difference: Skidmore finished just five strokes back from championship winner Greensboro College. But again, noted Sports Illustrated, adversity brought out good sportsmanship: “What did coach Tim Brown say? ‘Hey, it’s history. Everyone feels bad for Phil, but he’ll be back next year.’”

You can bet on that; the Thoroughbreds are always strong contenders at nationals. And next year, they’ll be aiming to win on paper as well as on the course. —SR


© 2000 Skidmore College