Sportsmanship - in golf and in life
By mjaber on 6/24/13
EDITOR'S NOTE: Following on the heels of his guest column on slow play, reader/follower/fellow 'oober' Mike Jaber sounds off on sportsmanship.


A few months ago, a commentary about an article written about Tiger Woods getting a putting lesson from Steve Stricker was published here. I was happy to see that all of the comments were supporting the ability of pro golfers to help each other, should they desire. The problem with the original article, is it takes winning and losing and makes that the penultimate goal, which it is not. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win, and there is nothing wrong with doing everything you can to win, even if you exploit a weakness of an opponent, provided it is within the rules. However, above that, your first priority should be to be a good sport. You should be as gracious in victory as you are in defeat.

The original article uses Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as a starting point. These were two of the most competitive players in the history of basketball, and yes they have even fought on the court. What the writer fails to realize is that they weren't just friends in the off-season. They were friends during the season as well. They were not friends for about two hours during the season and, assuming both Boston and LA made it through the playoffs, seven hours in the NBA Finals. Friendship doesn't stop at the start of a season.

In high school, I ran track with a good friend. We were the top two middle-distance runners on the team. During our senior season, a sophomore runner asked me what would happen if we were to race in a dual meet versus another school. I looked at him strangely for a moment. I then explained that we were teammates. We would both do everything we could to insure that we finished 1-2, because that would help the team the most. It didn't matter which one of us won. He then followed it up by asking what would happen if we were to race in an individual meet. The answer I gave him shocked him. I told him that I would beat him like I beat everyone else, and it would be up to him to try and stop me. My friend overheard the last answer, and smiled. I knew his answer would be the same, and I wouldn't expect anything else. Unfortunately, because we each had our own specialty, the opportunity never presented itself, but we agreed that if we could ever find an "ideal" distance, in between his specialty and mine, it would be one hell of a race.

As golfers, we frequently meet strangers on the course, whether walking on as a single and being grouped together, or a friend of a friend, or joining a group mid-round. I have played many rounds with people who I've never met before. Prior to teeing off, everyone introduced themselves, those of us wearing hats took them off as we shook hands to say hello. After the round, the hats came off again as we shook hands to congratulate each other on a good round. Usually the comments are, "Nice round, thanks" or "It was nice playing with you." If you’re with your friends it might be a little good-natured ribbing, but the sentiment is the same.

This happens at all levels of golf. It should happen at all levels of all sports. It happens in professional hockey and, though not as organized, it happens in professional American football as well. Major League Baseball seems to be the only sport that specifically prevents teams from congratulating each other after a game, and to me, that is just wrong. Contrary to popular belief, the person on the other team is not an enemy. They are a competitor. They want to win just as badly as you do, and you don't have to hate them for that. In fact, you shouldn't. Competing makes us all better. It helps us focus, and forces us to do our best. You should be grateful to your opponent, and thank him (or her) for forcing you to do your very best.


This was written by Mike Jaber, a reader/follower/fellow oober; the opinions are 100% his and do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf in any way. Enjoy! We are sure that he's ready for your feedback.

Have an idea for a guest column? Send it here!


Image via Flickr, Matt


[ comments ]
jasonfish11 says:
"The problem with the original article, is it takes winning and losing and makes that the penultimate goal, which it is not. "

penultimate means 2nd to last?
6/24/13
 
mjaber says:
@jasonfish... It appears I have incorrectly used this word. I guess I should be a little more careful in the future. Thanks for the check.
6/24/13
 
jasonfish11 says:
Sorry that was a question from me because I myself wasn't sure.

But looks like I might have been right.
6/24/13
 
mjaber says:
@jasonfish... You were. I had never actually looked up the word, but I've heard used, apparently incorrectly, in the past. Based on the context that I heard it used, I thought it fit. I was wrong.
6/24/13
 
SteveMM says:
This article made me realize that I think recreational golf is a rather unique animal. If I'm playing basketball, soccer, or even horseshoes with a friend for fun, my goal is to beat the crap out of him. However, if I play a round of golf with a friend, I'm not really competing against him unless there's a bet involved. Instead, I'm playing against the course. Because of this, I have no problem with giving putting advice, or letting my competitor stand behind me on a putt so he can see my line, or even suggesting someone "club up" when I know a hole tends to play long. I see my friendly golf outings more as the two (or four) of us against the course ... not against each other.

Again, though ... if there's a bet involved, they get no help from me :)
6/24/13
 
onedollarwed says:
I too have found cooperative golf more interesting and yields better results than competitive golf. One easy way to play cooperatively is to use the best ball of the group (2,3,or 4) on one scorecard - or verbally plus/minus. In this version, a guy can lag a put to get in for par, so the next guy can go for the birdie, etc. If played purely for match play against the course, it works great for bunch of guy who are hdcp between 10 and 20. Everyone is in it until the end and can help on any hole - and they usually do.

To marry this with individual accomplishment, simply note the player who has "helped the team the most" (carded the most solo scores).

I've also played a modified Stableford where every foursome was a team.

Though to be fair, competitive golf is almost an entirely different sport than recreational golf. Nothing like having your friend turn into a stickler of obscure rules. I admit that I need to practice competitive play more, just to get used to it, and the emotional turmoil.
6/24/13
 
joe jones says:
There are many players who need to bet on the golf course in order to enjoy themselves. I rarely participate in money games. I might play a 2$ nassau to placate someone that needs action. In golf , you are playing against the golf course not your opponent. This includes match play or medal play.I have always enjoyed scrambles because it lets everyone on your team contribute. Whatever ability each player has if they hit one or two good drives that you can use, hit a chip shot close or sink a putt they are on a team and have helped the group. There have been occasions where I have not liked one of the group but I will always take off my hat,shake their hand, thank them for allowing me to join them and suggest we might do it again sometime. Golf is a Gentleman's game and demands nothing less.
6/24/13
 
falcon50driver says:
Betting on the game makes it more fun and keeps everyone honest.
6/25/13
 
jasonfish11 says:
I love betting enough to make it interesting.

I think it was Lee Travino who would say "Pressure is when you have a put for a $20 nassau with $5 in your pocket" when discussing pressure.

If you think you are a good pressure putter but you dont bet money. See how that 6' put is when missing it will send you to the ATM. I know from experience it is much harder than the 6' put to win a local tournament (or for your career low round).
6/25/13
 
larrynjr says:
Even though the name is kind of stupid, I like to play Bingo, Bango, Bongo(1st on, closest to, 1st in). we generally play it for low stakes ($.05 per point) but it really levels the playing field between high and low handicappers. Low may get on the green first but high will often get closest to hole. We usually add a 4th B to the mix; Bang for longest (in fairway) drive. My dad taught me the game it makes it fun without the pressure of trying to score low. (that comes automatically for me!)
6/25/13
 
jpjeffery says:
+1 to larrynjr. Bingo, Bango, Bongo (which I learnt from one of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games) is a great form of golf scoring. We've found you can play it while also keeping strokes score.
6/26/13
 
mjaber says:
@SteveMM... after the game (basketball, horseshoes, etc), would you then help your friend if you noticed something during the game that might help him be more competitive the next time?
6/26/13
 
onedollarwed says:
In general, golf has enough to offer that betting shouldn't be necessary.That being said, some people just love a wager anywhere they can get it. I'm very competitive, but feel that betting just makes people cheat. I hope falcon was sarcastic is saying it "keeps everyone honest."
As often as not, people I've played with for the first time give me their card. I play a very fun style - and perhaps it's refreshing to others that booze, gambling, smoking, crappy play, cheating, throwing trash around, carts, gloves, new equipment, good looks, the latest hype, or fancy clothes aren't necessary to have a good time. Just try to kick the course's ass and take your medicine, all out, all in!
Call me a "golf ascetic," fine... And it's rare that I don't finish a round with a warmth and camaraderie for all involved. The only people who hate me are friends who used to beat me, but can't anymore! Ah to be the lovable loser...
6/27/13
 
onedollarwed says:
Perhaps the post-round beer and humble reconciliation is the place to receive and give advice. Unless there's an unresolved dispute still brewing, it's all over; no going back and fixing it. And unless you have a caddy, the guy you played against might be your best sounding board - "man you should have kept pounding that 3-wood, you were killin' me with that." or... "Why'd you go for that pitch on 9, there was no way I was going to make my putt?" That kind of reflection on competition can be invaluable.
One of my buddies was never out of a hole. No matter how badly tings started, he was in for bogie, worst. That's the kind of guy I want on my team - who carries a high handicap, but rises for competition, and doesn't give up.
Rugby is probably the ultimate sport for post match atonement. The party is mandatory, and guess what... even if you lost the match you can still win the party, and score at the afterparty. It's tradition, with singing, gracious hosting, and even brutal penalties for poor rhymes. Class!
6/27/13
 
C-4 says:
Betting can take the fun out of it when you are betting against a clown who cant loose $6 bucks, so we spend 6 hours flipping through the rule book. It is no fun attempting to keep up with the cheaters(90% of golfers when no one is watching) so they dont cheat you out of 6 bucks.
6/27/13
 
onedollarwed says:
Right on C-4!!!

And to keep this unverbose, I'll just say that intrinsic rewards will keep you going where extrinsic rewards may see your interest flag. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic rewards. Heap on the intrinsic to improve.
With sportmanship up for judgement, it's worth investing in. The intrinsic reward of practicing good sportsmanship is enjoyable. In competition golf, there are surprisingly many gray areas, and disputes. One penalty stroke on a surprise lost ball, using the leaf rule, and lifts on casual water, cart trampled areas, and unclear GUR where courses are grossly negligent, or where time/weather dictates and clearly communicated precedents, can make a competition round better, and an opponent less likely to cheat. Yes, the discussion of changing rules is against the rules... but require that all putts be made, no exception before the round starts. Nothing can erode a round more that an endless chain of vague, unwarranted gimmes and takees! If it's close enough to make, make it!
6/27/13
 
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