Monday, April 19, 2010

An Athlete We Can All Cheer For

Please add golfer Brian Davis to the list of athletes you root for.

On Sunday, Davis was involved in the first playoff hole of the Heritage Tournament in Hilton Head when he pulled his approach shot to the 18th green into a marsh. The tide was out yesterday afernoon, so Davis' ball ended up on packed sand--giving him a shot at the green. As Davis took back his club, he ticked a dead reed behind his ball. In one of the more arcane rules of golf, you are not allowed to dislodge a loose impediment in a hazard during your backswing.

Unlike Michelle Wie, Davis immediately called over a rules official--who determined that the reed that had been clipped was not embedded in the ground (which would have meant no penalty)--and that Davis should be assessed a two stroke penalty. Needless to say, Davis lost the playoff to Jim Furyk.

Now, it took a slo-mo replay to determine that Davis had actually contacted the dead reed--and perhaps no one would have noticed it if he had not called the penalty on himself. But Davis knew he had made that contact--and he knew that he could not have accepted a victory with that in the back of his mind.

First place at the Heritage netted Jim Furyk just over one-million dollars. Davis can find some consolation in the 615-thousand dollars he gets for finishing second. But the win would have had a much bigger financial impact--as Davis would have been granted full exemption on the PGA Tour for the next two years. In 2009, the last exempt player on the Money List made just over 600-thousand dollars. So even if he was to struggle next year--or suffer an injury--Davis would have been guaranteed a spot on the Tour again in 2012.

While I don't believe in Karma, you have to think that Brian Davis will receive benefits far in excess of the cost of his honesty. You man recall, Appleton native JP Hayes disqualified himself from the Tour qualifiying school in 2009 after mistakenly playing an unapproved ball during one of his rounds. Hayes got through Q School this year and is currently 40th on the Money List having earned nearly 698-thousand dollars already.

In a sport that has taken a serious hit on the "honesty" and "integrity" fronts lately--Brian Davis reminds us what is so great about the only sport where the players call penalties on matter how much it might cost them.

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