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Honesty needed on the golf course

“I’ve played in 200 golf tournaments in my amateur career and I probably won 10, but those wins sure felt good.”
These words were spoken by a late friend of mine, Bill Maggi of Springfield. He was an outstanding athlete in all sports but when he realized that he was not going to be big enough or fast enough to move on to the next levels in those sports, he took up golf.
Like many players he loved to compete and he would take on all comers. As he got older his drives did not travel as far as they used to, but he refused to move up to the senior tees because he didn’t want an unfair advantage in his weekly Nassaus. He figured he could make up for this disadvantage around the greens.
A few years ago I was going to call him to play but I found out that he had passed away. We had played a lot of rounds together and, thanks to Bill,  I learned to play the game “the right way.”
Amateur  golf has taken its hits the last few years. The recreation dollar is just not there as it has been in the past. However, this is not the only reason there are less participants in weekly tournaments throughout the  golf industry.
Sandbagging must also be considered a reason that golfers are falling by the wayside. They feel that the playing field is simply not level.
The definition of sandbagging is very simple, it is cheating.
Your handicap is inflated, therefore you stand a very good chance of taking advantage of your competition and basically stealing their money. Plain and simple, if you are a sandbagger, you are a thief.
I have seen many examples of this throughout my golfing career and have seen very little done to eliminate it from the game.
While playing in a Greenfield Four Ball in the ’80s and giving an opponent nine shots in the match (he was a 16), I witnessed this guy hit a par five in two shots and spin the ball back on the greens. Needless to say, my partner and I were on Route 91 south before all the traffic. We were three under par after seven holes and were four down.
Realistically, a 16 handicap is supposed to have trouble getting the ball in the air. It was later found out he was a four handicap from California and had used  his brother-in-law’s name and USGA card.
Another entrant in many tournaments was a member at two different clubs. He was a 10 at one and a 14 at the other. When he went on the road, guess which card he brought with him.
If you play in enough events and you notice when the awards are passed out that the same people are cashing in each week in the net division you are a sucker. You have been taken again.
Remember when Moe Howard would tell Curly to put his fingers on the window sill and Moe promised not to slam the window on his digits? After about four slams Curly smartened up. So maybe after getting played so often people are keeping their entry money in their pockets and electing to go fishing.
The sad part about sandbagging is the perps think it is funny. When they collect their prize and the crowd boos them, they laugh.
If this same person was caught breaking into someone’s  locker and taking their wallet, they would be beat senseless in the parking lot. What is the difference? Either way it is stealing.
It is also sad when other contestants decide to take a few extra shots on the road in order to stand a chance and then we have more thieves than honest guys in the event. I would guess that there are many “baggers” who would not think of shuffling the ball in the rough or “finding” a lost ball but just don’t think there is anything wrong with cheating with their handicaps.
What can be done about this cheating before we lose our game? Let’s hope that we don’t have to resort to the parking lot method of enforcement, after all it is supposed to be a gentleman’s  game.
I think the golf professionals at all clubs have to protect the integrity of the game. If I asked the pro at every club in the area who the biggest sandbaggers in the county were I would get the same names repeated. They hear their members complaining, but what can they do?
I witnessed Ron Beck, the director of golf at Crumpin Fox Club, ask for a contestant’s handicap card at the registration desk prior to an open singles event. He handed him a card with a 14 handicap on it.
Beck told him he would play to a six or he was not welcome. It seemed this guy’s reputation had proceeded him. Even with the eight-stroke adjustment, the guy cashed fourth net.
If these pros caught these guys stealing from their golf shops, I’m sure they would be booted from the club, so why do they let them steal from their members?
If the club professionals and handicap committees cut these guys to where they belong they would stop entering events because it would not be a guarantee that they would turn a profit on a level playing field. Problem solved.
There are also club professionals who seek out these guys to take to pro-ams with them to cash in on their inflated numbers. In doing so they condone their methods and reward cheaters.
The bottom line is this: if you need a dozen Pro V1s that bad, go to Dick’s and shoplift them. Steal from them, not us. If you get caught there you will get your name in the paper probably for the first time without the word net preceding it, and then we shall see if you are still laughing.
To all the honest golfers out there I apologize for my venting in print. I am speaking for the masses, the guys who put up their cash and hope for a skin or just a good day of competition.
You go to see old friends and have a beer and maybe cash in at the end of the day. Either way, we have to get up for work the next day.
Like many golfers who took up the game because their bodies, their wives or their livers told them it was time to quit softball, I enjoy every event that I play in. Too many guys who have “played through” to the back nine wish they were out there hitting it sideways with us.
To the sandbaggers of the world, ask yourselves: “How many sweaters , windbreakers, and golf shoes do you really need?”
Friends are more valuable.
I recall years ago a solid player who somehow won a net prize and felt so undeserving of the item that he walked into the kitchen of the club and gave it to the kid washing the dishes. If he could not cash a gross prize he did not want it.
Keep in mind the handicap system is there to make the game fair, if it is properly monitored. Without net divisions there would be no tournaments.
Every year at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am we see millionaires with the best equipment and their own jets – and maybe their own golf instructors on the payroll – shoot lights out and sometimes make their PGA partner look bad; these guys also have inflated handicaps. They should be ashamed to show their face in public.
It is not only on the local level. If people are allowed to take advantage of a system, the system needs to be fixed. Do you think the pro at The Country Club in Brookline is going to tell his no. 1 bagger, who might be a CEO, that he is cutting his number? That pro will be pounding the pavement in less than 24 hours.
So, to the sandbaggers of the world, and you know who you are, do us a favor and take up poker and try your cheating there. Let us know how that works out. We do not need you to ruin our great game.
Let’s try something. If you know someone that may have been the cause of me writing this article, make sure they get a copy. To the county pros, maybe you could hang a copy in your locker room. Wait a few days and see if your membership writes some names on the paper in an effort to identify the perps. Maybe then they will “get it.”
Maybe not.
If you have any comments for me on this piece please email them to the Beacon to my attention. If you are insulted by it, remember, be sure to wear baggy clothes at Dick’s and never enter a dark parking lot.

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Posted by on September 20, 2012. Filed under Berkshire Sports Guy,Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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