The Cost of Being Honorable

Growing up I played golf the same way I played basketball: with passion, competitiveness, and tenacity. More often than not those things would turn into anger tirades like you see Tiger pull. I remember my sophomore year of high school, playing the last hole of the biggest tournament of the year. My dad was standing 15 feet away watching me finish and I hit a horrendous shot and went on a loud expletive rant to myself.

Let’s just say I’ve grown up a little since then. I didn’t realize it then, but it is clear to me now: golf is one of the few sports where playing the game the right way is valued.

Golf is often called a “gentleman’s game” where respect and honesty are valued instead of victory at any cost. Little did I know, but growing up I was playing the wrong way and definitely not the way my dad had taught me.

Last weekend a player was close to winning his first PGA Tournament, only to call a penalty on himself that no one could see, and in turn, finish 2nd.

In sports the tenacity and ruthless competitiveness of people like Tiger or Kevin Garnett is often valued. Brian Davis reminds us that while being honorable might cost him a tournament, it reinforces the importance of playing the right way.

Certainly not all people value this. I’m sure there are some people who think Brian is dumb for losing the tournament because of his honesty. But I have hope that many do value honorable athletes: check out some of the reactions from golf fans to Davis calling a penalty on himself.

Here is my favorite statement from a golf fan:

“In a sports world of – if you can cheat and get away with it, it’s a good play – Brian called a penalty on himself that he knew would cost him any chance of getting his first ever PGA TOUR win. He exemplifies what the game of golf has always been about – how you play the game. It’s a game of honesty and integrity and he showed all of us watching where those values need to rank in relation to winning and losing.”

I loved golf as a kid because I was good. I love golf now because it is a game about so much more than low scores.

Winning isn’t everything. How you play is.