Golf Tips: Teaching integrity is incredibly important

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 26: Team USA celebrate during the Junior Ryder Cup GolfSixes ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 26, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 26: Team USA celebrate during the Junior Ryder Cup GolfSixes ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 26, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

As a high school coach, integrity is incredibly important to me as something that needs to be taught to young golfers. For today’s golf tips, I wanted to talk about how the system is failing to teach our youth the right kind of lessons.

Fair warning, if you are part of the youth Washington golf scene, you aren’t going to be happy with me. That, or you are going to be very happy. You’ll see why. It all starts with integrity, and having integrity is one of the greatest golf tips anyone can give you

I just finished up my sixth year coaching high school boy’s golf at the Varsity level. I’m not the greatest coach, I didn’t play golf in college, I’m not a PGA Pro at any level. Heck, I didn’t even play in high school. I got myself up to an 8 or 9 handicap a few years ago, and that was pretty good in my book.

That doesn’t mean I don’t work my butt off coaching. I try to help each kid learn the game with lots of golf tips, become a better golfer, and help them on a path to being a better person. For 95% of the kids, high school golf is the end of the competitive road in golf.

I want my golfers to succeed on the course. Making it to state is an incredible accomplishment. That’s secondary though. I would rather have them play with integrity, honesty, and learn life lessons along the way that are going to help them in their next stages in life.

This is where we are failing as influencer’s in these kids upbringing on a high school scale. I’m not involved with the Junior Golf Association, as that is separate from high school events. What I am talking about is the postseason level of our sport.

During the regular season, as coaches, we walk the course, helping kids when they need to make rulings when they have questions, and coaching and giving golf tips to our own athletes. If we notice a kid do something wrong, we can warn, penalize, and disqualify them from the event. None of us are hunting for this to happen, we just want to help mold and improve their attitudes on the course.

No one wants to play with someone who throws clubs, drops F-bombs, or cheats. These kids are teenagers, and especially with the boy golfers, it is bound to happen and always does. By being able to talk with them, let them know it can affect their final score, and even hurt their game, we help them become better men. Secondarily, they become better golfers.

Unfortunately, we are not allowed to do so when it matters most. At the Bi-District level (the round before the state tournament), and at the state tournament, coaches do not matter. Just ask the people who are running it.

It’s really easy to cheat on the golf course. There aren’t many people around. Whoever is keeping score for you is focused on their ball and their game first, and then maybe your’s second. With so few eyes on you, writing down a par instead of a bogey can be very easy to do. I feel like a large part of my job is teaching integrity and honesty, to help avoid this.

Heck, last year I had to DQ MY OWN PLAYER because of this. It is a serious offense, it shows badly on him, me, and the school. Being labeled a cheater is something that can stick with you for years if you don’t own up to it. Think of playing with friends or family, or people from the club on a course. If you know the person has no integrity and is going to cheat, you don’t want to play with them.

Guess what?! It was illegal for me to DQ my own golfer. I didn’t know this until this year when I was told that final decision’s on scores come from the players, and it doesn’t matter what coaches see, or even what they hear or have to say. As coaches, we are told at the postseason level that we are not there to make rulings.

How backward could this be? Integrity is supposed to be the main thing in golf. It’s one of the things that is pushed in most areas and was even spouted off at the beginning of postseason as a top priority. The actions of those in charge afterward showed it wasn’t the case.

In fact, this pushes it the other way. If you teach a 17-year-old that integrity doesn’t matter, that he (or she) can get away with cheating and be rewarded for it, why would they ever stop?

Case in point. SIX DIFFERENT COACHES watched a golfer over his final two holes, including HIS OWN COACH!!! They watched him shoot a 10, and heard him say 8. Then they watched him shoot an 8, and say 6. His own coach didn’t do anything. At the scorer’s tent, the kids in the group tried to recount every shot, and were only able to come up with a couple the other kid “forgot”.

After 10-15 minutes of deliberating, they left the tent. This is where we are failing. I walked to the officials, the tournament committee, and asked to see the final score for this golfer. They showed me a 9 and a 7. After telling them a handful of coaches saw him shoot 10 and 8, I was told that “It doesn’t matter, coaches aren’t here to make decisions or enforce rules, the players have the final say”.

Luckily for them, this kid missed the cut by one stroke. Truthfully, he missed by 40 strokes, but because the coaches were not allowed to say anything, his 130 turned into a 97.

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How backward and sad is this? This golfer was rewarded for cheating, and there was nothing we could do about it. What is to prevent a coach who lacks integrity from enforcing and encouraging his team to cheat?

I could’ve done this, and easily. I have a linebacker on my team, who is going to college to play football. He is also a good golfer. Was he going to win state? No. He was good enough to make it there though.

What was to stop me (or him) from deciding that he was going to intimidate and bully whoever he was playing with. Didn’t matter if coaches saw it, he could’ve forced his way into placing at state. Why shouldn’t I recruit the entire football team next year, have them bully and intimidate all year, so that we can win a bunch of matches and postseason events?

I have integrity and try to ingrain it into my golfers with all my golf tips. That’s why. Unfortunately, it’s not something that those in charge for Washington High school golf care about. It’s really sad to me. Especially to the kids that work their tails off, are fantastic human beings, and miss out because we refuse to allow cheaters to be penalized.

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Was this a rant? Maybe. Whether or not it is, it is definitely something that needs to be looked at and changed. We are supposed to be out here helping mold these kids with all our advice and every one of the golf tips we share, turning them into better humans. Into better people. Unfortunately, the people in charge just don’t care enough to do anything.