Paul Gallagher cannot comprehend how some people decide to cheat in golf but also feels sorry for the individuals because they completely miss the true essence of sport and competition
Cheating and nursing handicaps has been around long enough. There has been plenty of discussion, especially in recent years, but I’m fascinated by the mechanics of it all, the premeditation, the sheer balls and brass neck to carry out such actions.
Ever since I was first taught how to grip a golf club by Ernie Jones in Newcastle – sometime way back around 1983-4 – the single, and I mean single, goal in golf was to play the very best you can and get your handicap down.
That means some days you will shoot the lights out and you might be in with a chance of winning. Other days you’ll have a ‘what could have been story’ just like the majority who play the game. It’s these near misses, or acceptance of the difficulty of winning that makes winning all the more euphoric when it happens.
Peel that away and what are you left with? Nothing. To have the outcome and result predetermined before a single shot is hit in anger leaves the guilty bereft of feeling. That roller-coaster of emotion is stripped away, there are no highs or lows. It defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.
For these reasons, I feel sorry for those who cheat. Never mind that they completely f**k over everyone else who has paid an honest competition fee to take their chances in the monthly medal or whatever competition they have entered. No, they completely miss the spirit of competition and ruthlessly discard the ethos of the game and that is very sad.
Forget about the shame of cheating, I doubt that even registers with the guilty. Cheating is premeditated. The thought of guilt was cast aside long before stepping onto the first tee.
Irish golf has discussed cheating and nursing of handicaps extensively within the amateur game. It has been talked about at club level across the country. It has been addressed at the very top and by those who administrate our wonderful game within these shores. In a game where such emphasis is placed on trust and self-policing, there will always be liabilities, those who choose to take the rules into their own hands.
I’m more interested in trying to understand the mind-set of a cheat. The premeditation is my stumbling block every time. How does cheating at golf actually play out?
Do you sit down at the kitchen table with your playing partner, sorry co-conspirators, and pre-arrange the round? Do you meet up for a coffee and discuss weather conditions and tactics before deciding what score will get the job done?
If that be the case, surely you have to share the spoils amongst the cohorts. The same person can’t win every week? Oh, the irony.
Do the conversations go something like this?
“Ok, how many points will be put down for today?”
“What score will get it done?”
“Do you want to have the winning score, just to mix it about a bit?”
Like I say, it does not compute with this hacker, or any other like-minded golfers I have spent a lifetime traipsing fairways with trying to record the least amount of shots possible.
We don’t walk down the street into a shop and lift our groceries off the shelf and walk out without paying. We don’t fill our cars with fuel then drive off without paying. Yet, that’s exactly what cheats think is perfectly acceptable. They have decided on the strategy they believe will give them the competition coffers. That’s simply raiding the piggy bank with complete disregard for others.
And what about the on-course antics? Are you constantly looking over your shoulder when you miss those six-footers yet still record a birdie or par on the card? Does the busy foot wedge ensure a good lie every time? Is cheating about throwing another ball down on the fairway when a previous effort found the bushes or was air-mailed out of bounds?
Such inconveniences likely brush over a cheat.
Whatever the method, it still comes down to the same, simple outcome. A wrong score has been entered on some sort of scorecard or scoring system. It has been done deliberately, but that doesn’t matter to those involved. That was the aim setting out.
If I feel saddened and sorry for the guilty because they miss out on the very essence of true participation and competition, the rest of us should also feel sorry and aggrieved.
Imagine the poor soul who, let’s just say was never particularly talented, but one day had their day in the sun. Everything worked, the ball stayed on the fairway, the putts dropped, and a magical, potentially winning round was had, only to be snaffled away by a cheat.
That’s not how golf is meant to be played. There can be no room for cheats in golf.
Irish Golfer Magazine (April 2018)