For a golfer, getting tagged with the label of cheater is a scarlet letter that never really leaves you. One small allegation, proven or unproven, and you could be looking at a career-ending charge.
Elliot Saltman of Scotland is looking at just such a crisis. He's won his European Tour card for 2011, but he's now having to defend himself against cheating charges. At the Russian Challenge Cup on the Challenge Tour, the European Tour's equivalent of the Nationwide Tour, Saltman was booted for incorrectly marking his ball. His two playing partners, Stuart Davis and Marcus Higley, reported Saltman to officials.
He'll soon be meeting with European Tour officials to explain himself. Tour officials had wanted to resolve the matter before Saltman made it through Q School, but they didn't, he did, and now everybody's got one hell of a mess to deal with.
"It affects not only me but my family," Saltman told The Scotsman. "Not one player has come up to me and asked me my side of the story. I don't want to be labelled as a cheat. Nobody wants that reputation. The sooner this gets sorted out the better. I thought it was dead and buried but I am 100 percent positive that we will get this resolved."
The players charged that Saltman had incorrectly placed the ball on several occasions, marking it in one direction when dropping the mark and placing it in a slightly different alignment when setting it down. Saltman said he agreed with the claims when approached by tour officials because he was "in shock at the time and I didn't want to be labelled a cheat."
Saltman is facing a fine, a suspension, or both, and since this is the first time he's obtained a tour card, it's the worst possible time for him. The case is expected to be resolved in the next few weeks, but the European Tour season has already begun.
Saltman missed the cut in last weekend's South African Open, and he's got barely €30,000 -- about $40,000 -- in career earnings across all tours. It'd be a shame if this derailed his career before it even began.