COMMENTARY -- In the world of professional golf, 103 is not a good score. In fact, it's downright terrible. But, on Friday, an impressive 103 was turned in by an Indiana pro on the Web.com Tour.
Michael Bembernick, 27, is a club pro at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis. He earned a spot in this week's United Leasing Championship through the Indiana section of the Professional Golfers Association of America. He was one of three players to earn the exemption -- a reward for good work in the form of at least two rounds against the future stars of the PGA Tour.
Bembernick may be an accomplished player, but tournament golf is a completely different game. Your run-of-the-mill scratch country-club golfer cannot sniff a good score in a tournament like this. (Trust me, I've tried.) Not that Bembernick was counting on a pair of 62s to land in contention at Victoria National Golf Club, but he probably didn't see the two rounds he did post coming.
On Thursday, Bembernick shot 17-over 89. It was the worst score in the field, but it happens. Alice Kim shot 89 at Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island to open the U.S. Women's Open on the same day.
Friday, however, was much worse. Starting on the 10th hole, Bembernick opened with a bogey, but he then followed with a double- and triple-bogey. He was in bad shape. On the round, he made two pars; he carded three triple-bogeys. Add in a quad and some more doubles, and Bembernick shot 31-over 103 on Friday. (That was revised down from the originally posted 105.)
The stat line for two rounds? Bembernick was 48-over-par 192, made one birdie and eight pars.
It's easy to poke fun at the guy. He was on a spit all Friday, getting roasted by a difficult golf course in full public display.
Instead, respect him.
Bembernick could have easily not showed up for his second round. No one would have blinked if he had simply withdrawn after Day 1. It's something pro golfers do all the time after a lousy first round.
Two Web.com Tour regulars, Camilo Benedetti and Dae-Hyun Kim, did after shooting 76 and 82, respectively. They may have been injured, or just frustrated, or realized a paycheck was not in the cards this week.
It happens all the time. Hypochondriac players come up with a previously undiscovered ailment just as soon as they realize their game is heading south of the cut line.
Two years ago, Angel Cabrera made a 9 on the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass in The Players Championship. Not too long after, he mysteriously withdrew, citing "personal reasons."
Bembernick could have claimed a strained gallbladder and withdrew. But he didn't.
Bembernick knew he was healthy, but playing poorly. He knew he would not win, but he would feel more like a loser if he didn't finish what he started.
"No matter how bad you play, it's important to finish," Bembernick told Golf Channel after his round. "No one likes to see a quitter. I know none of my club members or any students I teach would want to see me quit."
Damn right. Bembernick took his tagging, but he got his money's worth. Besides, who knows the next time he'll have an opportunity like this. Even if the ending isn't happy, it's a good story.
After his 103 minutes of infamy are over and the Google searches for his name dry up, Bembernick only has to face himself and the people who love and support him. Not only can he look himself in the mirror and know he didn't give up, but he can walk proud that he took his best shot and came up short -- well short. But at least he never threw in the white towel, just hit the white ball.
Ryan Ballengee is a Washington, D.C.-based golf writer. His work has appeared on multiple digital outlets, including NBC Sports and Golf Channel. Follow him on Twitter @RyanBallengee.
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