This story is either going to make you want to toss your computer against a wall in frustration or be proud of a young man who made the right decision in a tough spot, depending on how you take it.
Landon Michelson, a 22-year-old amateur playing in the U.S. Open sectional event in Florida on Monday, had caught a bit of luck. He wasn't even in the field of 55 players going for four spots at Pinehurst No. 2 next week when Freddie Jacobson pulled out of the qualifier and left a spot open for an alternate.
That belonged to Michelson, who went out in the 36-hole qualifier and shot a pair of 1-under 71s, great considering Quail Valley Golf Club was playing in some serious wind and his 2-under total was going to be tough to contend with considering the conditions.
Michelson then went through the always interesting process of dealing with his scorecard. Admitting to the Golf Channel's Will Gray after his round that his focus probably got in the way of where he thought he was at with his score, the youngster signed for a second-round 70 instead of a 71 as his caddie went to check out how one contender was doing as he was the last that might push Michelson into a playoff for that final U.S. Open spot.
Of course, the next thing that happened is the devastating part. Because Michelson signed for an incorrect scorecard (his playing partner had him down for a par on the 11th hole instead of the bogey he made), he had a personal decision to make as any golfer does in that position.
Rat himself out, knowing the consequences mean not only a penalty but also missing out on his dream to play in the U.S. Open, or keep quiet and live with the knowledge that you cheated the game you love.
Michelson admitted the error, pointing to a senior project he completed while at Rice about Blayne Barber, the young man who disqualified himself from the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School back in 2012 when he didn't know if he had brushed a leaf out a bunker during his second round.
“If you think about it, I’m like the 1,000th-ranked amateur in the world,” Michelson told the Golf Channel. “Going to the U.S. Open, it would be so much to me. Getting clothing sponsors, club sponsors ... everything would have been so much easier.”
It's real easy to sit back on a couch and say, "OF COURSE the kid had to admit his fault, this is golf and it's the only code we can live by," but for a minute just think about what all this means.
Michelson, as he said, is a golfing nobody. He isn't some professional that has to go back to his house and his cars and his wife knowing that he won't be at the second major championship of the season because of a rules situation. He isn't some college kid that will have some coach to console him after his round because of the mistake.
He's a 22-year-old amateur who had the opportunity of his lifetime (and for a lot of us, ours) and because of an error in scoring, and an oversight on his part, he won't be at Pinehurst No. 2 to play in the U.S. Open and hit balls next to Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson and possibly land a practice round with Jason Day or Jordan Spieth.
This also is a huge résumé builder he misses out on. I did the mini tour golf thing, and trying to find rich guys to toss money your way on basically a whim and hope isn't easy, so being able to approach these types of people with "2014 U.S. Open" on your résumé is a pretty big boost if sponsors are considering other players.
Now Michelson will do what we will all do next week when the coverage kicks off on Thursday. He will sit back on his recliner and watch the golf, knowing that he had a shot to be walking inside those ropes, and one minor mistake that had nothing to do with his actual time on the course spoiled his chances at a story for his grandkids.
Hopefully, like the Barber story from 2012, Michelson can bounce back and still make a career out of this. Judging by his play on Monday, he might just have the game to do it.
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