Golf is first and foremost a game of integrity. If one makes a mistake, one is to address it honestly with playing partners and note it in scoring. Such indiscretions happen every day on golf courses around the world, and nothing is said about it.
Rarely has such a move of integrity been as decisive as it was in Nevada, where it cost one golfer one of the most prestigious titles outside the PGA Tour.
As reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal, 17-year-old rising high school senior Scottie Scheffler captured the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Golf Championship at Martis Camp Golf Course by edging past 16-year-old Hattiesburg, Miss. native Davis Riley. Yet Scheffler’s victory wasn’t the real storyline; rather it was about the fact that his 3&2 victory was the product of a final hole one-stroke penalty that was self-reported by Riley himself.
Here is how the Gazette-Journal ably described the scene at the 16th hole during the final match play round of the Junior Amateur.
He addressed the ball, checked his line, looked back down and then stood straight up and said, "It moved."
With the nation’s most prestigious junior amateur tournament on the line, Riley, a 16-year-old from Hattiesburg, Miss., called a one-stroke penalty on himself.
After consulting with a rules official and repositioning his ball, his very speedy, now-par putt fell just short, and he conceded Scheffler’s tap-in par putt …
As one might expect, Scheffler was more than impressed with Riley’s integrity with so much on the line. There were apparently few -- if any -- onlookers who noticed the small shift in the ball’s spot, so it is likely that Riley could have gotten away with the violation had he not reported it.
Instead, he told everyone what happened and then missed what became a very difficult putt as a result, costing him a title that he is unlikely to get so close to again. It's worth noting that Riley would have had to make two great shots before his self violation to stay alive, but self reporting the tap all but ended any chance he had of winning himself.
"It took a lot of heart to do that," Scheffler told the Gazette-Journal of Riley’s self-reported penalty. "I played pretty well down the stretch. In the morning round, I gave away a lot of shots and I struggled with the putting a little bit early, then I started to figure it out."
Dignified to the end, Riley’s comments after coming so close were all about what his opponent had achieved, not what he had missed out on.
"He hit a lot of good shots," Riley said. "[The week] was awesome. I played well all week. He just hit some really good shots coming in."
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Hockey vs. figure skating: Who should get ice time?
• Colorado authorities banning product that reduces concussion risk
• Louisiana's best mascot is small and very chipper