In following the Columbus North boys golf team on its way to a state championship, it was impossible not to notice that these kids were first-class citizens.
You couldn’t help but root for them because they were so darned nice. They always said and did the right thing. That game of golf, boy, it really does produce good people.
And just when that theory started to make a lot of sense, pro golfer Dustin Johnson, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, comes along to offer a dose of reality.
You don’t need class to play golf.
On Thursday, Johnson announced he was taking a leave of absence to deal with some personal issues. On Friday, Golf.com reported that Johnson had been suspended six months by the PGA Tour for flunking a drug test, reportedly cocaine.
Worst yet, the Golf.com report said it was Johnson’s third failed drug test. Little did we know.
It just goes to prove that parents and role models, and not a sport, ultimately produce exceptional people.
I am not downplaying the positive role golf can play in developing character. It is a proving ground for integrity, such as the moment you have to decide, when no one is watching, whether or not to kick the ball away from the tree.
Unfortunately for everyone who loves golf, the PGA Tour has decided to kick the ball away while we, the fans, are looking the other way.
ESPN noted in a story that “the tour is the only major sports league in America that does not announce how it punishes its players for violations, such as bad conduct.”
The story noted that when John Daly was suspended in 2008 for his conduct, he admitted the suspension but the PGA Tour never did.
The PGA Tour will have no comment on Johnson, and that is perplexing. Honesty goes along with transparency and the PGA Tour suddenly has the look of an elitist club more worried about protecting its reputation than being honest with the public.
It only makes sense that when you have hundreds of members, someone is going to go astray. But having a couple of knuckleheads failing drug tests or being habitual adulterers shouldn’t take away from the class established by Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus and hundreds of others. Just name names and move forward.
Sure the bad publicity will sting for the PGA Tour, but it will hurt the individual player even worse, especially in a sport where players rely on sponsor money.
Compounding problems for the PGA Tour is the Vijay Singh lawsuit. Singh is suing the PGA Tour, claiming that he was treated differently than other players who had been disciplined under the tour’s anti-doping policy.
Singh said in a Sports Illustrated article in 2013 that he took deer antler spray, which contained the banned substance IGF-1. The tour decided to take action against Singh but later dropped its action.
Singh asked in the lawsuit, according to a New York Daily News story, that the PGA Tour would release information about five PGA Tour pros who had been disciplined under
the anti-doping policy. One was Johnson.
This impending soap opera is going to drag golf through the muck. That’s OK.
Perhaps parents will understand that they can’t stop doing their job because they buy their children some clubs.
Golf isn’t immune to bad behavior.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.