Intimidation leads to temptation of cheating in sports

May 19, 2010
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Having played golf competitively for three years now, I have never fully experienced legitimate competition; that is until a few weeks ago at the state competition in which I was paired off with three golfers from schools north of Atlanta, two of whom sported Junior PGA tour membership tags on their pricey golf bags.

Being the first time I played in the state tournament, I expected to be apprehensive as dozens of spectators and officials watched me tee off from the tenth hole. I had spent weeks mentally preparing myself for the sweaty palms and quickened heart rate soon to come, but what especially impacted me was the intimidation coming from my opponents. With the sport of golf being a mental game, intimidation is strictly self-inflicted.

Intimidation is a massive mental barrier for me, especially in a sport where you have no teammates on the course to disguise your faults and weaknesses. Immediately, I caught myself comparing my skill level to my opponents and feeling inferior even before introducing myself.

Looking back on that fateful day at State, I realize that none of my opponents were psychically superior to me in size or muscle; it was the way each girl carried herself with assurance on the course that automatically had me beat. During the regular season, I played my best games when I unknowingly possessed that same caliber of confidence that I apparently lacked at State.

The one opponent who seemed to be the most daunting was a senior from GHS who neglected to say more than two words to me the entire eight-hour tournament which only added to my intimidation factor. She started off strong and consistent, but as we trekked further into the 18-hole course, I realized that her playing was only up to par; she wasn’t the phenomenon I foresaw.

Knowing what I know now, she more than likely was experiencing the same emotional state of intimidation herself that day. As we added up our scores after a miserable day of rainy golf, I found that my intimidator did not do as well as I had assumed she would. Seeing her score only made me angry at myself; I nearly demanded an unofficial rematch just so I could play sans any prior mental breakdown.

Delving further into the intimidation factor is the underlying temptation of cheating. Golf was established as a “gentleman’s game” in which players are assumed to dutifully follow rules and regulations. The sport of golf prides itself on honesty and players calling penalties on themselves; it is a game of integrity.

One of the sport’s most sensational players, Bobby Jones, was praised during the 1925 US Open when his ball rolled less than an inch onto the fairway, going unnoticed to officials and spectators. Jones, exemplifying the integrity of the game, counted the stroke against himself. He went on to say, “You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.”
It certainly is not uncommon to be tempted to subtract one or two strokes off your score every hole or so when boosting your self-worth. Cheating is the tell-tale sign of the same mental weakness that consumed me at State; while the allurement of it attracted me, I remained forthright.

Unlike any other sport played in high school, golf is not policed by officials or referees, players are left to be forthright and honest. Cheating is unheard of and only tarnishes the namesake of golf, and while golf is a game of morality, high school athletes tend to lack this trait.

In a way, golf is an extension of today’s society; we lazily tend to cut corners. Golf is a game of right and wrong, of truth and consequences, and intimidation and cheating go hand in hand.

As golf used to be referred to as the world’s most reputable game, the heightened temptation of shaving numbers from scorecards when placed under the glare of competition and the elusive college scholarship has forever changed the name of the game.

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