Is golf the only sport where you actually call a penalty on yourself? It must be the only sport that penalizes and disqualifies a player after play is completed.
That’s what makes golf so unique.
There’s a certain tradition handed down for generations that respect for the game’s rules is vitally important. I can’t tell you how many rules there are. But I remember when my brother was penalized two strokes for hitting a practice shot during a match.
Which brings us to European golfer Suzann Pettersen at the recent Solheim Cup between Europe and the U.S. at St. Leon-Rot, Germany.
Pettersen teamed with Charley Hull to win a four-ball match 2-up against Americans Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicome, thanks to confusion over an 18-inch putt that Lee thought was conceded.
The lost hole led to a 10-6 lead for Europe heading to the final day.
After Lee’s first putt was missed, Hull departed the green, giving the impression that the next 18-inch putt was conceded in a match that was square.
Lee picked up the golf ball. But Pettersen insisted no putt was verbally conceded, giving the European a valuable win at the 17th hole and a 1/2-point heading to the 18th hole, which Europe also won.
Lee was wrong picking up her ball without being certain the putt was conceded, especially after Lincicome warned her to not pick her golf ball up.
The simple solution would’ve been for Lee to replace the golf ball to 18-inches and tap it in. Decision 2-4/3 in the Rules of Golf allow Lee to replace her ball and putt without penalty after picking it up.
Pettersen was roundly criticized for winning the match on a simple misunderstanding rather than winning on the course. She will always be remembered for the lack of sportsmanship.
She eventually came to her senses a day later.
“I am so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle,” Pettersen wrote. “I was trying my hardest for my team and put the single match and the point that could be earned ahead of sportsmanship and the game of golf. I feel like I let my team down, and I am sorry.”
Pettersen apologized to U.S. captain Juli Inkster, who rallied her team.
“To the fans of golf who watched the competition on TV, I am sorry for the way I carried myself,” Pettersen wrote. “I want to work hard to earn back your belief in me as someone who plays hard, plays fair and plays the great game of golf the right way.”
Pettersen’s action transformed into bad karma for the European team.
The U.S. side was so fired up by Pettersen’s poor sportsmanship that they won eight of 12 singles matches on the final day for the largest comeback in Solheim Cup history. Pettersen was beaten 2 and 1 by Angela Stanford.