CHANGING THE UNCHANGEABLE
by David Sisler
I am not a golfer. I have played a few rounds, but never, in my wildest fantasy, not even in a Cordrazine-induced hallucination, would I consider myself a golfer. Neither would anyone else. A friend of mine and I once played a game called, "Good Shot." If the ball went straight, it was a good shot. Distance did not matter. We putted when — if — we reached the green, but those strokes did not count. Only "straight" counted. And high score won.
I am the kind of golfer who can appreciate Henry Beard's book, The Official Exemptions to the Rules of Golf. If you are serious golfer, if you have tickets every year to the Toon-a-mint, if you equate "Mulligans" with the "Designated Hitter" rule, you will hate Henry Beard's book.
Beard allows for a "Gilligan" — a Mulligan gone so bad that you consider it a frivolous shot and pick it up without penalty. If your playing partner talks you into hitting a shot that is so far beyond your abilities that it lands in the lake, well, you just hit a "Goadie" and you get to hit another ball, without a penalty. If a bush is in your way, call a "Mushie," lean on that bush and make your swing. If the bush has thorns, then it's a "Thornie" and you can move the ball away, without penalty.
My favorite is the "Providential Ball." You hit out of bounds, but find someone else's ball instead and you can play it without penalty.
To many golfers and golf fans, the goings on in a Eugene, Oregon courtroom a few days ago are no more outrageous than hitting a "Goadie."
The PGA Tour rules of competition state that players must walk. Enter Casey Martin, a participant on the Nike Tour who was born with Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, a vicious aliment which has all but destroyed his lower right leg. Casey sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and won the right to use a golf cart on the Nike Tour.
In issuing his ruling, U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin concluded that the PGA Tour "has not met its burden of proving that the modification requested... would fundamentally alter the nature of its Nike Tour competition."
Some people, who wondered why the PGA was fighting so hard to defend the hallowed walking rule, pointed out that even on the Senior Tour, where riding is allowed, most of the top players walk. If riding is such an advantage, why don't the Seniors all ride?
In a three-page summary of its position, the PGA said, "The ability to walk five miles each day for four consecutive competitive rounds... is part of the endurance and stamina required to play professional golf at its highest level." As I noted earlier, I am not a golfer. I would not even qualify as a duffer. But still I wonder: If walking and stamina are integral parts of the game, why are the pros excused from carrying their own clubs?
President Clinton was not speaking about golf when he said, "We're redefining in practical terms the immutable ideas that have guided us." I read those remarks from the president's recent appearance at a homosexual gala and wondered, if ideas are immutable — defined as "not capable or susceptible to change" — how can they be redefined?
When forces you cannot control attempt to change the unchangeable, it makes you appreciate the position of those who say the rules are the rules and they should not change. Indeed, the "Rules of Golf," Rule 1, Section B declare: You must always play by the Rules. You are not allowed to change them.
The federal court ruling was not a blanket exemption that will allow everyone on the PGA Tour to ride a golf cart. Casey Martin's exemption is for Mr. Martin alone. Anyone else who desires an exception under the ADA will have to make their own appeal.
I think of another set of rules, never changing, but always being challenged. "God, I'm hungry, so is it all right if I steal?" "God, my father is a drunk, so is it all right if I do not honor him?" "God, if I lie about my neighbor, it will advance my cause, so is it all right if I give false testimony?" "God, my wife does not love me, so is it all right if I commit adultery?"
To which God replies, "No, it is not all right. No matter how many times you break my commandments, they remain whole. However, no matter how many transgressions you have committed against me, I will forgive you, if you ask, for the sake of my Son, Jesus."
Thankfully, the rule of God's mercy never changes.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 2/21/98
Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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