Imagine a baseball hitter calling strike three on himself or a football wide receiver informing a referee that he stepped out of bounds on a catch. It is an unlikely scenario in baseball, football or most other sports. Golf, however, seems to be different, especially at the high school level.
Golf has long been known as the gentlemen’s game, and at the high school level, honesty and integrity are paramount as the self-policing student-athlete strolls up and down the course deciphering right from wrong.
It is a lesson not lost on former Fairfield (Iowa) High School golfer Landon Gamrath. During the 2014 Iowa High School Athletic Association district golf tournament, he showed true character and sportsmanship that proved costly to him and his fellow Trojans.
Gamrath had just missed a short putt on No. 18 at Stone Creek Golf Club that would have given the senior his third trip to the state tournament in four years. His playing partner keeping the score, who apparently thought Gamrath had made the short putt, recorded a six (85) on the hole when it should have recorded as a seven (86).
“My parents made it a point that you are supposed to do what is right, and if you feel what you’re doing is wrong then don’t do it,” Gamrath said. “Integrity to me is the ability to choose right and wrong and the willingness to take the better path.”
Mick Flattery, Fairfield’s golf coach, said Gamrath was part of the last group on the course and because the scores were so close, the teams that would advance to the finals were still undecided.
As the scores were being posted on the leaderboard, Gamrath, his teammates and his coach realized the error and immediately reported it to the district president and the rules jury. After a short deliberation by the rules jury, it was determined that, in fact, Gamrath had signed a scorecard with a lower score than was actually earned.
The penalty for that infraction is clearly laid out in USGA Rule 6-6d: “The competitor is responsible for the correctness of the score recorded for each hole on his scorecard. If he returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, he is disqualified.”
“We are talking about that all the time – before you sign your card make sure you go over it,” Flattery said. “That is something we talk about on day one, but we are all human. They are high school athletes, they mess up. It happens, and we all still love them when it is all said and done.”
Gamrath said not reporting the error never entered his mind. He added that if he plays in a state tournament, he wants to be there for the right reasons.
“I would not want to cheat other guys who worked all season, probably their entire life, to get to the state tournament,” he said.
Despite the obvious disappointment, Flattery said each one of Gamrath’s teammates supported him and the decision to self-report the error.
“I was not concerned about myself. I was mad at myself because I felt like I was letting my teammates down,” Gamrath said. “All of these guys, who I have played with, were all very supportive. I was never criticized for it. I knew what I did. I felt like I had taken away an opportunity for the rest of my team.”
His demonstration of sportsmanship earned him an Iowa High School Athletic Association Commendation for Exemplary Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity.
“I didn’t want a whole lot of recognition for this,” Gamrath said. “It wasn’t necessarily easy, but it wasn’t something that I could take the other route. I would not be able to handle myself; I wouldn’t sleep right.”
Gamrath is now a freshman at the University of Iowa studying pre-medicine.
Jason Haddix is coordinator of sports at the NFHS after serving internships in the Publications / Communications Department. He is a 2013 graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis where he earned a bachelor’s degree in medical imaging and a certificate in journalism.