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The Golf High Road
Sometimes I realize that having a column means you can make a small story much bigger just by pointing it out to your readers. With that in mind I found a story people should know about and it pleases me to think that through my column anywhere from 20 to 40 people will now be aware of it. That’s kind of a joke but two months ago I accidentally said Hilo has 160,000 people and not ONE of you emailed. Apparently the Microsoft Word for Mac spellcheck doesn’t correct numbers. All pau digressing.
King Kekaulike High School is located in upcountry Maui and has about 160,000 students (no need to email). Sophomore John Riley was competing in the first round of the state high school golf championship at the Arnold Palmer course at Turtle Bay. I should have golfed in high school. They get to go to Turtle Bay. As a long jumper I got to jump into sand pits that stray cats thought were big litter boxes. Nowhere near Turtle Bay. Anyway, so John realizes that he has 15 clubs in his bag, one more than the 14 club limit for the tournament. After finishing the round he does the un-Kermet-like thing and tells the scorers about his mistake. He is then handed a four stroke penalty. No one checked his bag. No one asked. He just decided to do the right thing. What-ever.
Anyone who has ever played golf knows there’s cheating. Heck, anyone who has every played miniature golf knows there’s cheating. I don’t cheat at golf. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a moral thing. When you’re terrible at it there’s no reason to cheat. If I were to run a marathon and show up at the finish line within 8 hours of the start, one look at my double chin and snack-pack abs and you’d all know I took a cab at some point. When I golf it’s not about winning. First, it’s about making jokes. Golf is fun when you can share gems like the ‘Long jumping into cat poop’ joke with your friends for four hours. Second, my game is more like a shooting gallery. My shots hit trees, telephone poles, the clubhouse, cars driving by, the occasional seagull, and sometimes even myself (which actually defies the laws of physics). That’s why I don’t cheat. Golf with me is not a sport but an episode of Sponge Bob.
Back to our story. So John makes the long walk to his team and tells his coach, Kaipo Thomas, what happened. His coach, get this, congratulates him. He doesn’t chew him out. He credits his honesty, integrity, and eventual ability to count to 15. That’s amazing! Once when I was called for a personal foul in football my coach told me to hit like that only when the referee wasn’t looking. I remember thinking “Wow, Dad, that’s pretty intense.”
Lately sports have been more scandal than stat. Barry Bonds denies reports that he took steroids and attributes his physique to lifting weights (I’m not sure which exercise makes your forehead bigger). Members of the Duke Lacrosse team were arrested and ironically not one of them is in law school. Punahou students stole an opposing teams mascot and gave it the ‘Rumsfeld’ treatment complete with hoods, leashes, and AAA batteries. Okay, I made that last one up but don’t put it past them. I know what these Buffnblu are capable of.
Coach Thomas said this: "Without those four strokes, John would've been one of our counting scores, so it does affect us, but our boys know character means more than winning or losing. They realize they're representing the school, the island and their families."
Wow. You know, I make my one year old boy throw a ball to me 100 times a day. It’s not that I’m obsessed with winning. It’s just that I need that arm to pay for his college. He could try for an academic scholarship, but he’s half me so I’m not taking any chances. Yes, I went to Iolani, but I wasn’t good at it.
So big props to John Riley for taking the high road of honesty and class and to Kaipo Thomas for seeing the big picture and encouraging it. Thank you for reminding us about the importance of character and that lying and cheating are NOT the way to do things (please send your story to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in Washington DC). A lot of folks should hear this story about some very special Hawaii people, if anything to offset the stories of Hawaii people presented by Dog the Bounty Hunter. Sometimes you read a tiny little story and wish more people could hear about it, and if I share that story with my 160,000 readers, well then I’ve done my part.
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