PGA Tour
Golf Tidbits: Why golf is a gentleman's sport

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Every sport has its rules. How often people break them depends on the sport. How frequently people call themselves for breaking said rules is a different story.

Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire all had a chance to admit to authorities that they used some sort of performance-enhancing drug, but none did so.

Offensive linemen in the NFL could be called for holding on every play. When was the last time a player told a referee he held someone? Never, and don't hold your breath waiting for it.

In the NHL and NBA, players that get called for penalties or fouls sometimes look like they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Who me? I didn't do anything!

None of those leagues can be confused with the PGA Tour, or golf in general, where players police themselves and penalize themselves even when millions of dollars are on the line.

Roberto de Vicenzo is famous for signing an incorrect scorecard at the Masters costing himself a chance at the title. Afterwards, he said, "What a stupid I am!"

Recently, at the second stage of the PGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament, J.P. Hayes turned himself in for playing the wrong ball.

Sure, that doesn't seem like much, but you must start and finish rounds using the same type of golf ball. Well, Hayes was playing a Titleist and his caddie did not realize there were two different types of Titleist in Hayes' bag.

Hayes asked for a new ball on the tee at a par three, and played away. After his tee shot and following chip, Hayes marked his ball and picked up it.

Immediately, he realized the difference in the ball and called a penalty on himself. After consulting an official, he was assessed a two-stroke penalty.

End of story, right? Not so fast my friend!

After playing another round and thinking about it some more, Hayes realized the ball was a prototype and may be non-conforming or not on the list of approved golf balls as posted by the United States Golf Association.

The 43-year-old called an official after realizing this and was told that officials would touch base with Titleist the following day.

At that point, he figured he would be disqualified. And he was right.

Disqualified from the second stage at Q-School, Hayes will have to rely on his Past Champion/Veteran Member status and hope to get into a few more events via sponsor exemptions.

You may think, who cares? The PGA Tour will have purses totaling nearly $223 million in 2009. Toss an extra $28 million or so on there for the majors, and PGA Tour players will be competing for over $250 million next year.

One might think that all PGA Tour players are millionaires since 104 players did earn over $1 million in 2008. But that isn't the case.

Hayes has made over $7 million during his 14-year career. Given today's economic climate, the more than $500,000 a year he averages is great, but it doesn't guarantee him a job anymore.

He would have needed to earn just under $853,000 in '08 to keep his card, but 'only' made $312,152. So calling this penalty on himself could cost him hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

His response as told to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "It's not the end of the world. It will be fine. It is fine."

Golf still is, and continues to be a gentleman's game.

GREGORY'S INSPIRATIONAL STORY WRAPS UP

Throughout the 2008 season, fans may have seen a man walking the course with the aid of a cane. That man, D.J. Gregory, was born with cerebral palsy.

Through 45 weeks, Gregory traveled to 44 events and walked all 72 holes at every event. He chose a different golfer every week and followed that player all week.

Gregory blogged about his experience on PGATour.com, revealing that he walked 988 miles over 3,256 holes. Oh, and he fell 29 times. Remember, he has cerebral palsy.

As I said, you can read his blog on the PGA Tour's website. Or, if you want to watch highlights of his story, ESPN's E:60 did a feature piece on him this week. The video can be found on both ESPN and the PGA Tour's websites.

At the end of his journey, which was completed at the Children's Miracle Network Classic, several players waited for Gregory behind the 18th green to congratulate him on his travels and work.

Kenny Perry told ESPN producers this, "How can you see a kid struggle around the golf course, and then you're out there complaining about playing golf? It just really changed my perspective about my life and about my golf game and about what I was doing."

MINI-TIDBITS

- The proof is in the numbers. The old adage of "drive for show and putt for dough" is real, at least according to numbers released by the PGA Tour earlier this week. In 2008, Jason Gore became the sixth player in the last seven years to lead the tour in total driving (distance and accuracy combined) and still finish outside the top 125 on the money list.

- Furthering that note, if you combine the PGA, Champions and Nationwide Tours, 16 players who led the field in putting went on to win, while only two players to lead in driving distance were winners.

- Winning on the Nationwide Tour does not guarantee you a PGA Tour card for the following season. That was evident this year, as eight players who didn't win finished inside the top 25 to earn their PGA Tour cards, while eight players who did win failed to earn their PGA Tour cards for next year.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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