I Believe In Athletic Integrity
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Jeff Cunningham

Golf has been a major part of my life ever since I was strong enough to grip a sand wedge. I have played it religiously for years, and for the entirety of my golfing career I have followed a code of moral ethics. I believe in athletic integrity. It is this that allows sport to remain sacred and untainted. Golf, perhaps more than any other sport demands a strict adherence to this code. It can be one of the most difficult sports to master, but the reward for hard and honest practice in golf rivals that of any other sport without a doubt. It takes years of practice to lower your score average by only a few strokes; so cheating is an absolute insult to those who put in the time to better themselves honestly. There are no referees in golf to penalize you for unfair play. There is only you and three random kids whom you were assigned to play with.

During the golf season of my senior year, this code of ethics was tarnished by a teammate of mine, and unfortunately I was the victim. He and I were in a competition to make the last spot on the regional team. It was the last tournament of the regular season and I needed to beat him by at least 3 strokes. At the end of the round, we both came in with the same score- an 83. But there was problem. All three members of my teammate’s group were certain that his score was not legitimate. They all claimed that he shaved at least 5 strokes throughout the round. We obviously couldn’t prove any of this, and of course he denied all accusations, ergo I was denied my spot on the regional team. With no way to prove that he cheated, I was forced to suck it up and accept the fact that I wouldn’t be competing at regionals.

Naturally, I was pretty upset about that particular chain of events, but I tried not to dwell on it. Knowing that one of my teammates disrespected both myself and the code of athletic integrity showed me that not everybody believed in it as sincerely as I did. This caused me to begin to think that there may actually be a fairly substantial amount of golfers out there who cheated on a regular basis, that maybe I was one of the few people who still actually valued athletic integrity. In no way at all did this alter my views on morality in sports. I decided the best thing to do was simply to forget about it all and continue competing in my usual honest manner. It turned out that the teammate that cheated me ended up doing horrendous at regionals. This led me to think that he might have actually played a fair round for once.

I believe that integrity is essential, especially in sports. When nobody is around to penalize you, you have to be your own judge and ask yourself if it is really worth it to be dishonest. Golf requires a substantial amount of discipline and dedication, perhaps more than any other sport. To cheat is a sacrilege to the game and all who play it.