Match Play Mix-Up– and a Triumph of Sportsmanship

In nine-hole match play, have you ever had two opponents in just one match? Or played in a five-some? Believe it or not, that’s not only possible, it actually took place this year in an unprecedented Tuesday League match.

This all happened on a June afternoon in a match between Tuesday League Teams 20 and 2.

Confusion arose right off the bat, as the players assembled on the opening tee (the tenth).  To everyone’s surprise, Team 20’s low handicap player was nowhere to be found and in his place stood a substitute, who no one expected to be there– not even his Team 20 teammate. Nevertheless, after some initially awkward moments, introductions were made and the matches were arranged– with Team 20’s sub playing as that team’s high handicap golfer.  And so, to his surprise, Team 20’s regular player became his team’s low handicapper for the match. In these matches, the low handicappers for each team square off, as do each team’s higher handicap players.

The match got underway and after some less than stellar play the opening hole was concluded. But, as the foursome was walking off the green, who should stroll up but Team 20’s intended low handicapper.  He had been running late and had phoned the clubhouse to say he was on his way.  Unfortunately, however, neither the starter nor his teammate ever received that message. So, having been prepared to accept a forfeit of the opening  hole, Team 20’s low handicapper was shocked to find instead that a substitute was playing for him—something he hadn’t even requested!

Following considerable head-scratching, the players agreed that Team 20’s newest arrival should join the match and, as his team’s low handicapper, he should square off against Team 2’s low handicapper– meaning that each of the original players would be switching opponents on the second hole of the match! Except, of course, for Team 20’s erstwhile substitute, who was now left out of the action.  But no objection was made by the sub, who explained that he was actually playing for the first time all year, primarily to see if he could play at all.  He wanted to see if he could play golf while being hooked up to a portable respirator!  He had been hitting his shots while trying to keep his swing free of the flexible connecting tube. If you like a golfing challenge, try that sometime.  The mystery of how the sub originally got into the match was never entirely resolved….

With the dust having settled, the group played on in their rearranged matches, for the most part in a state of relatively good-humored consternation.  And, to everyone’s credit, their no-longer-needed sub was allowed to continue, simply not as part of the match. Which he did, taking care not to interfere with the flow of play. Fortunately for both teams, the group’s scorekeeper was able to find an eraser in his bag, allowing the requisite changes to be made in what became an unusually messy scorecard.

In the end, Team 2 prevailed, winning all six points based on traditional Tuesday League scoring—to the extent traditional scoring is possible under these unprecedented circumstances. But Team 20 scored an equally impressive victory– in sportsmanship—having overcome with relative calm the conundrum surrounding an unrequested sub and proceeding to battle hard, with little complaint, in the re-aligned matches.

As it happened, Team 20 went on to become the 2021 Tuesday League champions!  So, congratulations go out to each of Team 20’s players, Scott Nelson, Joe Ryan and Marty Weber — not just for their great play, but for their sportsmanship as well.