When Sportsmanship Left Golf

Here are three occasions when sportsmanship took a back seat 

Suzann Pettersen and ‘Gimmie-gate’
Any golfer knows how controversial this part of the game can be. The unprecedented scenes that followed the penultimate day of this year’s Solheim cup saw players, Charley Hull and Suzann Petterson, leave the 17th green whilst their opponent Alison Lee still had a tap-in for the half.

gimmie putt

ST LEON-ROT, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 20: Suzann Pettersen of team Europe explains to team captain Carin Koch the length of the putt that was not conceeded on the 17th hole by Alison Lee of team USA during the continuation of the darkness delayed afternoon fourball matches at The Solheim Cup at St Leon-Rot Golf Club on September 20, 2015 in St Leon-Rot, Germany. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Suzann Pettersen of team Europe explains to team captain Carin Koch the length of the putt that was not conceded. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Assuming their departure was tacit acknowledgement of the ‘gimmie length’ putt, Lee removed her ball only to find the Norwegian player Petterson, renowned for her ice-cold demeanour, had done nothing of the sort. The weekend of golf became insignificant as the drama unravelled and both sides tried to make sense of what happened.

distraught alison lee
Allison Lee is consoled by teammates following the incident that lost her the hole

Bottom line, yes technically in the rules Lee was in the wrong, but to say Petterson’s actions were anything but heartless would be an understatement. Perhaps Lee was slightly naive? was that a gimmie putt?

Sergio Garcia- he gets his own section

It is difficult to talk of Sergio as an out-and-out bad sportsman. He plays golf a little like a 14 year kid. Bags of talent, self-assured in how he conducts himself, but you’re always aware that he can sometimes behave like your brother did when you told him he was adopted. unreasonable and just incapable of calmly weighing up the facts. You can’t help but roll your eyes when he comes out with excuses like, “I lost because I was playing against more than just the field,” following his choke at the 2007 British Open.

Or when he does this…

Calling him on this might be unfair on a slightly reformed character. You do end up pitying Sergio for not quite fulfilling his potential, the incredible ball striker he might be, his putting defines his temperament. He wears his heart on his sleeve and that hot head gets him into hot water.

1999 Ryder Cup celebrations

26 Sep 1999: Justin Leonard of the USA is mobbed by the American team after sinking a long birdie putt on the 17th during the final day of the 33rd Ryder Cup at Brookline Country Club, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Munday /Allsport
Justin Leonard celebrates with team after sinking a long birdie putt on the 17th at Brookline Country Club, Boston. (Credit: Stephen Munday /Allsport)

For those who are slightly older you might have grown tired of hearing about this recycled jibe at American players. Europeans continue to bring it up each time the Ryder cup comes around, probably time to let it go, but it has to be here.


You cannot deny a team the right to celebrate after an historic victory, the issue however, is that out of shot Jose Maria Olazábal was waiting to take his 25-foot putt that would have kept Europe’s hopes alive, he missed. As an unsporting moment it was unfortunate rather than malicious, sure celebrate, but don’t run all over your opponent’s line. I personally feel the shirts they were wearing was the most disgusting thing about the incident, what were they thinking? Not to mention Ben Crenshaw getting all papal, joy can do that to a man.

So what do you think- Is the occasional lack of sportsmanship a price you pay for passionate and competitive players?