Last week, there was an incident at a golf tournament in which the gallery noticed and reported in the third round a 22-year-old pro golfer named Lexi Thompson placing the marker for her ball 1 inch closer toward the direction of the hole with two feet remaining in her sealed victory at the ANA Inspiration LPGA major tournament, resulting in a four stroke penalty while simultaneously costing her the tournament. Notable golfers such as Phil Mickelson chimed in on the results showing sympathy with critical words for the officiating. There were many that believed the trophy should be returned to Lexi saying that her mistake is one that occurs frequently while often times going unnoticed. However, enforcement of the rules was strict, resulting in a two stroke penalty for failure to properly place her ball and a two stroke penalty for submitting an incorrect score card. In the fourth round, she vigorously fought back even into extended play, but ultimately, she lost to a Korean athlete named So-Yeon Yoo. She was forced to accept a second place prize of two hundred thousand dollars as opposed to the four hundred and five thousand dollars for first place.
In an interview she was a part of, I was able to see Lexi Thompson with tears in her eyes. She understood the two stroke penalty for misplacing her marker, but she felt the additional two strokes for her scorecard were unfair. Claiming that what she had done was a common convention amongst players, her tears seemed to show her extreme distress as to why her victory was taken away from her so close to the finish line. At the age of twelve, she was the youngest to ever partake in her sport, receiving the status of a pro at age fifteen. Being only 22, she still has many opportunities to do well. However, her tears seemed to be due to the loss in her honor throughout all of her playing days. Through this incident, I was able to learn a couple of things. First, it’s important to play according to the rules. It’s similar to driving. At first, we completely stop at the stop sign. After some time, when we’ve become comfortable with driving, we don’t really stop anymore, rather, we slow down and roll through the stop sign. There is no point to saying it’s unfair or that others do it too when caught by a police officer. Second, a little bit of greed can bring calamity. With two feet left to go, placing a marker even one centimeter in an advantageous direction to seal a victory eventually ended in calamity. Just as a yard difference jumping out of a plane for a sky diver does not make as much of a difference as a one yard leap into a swimming pool might, it seems as though the temptation to put even a centimeter closer was insurmountable as teeing off one centimeter closer could have been. Let us look in our own hearts to see if there is a complacency or a moral sense in realistic needs that results in a ‘one inch mentality’ when it comes to worship or prayer.
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.