Editorial: When the powerful break the rules, they should receive punishment just like the rest of us

Image: Phil Mickelson runs after a moving ball on the 13th green at Shinnecock Hills, Long Island, New York, on Saturday, June 16, 2018, at the United States Open Golf Championship. Mickelson hit the ball while it was still in motion, a clear violation of the Rules of Golf that any beginner would know. The Rules Officials allowed him to get away with this disgusting behavior without disqualification.

Eric Yollick, The Golden Hammer

Should a multimillionaire professional golf player who is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame get away with a willful breach of the Rules of Golf without disqualification? According to the United States Golf Association, which sponsors the United States Open Golf Championship and is one of the two governing bodies that promulgates the Rules of Golf, apparently the answer is “yes.”

On the thirteenth hole at Shinnecock Hills, the prestigious Golf Club on Long Island, New York, World Golf Hall of Fame member Phil Mickelson faced a downhill putt on a lightning-fast green. His putt rolled past the hole and began to gain speed towards the edge of the green, but Mickelson ran around the left side of the hole and, while the ball continued to roll, knocked it back towards the hole. Every beginning golf player knows that you can’t hit a moving ball. It was a clear breach of Rule 14-5 of the Rules of Golf.

But he’s Phil Mickelson, one of the most popular – and powerful – people in the game of golf. After his round ended, Mickelson commented, “I’ve thought about doing the same thing many times in my career,” Mickelson said about striking rather than stopping his moving ball. “I just did it this time. It was something I did to take advantage of the rules as best I can.”

Phil Mickelson didn’t “take advantage of the rules.” He willfully violated them. Mickelson’s comment made that clear.

Since it was Phil Mickelson, however, the Rules Officials only assessed Mickelson with a two-stroke penalty under Rule 14-5. Willful violations of the Rules of Golf bring disqualification as the appropriate penalty under Rule 1-2.

The reaction to Mickelson’s conduct was interesting. Some golf writers, such as Tim Rosaforte, tried to defend Mickelson and the Rules Officials.

Three players of the game, David Duval, Frank Nobilo, and Brandel Chamblee, however, made clear they found the situation appalling and could not believe the Rules Officials allowed Mickelson to get away with the willful cheating without disqualification.

But isn’t that the story of American culture in 2018? The rich and powerful can do whatever they want to do. Look at the Montgomery County government. Rich and powerful elected officials, such as Charlie Riley, Craig Doyal, Mike Meador, James Noack, and James Metts can get away with whatever they want. That top tier of the power elite don’t have to follow the rules of the law or of any other activity in which they engage. They set their own massive salaries and establish their own rules by which they sometimes abide and often don’t.

While I was in San Antonio last week, I spoke with a number of members of Commissioners Courts from other counties across Texas. I asked them how they felt about the agenda of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court. I showed them the two last agendas for June 12 and May 22, 2018. Every person with whom I spoke was outraged that the Commissioners Court conducts almost all of its business through secrecy by have a so-called “consent agenda” that is about three-quarters of the items on each agenda. Several Commissioners Court members from other counties asked “how is that not a violation of the Open Meetings Act?”

In 2018 American, the citizens, who under the theory on which the United States of America came into being were at the top – not the bottom – of the government organizational chart, are the only ones who must follow the law for fear of aggressive taxation, imprisonment, fines, fees, penalties, or public ridicule.

In Montgomery County, our leaders don’t follow the law. Doyal, Riley, and Meador operate in secrecy for most of the major decisions that come before the Commissioners Court. Doyal, Riley, and their political boss Marc Davenport specifically called for declaring the Texas Open Meetings Act unconstitutional, because it prevents them from “getting business done. Noack hides a major and controversial hire of Courier blog editor Andy Dubois on the consent agenda tucked inside of a single line item “Consider and Approve Payroll Change Request Forms” none of which anyone attached to the agenda backup materials. Doyal, Riley, and Meador made most of the decisions concerning the TX 249 Tollway, also known as the “Decimation of Hope Highway” or the “Marc Lawrence Davenport Tollroad,” in secret decisions made outside of the Commissioners Court. Those three would approve contracts sight unseen and largely undrafted. They’d draft the contracts after they approved them to suit their purposes.

Will that trend change? Will corruption continue to swallow the Montgomery County government? Will corruption overwhelm the game of golf? Or has it already done so?

Who can change this pattern?

Only one group of people can change this terrible direction. Those people carry a special title: “Citizen.”

Why even have Rules of Golf if the top tier professionals can violate it at will? Why have public integrity laws if the Montgomery County District Attorney jumps through every hoop and winnow to avoid enforcing them?

The citizens can bring the changes. They must do so or Montgomery County and the game of golf will continue to emulate the government of Venezuela.

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