A GOLFING INJUSTICE
It’s rare for a sports story to remain secret and unpublished for months, but local amateur golf is a domain where it can happen. Golf Digest deputy editor Barry Havenga, who covers our Amateur Scene, has been sitting since September on a troubling story of one of the biggest injustices I’ve encountered in golf. The full account of how our No 1 amateur, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, a future star if ever there was one, has been given a two-year worldwide ban can be read on Page 92.
Bezuidenhout’s world was turned upside down in September while excitedly packing his bags for a trip which would be the pinnacle of his amateur career – representing his country in the World Amateur Team Championships in Japan. The SA Golf Association received a letter from the International Golf Federation stating that Bezuidenhout had tested positive for a prohibited substance following a urine sample taken at the British Amateur. They had imposed a two-year ban on him, and the SAGA had to withdraw him from the Eisenhower Trophy team.
Bezuidenhout was taking beta blockers on a medical prescription to combat the anxiety of a stutter. Winning tournaments came easy for the 20-year-old from Delmas, but making a speech afterwards was torture. The youngster wasn’t aware that beta blockers were a prohibited drug, and because the SAGA doesn’t offer information about drug tests to their elite players, he was unaware that he was treading in dangerous waters.
The Bezuidenhout family lawyer appealed to the IGF to consider these mitigating circumstances, to no avail. A naïve young man’s career in golf has been heartlessly shattered by faceless bureaucrats who want to show the IOC before golf ’s entry to the 2016 Olympics that the IGF is on top of any drug problem in the game. Two years is the maximum suspension that can be imposed. As an amateur Bezuidenhout should have been warned he would be subject to regular future testing and given a 3-month ban at most. That would have allowed him to compete in the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in January. A two-year ban could effectively kill his career.
Olympic athletes – sprinter Tyson Gay a recent example – have come away with lesser suspensions for use of performance enhancing drugs. Gay received a one-year ban and had to return his silver medal from the 2012 Games. We hope the IGF see reason in this situation.
This issue contains the Dan Jenkins “fake” Q&A with Tiger Woods ( page 80) which has gone viral since Woods reacted so petulantly to its publication. Tiger’s riposte means the Q&A has got more attention than it would have had the easily offended Woods not alerted the world to its existence. As UK golf writer James Corrigan wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Warning for any easily offended sporting superstar out there: if you really do not want everyone to read a negative article then do not tell everyone not to read it. Because, erm, everyone will then go and read it.”
Woods claimed readers would believe the interview to be genuine, even though the photos are clearly those of his double, and an asterisk says “Or how it plays out in my mind.” This Q&A definitely does play out in Jenkins’ mind. Tiger would never grant the old guy the time of day for a one-to-one chat.