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The God Squad: A look at the rules between God and golf

July 06, 2012|By Marc Gellman, Tribune Media Services

Question: On June 17, Webb Simpson won theU.S. Open golf championship.

Webb said: "I prayed more the last three holes than I've ever done in my life."

Webb was 26 and had never played in a major tournament before and had never finished higher than fourth place in a significant tournament.

He said, "Praying really helped me stay calm." My question is, did Webb cheat?

— R., via godsquadquestion@aol.com

Ansnwer: I love golf and I love God (of course, not in that order), so I couldn't pass up what I hope is your tongue-in-cheek question. In general, I believe that in a world where there's so much we need to do to help people in real need, it's spiritually infantile to even consider asking God to help us win games. Religious life is about trying, not winning; it's about never giving up on the worthy tasks God has set before us in our lives.

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Another problem with praying for victory in a game is that by praying to win, you're also praying for someone else to lose. If, like professional golfers, playing games is what you do for a living, I'm still not on board with praying for divine intervention to help you sink a putt, but I do understand and sympathize with all of us who pray to God for solace, calmness and fortitude when the heat is turned up in our lives.

I encourage kids who are active in athletics or involved in academic competitions to pray not for success, but rather for the courage and perseverance to do their best.

Now, let me take a stab at your specific question about whether or not Webb Simpson cheated by praying during the U.S. Open.

According to "The Rules of Golf," written and maintained by the USGA and the R and A in St. Andrews, Scotland, we read this under Rule No. 8:

8-1. Advice

During a stipulated round, a player must not:

a) Give advice to anyone in the competition playing on the course other than his partner, or

b) Ask for advice from anyone other than his partner or either of their caddies.

What are we to make of this? Well, if God was understood by Webb Simpson to be his partner (not only in golf, but also during life's journey and beyond the grave), praying to God during the round would seem to be permitted by Rule 8-1b as an act of asking advice from a partner.

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