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Original Issue

Right Call

Columbia's coach gave the Lions a lesson in integrity

This game canmake you feel good about yourself even while it's breaking your heart. That maynot be why we play, but it's a pretty good consolation prize, as I was remindedthe weekend before last.

I'm the coach ofthe Columbia men's golf team, and on April 22-23 we were playing in the IvyLeague championship at Ballyowen Golf Club, in Hardyston, N.J. Though Princetonhad won four of the five previous titles, we had beaten the Tigers three timesthis year, and I felt confident we could give them a run for the trophy. Sureenough, when the final pair, Jason Gerken from Princeton and my guy, Matt Wong,came to the last hole, we trailed by a stroke.

Both players hitwhat looked to be great drives. Gerken thought that his had flown the gapingbunker on the right side of the 18th fairway. But the day was miserable, withheavy rain and mist so thick it was hard to follow tee shots. When Gerken gotpast the bunker, he could not see his ball anywhere in the fairway.

I noticed thisand ran down to help look, joining a group of about 10 players, coaches andparents. The rules allow a player five minutes to search for a lost ball, andWill Green, the Princeton coach, started his watch to time the hunt. It issometimes possible to get a free drop--provided everyone agrees on where theball landed--but Green didn't think anyone was sure where Gerken's drive hadhit.

I was walkingback up the fairway when I saw the tiniest speck of white in the muddy grass.My first thought was, Damn, I'm good at finding these things! The ball wasplugged pretty darn good. I could see only a dimple, literally. "Here itis!" I yelled. Green's stopwatch said 4:51. With the ball found, Gerkenwent on to make par, and we lost by a stroke.

I thought laterabout the irony of me being the one who, in a sense, cost my team the title. Iguess I could have walked over the ball, or waited a bit longer to find it, ornot looked that hard to start with. This is my first season at Columbia, whichhas won only one Ivy League title [in 1999]. It would've been great for us towin, but I don't want to succeed that way--plus I want to set an example for myteam. If you really embrace what the game is about, then winning or losingbecomes less important.

On the van ridehome one of my guys said, "Coach did the right thing." When I heardthat, I knew that I had.

The Tour should've given the entire Zurich Classic purse to Katrina relief.




Mueller's unearthing of a Princeton player's errant tee shot cost his team theIvy title by a stroke.


Chris Eliopoulos, Writer; Michael Penick, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Color