Despite DQ, Knowlton Never Got Bent Out of Shape

A lot of talk is given to the integrity and tradition of the sport of golf.  It is one of very few sports were the athletes are generally dressed better than the fans.  Golf is one of only a handful of sports where the crowd is removed for making noise during competition, but at the 2004 Big Ten Women's Golf Championships, Ohio State's Lindsay Knowlton exemplified the integrity that has been the backbone of the sport for centuries. 

On the tail-end of a solid round of golf on her home course, then-junior Knowlton began to heat up on the 14th hole.  She birdied the par-five 14th, then followed up with a three on the par-four 15th.  After reaching the green in two on the par-four 16th, Knowlton had a 10-foot downhill birdie attempt.  Having played on the Scarlet course for three years, she knew the putt would be quick.  Knowlton struck the ball, but not hard enough, as the ball came to rest on the lip of the hole and her frustration was obvious.  "Like anyone else, I just gave my putter a little whack on my foot, but I hit it on the shaft not the head, so the shaft kind of bent a bit.  I didn't realize it, so I went up, it was half an inch, and I tapped it in," Knowlton explained. 

When she made it to the next tee, putter still in hand, Knowlton noticed that her club was slightly bent.  Not thinking much of it, she laughed it off and showed her playing partner Molly Redfearn of Indiana.  Wanting to prevent her opponent from incurring any unnecessary penalties, Redfearn told Knowlton that she thought there was a stroke-penalty for using a damaged club.  Now realizing the possibility of penalty, Knowlton teed off and went directly to the rules committee representative stationed off of the 17th fairway.  "I went to the rules committee and I told them I accidentally bent my putter and I had used it," Knowlton recalls.  "I took full responsibility, but they said I was disqualified because I had used it to tap in (on 16)."

Sighting rule 4-3b, which prohibits the use of a club damaged "other than in the normal course of play", the rules committee told Knowlton that while she had been DQed, she could finish her round if she liked.  She obliged and finished the day with a 77, however, her score could not be counted towards her team's total, forcing Ohio State to include Jennifer Selfinger's 81 instead.  The four-stroke difference could have ended a budding Buckeye dynasty before it even had a chance to begin.  With the 81 included, the Scarlet and Gray lost their lead and dropped two strokes behind the Indiana Hoosiers.  While Knowlton had faith in her team's ability to overcome the deficit, she knew that other forces might make that comeback impossible.  "Of course said there would be major lightening storms the next day, so I felt awful," said Knowlton.  "I hadn't done it purposely, but as a result, we were losing.  Luckily we got to play the last day."

Whether luck or karma returning because of her honesty the day before, the Buckeyes' 293-shot final round removed Knowlton from the proverbial hook, giving Ohio State its third- straight Big Ten title.  The Scarlet and Gray overcame the Cream and Crimson by recording the best round of the championships.  Knowlton was able to compete on Sunday and she did her part to make up for the accidental indiscretion the day before by posting a 74 en route to the Buckeyes' 17-shot victory. 

Three-hundred and sixty-five days later, Knowlton was prepared to venture out onto a snowy track in Ann Arbor, only to learn that the final round of the 2005 Championships had been cancelled, giving her squad its fourth title in a row.  Knowlton contributed significantly to this year's victory as well, placing second, three strokes behind classmate and fellow Buckeye Kristen White.  "We came out here and we really wanted to win because it was four in a row.  Kristen and I have played on everyone of those teams, so it was a special week, but above all, we wanted to win it as team." 

Even knowing that it could have cost her team the conference crown, the thought of overlooking the potential violation never crossed her mind.  "I couldn't ignore it.  I could never do that.  As soon as I knew that there could be a problem, I asked immediately," Knowlton explained, again exemplifying the integrity of a champion.