This DQ reveals winning character

Paul Valencia: High Schools

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Union golfer Yun Belex Cheng saw her total on the scoreboard at the Class 3A state golf tournament and knew something was amiss.

She thought she had signed for a 91, so she could not understand why there was an 89 next to her name after the second round of the tournament last week.

So she did the honorable thing — she spoke up about the erroneous score.

Eventually, it was determined that Cheng signed an incorrect scorecard and was disqualified.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association lists the scores of every golfer in the field for its golf championships. Next to Cheng’s name, it reads 85-DQ. (She fired an 85 in the first round to make the cut, then was disqualified after the second round.)

The official results, however, can seem so cruel. There is no explanation. Just DQ.

Here is a bit of what happened, and if you take anything away from this column, please let it be this: Yun Belex Cheng, a freshman, stepped forward on her own.

“It wouldn’t be fair to the other players,” Cheng said. “It was just the right thing to do.”

Cheng was already frustrated with her play that day. She was looking for the low 80s, not the low 90s. Then, the scorecard that was used by her opponent was drenched by the end of the round. So together, Cheng and her opponent transferred the scores from that first scorecard to a second, dry scorecard. Cheng said that second card was accurate, with her 91.

But then a tournament official handed out a third card to have the scores transferred again. Somewhere in that process, a ‘6’ was jotted down instead of an ‘8’ on a particular hole. When an official asked if Cheng had verified the scoring, Cheng said yes — but she was thinking about the transfer from that first card to the second card. The official handed her the card — that third card — to sign, and she did.

Now, no one at Union is arguing that Cheng’s score should be reinstated. Coach Gary Mills, at first, thought that Cheng had signed the correct score and did ask officials to review the decision. The decision was upheld.

But Mills was successful in getting the WIAA to acknowledge there were problems with the way the scoring was handled.

There was confusion as to which was the official card. Mills said he has never witnessed scores being transferred from one card to another — twice. There was an inexperienced worker at the scorer’s table, and Cheng was not asked to transfer the scores that final time. (She was not required to be there, but it would have been preferred.)

Cheng, to her credit, also has learned a valuable lesson. She said she will always check the scorecard she is signing one more time.

Paul Lucien, the head rules official for WIAA golf tournaments, drafted a letter to Cheng that should be in the mail this week.

“Your willingness to speak up when you saw the incorrect score posted demonstrates you have a high level of integrity,” an excerpt of the letter reads. “This great game is built on the hope that players like you will do exactly what you did in being honest about your score. I want you to know that while the circumstances led us to make the ruling we did, based on the very strict requirements of the rules of golf, you did nothing that any of us would call wrong. No one, not one of us, believes for a moment you did anything but carry yourself with the very best of intentions.”

Cheng acknowledged to me that she did not know she was going to get disqualified when she told an official about the wrong score. She just hoped it could be fixed.

But now that she knows what could happen, would she do it again?

Absolutely, she said without hesitation.

“It wouldn’t be fair to the other players. It was just the right thing to do.”

• • •

Speaking of mistakes, I had a doozy in Wednesday’s column. A double-doozy. I had a typo on a year — I meant 1989 not 1999 — and had two local baseball teams playing for a championship instead of two teams winning a championship on the same day (in different classifications). So, in baseball language, I made two errors on the same play. I booted the ground ball (the typo), then made things worse with a throwing error (the information after the year). The online version of my column was corrected early Wednesday morning.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail atpaul.valencia@columbian.com