Life Lessons: When a Mistake Costs the Game

If you’re a golf fan (and even if you’re not) Dustin Johnson inadvertently provided you with a great “teachable moment”during Sunday’s PGA championship. If you missed it (or just don’t do golf), Johnson was leading the field on the 18th hole when his tee shot fell slightly to the right of the fairway, into a “bunker” (that’s a sand trap) that had been “walked on, kicked and trampled by thousands of fans over the last week,” as HuffPo’s Nancy Armour put it. Johnson didn’t realize it was a bunker, and as a result, he let his club touch the ground before he hit the ball.

He then missed his putt. The result looked like a three-way playoff, until Johnson was penalized for breaking a rule in the bunker: you’re not allowed to touch the sand with your club before you hit. Johnson clearly did; and he was given a two-shot penalty (standard for this “grounding”) and shut out of the playoff. What wasn’t clear, to Johnson and to many observers, was that Johnson was in a bunker at all.

It looked like an honest mistake. It must have been an honest mistake—there’s no advantage in letting your club touch the ground before a shot in the bunker; it’s just one of those rules (and it’s one any pro golfer follows without a second thought). But Johnson didn’t get a do-over, or a second chance. He broke a rule, and he paid the price.

This kind of thing happens fairly regularly in pro sports, but it almost never happens to our kids. And that’s a shame. Here’s why we should let our kids be disappointed more than once in a while.

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