Unquestionably, Stevenson golf coach made the right call on fixing scoring error

  • Daniel Wright Middle School physical education teacher John Rueth, right, cheers on eighth grade kids as they participate in a walk to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2012. Rueth, the Stevenson High School boys golf coach, has Type 1 diabetes.

    Daniel Wright Middle School physical education teacher John Rueth, right, cheers on eighth grade kids as they participate in a walk to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2012. Rueth, the Stevenson High School boys golf coach, has Type 1 diabetes. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Stevenson's Conan Pan will tee off in the Class 3A state golf tournament at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington on Friday.

    Stevenson's Conan Pan will tee off in the Class 3A state golf tournament at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington on Friday. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

 
 
Updated 10/18/2019 8:09 AM

A little more than a year removed from a health scare that nearly cost him his life, John Rueth is still not out of the woods.

Which is never good for a golfer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"People are always telling me that I look great," said a smiling Rueth, who does, but isn't.

Since Rueth was a babe, he has been a Type I diabetic. A bout with sepsis last year turned his world upside down and led to him being a Mayo Clinic regular. His diet has changed. His life has changed. His character has not.

Stevenson's longtime golf coach, Rueth mustered up the physical and mental strength last fall to head downstate with his Patriots boys team, which hoisted the IHSA second-place trophy at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington. Rueth, 57, was there Monday at Kishwaukee Country Club in chilly DeKalb, making his way around the private course, bundled up in his Stevenson-green, athletic-fit winter jacket and a green golf cap.

He looked great.

His declining health has robbed him of his length off the tee and so much more, but the former Wisconsin Badger golfer still thinks the game and has never forgotten that golf is a gentleman's game and is nothing without integrity.

Take Monday.

During a hectic Class 3A sectional at tree-lined Kishwaukee CC, while players were finishing their rounds and everyone was wondering whether the sun would set before competition was completed, Rueth was bothered. He roamed, hands tucked in his jacket pockets. He had questioned the score that one of his players penciled down for one hole. Rueth had happened to watch his golfer play the particular hole.

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The player penciled down an 8. Rueth, however, was confident he counted 9 strokes on the hole for his player.

Determined to get it right, Rueth eventually confirmed with his player that the correct score was, indeed, a 9. An honest error, mind you. But the ramification was huge.

Because the Patriots golfer had signed his scorecard with an incorrect score on it, he was disqualified. The Patriots had to throw out his 79 and use a teammate's 81. It meant Stevenson's team score went from 310 to 312.

Stevenson missed going to state by 1 stroke.

If the player had just correctly put down a 9 on the hole and signed his card, the one stroke would have given Stevenson a 311 and tied the Patriots with Lake Forest. Stevenson would have qualified for state by virtue of a fifth-score tiebreaker, joining sectional-champ DeKalb (305) and runner-up Barrington (310).

Let that sink in, to use a golf verb.

Rimming out a tap-in putt is less painful.

All Rueth had to do was ignore his gut, or say nothing, and his team would have been teeing it up at state on Friday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But like that was going to happen? Rueth couldn't have lived with himself, and this is a man who maybe more than ever has an appreciation for the fragility of life.

Conan Pan and Jake Surane advanced to state individually for Stevenson.

"Mulligans," "foot wedges," "gimme" putts and "courtesy 8's" may be permissible when playing a friendly round, but competitive golf is different. There is zero tolerance for anything but the truth, even when a player makes an honest error.

Golf claps are common, but in the case of Stevenson's coach, a standing ovation seems in order.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

• Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeAguilar64

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