A different way to win

Character-revealing moment costs Huseman title, but connects him more than ever with his Grandpa Dutch

Messenger photo by Eric Pratt Andrew Huseman putts on Sunday during the final round of the Fort Dodge Amateur at the Fort Dodge Country Club.

In Andrew Huseman’s mind, the final round of the 2018 Fort Dodge Amateur was initially about completing a long and often arduous journey to the top of the leaderboard as a tribute to his iconic grandfather.

Huseman didn’t bring home the trophy the way he had planned, despite playing well enough to do so. Instead, with Grandpa Dutch’s words guiding his conscience, the Ankeny Centennial graduate made a real-world decision that wound up being about so much more than the game itself.

An inadvertent rule misinterpretation in Huseman’s group on Saturday led to a Sunday disqualification of the FD Am’s open division leader, who finished a confusing and emotional round at the Fort Dodge Country Club while knowing the title he had in his grasp was likely about to slip away yet again.

Here’s how it all unfolded — and ultimately, unraveled — for Huseman:

When Huseman’s threesome teed off on Saturday morning, there was an understanding that the lift, clean and place rule from Friday remained in effect for round two in the fairway. Wet conditions had granted the the field the opportunity to play the ball “up” in the opening round, where golfers could mark their ball, wipe it off and put it back in its original spot.

The amendment had been removed for Saturday; the updated rule sheet said to play the ball “down,” or where it came to rest, on each shot. But Huseman’s group, which also included Brody Boston and Tanner Randall, misinterpreted instructions from the starter and continued to follow Friday’s guidelines instead.

“We were marking the ball in the fairway (using lift, clean and place) and leaving it down in the rough,” said Huseman, who just completed his senior season at Arkansas State University. “We were going by what the starter had told us to do. But when Brody got on the tee box (Sunday for the championship 18) and asked the starter if we were playing the ball up in the fairway again, he was told the ball had been played down (the day before by everyone else).

“Brody came over to me and said, ‘we have a problem: all of these guys are saying they played it down everywhere (Saturday).’ So I went and talked to (FDCC pro shop manager) Eddie (Doyle) about it before I even teed off. I wanted to double-check, and I later found out we were in the wrong.”

Doyle contacted Chad Pitts, the executive director of the Iowa Golf Association. Though Huseman, Boston and Randall hadn’t broken any rules intentionally, the consequences were clear and unwavering: the trio was DQ’ed for signing incorrect Saturday scorecards.

Huseman was on the third hole when he first learned of his fate. Instead of leaving the course, Huseman completed his round for what he called “peace of mind.” He carded a two-over par 73 that would have given the 23-year-old his first FD Am championship by a convincing four strokes.

A brief conversation with Doyle afterward only confirmed that the IGA’s ruling had been final. Huseman’s championship round would not count.

The word “unfortunate” became the prevailing sentiment at the FDCC the rest of the afternoon, as word quickly spread. Open division champ Niel Doak specifically mentioned Husemanás situation before talking about his first title. Doyle “felt terrible” for Huseman, on behalf of the course, the tournament, its volunteers and himself.

Huseman has become a local favorite of sorts, and is well-respected in the regional amateur ranks. There are hundreds of different ways to “cheat” in golf, but also, hundreds of ways to be punished for an inadvertent misstep. Rules are rules, and they’re often unforgiving in this sport; an honest mistake still doesn’t allow exceptions.

When the time came to self-report their violation, the players didn’t hesitate. Huseman wasn’t thinking of his grandpa as an athlete, Hall of Fame Fort Dodge Senior High coach or talented golfer in that moment; he turned to the lessons Dutch taught him about being an honest and law-abiding man, who always preached character first more than winning at all costs.

“He always held people to a higher standard and expected them to act with integrity and class,” said Huseman, his voice cracking while being overcome with emotion. “I turned myself in because that’s how my grandpa raised me, and the principle he held … through life. At the end of the day, I can go to sleep with my head held high. I may not be the one walking away with the trophy, but I know in my head and heart that I played exceptionally well and, most importantly, I did the right thing.

“I’m just trying to make my grandpa proud, and I think I was able to do that today.”

Huseman did, in more ways than a title on Sunday ever would have.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net, or on Twitter @MessengerSports