I'm the cynical and also jealous sort, so when I see a story in the paper about some 10-year-old kid or cancer survivor or 98-year-old lady hitting a hole-in-one, I automatically think, liar. No you didn't. Stop lying to the newspaper, you goddamned liar. This is a personal failing on my part, but you must admit: a hole-in-one is the easiest thing in the world to make up. By definition, no one but your foursome is going to have witnessed it. Just agree to stick the story, and no one can poke holes in it.
Jeff Graham, a sports reporter at the Kitsap (Wash.) Sun learned this the hard way. Back on Aug. 16, Graham published a story about a strange happening at a local course. It seems that in the course of one day, four different players all achieved holes-in-one.
It wasn't a question of who'd shoot a hole-in-one Thursday during the Great Googly-Ball tournament at McCormick Woods Golf Club in Port Orchard.
It was a question of when the run of aces would come to an end.
John Armstrong of Illahee, Shawn Cucciardi of Port Orchard, Mike Hancock of Seabeck and Cris Larsen of Manette all recorded holes-in-one during the foursome, best-ball event.
"We were throwing darts with the gods today," said Larsen, the tournament's director. "Everybody was just going nuts."
Graham did his due diligence on the story. He spoke multiple times with Larsen, as well as with Cucciardi, one of the other players to hole out. The story ran, quirky and inoffensive, and that should have been the end of it. It was, until Sun editor David Nelson went to his Wednesday morning Rotary Club meeting.
There was Larsen, boasting about making the whole thing up. "Googly" golf apparently involves teeing off, then rolling the ball into the hole with your hand, not counting the roll as a stroke. Oh, and there was no tournament—just a bunch of guys dicking around.
Nelson tells Jim Romenesko that he high-tailed it out of the meeting, and immediately fired off an email to Graham. The next day, the Sun ran an article exposing the hoax and explaining how they got snookered. If you've ever wanted to see a reporter at their most aggrieved and righteous, Graham was in rare form.
As reporters, the No. 1 principle we strive to meet is accuracy. We're expected to get the facts straight and report the truth. We count on sources who we have built relationships with to give us honest information. We take this seriously so you, as readers, can trust what is reported about our community each day.
It's our responsibility to verify information we receive as best we can, which is why the integrity of those sources is so important.
This type of hoax brings that relationship between reporter and source into question.
The next time a high school soccer coach calls in a 5-0 win, should I question whether it was a real game or a video game?
The next time I pick up a fax reporting a hole-in-one, do I need to ask if this was actual golf or "Googly" golf?
The next time you read the front page of our sports section, can you believe what you're reading?
God, I hope so.
Do not fucking mess with the Kitsap Sun's golf column.