There's no reason even the most devout golf aficionado should have been familiar with the name of 28-year-old Scottish golf professional Elliot Saltman.
Then he committed a rules violation last year while playing on the European Tour's developmental circuit, was called onto the carpet by his playing partners, and eventually disqualified.
On Tuesday, a European Tour committee met in Abu Dhabi to consider his larger fate and elected to suspend him for three months. Saltman, who earned his full 2011 European Tour card by making it through Q-school in the offseason, has the right to appeal.
That's exactly what he should do.
As much as we universally detest the notion of what Saltman did, the guy needs to lawyer up in a hurry, because the way this whole scenario was handled is a bigger crime than monkeying around with his ball marker on the green, the violation of which Saltman was convicted in an E-Tour kangaroo court.
A couple of points to consider, legally and ethically:
According to news reports from Abu Dhabi, Saltman is the third E-Tour player to be suspended for intentionally cheating, and both of the earlier offenders were suspended for several seasons, not months. How does that help Saltman, exactly? It proves that the punishment issued in his case was completely subjective.
The gray area of subjectivity is where lawyers make millions. In other words, golf has specific sanctions in place for drug offenders, but punishment for a cheating allegation is subject to the whims and caprices of those sitting in judgment. You can bet that will change, as soon as the E-Tour can draw up and validate a codified set of regs relating to cheating offenses.
Which brings us to another interesting point. One of the senior players on the panel deliberating Saltman's fate was none other than Colin Montgomerie, who was hauled before a similar committee several years ago when a videotape replay from a tournament in Jakarta showed he moved his marked ball several feet into an advantageous position when restarting play after a weather play. Monty, an eight-time Order of Merit leader, got a farcical slap on the wrist and forfeited his winnings.
But there he was, being quoted Wednesday on the Saltman sanctions.
Pot, meet kettle.
Monty, you might recall, was one of the first players to chide Tiger Woods when the latter's 2009 travails became public. At the time, Monty was engaging in an extra-marital affair of his own. Nice.
To recap: The tour had conclusive video evidence that Monty moved his ball. They had the word of two playing partners that Saltman did likewise, moving his ball perhaps an inch or two on a handful of occasions, on the greens.
A legal expert pointed out to the U.K.'s respected Guardian paper that in broad terms, having players sit in judgment of a peer creates the possibility of a huge conflict of interest. For instance, Monty and Saltman are both Scottish. Even the appearance of nationalism should be avoided in such cases. Perhaps one of the players has a personal dislike of Saltman.
Rule of thumb: If it looks like a conflict of interest, that's because it is a conflict of interest.
If amateurs like us can punch holes in the ethics and legality of the E-Tour's sanction system, you can imagine that if Saltman elects to pursue his right to appeal, or take the matter to civil court, lawyers will be lining up to handle the case.
The Guardian story can be found here http://tinyurl.com/4c8g6ku