Golf is a sport that emphasizes integrity.
Players are expected to call penalties on themselves, even if no one is looking.
That's why it's fitting that Hunter Mahan – who was leading the RBC Canadian Open after two rounds – withdrew to attend the birth of his daughter. Mahan did the right thing – for himself, for golf, and for fathers everywhere.
That's not to say that it was an easy decision. Mahan hasn't won a PGA tournament this year. He finished in the top 10 in two recent big tournaments – the US Open and the British Open Championship. Going into Saturday's third round, he was leading by two shots. And if he had won, Mahan would have pocketed a $1,008,000 winner's check.
How many new dad's would walk away from a $1 million pay day?
The baby wasn't due for a few weeks. But then his phone rang Saturday morning, while he was warming up on the practice range. His wife was in labor, her water had broken. He didn't hesitate. He politely left the tournament.
“I received exciting news a short time ago that my wife Kandi has gone into labor with our first child,” said Mahan. “As a result, I have withdrawn from the RBC Canadian Open to return to Dallas. I would like to extend my very sincere gratitude and appreciation to RBC and the RBC Canadian Open.
"Kandi and I are thrilled about this addition to the Mahan family and we look forward to returning to the RBC Canadian Open in the coming years.”
Mahan is not the first golfer to face the challenge of fatherhood vs. work. As Yahoo Sports writer Jay Busbee wrote: "Back in 1999, Phil Mickelson famously wore a beeper during the U.S. Open. His daughter was born the day after Mickelson lost to Payne Stewart. More recently, Ross Fisher vowed to walk off the course at the 2009 British Open no matter what if he heard his wife was going into labor; he was just one stroke behind leader Tom Watson at the time."
And last fall, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman caused a stir when he suggested that the birth of his child would take precedent over showing up for his job. It sparked conversations on talk radio and in social media about work and family priorities. Tillman said:
"[Football will] always be second or third in my life. That was a great lesson learned, to teach me that family — when I’m done playing football — my family will always be there for me.”
As The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time, "Tillman's announcement drew criticism from some sports columnists and fans. Sport radio talk show starkly framed the question: "If you only work 16 days a year, should you miss one for the birth of your child?"
Tillman's daughter was eventually born on a Monday, saving the NFL player and fans from any further controversy.
But Mahan's daughter Zoe arrived on a work day. As a father, it's unlikely Mahan will regret the decision to leave the golf tournament. And there are probably more than a few dads – who missed the birth of their first child – who would now gladly give a $1 million to be there.