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Politico Invitational putts more than elitism across the green

Break out your putters and plaid pants. Prepare to hit the green. The politicos are ready to play.

As winter clears out and spring approaches, it is almost time for one of the University's newest traditions: the invitation-only, charity miniature golf tournament commonly referred to as the Politico Invitational.

I, for one, am ready to defend my mini-golf honor. I was disqualified from last year's tournament on trumped-up cheating charges - a fate that still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

After all, no one told me it is not permitted to just pick up the ball and throw it in the direction of the hole, with the hopes that by some miracle, it will go in.

I also never knew that kicking the ball into the hole is not acceptable. The miniature golf course at Planet Fun is ridiculously difficult. I was simply doing what seemed necessary at the time. I didn't think anyone would ever catch on. Sadly, I was wrong.

My reported score of 10 over par was met with much scrutiny and discarded as impossibly low. I tied with 25 other people - including basketball star Keith Friel and Fourth-Year Class President Drew Davis - for 105th place.

There was no glory for me. I swore that I would have better luck next time. Or maybe just not get caught. I would become a stealthier abuser of mini-golf rules.

In addition to attracting golf-savvy players, this event also tends to lure participants who wear multi-colored plaid pants and pastel shirts.

The event gives politicos a chance to start new fashion trends. Perhaps this is the year that bright colors will come back into vogue.

Maybe politicos will take the advice of www.bananarepublic.com and crown "geranium" the new king of the politico hue. (I, for one, would be a huge fan of a more manly version of politico pink.)

Using the ubiquitous politico garb of invitational players as evidence, some criticized the event as overly elitist and self-congratulatory. Many people also thought it was good while it lasted but was never going to happen again.

But that does not appear to be the case, as new leaders such as Fourth-Year Class President-elect Portman Wills have taken over the esteemed project.

Although this year's invitational most likely will reflect the personality of its new organizers rather than that of the tournament's founders, the event will go on.

A more pressing issue that needs to be addressed is the perception that the invitational is an elitist gathering of students who already think too highly of themselves.

I understand why people would feel this way. At first glance, the tournament may look like a chance for politicos to exclude those outside their world. It could be their chance to look down on students who do not follow every Honor Committee action and cannot recite the Standards of Conduct upon request.

In some ways, this perception is true. There is a certain elitist element to any event that is not open to the public. But the invitational is about much more than that, and students should not hold pre-conceived notions about the tournament.

The ideals behind the Politico Invitational go far beyond raising money and having fun on a spring afternoon. It isn't even about winning - although finishing first probably would be a lot more satisfying for me than a repeat of last year's debacle.

And while I certainly hope the finest of politico fashion will be on display at this year's event, it's not about what you wear.

Clothing aside, the event serves as a celebration of the community of student government at the University. It gives student leaders a chance to work together on a project and donate the proceeds to those less fortunate.

So I will be ready when the day comes to take another crack at mini-golf fame.

This year, I will go with a new understanding of the meaning behind the event. Maybe a more secure grasp of the rules of golf will help as well.

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