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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Fear and Anger: NO!

I promised myself that when I finally "retired" I'd give more of my time to golf and seek out broader, more competitive venues.  I''m a mediocre golfer at best, but I love golf and enjoy competition at a deep level.  Happily, the game of golf accommodates players like me: the handicap!  I've registered to play in my first state-wide tournament, the Women's South Carolina Golf Association match play tournament.  (I love match play because when things go wrong for me, they tend to go very wrong and match play absorbs my breakdown holes and gives me opportunities to recover.)  I'm simultaneously exhilarated and terrified.  I know both emotions intimately.  I suspect that's the case for most golfers.

I was terrified when I joined the Star Fort Ladies Golf Association and stepped up to the tee for the first time with the women who were then strangers but whom I now regard as my best golf friends.  It took some time, perseverance on my part, patience from others.

I was terrified the first time I participated in my first Interclub tournament, a coalition of local women's leagues that plays together once a month during the March-October South Carolina golf season, but settled right down when Shirley Cheek peeked around the back of her cart and, beaming her broadest smile, said "welcome to your first Interclub!"  I settled in quickly to my game that day and now I look forward to my monthly Interclub round, enjoy seeing women whose paths I don't otherwise cross, and have a couple of recurring side wagers in place.

I was terrified the first time I participated in a Sandlapper tournament, another coalition of women's leagues that also plays monthly during the golf season and extends a bit further geographically than the Interclub league, allowing me opportunities to play golf on courses to which I wouldn't otherwise have access.

What fuels all this terror?  New course, new people -- fear of the unknown?  Perhaps.  The possibility of public humiliation?  Likely, but not rational.  To be sure, I'm not the best golfer on the course, but I'm also not the worst, and I've been witness to the better players in my golf world making all the gaffes that I fear committing:  drives that flop off the tee and barely manage to advance 50 yards; balls that splash, dribble, and slip into water hazards; sand shots that stay in the bunker and sand shots that rocket out of the sand, speed across the green, and nestle into the bunker on the other side of the green; balls that spring off the club face, pretend that they're going to fly down the fairway, and then take an astonishing right turn and disappear into the trees beyond the white stakes; putts that don't go even in the approximate right direction.  Other golfers don't typically punish someone for playing badly.  To the contrary, it's been my experience that they take your money with a smile on their face and then sit down with you and enjoy lunch.

Fear, like anger, blows out the lamp of my mind and has some subtle and not-so-subtle consequences for my golf game.  And when I allow one or both of these negative emotions to take control of my mind, I forget the basics of course management.  My body tenses into its biological fight-or-flight mode and I can't relax, let my club swing, and enjoy the moment of impact.  I make improper club choices.  On the golf course and off, fear and anger are my enemies.

I became frustrated one day when Greg and I were working on 100 yard approach shots, and slammed my club into the fairway.  (Note: I also repaired the damage with some sand.)  Greg, who was generally a kind and patient teacher, became instantly stern.

"It you can't accept that every round of golf will always include some bad shots, you need to go home and put your clubs in the next yard sale."

Properly admonished, I play on, accepting the bad shots and savoring the good ones.