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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Gradually Things Got Worse

Stacy Lewis struggled at the  Shop Rite Tournament today and I struggled at Star Fort.  Round after round, over the past 12 weeks or so my score has been gradually creeping upward.  Initially it was a low, short drive here and a wimpy second shot there, nothing I couldn't cover with a strong approach shot (isn't that why we carry hybrids and irons?) and still walk off the green with bogeys and an occasional par.  I didn't give the situation a thought.  It wasn't interfering with my game, or at least the outcome.  Why worry?  Everybody has a few bad shots now and then.  Maybe I needed to accept that, as my golfing pal Barb so gently reminded me, I'm now "an old geezer" on the course.  Perhaps, but the other old geezers in the Star Fort Ladies Golf Association didn't seem to be having problems with their game.

Then I wasn't shooting in the 90s any more, and most of my drives were short and low and most of my 2nd shots were rolling on the ground instead of flying through the air as the golf gods intended.  I started consistently losing my ball to the pond that disrupts everyone's progress from the tee box to the green on the 8th hole at Star Fort.  In short, gradually things got worse.

A couple of weeks ago Barb and I were charing a cart and I hit another of my 3-wood grounders.  "Why are you closing your club face" Barb asked when I limped back into the cart.  Why, indeed? I had no idea why.  I wasn't even aware that I was doing that.

"You need to stop that," she ordered.  Barb and I are playing as a team in the club's member-member tournament and she has a vested interest in my performance right now.

"Ok," I said, and wondered how I was going to do that.

Then, today, after an absolutely perfect layup to the dreaded pond on the 8th hole, I once again put not 1 but 2 balls in the water.  I should have been on the green, or at the very least sitting right in front of it. I was playing with Libby Smith, who is one of the kindest people I've ever met, on or off the golf course, and also a superb irons player.  Libby walked over to me and asked if I would allow her to help.  I melted with gratitude.  I knew I was in desperate need of help, but it wasn't to be.  I made 4 more attempts and put put 6 balls in the pond before I conceded the hole to the pond.

Later in the round, as I was standing on another tee box, I looked at my grip and realized, in a sudden flash on understanding, that I couldn't see the knuckles on my left hand.  When had I started rolling my wrist?  Why wasn't I aware of it?  Why hadn't I been monitoring my grip.  I rolled my hand up where it belonged, and when my swing felt very awkward I knew I was in big trouble.  The bad habit had established muscle memory, and I didn't have much time to correct it.  The member-member tournament is now one week away.

The middle of a round isn't the ideal moment to begin making corrections in technique, but my round was already a lost cause and I was playing with two very patient and understanding people, so I starting working on retraining my left hand and getting it back in its proper position.  My initial efforts resulted in some interesting adventure golf shots, one from the 17th tee box that arced off the toe of my drive, soared up and over a stand of medium height pines, and plopped onto the par-3 16th tee box.  I backtracked past the group behind us and began the process of getting back through the trees, over a small hill, and back to the 17th fairway and, eventually, the 17th green.

When I finally got the ball in the cup, Libby gave me a fist bump and told me, "That's the best double bogey I've ever seen."  I have to agree with her.

When we finished our round I paid my wagers, got a bucket of practice balls, and went to the driving range.  As tired as I was, in the late afternoon heat, knowing that the sooner I started the sooner I'd begin to reverse the damage my neglect of attention to detail had created, I began the process of straightening out my grip.  Fixing these sorts of problems isn't pleasant, but it's necessary if I hope to maximize the pleasure of a round of golf, because, like Shirley, I am always competing against myself as well as Old Man Par and my playing partners.  I have 6 days to remedy the problem before Barb and I tee off in the member-member tournament.