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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bad Day on the Links? Want to Quit?

When I game back to golf after a 30 year sabbatical I was faced with some serious problems.  I remembered that I had once played a respectable game of golf, but all those small skills sets that fit together to make a competent weekend golfer had left me.  My swing was flat.  My feet were flat.  My back and my knee joins were 30 years older than the last time I'd held a golf club. I'd forgotten how to keep my head down.  I'd forgotten how to keep my feet still when I putted

Bottom line: I didn't have a golf game any more.  All I seemed to have remembered was that I had once embraced the game of golf with a deep passion I've rarely bestowed on anyone or anything, and I wanted it back.

I was also a bit of a trial to the Star Fort Ladies Golf Association.  The Association has never formally set a maximum handicap as a condition of membership, but I'm fairly certain that during my first couple of years after I returned to the game any number of the old timers quietly entertained the possibility of doing just that.  I feel fortunate that they held their peace and gave me the time to relearn the game.

During those 2 years what should be 4 hour rounds turned into 5 hours as my foursome repeatedly hunted my lost balls.  The groups behind us came up and helped, just to move me along.  One day I brought the entire golf course to a grinding halt when I decided that I didn't care how many balls I hit into the dreaded 8th hole pond, I would eventually hit 1 ball over the water.  I had had enough of hitting 2 in the water, accepting another penalty shot, and dropping on the other side.  It was humiliating.  I was desperate to write down any number less than 11 on my scorecard.  Before it was over the entire Star Fort Ladies Golf Association was cheering me on, giving me their water balls after I depleted my own supply.  When I finally kept my head down and stopped thinking about the water and got a ball onto the fairway on the other side there was an enthusiastic, audible celebration, as much for the fact that everybody could go back to their round as for my small victory over the paralytic effect of the pond.

Today I hit a very deficient drive on the 8th tee, and my layup shot was also weak, so I was facing the pond a little further back on the fairway than I like.  I'd left myself a bit of extra work.  I pulled out my 5 wood and took a practice swing, made sure I was lined up properly, checked my weight distribution, and took my shot.  The ball popped up into the air, soared across the pond and the swan that was gliding back and forth across my flight path, and landed squarely in the center of the fairway.  It doesn't always happen that way, of course.  But it did today.  What a difference persistence, determination, and repeated practice make!

Two days ago Stacy Lewis withdrew from the Canadian Women's Open after she carded 76 in the first round.  She quit because she was 4 shots over par?  She quit because she didn't play well at the Solheim Cup last week and she was depressed and stressed?  Oh my.

Earlier in the season Rory McIlroy withdrew from a tournament in which he was playing very, very badly because he had a toothache?  Really?  A toothache?

What's that about? We quit when we're not playing well?  Is that really ok?  I don't think so.

One day when I wasn't playing golf myself, I watched Phil Mickelson try to put his ball on a green with a false front.  The ball rolled back to his feet, 4 times, and he hit it again, 4 times.  He also shook his head and laughed.  Then he finished his round and he also finished the tournament.  I don't remember how he placed in the tournament, or even what tournament.  I remember how he dealt with those 4 flawed, failed attempts.  Lefty cried when he won the British Open this year.  I'd rather be mentored by Phil Mickelson than Stacy Lewis or Rory McIlroy.

I will always remember a conversation I had with my friend Alma one day when we were sharing a cart during one of those Star Fort Ladies Golf Association rounds.  I was struggling with my game that day.  I couldn't seem to get going.  I didn't have any rhythm.  My mind was everywhere but on the golf course.  As we made the turn I asked Alma to drop me off at my car.

I'm not worth playing with today, I explained to her, pitifully.

Alma drove right past the parking lot and headed for the 10th tee without saying a word or even looking at me.  I wondered if she'd heard me.  She stopped the cart at the forward tee, turned and looked me straight in the eye, and said,

You can't improve your golf game sitting at home on the sofa feeling sorry for yourself.