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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkin Cup Worries: My New Putter

Star Fort Pumpkin Cup 2012 Team
I've been deeply worried, in that secret, unspoken fashion that can disrupt my sleep and distract my attention from Hillary's comments on Washington dysfunction, about the wisdom of acquiring a new putter and trying to make friends with it 6 weeks before the Pumpkin Cup, which is an annual golf highlight in my life, right up there with my biennial matches with Wes.

On its first few trial runs the Taylormade Spider Blade didn't perform well, despite the fact that it felt exactly right in my hands, that its pendulum swing felt smooth as silk, that it suspended in the air out in front of me in a perfectly balanced, effortless follow-through.

At its debut, last month's Sandlappers tournament, I played in a foursome with Aleene Abrams, who's one of the best golfers I know.  We're both women of a certain age, and I've always enjoyed playing golf with Aleene, even though she whines every time she hits the ball.  The shot is never quite good enough to suit her, even though there are always more pars and birdies on her scorecard than bogeys and doubles.

Aleene's demand for perfection is infectious and inspiring.  She never blames the conditions or her club or the natural distractions around her -- the crows calling each other, other players whispering, the mythic Buzzard Shadows.  She gives her very best effort to every shot she takes and she expects no less from those with whom she golfs.

Aleene generally plays for the Star Fort Team in the Pumpkin Cup and we were partners in the best ball match at last year's Cup.  She knows my game well, and when I'm not giving my game enough effort Aleene calls me on it.  Simply put, she doesn't like haphazard, casual golf and she drives her partners as intensely as she drives herself to achieve the upper limit of their skill.  I like playing with her.  I respond positively to that kind of performance pressure.

After my 2nd 4-putt that day, I confided to Aleene as we were coming off the green that I'd probably made a mistake, that I needed to go back to my tried and true Odyssey putter and write the Spider off as a lesson learned: don't try to fix a golf swing that's not broken.

Aleene and Me @ 2012 Pumpkin Cup
As a response, she took my Spider putter from me, gave it a quick once-over examination, took a couple of practice swings, handed it back to me and advised, Keep working with it.  This putter is a 1st cousin to my putter.  If you can make it work for you, you're going to love it.

I have complete trust in Aleene on all things related to golf, and I figure any equipment that's a 1st cousin to Aleene's equipment has to be top drawer, so I persevered, through round after round of 3-putts and 4-putts.  Hours on the practice green weren't helping.  From 3 feet out, a distance that would have been a gimme with my Odyssey, I was consistently missing the cup fractionally, first to the right, then to the left.  The head was too heavy.  I was pushing.  I was pulling.  The green was too wet.  The green was too dry.  

I wasn't thinking like Aleene and I certainly wasn't putting like Aleene.

Finally I conceded that I probably wasn't going to solve my problem with the Spider took the putter to visit Tommy.  He went through the same routine Aleene had followed.  He looked it over, gave it a few practice swings, rolled a couple of putts, tossed a few balls onto the practice green, handed the putter with the snazzy red grip back to me, pointed to the most distant cup on the green and said, That's your target.

My first effort was very short.  My second effort was still short.

Widen your stance.

My stance is a recurring part of my golf problems -- with my drives, with my chips, with my putting.  Buried deep in my subconsciousness my grandmother's voice is constantly whispering to me, keep your knees together.   And from the grave my grandmother's admonitions, on knees together and other behavioral matters as well, tend to override all other authorities.

She's more powerful than Greg, who seemed to begin every work session we ever had with a gentle reminder, You need to take a more athletic stance.  

She's countered Beast Miller's explicit directive, growled from the side of the tee box: Spread your legs! You can't hit the ball when you're standing on the tee box like a girl waiting to be invited to dance.

And now Tommy.  Widen your stance.  On the putting green?

I need a little more backswing to get to the target?  I need to stop breaking my wrists to get that widened backswing?  So I need to spread my legs.  Then I need to follow through and hold my hold it while the ball rolls, and rolls, and rolls.

I closed my eyes and envisioned Suzann Pettersen, Karrie Webb, Catriona Matthew, Christie Kerr.  How wide is their putting stance?  Wider than mine.  I spread my legs.  My grandmother gasped.  The ball rolled to the cup.

So yesterday, with my widened stance, my more powerful yet effortless pendulum at work, I got through my round with 33 putts, only 1 3-putt and 4 1-putts.  I have time for 2 more practice rounds before Pumpkin Cup tee time.

Can I get down below 30 putts per round?  I know I can!

Can I get there before the 2013 Pumpkin Cup tee time Saturday at 1pm?  I certainly intend to do just that!