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Friday, April 24, 2015

I'm Taking That One Home With Me!

My golf game has been up and down recently.  The grass is growing again and because I'm hitting off almost fluffy green stuff rather than dry, dormant brown stuff I've finally stopped skulling my chips and my trusty flop shot has returned but, of course, there are other issues.  Golf is sort of like marriage -- while I tweak it over here, something else tends to pop out over there and at times I feel trapped in an endless, futile search for the perfect round that doesn't exist.  I probably need some therapy around this issue because my rational self knows golf doesn't work that way and it's just not going to happen.

Still, I hit and I hope and occasionally I'm rewarded with a perfect shot, if not a perfect round.  That's how it went yesterday.

Twice I found myself in fairway bunkers, in itself a fairly unusual situation simply because I'm not that long off the tee and typically can't hit the ball far enough to even flirt lightly with fairway bunkers.  But things have changed for me just a bit.  Over the winter I had the orthopod scrape the calcifications off my left shoulder joint (he did the same last year with my right shoulder) so now I'm golfing with two working shoulders.

I have more follow-through and generally just a bit more power.  Combined with fairways that are now growing grass and dried out from the winter rains that leave South Carolina fairways a soggy, boggy mess, I'm getting more distance off the tee.  Hence, I'm encountering fairway bunkers that last summer were beyond my reach.

I've always used an ancient 11-wood named Flora to get out of fairway bunkers.  That's her only assignment.  She has a special place in my bag and while I rarely put her to work, like a faithful friend of 40 years, she's always been there when I need her.  So when my ball sprang off the face of my driver yesterday and began to drift right toward the fairway bunker I didn't fret.  I had Flora.  When I got close and took a good look at the situation -- a nice flat lie in the center of the bunker, very little lip, about 130 yards to the green with the pin set well back -- I rethought my club choice.  For me, Flora hits exactly 125 yards if I execute the shot correctly.  I wanted more.  I felt ambitious.  If I took a little risk I could get close.  So I told Flora to sit tight and pulled out my 5-wood.

I know the pros use their irons to get out of fairway bunkers but I don't have that kind of relationship with my irons.  I need something that isn't as likely to dig into the sand.  My 5-wood was the perfect choice! I settled into my stance, choked down a little bit, took my swing, and was rewarded with a square strike, no sand.   My ball popped off my club face and flew out of the bunker on an astonishingly direct path that was taking it toward the center of the green where it landed on the fringe, began it's little uphill roll toward the pin . . . and you know the rest of the story.

I'm amazed at what two working shoulders, a little physical therapy, the correct club choice, and some follow-through can accomplish!

That shot and the outcome went a long way toward softening the blow to my bruised ego that two lost balls off the first tee had created hours earlier.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I was healed!

I found myself in another fairway bunker later in my round and executed the same shot again with essentially the same result, so I know what happened isn't a fluke, one of those happily fortunate moments all golfers experience from time-to-time and that keep drawing us back to the course despite our lost balls, shanked shots -- even the inscrutable Serene Queen of Golf, Inbee Park, occasionally shanks a shot -- and missed gimmes.

I took that shot home with me, retold it over dinner, remembered it while I watched Michelle Wie's balls fly right over and over again during the first round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic and felt a certain sympathetic sisterhood with her, and am obviously still thinking about it in considerable detail.  Those two lost balls that started my round are nothing.  They were old balls and now they're dead to me.