Well, Somebody Has To Be Last

If spring ever decides to remain for awhile, I’m sure I will be asked something about golf. Do I play? Have I been out yet?

Well, the reality is I used to play golf — using that term loosely — but I haven’t been on the links in twent…, no, thirty-seeeven years! That’s right, the last time I hit the little white ball {repeatedly} was in 1976 when I turned a 6,124 yard Bel-Mar Country Club course in Belvidere, IL, into my own personal mini-marathon.

In my defense, I hadn’t been on the links in almost a year. I was too busy to play since I was settling into my new role as production manager for a daily newspaper/printing house. And I needed a lot of hands-on training.

But I also had some not-too-fond memories of the previous outing … in the Sussex County (NJ) Open at Culver Lake Golf Club in Frankford, NJ. And that’s the focus of this post.

At the time I was sports editor for the New Jersey Herald. One of the perks was playing golf at least once a week as we prepared a special feature on the Best 18 Holes in Sussex and Morris Counties. I played 18 different courses — public and private — with a bonus of the golf pro or club champion in my foursome. So I got plenty of advice.

Of course, despite the advice, once a week golfers just aren’t experienced enough to play consistent. Still, I had brought my game under what I thought was control, even skirting with breaking 100 a couple of times.

So, when it came time for the Sussex County Open, I felt I was ready, especially since the tourney format included an equalizing Callaway handicap formula.

Briefly, to explain the system, I played Culver Lake prior to the tournament and fired a 50 for nine holes. Although you need all 18 to figure your true Callaway handicap, we’ll just double my score and use it as our example.

If you fired a 100, you would be entitled to deduct the worst three holes. In my case, it would have been the 11 I recorded on mammoth 504 yard 14 and the corresponding 11 we estimated on the backside. You can only deduct twice par, which means I could subtract 10 from No. 14 and eight from No. 5 (it’s only a par four on the frontside because of tee placement). My next worst hole was a six on the par four sixth hole. That totals to a handicap deduction of 24. I also had to consider my adjustment. In my case, it was +2, giving me a total handicap of 26 and a Callaway score of 74. That was very much in contention.

Clear as mud, right?

And so, I entered the tournament. And it started very well. I parred the first hole, a 129 yard par three from a slightly elevated tee to a slightly elevated green. And then the fun began…

Here’s my take from my column after the tournament.

They say golf is really an easy game. All it takes is concentration and the knack of keeping your head down, your lead arm straight and your eye on the ball.

I really wouldn’t know. For the past few days, I haven’t known the meaning of concentration and for the last 36 holes and 147 of my 151 strokes, I successfully managed to pick up my head, either overdip or underdip my shoulder, have my lead arm flop willy-nilly and my eye on some imaginary spot nowhere near the ball. Needless to say, I brought up the rear at the fifth annual Sussex County Open, which was held at Culver Lake Golf Club, Frankford, last week. I figure I zig-zagged close to 10 miles over the 5,224 yard course over the two rounds. About the only good point is I can use the exercise.

Just to give you an idea of the week, here are a few examples of my play. You talk about concentration. I tried. Friday, I was actually standing on the fourth tee saying to myself, “Okay, dummy, concentrate. Keep your eye on the ball. Swing nice and easy. And remember, concentrate.” And, as I was saying “concentrate,” I felt the club head coming down and watched as a wad of turf carried my ball about 20 yards off the tee.

Now, that really wasn’t that bad. Wednesday, when I played No., 4, I sliced one into the woods. On the back nine, I took into account my horrible slice and AIMED at the trees on the left. All of a sudden, my slice disappeared and the ball sailed straight as an arrow into the trees never to be seen again.

You’ve all heard the expression going from bad to worse. I went one better. I went from bad to disastrous. To show you the way things were going, my good shots were getting me into trouble. And, I think, I had about seven good shots in the entire tournament.

Take my drive on No. 2 Friday. It was a nice low line drive that was heading maybe 175 yards right down the middle. Well, No. 2 has a creek about 100 yards out with a slightly higher bank on the far side. My liner successfully hit the top of the bank and rolled backwards. I had to taken a penalty and ended up with a nine.

Then there was the 14th. I hadn’t hit single digits on the hole in four previous attempts this year, but Friday I hit two super one irons (I had “retired” my woods by this time) and was about 30 to 40 yards from the green in two. It was, I thought, an easy chip, but, when I reached the ball, it was under the branch of a maple tree. I reared back with my nine iron, hit the branch, hit the turf and managed to dribble the ball about three yards — just far enough to fall into a small gully. After two more nine irons netted me about 15 yards, I finally hit the ball right … only I overshot the green. I finally ended with a nine on the hole.

The point where I “retired” my woods came when I plunked two straight into the water on No. 11 Friday. After all, if you manage to hit just one good wood in 27 holes, something is wrong. My rationale was I was having more success with my irons.

That was true — until I started using them exclusively. My nine iron instantly became useless — as did my pitching wedge, eight iron, seven iron and six iron. I had better ups with my putter.

Then there is the actual putting itself. During my practice round I had one three putt green. Wednesday I had just two three putt greens. But Friday, my putting was horrendous. I had six three putt greens, four of them on the back nine when, admittedly, I was just going through the motions of completing the round.

Since the tournament, I’ve been thinking about just what went wrong. How could a game degenerate as much as mine did in less than a week?

I think I found the answer. Possibly, it was overconfidence. I was sure I could break 100 at the course, especially after my round with Tim McCracken {club pro} and Jim Gall {a 10 handicap golfer} prior to the tourney. Possibly, I was too anxious. I wanted to get out there an belt the ball, which, in succession, took away my coordination {?} and then my concentration {duh}. Possibly, I suffered the old “apple.” This was my first tournament and you do press. You’re not relaxed. You’re tense. All you want is to do a good job. The harder you try, the worse you get.

I completely lost interest in the tournament Friday. It wasn’t fun anymore; it was a chore, especially on the back nine. If you can’t enjoy a sport for the sake of the sport, you should give it up.

I’m not giving up golf {I said at the time}; I enjoy it. But, next time I enter a tournament — and there will be a next time {I said at the time} — I’m not going to look at the score. When you press for a four or a five, you’ll end up with a seven or eight every time.

I’m not sorry I entered the tournament. At least I knew I would get in two rounds of golf. Had I not joined the tournament, I know I would have found something else to do. And, that’s one of the problems. You can’t improve your game unless you play. Four or five times a year isn’t enough; it has to be a regular routine.

That’s what separates me from the leaders. they are out virtually every day. I’m lucky if I hit the links once a month.

I think I finished 51st (in a 52 person field, although No. 52 dropped out after the first round}, but, when you look at it, I’m not in much worse shape than the No. 2 finisher. After all, neither of us won.

As a postscript, you might be wondering what happened to my golf clubs. They moved with me from New Jersey to Illinois and were used twice at Bel-Mar. I kept them in the garage and every spring and I would pull them out, take a few practice swings and return them to the garage. After lying dormant for a couple of years, my dear wife Karen finally had enough of the clubs taking up precious room in the garage and asked me if she could sell them. Before I could answer, they wound up as another wife’s anniversary present to her husband.

I hope he had better luck.

THOUGHT TO REMEMER: Each day is a gift so live it out with purpose!

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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