GUEST COMMENTARY
Jeff Silverman 
Why I like to play from the ladiesí tees
Monday, April 1, 2013
By Alan Shipnuck

      Let me step forward – quite literally -- and admit this from the get-go: I like to play from the ladies’ tees.

 

I offer this confession freely and proudly. I’m neither traitor to my sex nor denier of my gender, just another golfer looking for an edge, and to what lengths – for isn’t length always the issue? – won’t we golfers go to discover one?  I found mine by learning to give an inch and enter the foreign country I’d always considered no man’s land.

 

Believe me, it wasn’t easy. At first, my tactical advance felt like shameful retreat, not gaining ground. But reducing the length of the golf course has so changed my enjoyment of the game that I come before you with the passionate conviction of a true believer anxious to pass on nothing, well, short of revelation.

So, please, join me. It gets lonely for a guy up there.

 

OK, before I get too far ahead of myself, let me step back and state the obvious: For male golfers other than the most skilled, the markers we pick to play from tend to have less to do with the reality of our games than with the ideal games we imagine we possess. Sure, the tips are beyond most of us, but we opt to play from them anyway. Co-conspirators in so many acts of flagrant golficide, they massage our egos nonetheless, abetting the fragility of our golfing hopes, even as they reveal how misguided our measurement of our golfing selves may be. In our minds, then, moving up becomes a sad concession to core-rattling masculine truths: advancing age, decreasing skill, diminishing power. And who wants to be conceding that?

 

Jane Blalock, 27 times a winner on the LPGA Tour, once told me how, at Pro-Ams, she’d marvel when her male partners instinctively trekked to distant outposts while she teed off more sensibly from the middle whites. "If we switched, I’d still be 20 yards beyond most of them," she shrugged. "It’s a shame men make a difficult game more difficult for themselves."

 

But what if we reframe that observation? What if it’s not about hard or easy? What if it’s about shaking things up every now and then to make the golf course a little different and the good walks we take on them more interesting?

 

That said, I’d better admit this, too: My revelation didn’t come pain free. Indeed, pain – gnawing, nagging, and crippling – forced my great leap forward in the first place. When my hips began dissolving to talc 10 years ago, my game disintegrated so quickly I was ready to consign my clubs to eternal storage.

 

A sports psychologist I met at a dinner party reversed my dive. His prescription, in retrospect, seems simple. Until I could seriously play again, I’d have to change my expectations. Check your ego at the bag drop, he counseled, play a shorter golf course, forget about score and just enjoy the experience.

"But what about my handicap?" I countered.

 

"Either you accept the one you hadn’t bargained for..."

 

He didn’t need to finish. Protected by a medical excuse, I figured I could accept this apostasy to my Y chromosome. I’d still be playing golf – albeit an abridged edition – right? So what if my friends teased me; they wouldn’t begrudge me, and anyone else I might tee it up with would, doubtless, applaud my grit to soldier on. At least that’s what I tried to convince myself as I entered into this interregnum in my golfing life, consigned – until a pair of titanium mulligans arrived two years later -- to surveying the landscape from (pick one) the ladies, the women’s, the forwards, the reds. Red. How appropriate. To match the color of my face the morning I first left my golfing buds behind me.

 

Funny, but they didn’t care what tees I played from. Why, then, should I? It took me a few rounds, but I lost my self-consciousness. Then something amazing happened: My game actually improved. My chopped-down swing didn’t land me in the wild levels of hell I knew all too intimately; it just put the ball in play. Shorter distances in meant greens were approachable without howitzers. And I practiced my chipping and putting. A lot.

 

But there was something else: a new viewpoint, as if I’d stepped through the looking glass. Scanning the horizon from the forward tees, I seemed to be gazing at an entirely other golf course.

 

And I was.

 

Everything had shifted. Bunkers, ponds, and hillocks, certainly, but nothing as dramatic as the perspective from within. I no longer felt defeated before I’d even started. For the time being, that would be enough.

 

                                                                                    *          *          *

 

But that was then. Thanks to the miracles of replacement surgery, I’ve returned to my rightful place with the guys astern, but I haven’t turned my back to the fronts and the alternative they offer to the grind. I still don’t like to feel defeated. So, three, maybe four times a season, I happily seek haven ahead. What began as an act of desperation originally designed to keep me in the game has actually evolved into a nifty drill designed to sharpen it.

 

It turns out, some pretty good instructors see the occasional round from the reds as just that. "It’s a different challenge," says master teacher Jim Flick, "and any time you can bring in a different challenge you’re giving yourself a chance to improve." Flick believes that playing from unfamiliar yardages hones distance judgment, while approaching from shorter yardages asks golfers to think more precisely about the shot they want to play and the quality of the result. Then there’s the course itself. "It will feel and look different," he says. "That can only help awareness of course management." All of which we can take with us when we drop back to longer precincts.

 

Pia Nilsson, Annika Sorenstam’s longtime coach, now teaching at Legacy Golf Resort in Phoenix, agrees with each of Flick’s points, and adds one: The forward tees provide a reality check. "Do you score better or not from them? If you don’t, what does that tell you?"

 

Interestingly, most average golfers don’t, since most of us put far more emphasis on our full swings than in the stroke-saving potential of our short games. Brad Faxon – no average golfer -- remembers his college coach sending the team off from the forward tees precisely to test their short games and, if the experiment went well, foster a sense of going low. "It’s good for your mindset to make a few birdies," he says. Conversely, he cautions, "it would backfire if we didn’t."

 

Which is why I never keep score when I play up. I don’t need numbers to tell me how I’m hitting the ball, and for me, this isn’t about scoring; it’s about insight and awareness. I want to feel what it’s like to play shots that aren’t normally in my arsenal from spots on the layout I’m not used to visiting to help me understand my game a little better and appreciate the golf course a little more.

 

Hence, I never take my show on the road. When I truncate my home track I have to turn off my autopilot and consider every hole from a new angle. (A course I didn’t know as well would just be another 18, not a familiar 18 reconsidered.) With an average reduction of more than 80 yards from the middle tees I generally play from, each hole presents new options and opportunities beyond the reach of my usual game. Hazards normally safely in the distance suddenly taunt me to tempt them. Like Tiger – and this may be the only circumstance in which we’re not legally stopped from appearing in the same thought – I sometimes find it prudent to lay low and leave my driver in the bag. I know I can still get home in two.

 

And even without my driver, I’m still beyond customary landing areas. Of course, I have played shots from these positions before – third shots after flubbing one of the first two; so, my attitude is different. Instead of feeling hang-dog for my ineptness, I’m positively focused on how best to attack. With a wedge or short iron. Like – dare I whisper it? – Tiger. It can, as Faxon says, do wonders for the mindset, though there’s a flip side, too; when I reach the green and discover I’m a far-flung 30 feet from the pin – a result that would elate with my 3-hybrid from 190 – the disappointment is my reminder – thank you, Pia, you’re absolutely on target – of what I need to practice.

 

It’s such a kick now and then to be reminded that golf isn’t just a game of power that I’m surprised more men don’t try this. Actually, I’m not. Nor does it surprise my friend Eric Stake, who sometimes accompanies me on my abbreviated journeys. A superb golfer, he’s a psychiatrist by trade, so he understands both the intricacies of the psyche and the dark night of the golfer’s soul. "When we leave a putt short," he asks, "what do we say? ‘Hit it, Alice.’ It’s a way of berating ourselves for being unmanly. Project that to asking a man to give up, even for a day, what he thinks is his rightful place to play from the forward tees. Before he’s swung a club, he’s Alice in his mind already."

 

I’ll gladly support anything – renaming tees, recoloring tees, adding additional tees -- that alleviates that stigma for others. Call me Alice, if you want to, but I’m one golfing Alice who looks forward to his visits to wonderland.

 

            Jeff Silverman, golf writer and author, lives in Chadds Ford.


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Janina Jacobs 
A few final thoughts on the Ryder Cup...and match play
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Ryder Cup has come and gone and still the trophy will not be brought back to American soil.  Who would have thought the American team would lose 8 out of 12 singles matches on the final day?  Normally the U.S. team’s downfall is Foursomes, or the alternate shot format – one that is not very common here in this country.  However, this year they performed well, were ahead 10-6 going into Sunday, and it looked as though the Cup was coming home.....until the unthinkable happened.

 

When these unthinkable things happen in your own game – or due to someone else’s misfortune -  it is not the end of the world.   There is always something to be learned and applied in the future.  And this is exactly what happened for Martin Kaymer when he faced probably the most crucial moment of the 2012 Ryder Cup: he sank a clutch putt on 18 after both he and Steve Stricker’s approach putts toward the slick pin placement trickled well out of the 2 or 3-foot knee-knocker range and into the justifiably ‘missable’ range of 8 feet and 15-feet, respectively.   Kaymer’s strength in making that put ironically came from a discussion with Bernhard Langer prior to this year’s Ryder Cup.  You may recall Langer’s missed 6-footer during the 1991 ‘War by the Shore’ at Kiawah that gave the U.S. team the victory.

 

Anyone who has ever competed in Match Play knows that attitude is everything.  Going in, you can know you are playing poorly but you still have to muster up the courage to play with the game you have.  In Michigan, we have a quasi-Ryder Cup event called The Atlas Cup that pits the top 12 private course players against the top 12 public course players in both men’s and women’s divisions.  It is always an honor to be selected to the team, yet the pressure to perform eats away at you as the event gets nearer.  I’ve made the Public Team several times.

 

One year I came to the competition recovering from an injured left shoulder and offered to bow out, but the Captain uttered an unequivocal NO. Apparently she thought my mere presence would intimidate......Yeah, right!  The injury occurred in July and the Atlas Cup was in August and I just barely surpassed the 6-week moratorium on golf that the doctor ordered.  I knew I could only use half-swings, lessening distances significantly.  But I made the best of it, expecting to be well back of my playing partners on every drive. 

 

Magically, my accuracy took over where distance failed.  Approach shots, though longer, nestled on greens, often close to the pin, and my putter behaved beautifully. I won my matches much to the dismay of longer-hitting opponents who figured that I could not possibly continue to hit such shots.  They were wrong.  I had steeled my mind to simply hit the club I needed in order to accomplish the task....forgetting the fact that instead of hitting a 5-iron 155-160 yards I’d need to pull out a fairway wood to compensate for my injury.  Victory never felt so good! 

 

In Kaymer’s situation, he had been playing poorly and his attitude was not right; Langer told him this: "....to relax, to become involved in the team-room atmosphere, and accept that I was an equal member of the team. He said it was important to build relationships with the other guys, because that would help me play great golf, knowing that we depended on each other. And he told me that I must stop worrying about my game so much, because I was getting in my own way."  On 18, Kaymer channeled Langer’s advice and imagined he saw a foot print across the line of his putt. He can't recall the roll of the ball. Only the sound it made hitting the back of the cup....a beautiful sound indeed.

 

To play our best, we need to ‘get out of our own way’ as well.  When we worry, stress takes over and physiological changes occur which will only allow an outcome you won’t want.  Lighten up, stop fretting, enjoy the camaraderie of the game.....and have fun.  As U.S. Captain Davis Love III said the evening before the competition, "We started these matches on a note of friendship and we will end them the same way.  In this world, we need all the friends we can find."

 

Janina Parrott Jacobs, or the Silver Fox, is a multi-media consultant specializing in golf, business, music, nutrition, fitness and women’s issues.  She blogs about golf at The A Position. A 4 handicap, she lives in Michigan.  Her full bio is here.

 

 

 


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Janina íSilver Foxí Jacobs 
Adam Scott did not choke
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Choking.  What an ugly word.  Have you ever been accused of this?  If so, the good news is this: In order to have that unfortunate experience attributed to you, first you must put yourself in position to win an event.  The very people who may be accusing you of choking have likely never even come close to playing well enough to think about entering the Winner’s Circle.  Why should you pay attention to them?

 

Television announcers have a field day with pronouncements of the C-word on players who unfortunately fold during the final stretch.  But does that make it so?

 

During the last round of The Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Adam Scott, seemingly in command at 10-under, rode the bogey train the last few holes, only to have the indomitable and smooth-swinging Ernie Els slide by to take the title.  Officials had already begun tracing Scott’s name on the Claret Jug.  In golf, things can change that fast.  Of course Jean Van de Velde’s meltdown was not far from everyone’s thoughts; but Scott suffered a slower change of events than Van de Velde’s infamous 18th hole at Carnoustie in 1999.  Adam Scott was in control for 68 superb holes of golf.  It was not good enough.  Here’s what Scott had to say:

 

 "I probably spent all my nerves in the 24 hours leading up to today.  Once I was out there, I felt completely in control. Even the last few holes, I didn’t really feel like it was a case of nerves or anything like that, you know. It came down to not making a couple of putts on the last four holes ... but I was quite calm.’’  A shot into thick rough on 17 and a bunkered tee shot on 18 were part of the equation too but it seems one always remembers the missed putts.

I would never use the word "choke" to describe anyone’s misfortune on the golf course.  We all know bad shots can happen at any time; critics simply remember them better when they happen down the stretch.  No one considers a skulled shot on the third hole in the opening round of a tournament as "choking;"  hit the same shot on the 18th in round 4 and now, you’re a "choker."

The truth is that golfers who put themselves in a position to win are already champions.  Your game was good enough to get you there but sometimes bad shots – or bad breaks - happen at the worst times.  If you find yourself in a position to win a championship, stay calm, slow down, breathe deeply, and focus on the next shot.....accepting whatever happens.  The tendency is to rush and "get it over with," which is exactly what you don’t want to do.

Adam Scott did not choke; he simply made some bogeys at the most inopportune time.  Ernie Els was in position to overtake him and did; but you may also remember some tournaments where The Big Easy didn’t fare so well.  Patience and tenacity will triumph eventually.....just keep playing and competing and you’ll learn how to cope. 

We need to banish the word "choke" from our commonly used golf terms. It serves no purpose.  As for the television announcers?  Any good golfer would happily take them on to see how well they do.  It is easy to sit up on high and criticize...and totally another to actually accomplish something.

Janina Parrott Jacobs, or the Silver Fox, is a multi-media consultant specializing in golf, business, music, nutrition, fitness and women’s issues.  She blogs about golf at The A Position. A 4 handicap, she lives in Michigan.  Her full bio is here.

 


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Dot Rooney 
What the EWGA means to me
Sunday, June 26, 2011

I grew up in the Philadelphia area but moved away for about 10 years. When I came back, in 1988, I really didn’t have any friends left here. It is always more difficult to make friends once you are out school, and my occupation as a dentist in a small office didn’t make it easy to find friends.

 

One day, I was working (as a nurse, my previous occupation) and was forced to watch the Masters. Freddy Couples was walking down the fairway, the sky was blue, the grass was green and he was smiling. It looked so relaxing that I decided that I needed to take up this sport.  After a few lessons, I was hooked.

 

I eventually saw an ad for an EWGA (Executive Women’s Golf Association) league forming at Island Green CC in NE Philly, which is seven minutes from my house. I had to join. I didn’t care if I didn’t know anyone. I wanted the opportunity to play in a after work league. It was a welcoming group and since most of us didn’t know each other, we all were anxious to get to know each other. I joined EWGA and never looked back.

 

I was asked to help the beginner golfers and found I really enjoyed helping them get to know the rules, etiquette, golf course management and sometimes even swing tips. I moved on to become a co-coordinator of the league and then ran for the position of Vice President and President. Being in a leadership position, I decided to travel to the annual EWGA conferences to golf, have fun and attend leadership meetings. Because of all the local and national events that I have attended, I have made so many friends all over the Philadelphia area and throughout the country.

 

This year the LPGA is playing the Solheim Cup in Ireland. I did not think twice about signing up to attend because of the friendships I have made, I know I will have a great time with all my EWGA friends.

 

Volunteering for the organization takes my membership to the next level. It gives me contact with even more golfers. I also love the opportunity to play competitive golf in both stroke and match play events in addition to the league and local weekend outings.

 

Dot Rooney is president of the Philadelphia chapter of the EWGA.


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Reid Champagne 
Maybe it is the arrow
Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Maybe it is the arrow

Golf equipment manufacturers are fond of tooting their own horns when their equipment figures into a win on the PGA Tour. Their glowing press releases touting the quality of their drivers, irons, wedges, shafts and balls used by the winning pros carry the suggestion that all the seasoned professionals in the field who did not win had simply not been using that piece of equipment.

 

The hype even extends to accoutrements that have nothing to do with scoring, such as FootJoy’s trumpeting that it’s been the "undisputed number one shoe at golf’s oldest major" (the British Open) since such records have been kept. I wonder who started keeping those records.

 

Some releases don’t even mention the name of the golfer who won the event. So you read, for instance, that "UST’s Proforce V2 Wins Wyndham Championship." The golfer hoisting the trophy is identified only as a "PGA Tour Rookie of the Year candidate" who "earned his first PGA victory...". It’s as if the human winner of the event was there only to provide support and alignment for the piece of equipment that actually claimed victory. Perhaps there’s even a photo somewhere of the winning shaft leaning up against the trophy. From the manufacturers’ perspective, it is the arrow and not the Indian when it comes to winning.

 

Needless to say, I’ve never read a press release entitled "UST’s Proforce V2 Misses Cut at Wyndham Championship."

 

I don’t mean to single out the fine folks at UST. I can wrap their shafts around a tree trunk as well as any other shaft maker’s. But if it’s us weekend warriors for whom equipment makers are in business to attract, maybe their releases should focus on our performences, rather than that of a touring pro. Maybe something like:

 

"FT-i Driver Finally Finds Fairway at Sawgrass."

 

JAX – Struggling through 15 holes of slices, duck hooks, topped drives, skulls and duffs, Callaway’s FT-i driver finally found the fairway at the TPC’s difficult 16th hole. "We believe the FT-i is the straightest, most-forgiving driver on the market, in spite of what we saw here today," said Art Vanderlay, vice-president for club misuse at Callaway. "Though ‘forgiveness’ was raised to New Testament proportions out there, we remain confident that finding that fairway today was no fluke."

 

The unique head design also provides flotation when flung into a lake or pond, according to Vanderlay.

 

Or:

 

"Pro-V1 Most Retrieved Ball at Hammock Dunes."

 

PALM COAST -  Titleist’s Pro-V1 golf ball was found to be the ball most retrieved from the deep woods at the Hammock Dunes Creek Course, according to a recent survey there. "Most golfers traipsing into the marshes to retrieve their wayward shots here are walking out with Pro-V1’s," says Bob Sacomano, Titleist’s vice-president for bulk sales. "We are proud that the Pro-V1 remains the most mishit and lost ball on the market."

 

Or maybe:

 

White Hot Sinks 60-Footer For 102  At Bay Hill

 

Orlando -- Odyssey’s White Hot HG putter found the break that had been missed in the initial read, and rattled in the bottom of the cup on Bay Hill’s 18th green to preserve a final round 102.

 

"We continue to be pleased that our HG multi-layer insert technology can overcome even the most egregious putting strokes to produce scores much lower than they deserve to be," says A.G. Pennypacker, group director for offline putting at Odyssey Golf.

 

Since 1990, Odyssey has been putting putters in the hands of thousands of golfers who have no clue. "Frankly, after reviewing the ‘reads’ of hundreds of hackers across the country," says Pennypacker, "we’re frankly amazed more of these people haven’t walked off cliffs so devoid they seem of any sense of topography."

 

And finally this snippet:

 

FootJoy: The Undisputed Number One Shoe in the Grill Room at Miami’s Miccosukee Golf and Country Club.

 

But the real news in golf equipment, for me anyway, is not about how the practice and skill of the professional player can make equipment sing like a violin or perform like a surgical tool. In that case it’s more about not letting the equipment hinder the skill of the professional.

 

Those releases should read more like, New Nike Driver Does Not Get In The Way of Watney’s Win at Doral, or something like that. No, the real news is about this certain player that can take a driver resolutely designed and weighted to produce a solid draw, but still mange to hit a banana slice that would make a gorilla’s mouth water.

 

But I understand the game. Equipment makers have to sell you on the fact that it is ultimately the arrow. But I got to tell you, with these Indians out here, those arrows had better be made of rubber.

 

Contact Reid Champagne at reid4bar@comcast.net.


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Reid Champagne 
Lies, damned lies and golf
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Maybe it is the arrow

Golf equipment manufacturers are fond of tooting their own horns when their equipment figures into a win on the PGA Tour. Their glowing press releases touting the quality of their drivers, irons, wedges, shafts and balls used by the winning pros carry the suggestion that all the seasoned professionals in the field who did not win had simply not been using that piece of equipment.

 

The hype even extends to accoutrements that have nothing to do with scoring, such as FootJoy’s trumpeting that it’s been the "undisputed number one shoe at golf’s oldest major" (the British Open) since such records have been kept. I wonder who started keeping those records.

 

Some releases don’t even mention the name of the golfer who won the event. So you read, for instance, that "UST’s Proforce V2 Wins Wyndham Championship." The golfer hoisting the trophy is identified only as a "PGA Tour Rookie of the Year candidate" who "earned his first PGA victory...". It’s as if the human winner of the event was there only to provide support and alignment for the piece of equipment that actually claimed victory. Perhaps there’s even a photo somewhere of the winning shaft leaning up against the trophy. From the manufacturers’ perspective, it is the arrow and not the Indian when it comes to winning.

 

Needless to say, I’ve never read a press release entitled "UST’s Proforce V2 Misses Cut at Wyndham Championship."

 

I don’t mean to single out the fine folks at UST. I can wrap their shafts around a tree trunk as well as any other shaft maker’s. But if it’s us weekend warriors for whom equipment makers are in business to attract, maybe their releases should focus on our performences, rather than that of a touring pro. Maybe something like:

 

"FT-i Driver Finally Finds Fairway at Sawgrass."

 

JAX – Struggling through 15 holes of slices, duck hooks, topped drives, skulls and duffs, Callaway’s FT-i driver finally found the fairway at the TPC’s difficult 16th hole. "We believe the FT-i is the straightest, most-forgiving driver on the market, in spite of what we saw here today," said Art Vanderlay, vice-president for club misuse at Callaway. "Though ‘forgiveness’ was raised to New Testament proportions out there, we remain confident that finding that fairway today was no fluke."

 

The unique head design also provides flotation when flung into a lake or pond, according to Vanderlay.

 

Or:

 

"Pro-V1 Most Retrieved Ball at Hammock Dunes."

 

PALM COAST -  Titleist’s Pro-V1 golf ball was found to be the ball most retrieved from the deep woods at the Hammock Dunes Creek Course, according to a recent survey there. "Most golfers traipsing into the marshes to retrieve their wayward shots here are walking out with Pro-V1’s," says Bob Sacomano, Titleist’s vice-president for bulk sales. "We are proud that the Pro-V1 remains the most mishit and lost ball on the market."

 

Or maybe:

 

White Hot Sinks 60-Footer For 102  At Bay Hill

 

Orlando -- Odyssey’s White Hot HG putter found the break that had been missed in the initial read, and rattled in the bottom of the cup on Bay Hill’s 18th green to preserve a final round 102.

 

"We continue to be pleased that our HG multi-layer insert technology can overcome even the most egregious putting strokes to produce scores much lower than they deserve to be," says A.G. Pennypacker, group director for offline putting at Odyssey Golf.

 

Since 1990, Odyssey has been putting putters in the hands of thousands of golfers who have no clue. "Frankly, after reviewing the ‘reads’ of hundreds of hackers across the country," says Pennypacker, "we’re frankly amazed more of these people haven’t walked off cliffs so devoid they seem of any sense of topography."

 

And finally this snippet:

 

FootJoy: The Undisputed Number One Shoe in the Grill Room at Miami’s Miccosukee Golf and Country Club.

 

But the real news in golf equipment, for me anyway, is not about how the practice and skill of the professional player can make equipment sing like a violin or perform like a surgical tool. In that case it’s more about not letting the equipment hinder the skill of the professional.

 

Those releases should read more like, New Nike Driver Does Not Get In The Way of Watney’s Win at Doral, or something like that. No, the real news is about this certain player that can take a driver resolutely designed and weighted to produce a solid draw, but still mange to hit a banana slice that would make a gorilla’s mouth water.

 

But I understand the game. Equipment makers have to sell you on the fact that it is ultimately the arrow. But I got to tell you, with these Indians out here, those arrows had better be made of rubber.

 

Contact Reid Champagne at reid4bar@comcast.net.


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Reid Champagne 
The holes in my head
Monday, April 11, 2011

The holes in my head

I rarely break 90 when I play golf. And yet, the only time I enjoy myself on the golf course is when I do. In short I have a Misery Index that’s through the roof. Which begs the question: Why do I torture myself like this?

 

It’s a good question, one my wife has also framed for herself, especially when periodically evaluating our marriage, an analysis that curiously coincides with my many tee times. But while her ruminations on the question rarely produces a cogent conclusion (for her), my answers regarding golf are quite rational: It is well within my theoretical ability to shoot respectable scores in the 80’s every time I play – provided you suspend disbelief and accept that the game I can imagine myself playing is the actual one.

 

My usual round of golf consists not of one round but three. The first is the one I actually play – the one where I generally chop my way to a 90–something. The second is the one I play on the way home from the course, where I can clearly envision that pair of sevens and the numerous sixes I carded all reduced now by just one out-of-character swing that shouldn’t have happened. (This review is accomplished in the privacy of my car, mind you. I’m not one of those boorish 19th-holers who bray, "Well, it was a 94, but it could have been a 78.")

 

But it’s the round I begin to replay at about three in the morning where my true hidden proficiencies really shine. A warm feeling of contentment suddenly replaces the night terrors that had awakened me, as I am once again on the first tee, this time sending a gentle draw rising through the atmosphere, and getting me off to the round of my life.

 

As I lay awake (counting strokes, not sheep) I see how easy I could have recorded par after par, by merely maintaining that same simple take away and follow through that seems so easy when staring at a bedroom ceiling. No sevens or even sixes are marked here, as my approach shots all have a consistency that no longer seems so elusive as on the course. As we all know, greens-in-regulation are the key to low rounds, and in my pajamas I am suddenly the King of GIR. I make the turn in 38 (still ever the realist!) and proceed to the back nine, where I eventually find myself beginning to leak oil on that stretch of holes that has so often been the death march of a decent real round. In my bed, I go bogey, bogey, bogey and realize now, at nine over, I have to really bear down on the final three holes if I want to save this thing.

 

I puff up the pillows, toss the covers off my torso, and steel myself for the difficult task ahead. The par three 16th  requires a simple, straight-out tee ball, that  I often pull hook into the weeds for a double. Even in my imaginary replay round on the way home, I managed only a bogey. But now, eyes on the prize, and only my wife’s melodic (in case she reads this) snoring to distract me, I manage to lace a 4-iron to within two feet of the cup. Birdie! I’m now eight over with two holes to play. If I can peer hard enough into my bedroom’s yawning darkness and imagine just one more birdie and a par finish, I’ll break 80!

 

No time for sleeping now. I tee it up for the 17th , a par five with definite birdie potential. Imagining the water that is all down the right side, I am suddenly reminded of my normal 2:30 a.m. bathroom visit that’s now an hour late. I pretend the bathroom is a tree to maintain presence in the moment, and then return to bed and step up to the tee. I play my tee shot conservatively down the left side, and then pop a medium iron leftwards (to avoid the water once again) to about a hundred yards out. I hit the sweetest wedge of the day (or middle of the night) to within 8 feet. I know how the putt breaks from missing it so many times on the real green, so this time I add a little more borrow and find the bottom of the cup.

 

The 18th is a long, treacherous par four that I rarely can manage bogey, even on the mental round on the way home. Restive from sleep deprivation now, I willingly take the risk/reward carry over the bulrushes, which shortens the hole considerably, allowing a trusty 5-iron into the green, instead of the usual balky 5-metal. I’m 15 feet away from an incredible birdie and a 78, but nerves (and a sudden, gasping snort from my wife) cause me to overcook the birdie putt, and then I miss the little knee-knocking comebacker and the 79 is gone as well. Tough break to falter like that after such a well-imagined round, but that’s, uh, reality.

 

At least the way I imagine it to be.

 

"How’d you shoot yesterday by the way," my wife asks after awakening from what she says was a "troubled sleep." I answer without a trace of self-deception: "Well, it was a 94, but it could have been a 78."

 

Reid Champagne clearly has one of those minds that wouldn’t be such a terrible thing to waste.

 

 


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