The Vision Gets Clearer

Soccer is the world’s game and should not be accessible only to those who can afford it.– my friend Jonny Sinclair, founder of Matthews Mavericks

Other than my 5 year old son now playing (and loving) the game, soccer lies in a past life for me. If you’ve been following along for any amount of time now, you know soccer has been replaced with golf. So it should also be noted that in the above quote, soccer could be replaced with golf, baseball, or really any other activity.

The thing about having a vision is that oftentimes the leader has to be stubborn. Uncompromising. A little mad, even. To be able to drown out the noise and pull it off is a challenge. I’m 3.5 years into my ever-evolving vision, and as I grind day after day, often alone, in southern Mississippi, I look for pockets of wisdom in the most untraditional places.

Free soccer for kids? What a novel, beautiful, and inspiring idea. It only took one post match beer a few years ago to know immediately that Jonny and I viewed the world through a similar lens. During that post match beer, Jonny and I were discussing our most unique travel experiences. After quite the incredible rundown, he mentioned that he and I should meet up one day in Spain for their annual crazy tomato fight, of all things. With most folks, I would brush it off as idle chit chat, a 0% chance of that trip ever actually happening. But with Jonny, a doer, I better start checking if there are direct flights from Mississippi to Spain (now that’s a 0% chance).

A talented player with a heart of gold and an even more talented match recap email writer, Jonny is a go and do kind of guy. Something needs to be done? Well, it ain’t gonna get done with words. Watching him from afar get this done and his free teams already being competitive is so inspiring. I hope they win it all, but more importantly, I hope some kid gets a chance that increases the opportunity for him/her to write his/her own life story.

I recently read that an aspiring minitour golf professional needs $50-$60k per year to seriously pursue greatness. I can’t vouch for those numbers, but golf is crazy expensive. My equipment investment was just north of $3,000. My annual unlimited golf membership is roughly the same. Tack on some nicks and nacks, and we are up to nearly $10,000 just to practice seriously. For a 38 year old who has already lived one life, that is okay. For many, it is absurd.

One of my strengths in life is the ability to navigate and remain confident through uncharted waters, so I’m comfortable with that investment. I told myself money would not be the reason I didn’t achieve my vision. It shouldn’t be the reason I don’t achieve my vision, and it should never be the reason someone doesn’t get a chance. But more often than not it is, and that will never change unless someone does something about it. I think Jonny would agree.

A major part of my big golf bet is that if I spent the necessary time, energy, and grind on getting good as a player, I would have a chance to be taken seriously and affect others in a positive way. I’m an abnormal golfer. I took up the game late. I quit my lucrative career so I could play every day. I have 12 tattoos. I wear what I wear. I think what I think. I speak a different golf language, but I’ve taken the time to understand it all: old and new, red and blue.

Over the past few years, I played golf in Iceland, Mexico, and almost half of the United States. I’ve shot a 5 under par 67 and achieved a 0 handicap. I’ve put in thousands of focused hours…

…just so, at a minimum, I might help someone?

A presence at my course literally every single day, I recently started getting requests from the younger, hipper set. Where do you get your belts? Where do you get your hats? Where do you get your shoes? Do you teach?

Ah, yes. I don’t formally teach, but I can help you get better. Miles better.

What are your credentials?

I’ve personally done it.

How much for a session?

No charge. (Thanks Jonny.)

My vision with abk is to help others view the world through a different lens. It’s not a perfect lens. It’s not a better lens, necessarily. But, like anything, you can’t make that choice if you are unaware a different mindset exists.

My vision with abk Golf is the same. Are you unimpressed or intimidated by the traditional, often unaffordable, route?

During my first lesson with my first student, we primarily talked about how he sees the golf course. What he sees. What he doesn’t see. What he should see. How to overcome fear. What his personal, realistic goals are.

When the young man and I went out on the course together for the first time, I told him I had one rule. Getting better is on you. It’s not on me. It’s not on your dad. It’s on you. Own the goal. But I’ll give you a fighting chance, and it won’t cost you a dime.

I’d like to take credit for such a groundbreaking idea, but folks like Jonny are miles ahead of me. I naturally have a money-making mind, but I have been steering further and further away from that in certain aspects of Life # 2.

As my mate Junior, who also knows Jonny, would say, don’t underestimate the power of one. It might just be free soccer, or it might completely transform someone’s life.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Something New: Sally

At about 2am early Wednesday morning, the power finally went out. As such, the phone charger died, and eventually, my phone died. The white noise I always sleep with went silent. The cabin went completely dark. I would say that it was still, but it wasn’t. The cabin was shaking. I would say that it was dead silent, but it wasn’t. The wind was whistling. Outside, the gusts were whipping, and inside, after two days of waiting for ol’ Sally, my nerves finally started churning.

Earlier in the day, I had stood around and talked to neighbors in likely 35-40mph winds. Later in the evening, right on the water, I endured 50mph+ gusts, and it felt like I was walking into a wall. I had no desire to feel the higher speeds that blew the power out, nor did I have any desire to dodge the limbs that were inevitably thrashing about under the ominous sky. I can’t even imagine the 100mph+ winds that occurred just over the Alabama state line as the center of Sally made landfall 50 miles away, give or take.

The initial track had Sally headed towards New Orleans, and we were on the very eastern side of the storm. Then the storm turned east, and we were smack in the middle. At the eleventh hour, it turned further east, and we found ourselves on the very western side. So unlike the recent near misses and false alarms, this one was coming in some way, shape, or form all along.

It was the damnedest thing, though. Just five miles away to the west, it was a complete nonevent. At the golf course, nonevent. At the new house, nonevent. When I showed local friends the video of the wind blowing that I put up on Instagram, they were blown away (shout out wind puns).

For all the wind that I personally experienced, we luckily got almost no rain. High tide looked a little ominous, but the water quickly receded. I feel for the folks over in Alabama and Florida. Just east, damn, they got some rain. I know lots of golfers from the Mobile area whose power is still out 3-4 days later. Nature is no joke.

As the storm approached, I had to make a decision. Christy and Banks headed north, though Banks did get to briefly experience and enjoy his hair blowing in the crazy winds.

I spoke to a seasoned neighbor I trust, and given the quality of construction of the cabin, its height above elevation, and so forth, he assured me everything would be okay for this newcomer to hurricanes. He did warn me it might get a little hairy overnight.

About 3:30am, I climbed out of bed and grabbed a flashlight, unsure exactly of what I was about to do. I walked aimlessly around the tiny cabin for about a minute and then accepted the fact that there was literally nothing to do. So I hopped back into bed and snuggled Happy, my deaf, 5-pound chihuahua, between my arms. As the wind continued to howl, I giggled quietly to myself. This dog couldn’t go outside to pee a few hours ago for fear of the wind blowing him over, but now, like always, he couldn’t hear a thing. To him, the storm is over.

And soon enough, it was.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Chronicles: Deep Thoughts and Nice Surprises

A week or two ago while playing golf with one of my new friends, I started to tell him about my somewhat recent exploits out west. To Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. To California, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. He obviously knew I had recently started a new life in Mississippi, played golf every day, and had a fondness for exotic skin and color belts. So as we stood on the 5th tee at 1pm on a Wednesday, he asked, Is anything you do normal?

If I have not explicitly stated or you have not implicitly deduced, lots of normal things come very difficult to me. Take a long weekend trip to Iceland? No problem. Understand the risk profile of a multimillion dollar loan? Sure, let’s geek out. Start life over from scratch in Mississippi? You got it. Become a scratch golfer? Done. But change a tire? No chance. Cook some eggs? Forget about it. Conform just slightly? #abk.

As such, for my 38 years on this earth, I have often had trouble figuring out where I fit. I struggled with whether I was lazy, stubborn, or simply different. Luckily, I have gotten immense clarity over the past three to five years due to two main actions: lots of doing and lots of digging deep. The results? I am not normal (shocking, I know). I see the world differently. I’ve had to own that, and slowly but surely I’m falling in love with the idea of not being normal. I don’t want to walk down the center line. I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. I don’t want to talk fluff just to kill time. It’s not who I am.

I’ve found out that I have a different lens with which I view the world that, while it certainly won’t help change a tire, I am certain it can help others achieve more complex intangibles like dreams, purpose, and potential.

But like any human being, I want to feel like I’m a part of something. That I have a place. That I can relate. That I’m not on my own. That I can understand and accomplish the two seemingly conflicting ideals of being normal and being exceptional.

Along the way, I’ve gotten one really nice surprise.

I enjoy the golf, the travel, the fashion, etc. I enjoy the adventures. I (now) own and enjoy being different. But my absolute favorite thing in the world is being a dad.

It wasn’t easy. Like anything, it took work. For a personality like mine, it took a rewiring. But now, as I consider myself the luckiest person in the world, my absolute favorite thing to do is take to and/or pick my son up from school. Who would have ever guessed that such a routine, mundane, dare I say normal task, would have my heart? But it does.

On his first day of kindergarten, I thought I was going to lose it. I can’t even articulate the emotions I felt as Christy and I watched him walk into his new school, mask on but eyes full of wonder. I felt deep happiness, extreme pride, and big nerves. The tears streamed down my cheeks.

If I take him in the morning, it is the opportunity to set the tone for the day. We try to focus on positivity and creativity, and that a new day is filled with endless opportunities for learning, helping, and excitement.

If I pick him up, it’s just me listening, to anything and everything. Within a minute, I’m usually giggling, just filled with joy that the big man enjoyed another day.

His school is 30 minutes away and begins at the ass crack of dawn. I usually have to get up around 5am to get my body going. But I love it. I can’t explain it. I just love it.

About a week ago, I was texting with a lifelong friend about abk, normalcy and the like when he said, This whole abk journey is nice, but some of us have been watching with interest your whole life.

I said, Bro, why didn’t you say something?

He said, That would have defeated the purpose of the journey.

Damn. He got me.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: The Promised Land

Greetings from beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama. It is Monday, September 7, 2020, and I am taking the day off. Christy and Banks are out swimming in the water, and I’m reflecting on the last 509 calendar days. Because yesterday afternoon, after my second even par 72 of the week, the deed was done. I went from a 0.1 handicap to a +0.2 handicap.

Did I feel anything? You damn right I did! Pride, extreme thanks, and of course, the ever present soreness.

On April 17, 2019, the golf journey started. I was a passionate, ambitious, athletic 36-year old trying to become an elite golfer. That was 510 days ago. A lifetime, easily. During that period, I spent 382 days playing and/or practicing golf, typically for four to seven hours each day. By my estimation, I spent 2,000+ focused hours grinding. My arthritic fingers hurt as I write this. But I’m at peace. It was one hell of a journey.

It will continue tomorrow, or just to be clean, we can say another phase is going to begin. My confidence is high. My scoring average is now sub-75. My potential is limitless. I bebopped around even par all week without making any putts. I’m hitting 75% of the greens, and when the putts start falling again, I’m confident I’ll be writing about shooting regularly in the 60s.

As I reflected last night, I noted three major aspects that drove the improvement from 14 handicap to +0.2 and scoring average from 92.9 to 74.8.

1. Complete daily immersion in the game. Even on days when it rained or I was injured, I worked out, did mental work, or something else golf-related. The key word here is daily. Was it a balanced life? Sometimes not. Was it selfish? Absolutely, at times.

2. Proper coaching, teaching, lessons, and playing with players better than me. My new friends down on the coast made every golf tool possible available for me. Formal lessons, informal tips and ideas, unlimited play on a tough course. There are probably 15 or so really good players at my home course, and slowly but surely I wiggled my way into their presence. We all want to be the smartest person in the room, but I made sure I was the dumbest and worst in my group for a few months. I observed and listened. The results were immense.

3. Proper equipment. I finally broke down and made a large investment in tour level clubs, shafts, and balls. It wasn’t cheap, but I should have done it sooner. This may sound silly, but being able to carve the ball through the air and make it go where you want and how you want is priceless. Investment in self.

After 509 days on the golf journey, I now see the golf course very differently. After a couple of years of extensive traveling a few years ago, I began to see the world differently. After almost 3.5 years on the anything but khakis self-exploration journey, everything is different. Everything.

But isn’t that the whole damn point. Pushing forward. Changing our minds. Challenging the stagnant, stale status quo that we pretend works, but doesn’t. Accomplishing the impossible.

So what’s next? Who knows. But for now, I’m on the beach, my fingers hurt, and I’m going to read my GQ.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Chronicles: A Breath of Fresh Air

A big part of this lifestyle is living outside. Not literally, but damn close. I’m not a doctor, but over the past few years, I noticed how much better I felt about myself and life in general after spending large amounts of time outside each day. So I decided to do something about it.

Even on these 110 degree heat index days, I spend 25% of the day outside. In spring and fall, it’s more like 30-40%. Every day. It could be porch sitting watching the boats roll by. It could be hours and hours of working on the golf game. It could be riding the jet ski up the river or out in the gulf. Simply reading, imagining, or looking at the animals.

All of these feelings were bolstered by my travels to Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, and Utah, to name a few. I never wanted to be inside, and in some instances, even to sleep, I never was. I felt like I was actually living, not just existing, and I thought to myself, An outdoor lifestyle shouldn’t be that difficult to design.

There are plenty of exorbitantly-priced luxury areas in the world, but there are also plenty of hidden gems and budget-friendly outdoorsy living areas. And sometimes you just stumble across them, which literally was the case here.

Within the next four months, The Treehouse at The End of the Earth is going to be complete. Ever since day one of seeing this property, I called it The End of the Earth. Why? Drive as far south as you can in Mississippi, and when the last road dead ends and the Gulf of Mexico begins, it’s on the left. Seriously, it’s la la land. I remember thinking to myself, This is the perfect vibe. Breezy and mysterious. We can build a house, but I’m never going to be in it.

It excites me that Banks is being raised with little routine and near complete freedom. I think it’s very important to teach him living versus existing early on, and him fishing with Mommy after school on a Wednesday certainly accomplishes that. He’s basically been raised in a tiny fishing camp/village for the past year of his life. Armed with his bicycle helmet and life jacket, he’s a boy on a mission. We adults are all arguing about the best way to school these kids right now, but as I’ve said before, maybe the joke’s on us.

Schooling versus teaching. Living versus existing.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Creating the Path: Vision, Action, and Patience

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”-Stephen Covey

For the better part of last week, I wore sunglasses everywhere. Inside, outside. I think I even had them on in bed for a little while. Long story short, at some point, a bug flew into my right eye while I was playing golf, and its wings lodged onto my cornea. It took a minor procedure to get the eye fixed and a few days to recover. But I’m back.

I can operate with sore arms and sore legs, a sore back and sore feet, but I have to have my vision.

What are you working towards? Big picture. Grand scale. Why are you doing whatever it is you are doing? Do you know? Retire early? Beach house? First in your family to own a home? First to go to college? Ego? To truly help someone? Freedom?

My vision and imagination run wild, but my ideas are meaningless without the appropriate daily actions to get there. I’ve had 3.5 years of post-sleepwalking life to think about The Grand What and Why. The vision is pretty damn grand and it remains wide open for surprises, but it’s also not the point of this piece.

Action. How. What hourly and daily behaviors?

If I’ve told you once I’ve told you 72 times that for a good portion of that 3.5 years, the answer to any question you would have asked me would have been “I don’t know.” It’s still the answer to a fair amount of questions, but the vision has been building, the imagination running rampant, and the patience getting stronger.

The impossible end result is somewhere between 3 and 72 years away, so I must control what I can control, forget the rest, and enjoy the abk journey.

As you may or may not know, I walked away from a six figure salary with great benefits and all sorts of perks roughly 17 months ago. Everything went to zero. Clean slate. Fresh start. Deep breath. There were some savings, but not indefinite savings. The clock was ticking immediately. If you thought I felt no pressure, you are nuts. I just kept telling myself, if you give in to the pressure, you’re getting further away from the vision.

So I started observing, listening, and researching. Everything was new. What could be built and how could it be built so that I was interested and engaged with life instead of bored, frustrated, and trapped?

Let’s start with anything but khakis. My intent is that it will always be free. Free stories. Free ideas. Free encouragement. I owe the universe a lot, and this is how I give back. I do hope it will one day evolve into a real lifestyle design consulting company where I can one on one help someone that is serious about making a lifestyle change. But that’s a few years away. I have to get the experience first.

Next is real estate investment. I love real estate. I love the ability to create. I love the ability to invest and make money. I’ve had investments in rural areas, suburban areas, urban areas, and off college campuses. The latest house is currently being built along The Gulf of Mexico (two hurricanes coming this week?), and I’ve got my brain and eyeballs on New Orleans real estate also.

On the playing golf front, I’ve gone from a 14 handicap to a 0.5 handicap in 16 months. (When I get to 0.0, I’m getting a tattoo to commemorate the grind.) I want to get to a +5, and that may take 2-3 more years. Hell, I may never get there. My body may break down. But I’m going to try. Playing golf is actually one of the most important daily cogs in this wheel because I was put on this earth to play something. I may never make a dime from this, but that’s completely missing the point. I play essentially every day.

If I deem my golf story compelling enough, I will write a book. I’ve already started and have copious notes, but that’s way down the road. So for now? Well, I start working at Shell Landing Golf Club Monday. Entry level. Gotta start somewhere. Grinding is a huge part of the journey.

So what’s missing? Some interesting part-time remote gig with benefits would be nice. Self-insurance is absurdly expensive. So I’m looking. And looking. And looking. Everything is remote now, so it will come. A grand vision is just a big puzzle that requires a ton of imagination and grind and even more patience.

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”-Stephen Covey, again

I have no idea what your main thing is. What I do know is that most everything out there, while real, can be a distraction. Ego. Stubbornness. Self doubt. Ignorance. Headlines. Foolishness. Peer pressure. Resistance, both implicit and explicit, just because your main thing may not be the same as everyone else’s.

This journey has taken a ton of action. But equally as important, it has taken lots of ignoring noise and practicing patience. Fire drills are often not fire drills. I just keep telling myself, if you give in to the pressure, you’re getting further away from the vision.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Looking Inside to Find Your Way Out

“You can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.”-Comedian Ricky Gervais

I’ve never really believed much of anything that I read or hear, so you can only imagine where I stand here in 2020. It’s one thing to be an informed citizen, another to be an over-informed citizen, and entirely another to be a falsely- informed citizen.

This was actually one of the reasons I became interested in lifestyle design. Jaded and admittedly bored by the routine of a normal life, I thought to myself, how best could I design a life that does not rely on some weird adult high school copycatting popularity contest that drives how so many people actually live their life? Could the focus truly be on how a specific individual wants to live his or her life, and then the uncertain details get filled in as the journey unfolds, instead of vice versa?

Okay, so we need a place to rest our heads. We need dinner on the table tonight as well as a general idea of how we will have dinner on the table at some point down the road. We need our health. We need love. We need to be working towards some greater purpose.

But otherwise, how might a script be tailored to fulfill my, our, or your very personal desires instead of using the vanilla framework designed 300 years ago or the roadmap provided by The Joneses and photocopied by everyone else? For me, it came solely down to freedom and self-expression, with the sub-categories being nature, sports, style, and writing.

There’s a truth about the ocean or a beautiful mountain. There’s a truth about a purely struck golf shot or a 103-mph fastball. There’s a truth about a finely woven Panama hat or a beautiful watch. There’s a truth about telling it exactly like it is. There’s a truth to saying no to conformity and yes to authenticity.

Self care is so important. It’s actually the guiding light in my version of lifestyle design. It involves a combination of pursuing those beautiful things you personally love, taking care of yourself so you can best help others, and avoiding or limiting your interactions (which, cough cough, you control) with worry-inducing nonsense.

For me, self care and lifestyle design are essentially one in the same. In Mississippi, I focus on nature, sports, style, and writing daily. I’m always outside. I may ride the jet ski. I play golf every day. I have fun with my clothes. I jot down thoughts and notes hourly. I take pictures and make videos. It’s how I remain engaged with life. anything but khakis IS self care. anything but khakis IS lifestyle design.

Contrastingly, I only allot 5-10 minutes per day to news, regardless of the medium. I just need to know the general temperature, not how someone else wants me to feel or that two prominent adults called each other poopyheads (shout out high school). How anyone entertains any of this in 2020 seriously blows my mind.

If I need medical advice, I ask a doctor, not my TV. If I want golf advice, I ask an exceptional golfer, not the peanut gallery. If I want to play the piano well, I call my mom, not the plumber.

And if, one day, you want true lifestyle design advice, something I’ve lived daily for 3.5 years and am super passionate about, I hope you will call me. I’m already helping a few people with less conformity, less reliance, more authenticity, more freedom, new hope, new possibility, and less boxes. I’d be happy to help you.

That’s not to say that I have your answers. No, of course not. Those don’t come from me or Facebook or anywhere else. Those have to come from within.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: Welcome to the Sixties

It was only a matter of time and patience. That’s what I kept telling myself as the 93s turned to 90s, the 90s to 86s, the 86s to 82s, the 82s to 78s, the 78s to 74s, the 74s to 72s, and the 72s to 70s. I had no direct control over the numbers. They were just an outcome of diligent, targeted, consistent hard work. Surely, this can be applied to anything.

In my case, it took 351 days of grinding, roughly 2,000 focused hours, and 15.5 calendar months to break into the sixties. And as with anything, I thought it best to crush it, not just lightly slide in. Last Monday, I shot an official 5 under par 67 from the tournament tees, and I’ll be honest, I was buzzing.

I made 8 birdies, 3 bogeys, and 7 pars. I hit 7/14 fairways, 13/18 greens, and had 27 putts. I never once pulled out my brand new, exorbitantly priced driver. I didn’t need it.

I bogeyed the first hole and missed a 3 foot birdie putt on the second, causing me to manage my aggravation early on. I birdied 3, narrowly missed on 4, then birdied 5, 6, and 7, causing me to manage my extreme giddiness. I narrowly missed birdie on 8 and made a goofy bogey on 9, causing me to manage my irritation once again.

I birdied 12, 13, and 14, and all of a sudden I was 5 under through 14, and my nerves knew it. I made a great par save on 15, and then like a clown, bogeyed 16, one of the easiest holes on the course. I narrowly missed again on 17, and as I stood on 18 tee at 4 under par, I told myself in as kind of a way as possible, Don’t you dare f*** this up. I safely put my tee ball in play and then hit a brilliant iron to about 25 feet.

Relieved, excited, so many emotions swirling, but I wasn’t quite finished. I set up my phone to video the occasion, my son playing on the cart just offscreen. And by God, I drained it. Center cup. 5 under. 67. Done. I walked it in Tiger-style. I celebrated with pure joy, the kind that doesn’t come with money, praise, or adulation. It’s an internal joy, kind of like the marathons, knowing what slogging through the Mississippi sun day after day to chase the impossible feels like.

Speaking of, the impossible isn’t really impossible if you are willing to get after it. Diligent, consistent, hard work is most of the battle, but don’t underestimate want to, will, and drive. I’m 30+ years behind most elite golfers, but as the 93s turning to 67 should prove, the intangibles count for something.

All of it can be worked on. All of it can be made better. If you really want to…

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: Not Satisfied

“Flaws: either own ‘em or fix ‘em.”-abk

Getting better is hard. It requires, as a first step, to acknowledge that we need to get better. I could care less what category we are talking about. I just like the idea of always getting better.

This past Monday, I played TPC Louisiana, home of the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic just outside of New Orleans. I had played there once before, almost exactly two years prior. Then, I shot 102. Monday, I shot 75. 27 stroke improvement. Bravo, I know. I mentioned last week that I had experienced a similar 20 stroke improvement a few weeks ago at Pinehurst # 2. Bravo, I know.

What I didn’t mention was how each of these courses, in tandem with my daily grind, continue to expose all of my weaknesses. Sure, every aspect of my game has gotten miles better, but there are still problems to solve, weaknesses to strengthen, and ways to get better. There always will be.

This past weekend, I played in a loosely- defined tournament on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I thought I would personally use the experience as a gauge to, quite frankly, get better. My end game is years away and a true work in process, so I use these tests as opportunities to learn and improve.

Each day, our foursome had good players, with at least one player shooting under par. Though I operate in my own world out there, I love playing with ballers. I pay attention to subtle things they do. I watch them like a hawk. It’s the best way I know to get better at anything.

I played pretty well Friday, shooting a 2 over par 74 (37-37) in a whipping wind. Saturday, all hell broke loose on the front 9, and I shot a 10 over 46. Determined to salvage something, I went all in and shot a 3 under 33 on the back to post a 79 in what surely was the most bizarre round of the day/my life. Sunday, I got off to a rough start again, shooting a 4 over 40 on the way out, only to close with an even par 36 on the way in.

74-79-76. I’m not going to win any awards yet, though I did win a few bucks. I’ve known for months now I need to shave six more strokes off each round to get where I want to be, so this was about right. I wouldn’t say I was pleased with the three days, but I was pleased with certain aspects, definitely. My flaws were right there for me to analyze, and in an odd way, I was pleased with what I learned.

For the three days, I was +13 total, of which 8 strokes were penalty strokes. I went +15 on the front (37, 46, 40) and -2 on the back (37, 33, 36). I don’t need an advanced astronomy degree to analyze what was good (bravo, I know) and where an immense amount of work still needs to be done. For starters, eliminate the goofy penalty strokes and I’ve got 73-74-74. Now, we are getting somewhere.

I love making the daily highlight videos, reporting on progress, and sharing good rounds, but what brings me back to the course day after day (350 days now) are those rough starts and penalty strokes and the opportunity to understand and fix them. I’ve just got to get better. Why, you ask? Well…it’s just so much better than the alternative.

Before I teed it up last Monday, a round that I ended up walking with a buddy, I devoured two hamburgers from Lee’s Hamburgers in the New Orleans area, a 120 year old institution known for grilling tiny onions INTO its patties. They were unlike anything I had ever eaten and absolutely delicious.

Was it the best idea to eat them right before walking five miles and playing golf? Of course not. But we all have our flaws, and we have to either own ‘em or work on ‘em. The golf? I’ll continue to work on it, along with so many other aspects of my life. The New Orleans grub? I think I’ll just unapologetically own that piece and the added five pounds it kindly provides.

Have a great week.-Benj

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So Hungry, Even at 38

“Going to New Orleans, arguably the best city for food in America, and NOT eating should be a crime.”-Me

Last Friday, Banks and I rode over to The Big Easy to pick up my new driver and irons. I was super excited to finally have custom fitted golf clubs, but really, my thoughts were on food. I had already made up my mind that we would order to-go from Blue Oak BBQ, a laid back Mid-City joint owned by a couple of fellas I met last year. I got the Philly cheesesteak egg rolls dipped in Chipotle mayo. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Banks got some spicy mac and cheese. We both downed red sodas. It was divine.

As we drove back, I was like a kid on Christmas morning, stomach full of goodness and ready to play with my new toys straightaway. I dropped the big man off with mommy so they could fish, and away I went. I was expecting a break-in period of at least a week or two, but immediately I could tell I was playing a different game. The ball went where I told it to go. Night 1, I shot even par 72, barely breaking a sweat. Most people said it was the clubs. My buddy and I agreed it was mostly the egg rolls.

The next day I shot 36 on the way out, but got a little off kilter with my new yardages coming in. It was like my training wheels had finally been taken off my bicycle, and it would take a minute to get the feel. I was impatient, annoyed, and excited.

The next night was more of the same, getting more and more comfortable with the 20 extra yards of distance, increased accuracy, and shotmaking ability. I had a new paintbrush, and I was ready to paint.

On Day 4 of the new clubs, I shot a 2 under par 70, 5 inches of putts away from it being a 65. There were no egg rolls to attribute this performance to, so I guess it might just be the clubs.

Since I’ve had them, my 9-hole splits are 36 36 36 42 33 37 37 39 38 38 36. Even par or better is the goal every time out now. I’m leaving a ton of shots out there by inches. It’s coming.

Truth be told, for the first 15 months of this journey, I’ve played with substandard equipment and tinkered like a madman. Bullshit clubs off the clearance rack built for someone 5’10”. Worn out grips. Colored balls. Cheap, rock hard balls. Anything to save a buck. As such, though I’ve improved immensely (roughly 16-20 strokes per round), confession time, I never knew exactly where the ball was going. Even up until last week, I knew the vicinity-ish, but not exactly. I’ve written a ton about confidence, and not knowing messed with my head. Ever since I got the clubs, something changed. Yes, that quickly. The ball started going where I wanted it to go and how I wanted it to get there. Deep down, I got giddy. For the first time, I confidently told myself, being a scratch golfer is right around the corner now (currently 2.0, low point 0.6). The goal now must be elevated. The potential has gotten higher. The game has changed. Could I possibly be this hungry for 3-4 more years?

I have one final fitting Monday in New Orleans for my putter, wedges, and woods. Once I build and receive those last few clubs, I should be set. Decide for good on a premium ball (ProV1x, TP5x, or Chrome Soft are the finalists), have a full set of clubs built specifically for me, and be ready to reach a new level.

After the fitting Monday, I plan to play TPC Louisiana (go away Hurricane Hanna), home of the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic. I played hallowed Pinehurst # 2 earlier this month and shaved 20 strokes off from my last go-round. I hope to do the same Monday, reconfirming my progress, giving me more confidence, and setting a new baseline on which to improve.

All of this golf talk is secondary and tertiary, really. We’ve got way more important things to discuss. 5+ hours of exercise every single day makes me quite ravenous, and as I just told you, I’m going to be in The Crescent City again on Monday. If I play my cards correctly, I may be able to do lunch AND dinner. Ooh, goody goody. And guess what? I guarantee I’ll be hungry for more on Tuesday.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Follow along on Instagram @anythingbutkhakis, @abkgolf, and now @anythingbutkhakisphotography.

If you enjoy these and would like to get the weekly piece via email, please follow on the website http://www.anythingbutkhakis.com.