“Patience.”- abk Golf
A couple of weeks ago, I was officially exhausted. My left rhomboid muscle was strained, my game had plateaued, and I was tired and hot. Not to mention I had been in a car for 14 straight days and 6,000 miles. So on this particular day back in Mississippi, frustrated and fatigued, I just walked off the course, went home, and went to bed. It was 2pm.
My home course, Shell Landing Golf Club in Gautier, Mississippi, provides all sorts of challenges. It’s blazing hot, it’s quite long and narrow, and it always has some kind of sea breeze blowing. You may think this breeze sounds wonderful, but it annoys the hell out of me and my golf ball.
As I have gotten to know the course over the last six months, it hit me one day that this was the most wonderful daily course to practice on due to these challenges. And while the heat, the narrowness, and the constant wind may ruffle my feathers regularly, when it is time to play elsewhere, I may have a slight (or considerable) edge.
In last week’s piece, I wrote about GolfWeek 2019 in Alabama and all of its fun and frivolity. What I purposefully did not discuss were my results, but I am going to now.
As I mentioned in that piece, we played four delicious courses between Birmingham and Auburn. First was Vestavia, sitting atop a mountain, where I shot 80. Second was Shoal Creek, a major championship venue, where I shot 80 again. Third was Farm Links, a wide open public beast, where I shot 77. Last was Moore’s Mill Club, a long and tight layout, where I shot 78 (including a back nine 1-under 35). These were the four best consecutive rounds of golf of my life, and I had never seen the courses.
The work is paying off.
These four rounds were massive for my confidence. A year ago, the 80 at Vestavia after driving for six hours would have been a 95. A year ago, the 80 at major venue Shoal Creek would have been a 105. A year ago, the 77 at Farm Links would have been an 85. And honestly, the 78 at MMC may have gone completely sideways as tight as it was. Also, minus the first round at Vestavia, the last three could have easily been sub-75 without a couple of self-inflicted wounds.
I feel like I am one small step away from consistently shooting in the 70s on challenging tracks, which is my next goal. My right foot still hurts and my left shoulder stays sore, but otherwise I feel good. Mentally, I continue to remove the noise. I’ve played through gunshots, train whistles, and sirens, though I have not yet conquered the mariachi band (¡Ben and Chad! ¡Olé!). Just months ago, first tee anxiety was still very real. Now? Not so much.
My handicap is now officially 6.1 and trending at 5.8, down from 14 five and a half months ago. In that span, I have played or practiced 114 days totaling over 400 hours. I’m pleased with the progress, but I still have a long way to go. If six months ago the odds of getting to scratch was the same as getting struck by lightning TWICE, I’d say it’s now down to only ONCE. I’m getting close to being a bona fide amateur golfer, not just an athlete who is decent at golf. For me, that is a massive difference.
As peachy as all of that is, a 6.1 handicap doesn’t allow for many mistakes each round. If I shoot above 80 now, I am not pleased. (I can’t believe I am writing that.) That’s new to me. Minimal mistakes. No slipping. At a minimum, maintain. Work. Grind. Get better. Daily.
I’ve started to receive some notes, “What is your end goal with this golf thing?” My answer right now? “Depends on how good I get.” I’ve got some ideas. I’m all in for this dream. I gave up my paycheck six months ago. I pay a zillion dollars a month for health insurance so I don’t have to pay TWO zillion dollars for my arthritis injections. I live in a cabin in Mississippi the size of most bedrooms so I can play golf every day.
In October, I have no travel planned (although always subject to change). In Mississippi, there is no winter. I’ve played at Thanksgiving and Christmas down here before, no problem. I have daily check-ins with myself and biweekly “Come to Jesus Meetings”. I haven’t enlisted any professional help yet, nor do I want to, but I’m sure it is inevitable. All that to say, give me another 114 days and 400+ hours. I’m dialed in.
My buddy Ben called me a few months ago and asked me if all of this grinding was “fun”. By my definition of the word, yes, absolutely.
For the most part, I have given up on the traditional definition of having fun and chasing “success”. Instead, my definition of fun is maximizing potential, pushing limits, and pursuing excellence (either doing it myself, encouraging others, or watching others). So every day, I work a little harder to solve this mesmerizing, frustrating puzzle that, of course, I know can never be solved. And that, to me, is fun.
Have a great week.-Benj
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