I’ve now posted a 74, two 75s, and a gaggle of 76s and 77s. A 78 or 79 doesn’t even make me smile any more, unless it’s on a day windier than Oklahoma in May. In my most recent Friday Shootout, I lipped out a four foot putt on 18 after a lousy, lousy round to post an 81, and I wanted to vomit. In a past life, had I shot an 81, everyone in my contact list would have known about it before I turned the cart back in.
My, how a world can transform.
Outside of vacation golf and father/son golf, I have left social golf in the rearview mirror for the foreseeable future. When I arrive at the course, it is all business, even more all business than the last time I wrote that. When I was shooting 95 or even 85, some things didn’t matter. Now, officially, every single detail matters.
After shooting 76s on both Wednesday and Thursday last week, I reviewed all of my copious notes from the Thursday 76 round. Score (76, +4) was acceptable, fairways hit (9/14) were acceptable, greens in regulation (11/18) were acceptable, and putts (29) were acceptable. What was not acceptable were the 4 penalty strokes incurred from 2 bonehead swings and the 2 further strokes lost from lazy putting. 4+2=6, deducted from 76 is 70. 70, I say! 70! 70?
Could it be possible that I am on the verge of turning another corner? That I need to raise my level of focus even higher? That only 2 bonehead swings and 2 other lapses in focus kept me from a -2 round? Whoa, shorty…let’s back it up a bit.
Over the past 9 months, I have put immense amounts of golf information into my brain, tried to get said information to flow into my body, and then attempted to execute an acceptable golf shot every time I stood over the ball. It’s enough to make a weaker man (or woman) crumble. But I’ve stood strong, stood tall, and taken the inevitable lumps on numerous occasions hoping to someday soon arrive at my next goal, even par.
But it’s not that easy. This game has a way of giving you a big middle finger soon after you’ve done something grand. It’s enough to make a weaker man (or woman) crumble. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. Now that I’m playing regularly in competitive scrambles and shootouts, I watch talented golfers implode, running themselves ragged between their two ears, the place where this game truly dominates.
Soon after I snapped my 7 iron months ago, I read four things that wound up being game changers for me.
First, my only job is to focus on the shot at hand and perform to the best of my ability that one shot. No looking backwards. No looking forwards. No wandering mind. Just still. Just present.
Second, I have to pretend there is no one else on the course with me. No playing partner. No competition. No nothing. Be friends at the 19th hole, but tend to my business on the course. It’s just me versus the course. Me versus myself.
Third, play with people who are better than me. In the three weeks I have been doing this, I have learned so much. While I am predominantly focused on myself (see point 2), I notice things that I may inquire about after the round to help me get better. Why did you do this? Why did you do that?
Last, play for something. Pride. Bragging rights. Money. Points. Trophies. Something. I’ve done this six times in 2020, and 50% of the time, my play has paid for my dinner 😉.
These ideas are new to me so I repeat them over and over, and they have been incredibly helpful. Notwithstanding a few weeks of insanely windy conditions (my personal big middle finger), I have continued to get so much better. The only problem, as my dad would agree, is that I’ve been stuck in some statistical categories for six weeks now. What gives?
The only answer I have is that this game is incredibly difficult, and so I have to be patient and take minute progress as big wins. 94 to 90 was easy-ish. 90 to 85 a little less easy. 85 to 80 even less. Sub 76? Each next decimal is harder than advanced calculus.
(I sometimes imagine a good golfer who has played the game all of his life trying to switch sports and become an All-American soccer player at the age of 37. It’s different, but it’s the same, and it gives me great perspective.)
So I take the small wins and repeat over and over to myself. Persistence. Repetition. Focus. It’s coming. Good gosh, it’s coming. I can feel it.
The ironic thing about all of this is that in all of the other aspects of my life, I have worked very hard to be more relaxed, more carefree, and more immersed in this big, bad wonderful world. But those 4 to 5 hours that I spend at the golf facility each day, it’s the exact opposite. As selfish as it sounds, during that time, I have to be the only person on the planet, and striking that little white ball that’s in front of me is all that matters. I’ve gotten so much better, but I have so much more work to do.
Currently, even par for me is somewhere between 76 and 78. I have my good days, and I have my less than good days. But one thing is for sure, if I want to achieve what I want to achieve, I have to be locked in every time I stand over that ball.
I’m not quite there yet, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been.
Have a great week.-Benj
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