abk Golf Chronicles: Penalties, Putting, and Poor Par 5s

The range wasn’t open due to flooding, so I didn’t get a good warmup. There’s an excuse.

It was cold. It was wet. It was windy. There’s an excuse.

I was playing with this very interesting guy. A traveler. A vagabond. Probably a 3 handicap. His conversation was interesting and thus a distraction. There’s an excuse.

Before my joints were loose, 4 holes in, I was +4. My foot hurt. My body was sore. My shoes were muddy. I almost packed it in.

The thought of being +4 after 4 holes made me sick, but the thought that I considered packing it in made me sicker. Benj, what is wrong with you? Take a deep breath, and let’s go.

I play in informal competitions 1-3 times per week now. Anywhere from 8 to upwards of 40 golfers usually. I’m typically paired with a real player now, so I’ve gotten used to being beaten. But more importantly, I’m learning. I’m like a sponge. Everyone is taking me under their wing. Everyone is interested in my story and goal. I’m getting loads of cell phone numbers. Let’s play. Let’s practice. Let’s talk. Some partners shoot routinely under par. Some shoot even par. Some, like me, shoot a few over.

I’ve gotten to an interesting plateau in my golf journey. In my last 20 rounds, which is my typical measuring point, my average score is 79.85, down 13.05 full strokes from 10 months ago. My handicap has risen to 6.8, but I haven’t been able to formally post a 73 and at least two 76s since I played them alone (official USGA rules). So in reality, I’m probably playing to between a 4 and 5. I’m okay with that.

However, 16 of the 20 rounds are nearly identical. Scores in the mid to high 70s creeping into the very low 80s with 3 penalty strokes, 4 missed putts inside 5 feet, and poor Par 5 management each round. It’s eerie how similar the rounds are. It sickens me. Same shit. Different day.

Honestly, it has become frustrating. I’m a guy where if there is a problem, let’s solve it. I know if I don’t change the behaviors, the results aren’t going to change. Right now, my game is the definition of insanity. I’m a little baffled. I’m a little stuck. I don’t know what to change.

As we drove to the 5th hole, I knew I already had incurred 3 penalty strokes and a missed 4 footer. Since I decided to shat the bed early today, I thought I might start cooking soon. And sure enough, it was go time. Par. Par. Par. Bogey. Par. Par. Bogey. Par. Par. Birdie. Bogey. Birdie.

But then on 17, the wind took my cleanly struck 9 iron and threw it right back at me a la Dikembe Mutombo. A la Zion Williamson. Double bogey. Expletive. Double expletive.

As I walked to 18 tee, I knew that as difficult as the weather conditions were that we were playing in, even with that double bogey, even with that pathetic start, I might be in contention. So I kept my focus going, narrowly missing birdie on the last hole and finishing with a tap in par.

In 25 mph winds from the tournament tees, I shot 79, not overly impressive by my new standards, but under duress, I guess I’ll take it. I said bye to everyone, exchanged another phone number, and hit the road.

About 30 minutes later, I got this note.

Good. I live to eat and play golf for another week. Maybe even buy a few balls.

If only money could buy the elimination of penalty strokes and missed 4 foot putts. But it can’t, and that’s why I love this game. Grinding, searching for progress, in pursuit of something I may never find.

Have a great week.-Benj

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