abk Golf 11 Month Checkup

Statistically, before the great golf journey began 11 months ago, I wasn’t even an average golfer. That came as a shock to me (and my ego). I loved the game, I wore cool shoes, but I wasn’t even average. Yikes! Turns out, I was ranked somewhere between the 41st and 46th percentile of active, registered golfers.

Now, after 231 days of intense study, practice, and play, I find myself around the 92nd percentile. That’s more like it. But what’s new, what’s next, and who cares?

My days have now officially been divided between three types of golf: social, practice, and competitive. My preference is either practice or competitive just because of the way I am wired, but the course is where I get my daily human interaction, so the social piece cannot be ignored.

Given that Biloxi is a tourist destination, I often find myself playing with folks from all over America. I’ve played with bankers from Alabama, members of the Veteran Golfers Association, and tattoo artists from Louisiana. I’ve played with golf pros from Washington, retirees from North Dakota, tourists from Pennsylvania, and everything in between. I’ve gotten more phone numbers this year than the homecoming king in college, all attributed to this great game.

The problem with social golf is that I become way too interested in these folks’ life story, and inevitably they in mine, to pay attention to playing golf. I might show them where to go on the course and help them read their putts. In turn, they may want to know why I am wearing a pink hat, a white and red snakeskin belt, or a deer head necklace. Before you know it, we are talking about health, happiness, camaraderie, adventure, regret, addiction, and who knows what. You know, life. I often just listen. Maybe they realize that someone on an 11 month golf journey might deeply understand. It’s turned out to be my daily investment in humanity, but…it adds about 7 strokes to my round.

On the competitive side, I’m down to a 4.2 handicap and a 78.25 scoring average, both easily the best of my life, and those numbers are even better when I’m fully focused. (In the 17 rounds I’ve competed in, I’m playing to roughly a 3 handicap.) However, I have been careful and continue to be careful to not let the statistics dictate my journey. As with anything, they don’t tell the whole story, but in golf, they do tell a whole hell of a lot.

In fact, my primary focus right now, confidence, is something that is tricky to measure, but that is needed in droves. Going from below average to the top 10 percent so quickly in anything can make anyone question, “Do I really belong?”

At some point and some point soon, I’ve got to flip a switch. Benj, this is no longer a where you’ve been story to where you hope to go. That’s a different life ago. This is about where you are now and where you are actually going. There is a huge difference, and I’ll give you a recent example.

Earlier this week, I played in a 20-man competition. It was 80 degrees, and I had a good, long warmup. As such, I birdied holes 1 and 2. I lipped out a 3 foot birdie on 3. I babied a 5 footer for birdie on 4. I left a 10 footer for birdie on the lip on 5. After doubling 6 because of an errant drive, I babied a 6 footer for eagle on 7. Through 7, I realistically should have been 7 under par, but instead I was only 1 under. I had never been there before. My heart beat faster. Did I belong? Not at 7 under, I didn’t. Not yet.

The back 9 was the same song and dance. Made some birdies. Left a couple on the lip. Hit a few drives off the planet.

I posted a 76 for about the 9,000th time, but after deducting the 7, yes SEVEN, penalty strokes and the 5 putts I left on the lip, that’s a 64. I’m not a shoulda woulda coulda kind of guy, but do you see what I’m saying? I was VERY disappointed in myself, but I had never been there, and the occasion was just too big. Maybe next time, I’ll know better.

So here we are, 11 months in. From the 40th something percentile to the 90th plus. From 92.9 to 78.25. From 14 to 4.2. From a dream to a hope to a belief to now needing that final bit of high level confidence that I can actually do it. Because the strange thing is, I know that I can do it. Of course I know that I can do it. I just haven’t done it yet. It’s been right in front of me multiple times, and I guess I just wasn’t quite ready.

Also, I should probably quit thinking about whether I will ever belong. I don’t really belong to anything else, so who cares? One reason I love sports so much is because being good breaks down every other divisive barrier, and golf is no different. If you can play, you can play.

This past year, golf has given me lots of answers, but now the journey has started posing even more questions. This is what I live for…these tough questions. I just need to slow down the heartbeat, steady the hands, and learn to make the putt.

All statistical analysis aside, either I will do it or I won’t. I only need to do it once, and then I won’t be scared anymore. That’s basically the entire premise of the anything but khakis journey.

Have a great week.-Benj

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