6/5/20, Gautier, Mississippi-
After consecutive birdies on holes 12 and 13, I found myself at 2 under par. Mark my word, that was the only reason I was still at the golf course. After about four hours of waiting, watching mediocre players play from the professional tee boxes, and other ridiculous tomfoolery, I had had enough. But I was 2 under, so on I trudged. I made a miraculous bogey on 14, a bored bogey on 15, and two ho-hum pars on 16 and 17 while talking nonsense with my playing partner from Tampa, Florida. Five hours plus now. No wonder so many guys aren’t allowed to play golf. Even par on 18 tee, I smoked a drive right down the middle. But then something bizarre happened. Pitching wedge in hand from roughly 135 yards, the club left my hands as soon as I hit the ball. The club went straight. The ball went sideways. It was really weird. Annoyed, bored, and confused at this point, I sunk a 20 foot putt to claw out a double bogey and carded a frustrating 74.
Initially, I thought the club had simply slipped out of my sweaty, bored hand. But upon further reflection, I had been losing feeling in my left hand all day. Then at go-time on 18, the hand simply went to sleep. Though I fought it for another week or two, it was the beginning of the end for a while.
I am no stranger to soreness and injury. For 25 years now, it’s just been there. I’ve grown to tolerate the daily soreness, but an injury brings along its ugly cousins: loneliness, boredom, and fear. This particular injury, an overused left arm (think shoulder, elbow, wrist and forearm pain), really scared me.
Along the great golf journey, there have been three injuries that I consider significant. They are inevitable. I mean, I’m 38 years old, exercising and grinding every day like I’m 20 years younger.
The first injury was piriformis syndrome on my right side, a nagging, hard-to-get-rid-of injury where a tiny little muscle near the hip/buttocks messes with the sciatic nerve. I surmise this injury occurred during the NYC Marathon Volume 2 and lingered into the first few months of golf. The aggravation was brutal. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t sleep. At the recommendation of a yoga expert, I stretched a very specific stretch and rolled sideways on a tennis ball as much as I could tolerate. Eventually, after months and months, it went away.
The second injury was plantar fasciitis in my right foot, a heel injury I would not wish on anyone. It resulted from months of walking while playing and constantly being on my feet practicing. I wore a boot to sleep, even though I couldn’t really sleep. I went to physical therapy. I stretched my calves every free moment I had. I started using a cart when I played. Finally, a month or two ago, after my 16,000th calf stretch, it went away.
The current injury is golfer’s elbow/tendinitis of my left arm, and the swelling is mucking with the two nerves that meander down to my hand. It doesn’t really hurt. It tingles. It annoys. It causes double bogeys on the 18th hole. It came about from golf, carrying a big ass iPhone, and holding my dinner plate in my hand as I ate since I haven’t had a dinner table in about a year and a half. I’ve rested it on two different occasions recently for five and seven days, respectively, and it helped. Surely, soon enough, it will go away too.
For the last 25 years, I’ve had to become skilled at balancing overuse vs. rest. Not enough vs. too much. Too much leads to injury. Not enough makes my arthritis angry. I want to fulfill my potential. I want to push limits. I don’t want to hurt.
I returned to action on Friday night, a little sore and rusty. I played my first round back on Saturday, carding a 74 and easing my fears that I had forgotten how to play. My current handicap is 1.3. My average score is down to 75.4. My new clubs tailored specifically to my game should be here any day.
As I told my boy Kris last night, let my arm get right and my new clubs arrive. Give me a month to tinker and grind. And then I really feel like I will be there, ready to scare even par or better every time out.
Have a great week.-Benj
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