April 26, 2007

When your Goodboys nickname is The Great White Shank, it’s hardly a testimony to your golfing acumen. Am I the worst golfer amongst the Goodboys? I don’t think so – at least not on a regular basis, but occasionally that has sadly been the case. I’ve never aspired to be a scratch golfer – if I can break 100 every now and then I’d be more than satisfied; alternatively, any time I’m making googoo eyes at 110 or worse, I feel lower than whale sh*t, if you know what I mean. The only comfort is knowing that in the game of golf, as Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy was wont to say, perfection is unattainable, and sometimes I’m my own worst enemy at making certain that goal remain elusive.

Several years ago, when we lived in Kentucky, I actually rode a pretty good streak for a season where I was constantly shooting anywhere between 96 and 105 – in fact, it was in 2000 that I and my partner that year Jim “El Dandito” Drewett took the Goodboys Invitational crown. The following spring, my game started to slide once more and had been sliding ever since. While the main source of my problems were my irons – especially in terms of both accuracy and, frustratingly so, distance – it was consistency off the tee that was really the source of my problems. The pros say you “drive for show and putt for dough”, but for amateurs like me, if you can’t get off the tee, you’ll not only score poorly but lose an awful of golf balls doing so.

More than anything else, however, it was my course management – the strategy one employs to always try to put yourself in a position to succeed on any given hole by avoiding risky shots and playing to your strengths (mine happens to be my short game) – that left the most to be desired. To that end, last year I started adding some exotic fairway woods to my arsenal – a 9 and 11 wood to accompany my 1, 3, 5, and 7 woods. While this meant I could now go for greens from distances I could never do with my mid-to-long irons, the effect on my score was minimal, but the potential remained. What I needed was a strategy, an image in my brain, that I could carry with me onto the course to guide my play and improve my course management.

Hence “The Go Zone”. What is “The Go Zone”? Simply put, it’s identifying one or two places on any given hole where I can do what I can do best and most regularly – which is, chip onto the green and two-putt. On par 3s, it all depends on the distance and the hazards protecting the green – sometimes you just have to go for it and let the chips fall where they may. But on par 4s and par 5s, it’s allowing myself 2 shots (on the former) and three shots (on the latter) to get to “The Go Zone”. If I’m able to do that and then do no worse than a chip and two putts, I’m playing bogey golf and am one satisfied customer. In practical terms, what this means is that I pretty much keep the driver in the bag and go with a 3-wood (or sometimes even a 5-wood) off the tee in most cases.

Since taking this “Go Zone” approach, I’ve played three rounds of golf, and the results have been stunningly consistent: a 52/50=102, a 53/49=102, and a 52/48=100. My drives have been far more consistent, and a Bob Charles swing tip and a chipping tip from The Golf Channel’s Gary Koch during their Honda Classic coverage hasn’t hurt either. Tracey says I’m actually more controlled and human on the golf course, and, at one point last week while riding with me on one of my rounds, suddenly asked, “OK, who are you, and what did you do with The Great White Shank?” High praise indeed.

Only 85 days to go until the 2007 Goodboys Invitational. Watch out boys, me and my partner Steve “Killer” Kowalski are gonna be ready. I’ll be in “The Go Zone”. Will you?

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