March 20, 2011

…and the 2011 Goodboys Invitational began today at Superstition Springs Golf Club. It was a lovely warm late morning, already near 80, when I put my 6-iron, 8-iron, pitching wedge, putter, glove, and a sleeve of Callaway CXBs in my trunk and headed for the Spring’s driving range. I had a range ball card with 20 balls left on it from last year, so it cost me nothing to walk through the parking lot and past the lines of golf carts all lined and loaded up for a shotgun start for some local golf event.

The sky had a lovely milky haze to it, and it felt great to simply feel the warm sun on my skin, the smell of grass in the air, and the happy sounds of golf activity – people putting and talking on and around the practice green, the click of golf balls being hit at the range, the starter negotiating with the guys who had put the thing together. It all felt right, and I was at peace. No nervousness, no apprehension, no sense of dread. Very unusual for someone who not all that long ago used to think of time spent at a driving range hitting balls just 3-4 steps below visiting the dentist.

Even with all the people and the activity, I still found my favorite spot at the far left end of the driving range open, so I trekked on over, dropped my clubs on the ground, sprayed on a little sun block, and grabbed my 6-iron for a few practice swings. Unlike last year, this year I’m starting much earlier, and with swing thoughts that are ridiculously simple: 1) stay on top of the ball, and 2) sweet swing. And that’s it: the first, to make sure I stay compact and allow for a good hip turn and follow through; the second, to not over-swing and follow through nice.

I hit the ball good today – one 6-iron (my last ball, BTW), and several 8-irons on the screws, I mean, really nutted. No shanks. 5-6 balls hit like crap, but that’s to be expected. More importantly, if I started getting away from my swing thoughts, I’d step away for a time, practice my swings, get back in a good mental place, and then return to hit good shots. That’s the most important thing, to not allow a bad shot to spiral your session out of control. That I did, and I have to say, did quite well.

So why the new-found confidence? You see, last year, The Great White Shank, with the help of my swing guru, Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis, was finally able to stare down his golf demons. Allow me to explain.

During Goodboys week at a range session with TFG, he was finally able to diagnose what he called my “death move” at the heart of all my swing problems. By pointing out that I was always finishing up by falling backwards and lifting up my front foot, I came to understand how I was off-balance in my swing, over-swinging, and not finishing up over my right shoulder (I’m a lefty). That’s why I’d start out OK but then, as I began over-swinging I’d be pushing, slicing, shanking, or mis-hitting all my shots. I needed to learn how to keep that damned front foot down and stay more compact.

Breaking old habits and learning new swing thoughts is a tough thing to do on the fly – just ask Tiger Woods. Last Goodboys Friday I was barely hanging on, even on the wide-open Sagamore Hampton, then on Saturday I melted down and hit rock bottom at the tough Ledges in York when, after two tough opening holes I bailed on my new swing and tried to make due with my old one. I put up a huge number and was miserable.

After the round I grabbed some alone time for myself at a local Mexican joint, where, over a couple of Cuervo Gold margaritas, I had a heart-to-heart with myself. Figuring that I had nothing to lose and nowhere else to go but up, I committed myself 100% to TFG’s swing recommendations. It was fish or cut bait time – literally. I was tired of playing crummy golf and making a fool of myself in front of my Goodboys friends. I also needed to motivate myself: I had never broken 100 at a Goodboys Invitational in the twenty years I had been playing them, and had worked myself into such a negative mindset that a sub-100 round seemed beyond my capabilities. That, too, had to go. Then and there, I committed myself to shooting a 99 at The Links at Outlook on Goodboys Sunday.

I shot a 98.

After my surgery on September, I’ve continued to play well. After getting off to a slow (and painful) start at Goodboy Steve “Killer” Kowalski’s stag at Pease G.C. in October (I was less than two months beyond my prostate surgery) – I loosed up after a sluggish front nine and blistered the tough back nine with a 52 that earned high praise from Mike “Vegas” Clark and Tony “2 Times” Proctor – two Goodboys who don’t hand out any kind of praise, false or otherwise, easily.

A month later I shot a 47-49=96 at Superstition Springs.

In February at Angel Park in Vegas, I was on my way to a rocking chair – and I do mean rocking chair – 47 on the front nine when I misread how fast the greens were and putted and chipped balls off the greens and intio ravines on 8 and 9, respectively, and had to settle for a 51. Pretty much the same thing on the back nine, but my 106 score sure didn’t reflect how well I hit the ball all day.

I’m probably boring y’all to hell and you’ve all probably left by now, but the point of this post is to say that The Great White Shank has found a new confidence in his game and swing, and I’m grateful to The Funny Guy for being such a persistent and no-nonsense swing coach. It just goes to show tough love does work – if The Great White Shank can indeed enjoy hitting balls on a driving range on a warm, hazy late Saturday morning in March, then, as they say on the PGA Tour advertisements, anything truly is possible.

Thanks, TFG.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:38 | Comments (2)
  1. Doug:

    I’m a 100% with you on that thought. I even shot better at the OUTLOOK on sunday, knowing that I did not overswing! Heres the thing with Goodboys weekend: we play 3 straight days so by sunday you can usually figure out all those
    bad swing thoughts/miss hits that happened on friday and saturday.
    By sunday…yup its to late!

    Comment by Ron "Cubby" Myerow — March 20, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  2. You go girl !

    Comment by Killer — March 21, 2011 @ 11:52 am

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