April 28, 2013

It’s Saturday morning and I’ve got a bunch of errands in front of me – Lowe’s to get the paperwork signed for the replacement of all our crappy windows with energy-efficient replacements, the pool place to get my first water test after the refill, then finish Krylon-ing all our outside metal art and pottery to protect them from blanching to white in the upcoming heat months. Today is a real ten-beller, mid-to-high ’80s, and the breeze feels great through the open windows. I’ve got a surf CD playing, and the Torquays and the Aqua Velvets are blasting out one pulsating, reverb-drenched tune after another. It’s a good day.

I’m thinking about my range work at Superstition Springs from Friday and feel pleased that I’m near where I need to be with Goodboys weekend less than three months away and the real heat just a few weeks away – that will surely limit my ability to spend 2-3 hours banging balls and chipping and putting at SS on Friday afternoons. Once the temps are over 100 on a regular basis it will be all about efficiency and what you can get accomplished in an hour’s time before you begin to sizzle like a steak on the grill and are forced to retreat to the closest cold, dark place. I look at the passenger side floor and see the bucket of twenty balls I scrounged off the empty putting green before leaving, figuring these will be a good start for next Friday’s session. I look again just as the Aqua Velvet’s “Slow Dance With a Fast Girl” starts playing, and at that moment in time I know exactly where I’m heading: back to SS for a quick mini-bucket.

I’m glad I had tossed my 7, 8, and 9-irons in the trunk yesterday, figuring those were the clubs I was planning on focusing my attention on next Friday – while I’ve been concentrating so much on my woods and my tee game (rightly so), I’m well aware that in order to score better I need to ratchet up my short iron game to get me on the green in regulation when opportunity presents itself, and close to the green for more precise chipping when it doesn’t.

When I get to Superstition Springs, a surprise awaits me: there a big event taking place, the Mesa Sister Cities Student Exchange Classic, where golfers from Mesa’s sister cities around the world are gathering for a day of golf and festivities. The driveway into the course and first tee area are festooned with flags from countries all over the world: Brazil, China, Italy, Mexico are just a few, and it’s packed. Back in the old days, I would have shrugged my shoulders and turned the car around, but today I’m intrigued and find a parking space in the adjacent strip mall. I also grab my tree irons and my bucket of balls and head over.

I’m glad I did because the atmosphere is truly festive – it’s a real treat for the golf senses: lots of folks on the range and putting green, the sound of balls being hit, laughter, the starter trying to create some sense of order out of the happy chaos surrounding him. I feel like I’m a participant at a U.S. Open, and I’m totaly jazzed to see one spot in the middle of the range open up. With all the flags around it’s not hard to imagine you’re hitting balls next to a Sergio or Adam or Ernie or Graeme – at least the amateur versions of same. And the guys on both sides of me can really hit the ball – especially the two what appear to be high school kids who are there with their girlfriends. They’re young, handsome, and athletic, with swings that would normally make me want to cower and shrink away for fear of embarrassing myself.

But this is the new The Great White Shank, so I drop a ball on the only two blades of grass left in my hitting area and, after a couple of easy practice swings, proceed to top an 8-iron that runs about twenty yards without leaving the ground. Back in earlier days, I’d totally freak and proceed to embarrass myself further by repeating the same over and over in a wash of anxiety and full-court stress. But, like I say, this is the new TGWS, and I just laugh it off. I drop another ball, and stripe a beautiful 8 that floats over the 100-yard marker and settles softly somewhere around 110. And I do the same with the rest of the bucket, work in a few 7- and 9-irons along the way. I top a few along the way (those are my new “good misses”) but I also hit some beauties that Alex Black would be proud of. My last hit is a 7-iron that is positively lashed – a beautiful swing, a beautiful trajectory, dropped exactly where I was aiming. Like Roy McAvoy says, always nice to quit on a good shot.

I don’t have my pitching wedge with me, but I figure there’s never a good time not to work in a few minutes of chipping so I find a little spot on the putting green where the pin is but a yard from the rough with no real fringe. I find a few stray range balls and practice some really tough chips – no green to work with, no wedge in my hand – but still am able to put a bunch close while a guy near me is attempting to do the same thing with little degree of success.

“Nice touch”, he says to me when his group is called, “you should be out here with us”.

“Thanks”, I respond, “but I’m just a range rat”.

As I head back to my car and past all the colorful flags I’m thinking just how far down the golf road I’ve traveled in the past year. Last year at this time, I was just starting to limber up for Goodboys, and if you had told me then what I’d be doing and how in a year’s time I would have said, OK, who are you and what have you done with The Great White Shank? You see, back then I was a Dusty Springfield kind of golfer, wishin’ and hopin’ that on any given day at the range or on a golf course I’d find a swing that would get me through the session or round. This year, I’m a man with a swing and a purpose, doing the necessary work I hope will pay off with some really nice and enjoyable rounds at Goodboys. Golf has become an enjoyable pursuit for me because my goals are not too ambitious to create stress and make it not fun, and, more importantly, I’m seeing improvement in my play and my confidence every time I put one of those Callaway RAZR-X HLs in my hand on the course or at the range.

That’s what being a range rat will do for you.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 11:41 | Comments Off on Range Rat
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