May 4, 2013

“Wow”, was all I could mutter to myself. “Wow”. The grille at Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch was cool and dark, the Sam Summer appropriately icy and refreshing. Me? I felt like I had just gone 18 rounds with Smokin’ Joe Frazier, then ridden hard and put away wet. The Great White Shank was back – or rather, his old game was back. An unwelcome four-hour visit with someone (actually something) you thought, or at least hoped, had been packed away and tossed up in the golf game attic for good. But as I’ve said before: no matter how good or how bad you play, the scorecard doesn’t lie.

In today’s case, a 52 front and a monster 58 on the back will always equal 110. And an ugly 110 at that.

It needn’t have been that way, for it was a beautiful day for golf – 90, with a dusty breeze out of the west. Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch is a legitimate tough track with narrow fairways and greens even faster then the ones I thought were the fastest I’d played out here while at Lone Tree Golf Club two weeks ago. I knew something was amiss right off the bat while warming up at the practice range when I couldn’t hit a fairway wood to save my life – the duck hook, the shank, and the sculled ball all took turns at paying their respects. I can’t say I panicked, but I was certainly concerned enough that when the starter called my group to the first tee fifteen minutes earlier than originally scheduled it was all I could do to yell, “but I’m not ready!”.

The three guys I was playing with were true sticks – minus-two, plus-one, and plus-two handicaps (the latter a former golf pro at my Superstition Springs home base). They were there to work on their games in preparation for a Pepsi-sponsored tournament taking place at Power Ranch over the weekend; I was there just hoping to play my game, not get hurt, and stay out of their way. Having never played golf with guys this good (they finished at 74, 77, 78), I’ll admit I was intimidated – I mean, how can you not be? I know they’ll all do just fine putting at the Pepsi – after all, they sure spent enough time practicing putts while waiting for me to join them on the green on just about every hole.

If there was ever a day not to have my tee game and chipping game fall apart this certainly was it. But the results were ghastly: ten lost balls, eight penalty shots, fourteen strokes taken to get out of eight sand traps. Bladed chips rocketing off the green in all directions. As hard to believe as it seems, I was making enough good recovery shots that after six holes at bogey-triple-bogey-bogey-double-bogey I was still in pretty good shape. But banging two balls off houses on my drive and second shot on the par 5 seventh and a crowd-pleasing snowman shook my rafters and I doubled my way into the clubhouse men’s room where I gave myself a severe tongue-lashing for playing like a scared pussycat out there.

It didn’t help. The 58 on the back was just poor golf: while my tee game started to show signs of life, around the greens it was as if I had never chipped a ball before. The sticks would be standing there waiting for me to join them and I’ll admit, I folded like cheap bridge table and started rushing everything. What happened at the par 4 sixteenth – the #1 handicap hole – was a microcosm of my struggles: I just missed the fairway with a decent drive, but I sculled a four hybrid up over a ridge into an area under repair. Taking a legal drop, I had only 65 yards to the green but I fluffed my wedge leaving it several yards off the green. I then bladed a chip over the green and then took two more tries before I could even take my putter out. All this while the sticks were on the green in two waiting patiently over their birdie putts. They say in a defining moment either you define the moment or the moment defines you. Well, it was a defining moment alright, and the definition was sh*t.

As hard to believe as it seems there were some positives I can take away from today’s round: I actually hit my irons well all day (it’s truly frightening to think what I might of shot had I not!), including a blistered 5-iron off the tee at the par 3 15th that I faded in beautifully to a back-left pin placement to twelve feet – closer than any of the gorillas (I two-putted for par). And my drives on 17 and 18 were my best of the day, both long and in the center of the fairway. Unfortunately, both were wasted when, on 17, I shanked a 5-wood off a neighbor’s house into their pool, and on 18, sculled a 3-hybrid into the lake. I also did OK putting (35 putts), with three one-putts. Most importantly, I kept my composure, humor, and attitude throughout and kept firing away through good and bad.

There’s not much you can do when you have a day like this except head back to the range and work it out. It bugs me that I everything I had been working so hard on the past month as far as my physical and mental approach to the game were concerned was nowhere to be found today – I mean, Alex Black and Dr. Bob would be very disappointed in me. If I can’t play and focus properly when I’m playing a meaningless round with three sticks, how on God’s green earth will I be able to handle the pressure of a Goodboys weekend, where the bets are flying and the trash talking separates the men from the boys and the contenders from the pretenders?

The optimist in me says this was nothing more than a temporary setback and an experience I can take and learn from.

The realist in me says I need to get my a** back out to Superstition Springs and exorcise whatever demons crept into my game today. And quick.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 00:10 | Comments (3)
  1. Yikes!

    First of all, playing with low handicappers is always tough when you shoot like us, but especially tough when still working on you base game.

    Second, they may have been low handicappers, but if they were standing on the green while you were still in the fairway, they’re not very polite golfers. They should be with you / behind you and NOT in front of you despite their position.

    Comment by Dave Richard — May 4, 2013 @ 5:26 am

  2. What can I say, they were sticks. But, thinking about it a day later, given the fact that behind us were two women and a single who ended up hooking up with them it might have been nice if the sticks had said something to the starter and been allowed to go out by themselves and I hook up with the two women. Given the fact we went off 15 mins early that could have been done.

    I’m chalking this round up as a learning experience that will pay big dividends ahead. It’s always good to know what aspects of your game have trouble holding up to pressure and the need to slow things down and just play your game no matter who you’re playing with.

    I’ve also learned I really need to nail down a pre-shot routine that emphasizes the power move Alex Black showed on every shot, and to go back to my pre-chip practice swings (two right by the ball and then repeat). That, my bro, is on my to-do list as of the next range session.

    As David Simms said to Roy McAvoy in “Tin Cup”, you gotta have some discipline out there or you’ll get destroyed.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — May 4, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  3. It just bugs me when people who play golf so well don’t practice the etiquette required.

    They should know better.

    And pre-shot routines are important for guys like us. Mine is always “Keep your damned head down and stay down through the frikkin’ shot!”

    Comment by Dave Richard — May 5, 2013 @ 6:16 am

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