July 2, 2013

“There are no flukes in golf, Tom. Get that through your head right now. If you open with three birds, then you make an eight, you’ll tell yourself that the birdies were flukes and the quadruple bogie, that’s the score you deserve. That mind-set is going to get you nowhere. There is no doubt in my mind that you are capable enough to play each and every golf shot with full and consistent effort. Effort, you can control. You cannot control results.” — Dr. Bob Winters to Tom Coyne, Paper Tiger

Perhaps it was because of that Dr. Bob quote I had read just before heading out to Lone Tree Golf Club in nearby Chandler for my final Arizona round of the year. Perhaps it was the claustrophobic stillness of the driving range at 8:30 in the morning, where I was the only one hitting balls and the temperature was already 95 with a bullet heading towards a high of 112. Or maybe it was the strange, shimmering silvery sky where the sun and dust left over from Monday night’s massive dust storm competed for which felt more miserable against the skin. Whatever it was, as I hit a few balls to warm up (“warming up” being nothing more than an operative term; I was already wiping sweat off my face after every couple of balls) I had a different kind of music in my head than I usually do before a round. This year it has been surf tunes by Gary Usher and The Super-Stocks; today it was the music played behind Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson during their gundown scene in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West. Titled “As A Judgment”, it’s both menacing and majestic, deadly serious stuff. Unlike music about surf, sand, and chicks, this is music for a man with a purpose. As today I was.

Following last week’s lesson with Alex Black, I knew I finally had all the pieces needed to put the puzzle of a good golf round together, it was now up to me to make all the pieces fit. As I’ve always said, the scorecard doesn’t lie, so today’s round of 41 + 49 = 90 was not just a fine round of golf – the best I’ve ever shot – it’s vindication of all the hard work and dedication put into my game since that first lesson with Alex back in mid-March. Since that time, because I’ve shared my golf ups and downs so publicly, it’s only natural that folks (me included!) would start expecting to read about some real results, not just claims of miniscule progress being made when the scores showed anything but. Today was a day for real results.

As hard to believe as it might seem, the fact of the matter is this wasn’t a round filled with incredible shots, one after another. Sure, the bomb I made from 40 feet for birdie on 6 and a go-for-broke 5-iron from 160 uphill to just left of a green protected by deep front bunkers on 15 were standouts, but everything about today – including that sizzling front nine – was just solid course management: play away from trouble, if you get in trouble get out fast, pick the right club, focus on the shot at hand. Truth be told, I left a good six shots out on the course – a quadruple bogie on 13 where I four-putted from twenty feet, and a sloppy finish on 18 where (Dr. Bob would have been disappointed) I had peeked at the scorecard for the very first time all day and knew bogey would break 90; I then proceeded to chunk a chip across the green, then barely three-putt for a double-bogey 7. But that was OK – by that time it was nearly one in the afternoon, and despite two bottled waters on the front and three Gatorades and two waters on the back my hands were starting to cramp because of the heat. It was time to make like an egg (in this case, fried!) and beat it.

Make no mistake about it, this was a fine round: thirteen holes at bogey or better (8 on the front alone!), one birdie, five pars, five greens in regulation, and even with the four on 13, only 35 putts. Not to mention the fact that while I was near fairways pretty much all day, I actually only hit the short grass five times. While I played the white tees, I played from the blues on the par 3s and played them one over par, including that damned island green 12 where I made par from both the blues (160 yards, on the green sixteen feet from the pin) and the whites (110 yards, a thin-hit 9-iron just off the fringe in front). What really saved me strokes today were my mid-irons (5, 6, 7), which, a short but acute attack of the shanks aside on 7 & 8, were solid all day, and consistent hits from my 3-hybrid off the turf on the par 5s.

But there’s still work to do. While my tee game was better than it has been, I still have to learn to trust my swing. Of all my tee shots today, only three or four were really solid hits. I had a lot of thin hits today, but that could also be due to the fact I was playing alone and the sky being what it was, you couldn’t see the ball at all off the tee, so I could feel myself picking up a little early in self-defense. And there were still a few lapses of concentration that really cost me out there: a triple bogey on 10 and that quad on thirteen were all the result of not taking the time to focus to target over each swing.

But that’s quibbling, and I’m not the kind to get greedy. I may never shoot a round that low again, but at least I’ve now proven I’ve got a ninety – or perhaps even lower – in me, and it feels extremely gratifying to see all the hard work I’ve done pay off in a concrete fashion. My thanks to Alex Black and Tom Coyne’s fine book for helping make it all possible.

Tomorrow the clubs are headed to the UPS Store for shipment back to Massachusetts, where a whole different brand of grass and golf await. How well what I’ve been able to accomplish out here in Arizona translates to New England golf remains to be seen. I’m glad the greens today at Lone Tree were a little softer and slower than they usually are – with the extreme heat they’ve had to let them grow – so they seemed to me much closer to New England-style greens than I’ve played thus far.

One final note: count me glad my Arizona golf for this year is over.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 00:11 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. Looks like I’m getting my strokes back! Great round, bro!

    Comment by Dave Richard — July 2, 2013 @ 5:37 am

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