July 17, 2013

It’s two days before the Goodboys Invitational, and I’m labeled with a number. The 27.0 is my “official” Goodboys handicap, which, translated to the courses we’re scheduled to play this weekend, means I have to shoot 102 or better at The Ledges in York, Maine on Friday (when it is supposed to be not only the hottest day of the year, but the most humid day in this incredible heat wave we’ve been having), and 100 or better when we play Wentworth By The Sea in Rye, New Hampshire on Saturday and Black Swan Country Club in Georgetown, Mass. on Sunday (when, following predicted severe weather on Saturday, we should be playing in sunny and dry 80s).

Tonight a few of us Goodboys played a final tune-up round at Trull Brook and neither my game nor my focus was there. I’m tired from the heat and humidity, my elbow aches from all the accumulated balls I’ve hit over the past 4 1/2 months (I’m downing two Naproxens plus four sets of two Anatablocs every day just to be able to swing a club and sleep at night). It seems hard to believe that all the work, effort, lessons, equipment changes and money spent over four months have all come down to the equivalent of a eighty-yard drive down the football field with the hard “red zone” work of getting the ball in the end zone (talk about mixing your sports metaphors!!) left to go. I’m mentally tired and feeling pretty banged up, but I still take comfort in the fact that I’ve worked damned hard to get where I am and that all my prep work is done – now it’s time to execute.

While Alex Black remains my go-to swing coach and Dr. Bob Winters is my de facto sports psychologist (via Tom Coyne’s book, Paper Tiger), there’s another member of my “team” who’s opinion is just as important when it comes to Goodboys golf. Fellow Goodboy and long-time friend “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis has a way of cutting through all the bullsh*t and seeing my game for what it is, right here in New England. Case in point: at Trull Brook’s 14th hole tonight, a 343-yard par four requiring a carry of 220 yards over a brook, I took driver out of the bag even though I knew the shot demanded a precision drive and there was a slight wind into our faces. I carried the water (barely!) but lost it in the woods left, pulled a six-iron into the opposite woods against a tree, had to use the back of a seven-iron to move it ten feet, then, totally infuriated with myself, duffed two chips before two putting for a quad-bogey 8. I was pi**ed when, on our way to the next tee, TFG starts going on about how the 14th hole at Trull Brook tells you exactly where your game is for Goodboys weekend – in effect, telling me that my game, my focus, and my decision-making process was nowhere near where it needed to be.

I didn’t want to hear what he had to say and told him so, but he was right.

Over a cold Sam Summer and away from my Goodboys friends I gave myself a good talking to tonight. I’ve played four times since coming back to New England and in each case I’ve let the courses play me. I’ve played defensive and unfocused golf, trying not to make mistakes instead of just playing the game I played back in Arizona and trusting all the hard work I’ve put into my swing and game. I’m jumping at too many irons and aiming defensively. I’m tentative when chipping and putting. Instead of just focusing on where I want to hit the ball and making a good swing, I’ve psyched myself out worrying about how thick the grass is, how thick the trees are, and how big the bunkers are. Well, no more. I’m re-committed myself to playing my own game the way I want to play it this upcoming weekend. I’ve got a great partner in “Killer” Kowalski who is extremely talented, but I’ve got have the discipline, focus, and trust in my own swing to let him play his game while I play mine.

There’s a place in Paper Tiger where Tom Coyne is expressing his self-doubts about being able to play at the same level of the golfers he will be competing against at the PGA Tour’s Q School. Dr. Winters tells him that it all comes down to believeing in yourself, being able to, at any given point in time having the self-confidence and full commitment to say:

This is my ball. This is my time. This is my swing.

In other words, nothing else matters – not the course, not the competition, not the score you’re shooting. It’s totally about focus and execution. As Winters goes on to tell Coyne, you may not be able to control the results of every shot you hit, but you can control the effort you put into each and every swing. You focus, do your best, then move on regardless of the results. This is something I haven’t been doing and need to get back to for Goodboys Invitational weekend. I know my swing is there, I know all the work I’ve put in over the past 4 1/2 months has made a huge difference in my swing, now I just have to trust it and focus solely on each and every shot regardless of the outcome and what everyone else around me is doing.

I do that, and the 27.0 handicap is nothing more than a number.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:38 | Comments (0)
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