April 21, 2014

It was a dreary and damp day in the Valley of the Sun – quite unusual for this time of year, and my mood matched the low-hanging clouds and drops of rain that were spitting on my scorecard on the 10th tee at Western Skies Golf Club. The twosome I’d been playing with had hit the snack bar before we started our back nine, and here I am with a 55 staring back at me courtesy of yet another nine holes of sloppy golf. It wasn’t that I was hitting the ball poorly – in fact, the work I’d put in on my iron play following the criticism of my last round was really paying off. But playing out of trouble had proved unusually troublesome, and a round that had started off bogey-par-bogey had disintegrated into the usual crapola with double bogeys on 6 and 7, a triple on 8, and a quadruple on 9. And those 19 putts hadn’t helped, either.

Worse than that, my focus on that front nine had been terrible, as bad as it had ever been. I’m talking real golf ADD stuff, y’all. I knew I should have ordered a beer instead of that orange Gatorade I had left still unopened at the range when my foursome was called – that was almost as bad as was leaving my golf shoes back at the house. But a complete inability to see the shots I was trying to make and then execute them – why, that was just the equivalent of a slow death by fifty-five paper cuts.

55. I mean, at some point you just have to admit when you’re beaten. There comes a time where you just have to admit that your golf game is a fickle lover and you’re simply not getting out of the relationship what you’ve been putting into it; that you’re just not capable of the kind of get-around-the-course skill a round of golf requires – something quite different from beating balls on a driving range with nothing at stake. I was at what Roy McAvoy called in the movie Tin Cup, a defining moment: either you define the moment or the moment defines you.

As I heard the other twosome pulling up I knew I had either get my sh*t together – and pronto! – or risk slinking back home with yet another big number to enter into the Goodboys’ MyScorecard.com handicap system. Going into today’s round, MyScorecard.com informed me that if I wanted to lower my handicap (presently, 25.8) I would have to shoot a 97. The fact I had already tallied 55 strokes, and after only nine holes, made that a highly unlikely proposition.

I found myself thinking about what Phil Mickelson would do in a case like this. The thing I like and respect most about Phil is that he’s never afraid to tell it like it is. He puts up a big number and he’ll respond to a questioner saying he’s got no other choice but to post a 64 or 65 the next day. I’m sure in my situation he’d say the only thing to do is recognize the situation for what it is and just try to go as low as I could, leaving nothing behind. It was either go low by committing myself to two hours and nine holes of completely-focused golf and getting around the course in as few strokes as possible, or go home.

Reaching for a couple of new balls out of my bag, I saw I still had a half-dozen orange Wilson 50s I used to play regularly that were now reserved for chipping and putting around the Kokopelli and Superstition Springs driving ranges. And it occurred to me at that moment that I really didn’t deserve to be playing those lovely white Callaway Hex Hots Tracey had given me for Christmas – heck, I had already lost two of them today. Outside of Pornanong Phatlum and a couple others on the LPGA Tour, orange balls are considered for dufuses, but that’s where I found myself at that time – smack dab in the center of Dufusville. It was time to admit defeat, recognize what I was and am as a golfer, and simply accept things for what they were.

But I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

I teed up one of the orange Wilsons on the par 5 10th and striped it down the middle. Immediately, I felt myself begin to relax. It’s kind of weird to say, but I felt at home playing a ball that was, and could only ever be, The Great White Shank’s. One of the guys made a joke about me resorting to orange balls to turn my round around, but he wasn’t laughing when I sank a two-footer for par. And then, on the par 3 11th, sank another two-footer for par. After my par-par-bogey-par start he even joked about switching to orange balls himself. And that’s the way it would be for my back nine, solid play marred only by a triple-bogey seven on 7 when I briefly resorted to sloppy mode and couldn’t get out of trouble after a wayward tee shot that had barely missed the fairway.

I ended up parring three of the last four holes to shoot a 43 – my second-best nine-hole total of all time – to post a 98 made the hard way. Not sure where exactly this leaves me – there is clearly still a lot of work to do. For the first time in my golf life it’s a not question of shot-making – with Alex Black’s help I’m striking the ball better than I ever have – but whether I have the mental game to string 18 holes of golf together at a time is the question. And I’m not sure I have enough orange Wilsons to get me beyond the next round or two in order to find out. But I at least proved to myself that when the going got tough I could find a way to get into Billy Ocean mode. And that’s a positive I can take away from my round.

Three months away from the 2014 Goodboys Invitational and I’m still trying to figure things out.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:54 | Comments Off on Yin Yang Golf
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