September 1, 2016

Target Handicap: 18.1
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 50 + 48 = 98
Handicap: 24.1 / Trend: 23.6 (-.5)

Hard to believe it was only six weeks ago that I last teed it in competition on Goodboys Invitational Sunday – it felt like a year ago. But nevertheless, it was time to kick off The Great White Shank’s “Six Strokes Across America” tour. The goal being to reduce my handicap (the handicap we Goodboys use as our bible) from 24.1 to 18.1 by March 1.

Seven months, six strokes. Doesn’t sound like much, but while the difference between, say, a 18-handicapper and a 24-handicapper may not be as noticeable in terms of who the person is swinging the clubs, it most certainly is when it comes to scoring with them. Simply put, the only way I’m going to knock six strokes off my handicap is to improve those areas of my game to where they can compare favorably against fellow Goodboys who have handicaps in the mid-to-high teens. And for today’s exercise let’s talk about the game of “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis ( handicap: 14.1), and how it compares to mine.

TFG can get it off the tee, for sure, but I’m not certain he can get it that much better than I can. Where the difference lies is what happens after his tee shot. Not only does TFG give himself more opportunities at par by hitting greens in regulation far more than I presently do (his short-to-mid iron play is, in my view, to die for), but he also doesn’t make mental mistakes (a.k.a. “unforced errors”) like I do. And while he might three-putt on occasion, he rarely throws away strokes carelessly as if they don’t mean anything like I do. And just as importantly, he also has an incredibly short memory when it comes to bad swings or bad outcomes – a quality every good golfer needs to have.

It’s, then, what happens after the tee shot where the six strokes I need to knock off my handicap lies. As TFG says, we’re all crappy golfers and are going to make bad shots from time to time; the trick is to not make them worse by amplifying their importance by compounding them and allowing them to influence the rest of your round. As Dr. Jim Suttie, renowned golf teacher says, “Golf is hard”; no need, then to make it harder on yourself through mental mistakes and careless play and decision-making.

There were no press, local or national, present when I stepped up to the first tee at Superstition Springs Golf Club when I pulled driver to formally kick off my “Six Strokes Tour”. Actually, there was no one around at all – the course was virtually empty. A slightly yanked drive to the right left me a really bad lie below my feet just in front of a big mama sand trap, but I was able to pick it clean. A chip on the green and a missed two-footer for par (there would be several of these today) started me off with bogey.

And so the front came and went without much fanfare. Even though I only hit three fairways in total, my only truly bad drive came on nine, resulting in my first lost ball of the tour. My return to my old chipping stroke resulted in a chip-in for par on the par 3 third, but some sloppy play around the green on the par 5 eighth resulted in a bogey when I was only twenty feet away for par. My putting was rusty – three missed putts from four feet or less, but more importantly, I let three golden opportunities to hit the green in regulation get away from me (see above!).

I started hot on the back nine, bogeying ten and eleven, but on the par 3 twelfth I pushed a 5-iron left of the green, then took two swings to get it on the green, then 3-putt from twelve feet for a triple bogey. The kind of play that simply can’t be allowed to happen on the “Six Strokes” tour! (It wouldn’t be the only par 3 on the back I triple bogeyed, BTW: the tee shot on fifteen that I though was pulled right into a bunker must have bounced into the pond even further right since I never found it. A drop, a crappy chip, and another three-putt made it two triples.) Fortunately, I fairly made up for those two holes with a par on the brutal #14 (pulverized drive, smart lay-up, chip to one foot) and a bogey on the #1 handicap hole, the par 5 seventeenth, with water everywhere and a semi-island green. I pushed my drive left but hit two 5-iron punches along the canal that lines the left-hand side, staying away from the water to ~ 130 yards, then dropping an exquisite 7-iron to six feet (applause from the group behind me – it was a beauty) but missed the damned par putt which would have been really something.

I threw away a couple more shots on 18 with some sloppy play all around to come in at 48 for a 98, but …whoa, all of a sudden it just got very dark here, looks like we have a dust storm blowing in… but by that time the humidity had come up, it was around 104, and I was ready for a cold, dark, 19th hole. And I’m satisfied with that 98 for my first time out in a while, on a very tough course, especially given the fact I played from the green tees at 6,700 – count ’em, 6,700! – yards, the longest course I’ll ever play, and that I had to shake off some rust while breaking in a revamped short game.

All in all I felt like I started my “Six Strokes” tour off in the right direction. My driver was fairly solid all day, as were my iron play. Need to tighten things up around the greens (as usual), but I’m confident it will come around in time. I’ll take a .5 decrease every time out, for sure! I’m glad I chose Superstition Springs for my kick-off event, but frankly, I’m hoping this is the last I see of it for a while. It’s a tough course with a very quirky finish. I’m ready for some new challenges. And just think, you’ll all be coming along with me for the duration!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 17:42 | Comments Off on The Six Strokes Across America Tour Kicks Off!
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