Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 2
Location: Trull Brook Golf Club
A few of us Goodboys have made playing the back nine at Trull Brook a tradition over the years, and it’s a good test: A couple of tight holes and a couple of wide-open ones, all situation amongst rolling hills. It’s a nice way to gauge where your game is before you start teeing it up for real. There have been years where we got off early enough to get in as many as thirteen holes before darkness sets in, but this year we had just enough daylight to get nine in. The other guys were yukking it up (as usual) on seventeen, but as I stood on the hill in the growing dusk breathing in the fresh, clean air my thoughts were on Arizona and all the hard work I’d put in over the past four months to get me to this point.
Not to be lying four on the sharp, dogleg-right then uphill par 5: I’d crushed a 5-wood that split the fairway, then (for the second time – see below) mistakenly pulled my 3-hybrid instead of the four – I was using a pull-cart and my clubs were all sitting upside down from how they’re usually sitting standing up in a golf cart – and pushed it way, way right, then getting back into position with a 7-iron before leaving my 64-yard pitch just off the green right. No, I was thinking of the last six weeks and everything that had happened in my life since my last lesson with Alex Black. Golf has been more than just hitting balls with my Mom’s passing, it has been a much-needed diversion from real life. This past Saturday, I’d finally chosen to abandon completely the upright take-back I’d been employing since seeing that Hunter Mahan article in the February 2015 GOLF Magazine and going with a lower (flatter) takeaway – not just with my irons, but with my woods and hybrids as well. And the difference has been pretty marked: I’m now driving the ball straighter and longer than I ever had. The Goodboys are a tough bunch, so when you’re getting complimented on how well you’re driving the ball you know you’re doing something right.
On #10, my 240-yard drive left me on the uphill – something I’d never done before in the countless times I played there. A crushed, 250-yard drive on the uphill, dogleg left par 5 #12 left me only 210 to the middle of the green. On #14, a slight, uphill par 4 with a creek running ~ 190 yards from the tee that traditionally I’ve never tried to drive, I hit probably the best drive of my life: a dead-straight 230+ yard blast that left me only 110 to the pin. Doesn’t sound momentous, but you gotta understand: I’ve played these holes probably forty times over the years and have never found myself in territory like this. It made me feel as if all the process of discovery and tweaking this and that in between all the sadness and stress going on around it had been worth it.
Of course, it wasn’t all peaches and cream: a slightly-pulled pitching wedge left me off the green right and three putts gave me a double-bogey six; on twelve I meant to choke down on a 4-hybrid but mistakenly pulled the three instead and yanked it OB right, leading to a double-bogey seven. Throughout the nine I continued to struggle with my short irons and my short game (16 putts), but I did end up parring #14 as well as the par 3 #11 and par 4 #18, so the 49 I ended up posted sounded about right. But, boy, looking back, it could have been so much lower.
So that as they say is that: tomorrow the Goodboys Invitational starts and I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I know I’ve been trying to be too fine with my chipping and need to be more aggressive, forgetting about those lightning-fast Arizona greens. Of course, if the Plymouth courses feature faster greens than what I’ve been playing the last two days at Green Meadow and Trull, all the better, but I simply have to bear down and get the job done. It won’t be for lack of trying, however – my game is in the best state it has ever been, ball-striking wise. Now it’s just a matter of finding confidence and executing as I know I can.