Seven weeks ago, in an attempt to increase the quality of golf in Lawrence and thereby speed up play, I shared tips accumulated the past 40 years and suggested incorporating them all into one swing.
Although the column no doubt enriched the golf experience of several local players, it wasn’t thorough enough, didn’t include nuances that apply to golfers of certain body types and mental-fortitude levels. These all have been attained since moving to Lawrence six years ago and should only be read by those with thick enough skin to handle the truth.
The last thing anyone needs is an apologist. If after every horrendous shot a playing partner tells you, “That’s OK, you were just unlucky. Hit another one and we won’t count it,” don’t ever play with that person again. Confront your golf demons. Don’t deny their existence.
Before moving to Lawrence, I never competed in a league, a four-ball match or an individual medal-play tournament, all of which I’ve come to enjoy in this great golf town.
During those events, I’ve received tips I’ll share.
At the start of the second day of a particularly enjoyable annual tournament, as we were leaving the putting clock, my partner slammed the brakes on the golf cart, turned to me and informed, “There’s a long history of people choking on Sunday in this tournament. The last thing we need you to do today is to fall apart. So if you feel yourself getting nervous, just let me know.”
Later in the day, while digging my way to China with divots that faced left of third base, diagnostic advice was offered.
“You’re moving your chin forward,” my partner informed. “Keep your chin still. That’s your panic move. You’re in a tournament, so you’re panicking. Half the battle is recognizing when you’re panicking. The other half is knowing what to do about it. You need to recognize the signs. If you think about it, your chest is probably tightening. Your throat probably feels like it’s closing up. You’re probably having a difficult time swallowing. It’s important to recognize the signs so that you’ll know you’re panicking.”
I so badly wanted to feel tightness in my chest, swelling in my throat. Instead, nothing. I so badly wanted to blame my performance on choking because the alternative — a complete and utter lack of talent — was too depressing, too final a sentence.
Oh well, any bad golfer is just a good tip away from improving. Lucky me, one was just around the corner.
“They say you’re supposed to start your down swing with your hips,” he said. “That’s the right thing to do with an elastic guy like me, but for a real inflexible guy like you, it’s not the right thing. If you think about it, big guys who are your size and are good golfers, every one of them has an all-arms swing. You’re trying to use your body. It never works with real big guys.”
The next summer, the night before a tournament, I informed my partner that I had the greens down pat, was putting really well and would not need any help reading them.
“You might think you’re a good putter, but tomorrow, when your (sphincter) is this big (simulates the eye of a needle), you won’t be a good putter,” he said, so vividly seeing the future.