Free State High senior Lee York’s driver carves a wide arc through the air and even can call to mind the swing of young PGA touring professional Dustin Johnson.
“My dad and I, we both know my physical swing has never been the problem,” the long and lean York said after firing a 1-over-par 73 Monday at Eagle Bend, good for third place in the regional.
The problem, Lee has come to realize, has been the longest six inches in sports, that minefield between the left and right ears.
York and his father, Todd, play together often at Lawrence Country Club. Todd’s talented, but his confidence trumps his talent, which makes him a better golfer. Lee’s more talented, but negative thoughts have haunted him, keeping him from reaching his potential.
When Lee hits a bad shot, his father tells him he still can win the hole by holing out. “No, I can’t,” the son tells him. “The hole’s over.” “No, it’s not.” “Yes, it is.” And so it goes.
The relentless father’s persistence paid off with one more conversation that seemed to have gotten through to the son on the eve of the regional, one year after Lee melted down with a 94 and didn’t qualify for a state tournament.
Lee York didn’t hole out from the fairway Monday, but he nearly did so on back-to-back holes in the midst of a stretch of four consecutive birdies (11, 12, 13, 14), leaving himself six-inch tap-ins.
“My dad and I did a lot of talking,” said York, who plans to golf at Colorado Mesa University next season. “He said, ‘Lee, everyone at LCC knows what you’re capable of, and everyone knows what your mental game is.’”
After they talked, Lee read. And read. And read.
“I sat outside on our porch, just relaxed and read for a good hour and a half,” York said. “It was getting dark.”
He re-read Dr. Bob Rotella’s, “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect.”
“Today, every single shot, I erased it from my mind, good or bad,” York said. “Between shots, I was listening to the birds, smelling the grass, talking to the competitors.”
Just as important was what he didn’t do.
“No thrown clubs,” he said. “No kicking and stomping. I might have cursed a little, but no temper tantrums. Very mature round.
“I got up a little bit. I got down a little bit. But it was no extreme on either side. I just stayed very confident, steady, stayed in the present. That’s the big thing the book kept talking about, staying in the present.”
Same swing as a year ago and 21 strokes better. One more competitor proving golf indeed is a game of inches, none more important than those between the ears.