Well, almost, anyway. The local club golf tournament is this weekend and I have entered. Just three days ago, that entry was in serious doubt. What is not in doubt, however, is my level of anxiety!
If there is one thing that is consistent about my game, it is that I am inconsistent. I owe much of that to the fact that I never had any formal training until later in life. Consequently, the mind still awash with a myriad of bad swing habits acquired as a youth wandering the local course.
With no . . .
in with baseball.
Nobody had any lessons, and we were more hackers than golfers. Just ask the rangers. Along the way, I developed a slice that I fight tooth and nail to this very day.
Oh, there were occasional good shots that defied explanation. More frequent were topped shots, worm burners, fat shots and misguided missiles. They found neighboring fairways or yards, nearby streets, and an occasional pond.
It was at the latter that I slipped into temporary retirement. Of course, it didn't feel very temporary at the time. Pushed over the brink one day, I broke every club in my bag -- except for two -- between the fifth and ninth holes. When I put a drive into the pond on No. 9, the two remaining clubs AND bag followed into the scum-encrusted water.
That was the end of my golf for something like seven years. Later, my air force buddies on Okinawa talked me into playing again.
I was only marginally better then, but the air force had matured me, and I resolved to be a courteous golfer who kept moving no matter how many balls I had to drop.
It was not until many years later that I had a breakthrough of sorts.
Since I was teaching by them, I was able to put his advice to work on numerous summer mornings. Eventually, I reached "decent," shooting in the low 80s and occasional high 70s.
After a year or so, I summoned up the courage to enter the club tournament. Surely, they could have heard my knees knocking and heart racing on the first tee after I was paired with two of the better players.
Fate destined me to hit first. To my own amazement, I had a fine drive out into the middle. Kevin, a top contender, followed and grounded his tee shot into a dip immediately in front of him.
Of course, he recovered nicely and had a relatively good day overall. Though I can’t recall my score, I had a good day thanks to my partners' kind support. It went a long way toward encouraging me to play in more club tournaments -- albeit in lower flights.
With a change in jobs, I was forced to semi-retire once again. When I did return, there was a dramatic leap in my inconsistency. Such is my game today, never sure if I will put it over those 150- year old trees (as I did Sunday) or top a grounder into them (as I did Saturday).
Hal passed on some years ago, so my typical pre-tournament-week panic lesson with him is not an option. Nobody else (including some at considerable expense) seems to have found the right buttons for me -- at least until recently.
Jeff Lancaster is a club pro at Houston Woods State Park. His price was very reasonable, and I tip him because of the quality. What are his favorite tools? Grip and ball position in alignment.