Thanks to a friend for passing this along. Hilarious!
Thanks to a friend for passing this along. Hilarious!
So where did we leave off…. Oh yeah – my last entry was a depressing farewell to all of my family and friends back in the States, of which I do miss terribly. Whilst some of you have followed my National Lampoon European Vacation-like exploits on Facebook, the anti-Facebookers have essentially been left in the dark. I can’t leave out the anti-Facebookers… that wouldn’t be fair. They love me just as much as my Facebook friends and have earned the right to maintain their positions in the circle of trust, as Jack Byrnes would say (aka Robert DeNiro in Meet the Parents).
So all of this got me to thinking: How can I accomplish both of those missions with one fell swoop of an internet posting?
My Golf Blog.
Those who subscribe to my Golf Blog can now follow my Clark Griswoldesque daily journals in more of a hodgepodge fashion, while my Facebooking friends can get totally worthless, trivial up-to-the-minute alerts and breaking news items.
Will there be anything golf related? Hopefully! It is a golf blog after all. But I’ll keep my Expat Files segments neatly maintained in the Uncategorized section on the right. So if you’re looking for golf-only content, you can ignore the daily journals of a fat-bodied American wandering mindlessly through some of the most interesting of English villages in Surrey.
And with that, I’ll leave you be.
Or as they like to say in England,
My friends, this will be my final entry from the good ol US of A. In approximately 72 hours, good Lord willing, I will be halfway across the Atlantic and only a few hours removed from touching down in one of the busiest cities in the world currently. With everyone coming in and out of London the next few weeks because of the Olympics, Saturday is sure to be an absolute test of undying patience. But that goes without saying.
But what doesn’t go without saying is this:
After I’ve settled into the new abode in Esher, UK and become more acquainted with the new life abroad (and found a new place to hang my golf cap, hopefully) – I will get back to actively maintaining and updating my blog here. So even though I will technically be in Europe, you can check in with me each week here at my blog. In addition to my golf-related topics, I’ll also be including some trivial sundries and meanderings that pertain to the expat experience in the greater London area, and will try to include some pictures along the way.
So, in essence, my blog here will also serve as a personal journal of sorts that details the journey of a hacker who has stumbled into the links land of inclement weather, heath and heather.
Until then, I’ll leave you with an appropriate farewell until I see you again from the other side of the pond. This will be my parting memory that I’ll carry with me until I return, for it was the time of my life….
As always, thanks for reading.
Here’s part II of the interview.
Tom: You follow the professional side of the game well enough to blog about it, so the next question should be pretty easy. You’ve just found out that your 4th guy on Saturday can’t make it, and you’re permitted to invite a Touring pro to fill in. Who is your pick?
Me: Does it have to be a player playing today?
Tom: No, you can go back as far as you want.
Me: I gotta go with Arnie. And I know your next question and I’ll go ahead and respond to that while I’m at it. Palmer played the game the way most of us weekend warriors play – he left nothing on the table. He lashed his tee shots with driver, he attacked pins, and he achieved enormous success playing golf that way, his way. He came from a working class family and brought his blue collared attitude with him to the course, and people who came to watch him could relate to that. And people always said that Arnie made an effort to go out of his way to connect with the fans, but I don’t believe that. I don’t think that Arnie was going out of his way to connect with fans, that was just his personality and it came natural. I’ll tell you a true story, a personal account, that is just another classic example of that.
The 2000 Senior US Open was held at nearby Saucon Valley Country Club, and I went there to watch the tournament for a couple of days. The last day I was there, I think it was Friday’s 2nd round… I decided to follow Arnie’s group for a few holes. The teeing area was 5-6 rows deep on this one hole and I decided to motor on down to the fairway to watch them hit their 2nd shots. Well, I’m standing there with about 10-12 other fans, and next thing you know – a ball whizzes right by me and caroms off the tree right in front of me, stopping about 10 feet away in the deep rough. One of the course volunteers came over and made sure that no one bothered the ball, right… and I ask the volunteer, “Whose ball is that?” He said, “It’s Arnie’s.” Sure enough – I look back toward the tee box and I see Arnie walking in our direction with his head down. So a couple of minutes pass and Arnie is finally there with his caddie and they’re surveying the situation. He’s got nothing. That tree that he clipped with his ball just ahead of me is between his ball and the hole, and it’s a nasty lie in some pretty deep rough. He’s 200 yards from the green and barring a miraculous shot – he’s probably looking at having to make a putt to save his par. So he’s studying the situation and making small talk with his caddie, and they decide on a club. Arnie pulls out a fairway wood. He takes a few practice swings and studies the lie a little more. And then, believe it or not, he looks at me, ME of all people, smiles and says, “Young fella, what would you do in this situation?” There’s probably 50-75 people standing there in the gallery, but Arnie was looking dead at me. I said, “Well, Mr. Palmer, with all of these people watching me and this being a US Open – I’d probably whiff the shot.” The people in the gallery start laughing, and Arnie is laughing right along with them. “Well, that’s not exactly the visual I had in mind,” he replied. “But at least you’re honest.” And then everyone started laughing again and Arnie gave me a wink and a smile. And, just like typical Arnie, he swung his fairway wood with his patented lash, and after the ball took off he leaned to one side as he tried to use every ounce of his body english to curve the ball back toward the green. About 5 seconds later the gallery surrounding the green erupted with applause as Arnie’s ball had somehow made it to the putting surface. He just gave all of us a parting smile, nodding to us, handed his club to his caddie and continued his march toward the green. But that’s who Arnie was… he was the type of player who just felt at ease with the fans. And for him to take 20 seconds out of his life, in a major championship no less, to allow me to be a part of his life for just those few precious seconds…. do you have any idea how special that made me feel? Long live the King.
Tom: Wow – that’s a great story, and a great memory that you’ll never forget. And although I’m the one asking the questions – I would’ve picked the same guy had you asked me. I’ve always been an Arnie fan too.
Okay, so another “you’ve only got one choice” question. You’re playing your last round ever, and you can play any course in the world. Which course are you playing?
Me: Augusta National. And I really don’t feel the need to explain.. If you’re an avid golfer, Augusta National is probably tops on your golf bucket list.
Tom: So let’s talk more about the game itself. Or more specifically – your own personal game. What motivated you to become a better player?
Me: I recall a round several years ago, a round where I just so happened to be a single that day and I joined up with three players that I’d never met before. I think I was an 8 or a 10 handicap at that time, not bad, not great, but somewhere in the middle. I hit the ball a pretty long way back then, and I’ve always been a pretty good putter. In my mind I was a solid 4 handicapper but my scores and my handicap obviously revealed otherwise.
Well, there was one guy in the group, his name was Dean. I remember it very well, because I got my first “real” golf lesson that day courtesy of Dean. It wasn’t anything mechanical… he didn’t offer me swing advice or anything like that. In fact – Dean was pretty quiet and just tended to his own business. So I’m playing with these guys and I’m hitting the ball a good 10-15 yards further than anyone else in the group off the tee, and I recall playing decently that day. And there was a point, somewhere around the 11th or 12th hole, that I tallied up Dean’s score and he was 2-under on the round. He had yet to make a single bogey. Well, Dean carded two more birdies coming in, both coming on the par5′s, and he finished the round at 4-under par. I played a pretty good round and finished at 6-over par, a few strokes better than my handicap. So obviously I was pleased with the way I played, but I couldn’t get over how a guy that hit the ball shorter than me, who really didn’t have a textbook golf swing and didn’t seem to have the amount of great shots that one would think a player would have shooting that type of score, beat me by a whopping 10 strokes.
On the way home I started thinking about that round, and about Dean’s round in particular. I tried to think of exactly what it was that he did that enabled him to shoot such a great score, and nothing really stood out in my mind. But it wasn’t what he did, but rather what he didn’t do. Dean never hit his tee shots way offline. When he missed the green, he missed the green by only a couple of yards and he never missed on the short side. He was a very tidy chipper and an outstanding putter… he obviously had a great short game. He made 14 pars, and birdied the four par5′s. It was the most unimpressive 4-under round of 68 as I’d ever seen. We’re talking the epitome of boring golf.
That’s when the light went off in my head. It’s not just a game of “how far.” It’s also a game of “where.” And this all comes back to managing your game, which requires you to manage your bad shots. Dean did this in magnificent fashion, and like I said – it was the first “real” lesson I ever received about the value of managing your game and the course. And this pretty much ties into the second thing that helped my game – playing with players who were at a level in the game that I truly felt that I could attain myself. That round with Dean motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and spawned a desire to play with better players. And I did. And when I did find myself playing with better players, I watched how they hit the ball. I watched how they plotted their way around the course and had a strategy that governed how they played each shot on each hole. Playing with betters players, you quickly figure out that there’s much more to shooting a good score than just hitting the ball to within a reasonable proximity to a target. Playing with better players motivated me to practice more, and to become a better manager of my game and the course.
Tom: You bring up a great point about getting out of your comfort zone. The only problem is that it’s not easy to do that.
Me: You’re absolutely correct. It’s the primary reason why we come back to earth after getting off to a great start in a round of golf. How many of us have started out with birdies on the first couple of holes, playing well and not thinking much about anything, and with what seems like a flip of the switch – we get into prevent mode. We tighten up, we start trying to steer the ball with our swings, and all because deep down – we believe that we’re playing over our heads. We think to ourselves, “okay, this is too good to be true… when is the trainwreck going to come?”
And comfort zone is also the reason why “peer packs” tend to be the common theme in golf. A lot of higher handicappers get intimidated when they play with better players, because they’re accustomed to playing with players who shoot similar scores and have similar abilities. In their minds they go from being average with their normal group to being the weak player with the group of stronger players. But here’s the interesting part in all of this: players who genuinely feel the need to improve can’t be afraid to get out of their comfort zone. Why? Because the ground in the comfort zone isn’t fertile for real growth. Take a player who is taking lessons for the first time. Over the years they’ve engrained a golf swing with a few bad mechanics, and although it’s not giving them the results they want, it’s what they’re accustomed to. So the player takes those lessons and believes that just showing up for the lessons will, in the end, make them better players because they feel they’re now better equipped with more knowledge. But as we all know – if you grip the club the same way you’ve always gripped it, if you take the same setup position you’ve always setup to the ball, and you employ the same swing technique that you’ve always employed – nothing changes, the results stay the same. Why does this happen? Because the player doesn’t feel comfortable practicing and applying what he’s being taught by the instructor.
You have to learn how to adjust to the different environment, be it with starting out with a few birdies in a round, or taking lessons, or playing with better players. It’s not that much different than spending a majority of your time playing the same layout each week, and then traveling to a different layout that you’ve never played before… there’s no familiarity, everything seems foreign, and all you’re left with is trusting your abilities. That’s where real growth and development come – learning how to make both the mental and physical adjustments.
Tom: So what do you consider the strength of your game?
Me: That’s a good question and I don’t think it can be answered with just one word or one statement. I think it’s a tandem of things playing their respective roles.
I play with a lot of players each season, players of varying skill levels… and some of those players have really good golf swings, golf swings that are technically much more textbook than my own. Yet a lot of times I’m shooting scores 8-10 strokes lower than some of those players, despite having a more unorthodox technique. My golf swing isn’t winning any awards in the beauty pageant, for sure. But you know – I own my golf swing. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have rounds when I’m spraying the ball offline, but overall I’m a pretty consistent player. I don’t obsess over mechanics, I don’t try to hit shots that require more skill than I have at my disposal, and I don’t get down on myself when things don’t go the way I want them to. I learned a long time ago that by adhering to those three principles above – I’m much more likely to turn a potentially rough day into a respectable one. And the last principle, but certainly not the least of them – I accept that I’m never going to be perfect. If the great Ben Hogan accepted his premise that even while playing his best, he only hit 2-3 shots per round that he deemed perfect, then why on earth would someone like me expect more than that from my own efforts? I’ve learned that lowering expectations is most always better than raising the bar higher.
Tom: What do you think are the primary reasons why the average player doesn’t improve?
Me: I’ve made an interesting observation in all the years I’ve been playing that I’ll share with you. The players who don’t devote the needed time to practice are most always the ones who are obsessing with mechanics when they play. Those who are devoting sufficient time to practice, on the other hand, aren’t worried about mechanics when they play. So in short – the primary reason why the average player doesn’t improve, in my opinion, is because they simply don’t practice. You can work on your setup and rehearse your swing in the backyard all you want, but the flight of the golf ball is ultimately the judge and jury of the quality of your golf swing. You can have all the positive visual imagery you want… and that certainly helps, but it won’t help you find lost golf balls.
Tom: What is the most embarrassing moment you’ve ever had playing golf?
Me: You had to go there, didn’t you.
Tom: Just doing my job…
Me: Last year in the club championship, when I squandered a 5-shot lead.
Tom: Details, man… details.
Me: Well, everyone has a tournament horror story. Some are certainly more horrible than others, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone to top mine.
Tom: I’m listening.
Me: Okay, so I didn’t play all that great the day before, but scrambled well and posted 3-over 75. It was very windy that day, and the pin locations were cut in some really tough spots on the greens. And anyone who has played Olde Homestead knows two things: at 6800 yards it is an extremely challenging layout, and it’s always windy there and usually you’re playing dead into the prevailing winds on the hardest holes. So I’m pretty satisfied with the way I played, but honestly I felt that I was a few shots behind the leader.
Tom: But you were wrong.
Me: Yes, I was. Severely wrong. I was shocked to learn that it was the lowest score posted that day, and the next best score was 80.
Tom: I’ve got a feeling that this gets really ugly from here on out, then.
Me: You would be correct. Now I’ve played in a lot of tournaments over the past 7 years or so, but I’d never actually slept on a lead in a club championship. I thought that I was in a really comfortable spot, but at the same time I never really got overly confident. My plan was to keep doing the same things, just like the pros on TV say in the interviews when they’re leading after three rounds and asked about what they have to do to win the next day. So I go to bed at a normal time, and I get up early enough to enjoy breakfast and get in a nice warmup session prior to my starting time.
Tom: And, of course, you had the last starting time, just like the 54-hole leader at a Tour event.
Me: Right. No different, except this tournament isn’t being broadcasted live to millions of viewers across the globe, I’m not hoping to win a million dollars, and desperately trying to somehow punch a ticket into the field at the Masters next year. But it’s still pressure. Like the great Bobby Jones once said, “There is golf, and then there is tournament golf…”
Anyway, I had a good warmup session, felt good heading into the last day. I remember thinking to myself standing on the first tee, “Wow, I don’t feel nervous at all. This is weird, this could be good.” And then I proceeded to pull my first tee shot on this opening hole par5 into the right rough, which is better than pushing it into the hazard down the left. Okay, I’m safe. Not the greatest swing to start the day but I’m lying one and oh, by the way, I’ve got a 5-shot lead. Then I finally find my ball, completely buried in the rough, with the ball well below my feet, we’re talking nasty. I was actually fortunate to even find it. So I took my medicine, pulled out the wedge and simply tried to advance the ball back into the fairway. Well, between the ball being well below my feet and the 4 inches of thick grass that was covering it – the heel of the club resisted the rough and the club turned over. I advanced the ball all of 40 yards, still in the deep rough, and now I’ve got a huge oak tree about 100 yards ahead of me that I either have to play under, around, or over. With the ball sitting down like it was in the thick grass, I figured the best play was playing under the overhanging limbs, get it to within 100 yards, get my 4th shot on the green and then walk off with a worst-case bogey.
Or at least that was the plan. So I played a 9iron back in my stance and was simply trying to hit a low punch shot under the overhanging limbs of the huge tree dead ahead of me. Given the nature of the horrid lie, that shouldn’t have been a problem. Except I ended up getting more club on the ball than I was expecting, shooting it up in the air and clipping the overhanging limb. Now the ball is 180 yards away, so-so lie but still in the primary rough, and the hazard fronting the green requires a forced carry of 165. I bore down on a 7iron to the middle of the green, then watched the ball take the slope on the green and trundle away to leave me some 45 feet to save par. I then ram my par putt some 5 feet past the hole, then naturally leave the bogey putt some 4 inches short. I tap in for a miserable opening double bogey, and then things just deteriorated from that point.
Tom: Well, that’s enough of the play-by-play. What was the damage at the end of the day?
Me: I shot 89. And that was with a back nine of level par. Do the math.
Tom: You shot 53 on the front???
Me: Yes, that’s correct math. Par is 72. I was 16 shots lower on the opening 9 just the day before. (laughing)
Tom: Well, at least you can laugh about it after the fact. So what did you learn from the ordeal?
Me: It’s hard to say. I learned to hate losing like that, for sure. My very next round after that – I shot 2-under 70. And I remember being torn emotionally… on one hand – I’d quickly put the tragedy behind me, but at the same time – it really dawned on me that maybe I took that final round for granted, even though at that time I didn’t feel that I had. But if I had to close that chapter with one small nugget of enlightenment, it would be this: the past doesn’t equal the future. How you played yesterday isn’t an indicator of how you will play today. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like when I played that next round out after the tournament. I could’ve easily allowed that to send my game into a deep funk. But sometimes it’s a bad thing as well, like that final round after shooting a respectable score the day before. Hey, it is what it is.
Tom: Okay, I see you looking at your watch, which indicates to me that it’s time to wrap this up. One last question, which I think is entirely appropriate given all that we’ve talked about. What value does the game hold in your life? I mean, listening to your responses to some of the questions – I’m getting mixed signals… some of your answers reveal a fairly serious competitor, but then you totally switch gears and maintain that it’s just a game. So which is it?
Me: I think it’s a bit of both, actually. When you love doing something, and you learn how to do it reasonably well, what began as more of a hobby eventually becomes a passion. So although I generally maintain a fair amount of confidence and competitiveness playing the game, which have come from years and years of learning how to play reasonably well, I also learned the value of keeping things in perspective. And being able to keep things in perspective allows one to look back on those bad days, like that final round in the club championship last season, and shrug it off as some sort of lesson learned.
Golf teaches us life lessons… the value of hard work and commitment, the importance of staying patient and persevering, the importance of abiding by the rules… and it teaches us to appreciate the occasional successes, but also teaches us that humility isn’t a bad thing either. I would never judge someone based on how they play the game, and I would hope that others would extend the same courtesy to me in return. It is just a game after all. But it’s a great game, for all those reasons and many more.
Tom: Well, I must say that aside from spending 2 hours of my only day off this week to do this interview, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our conversation this afternoon. Hopefully your readers enjoy it the same, my friend.
Me: Tom, thanks for having me. It’s always a pleasure talking with you. Hopefully we can get in a few rounds together later on this season.
I’d like to thank my good friend, Tom Scheffert, for helping me out with this interview. Tom is a great guy who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for several years, having met him many moons ago during a round of golf. I’ve been blessed to have met some great people playing the game, and Tom is certainly on that list.
It’s been almost 2 years since I posted my first article here at my blog, and dozens of loyal readers have responded since then wanting to gain a little more insight about me and my thoughts about this game that I write about. As a result, I agreed to do an interview earlier this year exclusively for my readers here at Scott’s Golf Blog.
With my relocation to London a mere two weeks away, I figured now is as good a time as any to share part of that interview here on my blog with all of my readers.
Tom: Well, here we are in this quiet restaurant, and I think we’re the only ones in here? (laughing) The food probably isn’t that good, I take it?
Me: I have no idea… it was your idea to meet here, so if we come down with a bad case of food poisoning, I’m blaming you! (laughing).
Tom: Fair enough! Since the waitress doesn’t know we exist, let’s get things rolling by telling the readers something that they may not know about you.
Me: Wow, you throw a knuckler at me with the first pitch?! Are we talking golf or personal?
Tom: Let’s stick with golf. I don’t think your readers would be too interested to hear about how you married up, have a great family, and live the dream of someone retired at such a young age because of his sugar momma’s ambition. (laughing)
Me: Good idea. (laughing) And for the record – that’s precisely why I called on you to do this! Okay, let’s see… Oh, I have something. I utilize two different grips when I play golf. On full swings – I utilize the interlocking grip, and with partial shots and chips – I use the baseball grip.
Tom: Really? I’ve played with you a few times and I’ve never noticed that. Is there a reason for it?
Me: A couple of years ago I decided to change my grip from the baseball grip to the interlocking, primarily because my left hand was becoming too dominant in my golf swing. Those who know me obviously know that I’m a southpaw…. which is why I referenced my left hand. So I started experimenting around with the interlocking grip at the range a few years ago and I noticed that I wasn’t hooking the ball nearly as severely with the grip change. So I liked how it felt and I liked the results, and I decided to stick with it. The only problem is that when I utilized the interlocking grip with my pitch and chip shots, my hands felt totally disconnected, which is completely opposite of how they feel with full swings with the interlocking. Why – I have no idea. But that’s essentially the reason. The old baseball grip feels much more natural when it comes to touchy-feely shots around the greens.
Tom: Sorry I asked. Surely you could come up with something a little more eccentric about yourself than that?
Me: No, not really. Hey, I play golf the same as everyone else. I tend to go with what works, nothing special.
Tom: So how long have you been playing?
Me: I started playing back in the early 90′s. I didn’t get serious about the game until the mid-90′s, however. My brother-in-law introduced me to the game, and I guess I can blame him for all of the time and treasure I’ve invested into this addiction ever since. Thanks, Brant. (laughing)
Tom: What’s the best round you’ve ever played?
Me: A few years ago I shot 4-under 68. I’ve come close to beating that on a few occasions since, but that’s still my personal best.
Tom: Have you had any holes-in-one?
Me: Yeah, I joined the hole-in-one club back in the late 90′s, and I’ve added two more since then. I’ve got three.
Tom: Some people go an entire career without getting one, and you’ve got three…
Me: Yeah, but you know – I’ve never really looked at a hole-in-one as this miraculous feat. In fact – I never saw the ball go into the hole nary a time when they happened. The greens were elevated or so far away that I couldn’t see the ball. I mean, yeah… it’s a cool feeling to stand on a tee box with your friends right after one and ask the customary, “did anyone beat a one?” question regarding honors, and it’s pretty cool to write down a “1″ on the scorecard. But outside of that – it really isn’t this big deal that everyone makes it out to be.
Tom: You say that because you have not one, but three… showoff.
Me: How many do you have?
Tom: I’m asking the questions here. Let’s move on. I hate you, by the way.
Me: So you’ve never had a hole-in-one, I take it...
Tom: I’ve never even scared the hole on a par3. But enough of that. So you’ve shot a few rounds in the 60′s, you’ve got three holes-in-one. What do you consider your biggest competitive achievement?
Me: I won the club championship at my club back in 2009. That’s undoubtedly my biggest achievement.
Tom: I didn’t know that. At Olde Homestead?
Me: Yeah. Every time you walk into the clubhouse there in the foyer, you walk by my name on the wall. (smiling)
Tom: It must’ve been a weak field that year…
Me: Yeah, Tiger withdrew that week because of extramarital commitments, and Phil was somewhere on vacation with Amy and the kids. Smartass.
Tom: No, seriously – that’s really cool. There aren’t many players who can say they’ve done that.
Me: It’s a feeling that I’ll never forget, for sure. I had a 4 footer on the final hole that Sunday, knowing exactly what was at stake. To this day – I remember what I told myself as I stood over that putt. “Lefty, just do your best. It’s just a game, it’s not going to change your life whether the putt drops or stays out. Just do your best and accept the result, whatever happens, happens.” Somehow the ball found the center of the hole, and it was like I’d won the US Open or something. It was a very special feeling, because this game is much more known to knock you down than to lift you up like that. It was just my time, I guess.
Tom: You seem to have a pretty good handle on the mental aspect of the game. I like your philosophy, although it’s very difficult to maintain it. No doubt – that helped you win that event.
Me: Oh, no doubt about it. Hey, I have bad days just like everyone else. Two years later – I’m heading into the final round of the same club championship with a 5-shot lead, the same tournament on the same course that I won two years earlier and looking to get my name on the wall again. But I choked so badly that Sunday that I felt embarrassed to hang around afterward… I threw away that lead and ended up losing a lot of sleep that night as a result. But I did hang around and I was very happy for the guy who ended up winning, a good guy who I have a lot of respect for. It’s easy to be gracious when you’ve won, but it’s just as important to be gracious in defeat. You want people to celebrate your victories with you, because they don’t happen all that often. This same guy was the first in line to congratulate me two years earlier when I won, so you know – it’s just a matter of understanding the spirit of the game and never letting a bad day turn you into someone that you know deep down that you’re not. We’re not going to play great golf all the time, but that should never spoil an opportunity to show some class and character. I love the game and I love to play well and win just as much as anyone else, but I also recognize that it’s just a game. It’s not life or death.
Tom: So besides playing well and being competitive enough to win a club championship, what is it about the game that appeals to you personally? What has held your interest all of these years?
Me: Oh, gosh… that’s easy to answer. This game has introduced me to some great people over the years, people who have become lifelong friends beyond the golf course. Sure – you can go out and beat a little white ball around by yourself for a few hours and enjoy yourself, but there’s nothing like sharing that time with people that you enjoy being around. I’ve been playing for over 20 years and I’ve played with a lot of different people, from all walks of life, in other parts of the world even. And you know – I’ve had 20 years of great experiences sharing my passion with these people who are just as passionate about the game as I am. I’ve played other competitive sports over the years, but none of them even remotely compare to the people you meet in golf.
Tom: What’s the one thing that you don’t like about the game?
Me: Well, there would be two things actually. The first thing is the amount of time that it takes to play. I’m the exception, I don’t have to worry about a hectic family life and a career like a lot of people. I’m basically retired and my kids are almost grown, so I don’t have to budget every last minute of my time to accommodate a round of golf. But you take a guy that has a hectic career with kids who are active on the weekends with their sports and extracurricular activities and what have you – setting aside 6 hours on a Saturday is a pretty big deal. And it’s not just the round of golf itself, but the needed practice to improve and enjoy the process of improving as a player – that takes additional time each week as well. I think that the one thing that really hurts the game is the fact that it pretty much kills half of a weekend for most people. And the other thing would be the rules. I understand that not everyone plays by the rules, but those of us who do – we almost need a lawyer to explain some of them. Some of the rules are outdated, some of them are too impractical, and quite a few of them frankly add to the problem of slow play. I’d like to see the governing bodies rewrite the rule book to make it easier to understand, and while they’re at it – get rid of some of the rules that a majority of the players at our level perceive to be too unfair. But that’s jut my take.
Tom: They say that you have to be a good student before you can become a good teacher. Has the thought of teaching the game on a professional level ever entered your mind?
Me: Yeah, many years ago that thought entered my mind. Back in the early 2000′s I actually got involved with the golf business with the sole purpose of obtaining my PGA teaching certification, but being around a lot of people who worked in that aspect of the golf industry really opened my eyes. I saw a lot of guys working 12 and 13 hour days, working 6 days each week, and although they loved what they did for a living – the financial rewards just didn’t seem to mesh with the sacrifices that had to be made, especially for someone who has a family. Sure – money isn’t the only reason someone picks a career, but let’s face it – the love you have for your career alone doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table. I have a lot of respect for those who have embraced the life of a teaching professional, because they’re genuinely interested in helping golfers become better players. It’s not just about the money. But for me and my situation, with two young kids at the time especially, I just quickly realized that it wasn’t a practical option. But I don’t regret getting involved with the golf industry. I learned a lot about the other side of the game, and just how difficult it is to maintain a golf facility and keep things running smoothly. It was certainly a good education for a few years, and it helped me develop a better appreciation for those working on the other side of the counter.
(that’s the end of part I of the interview)
Stay tuned for part II, coming up soon.
Well, today was the big day… a day that in the end was far greater than I could’ve ever imagined. Before going into the specifics, first let me give a HUGE, HUGE thanks to my friend and Olde Homestead Golf Club General Manager Justin Smith for being such a great host, and another HUGE, HUGE thanks to my friend, my homey – Billy Hallman for making this happen. Homey – I owe you, bro. Thanks so much for getting everything organized and taken care of!
And last but certainly not least – all of the OHGC staff who worked hard to take care of us while we were there, be it with the food (which was fabulous) and the excellent service! You guys hit one out of the park!
Now the specifics….
I’ve spent 13 years in the Lehigh Valley, and played a lot of golf during that time. I’ve been blessed to have made so many wonderful lifelong friends along the way, friends who will always remain a part of my life regardless of where I travel. Unfortunately not all of my friends could make it today, and it goes without saying that I missed seeing them and hope to maybe see them before I leave.
But I’d like to take this moment to thank everyone who was at liberty to attend for braving the heat and humidity to give me a proper send-off to England… so many good memories from today I’ll store in my mind and pray that they’ll last me until we meet and tee it up together again. You’re all special people to me, permanent fixtures of a life that I’ve come to love here, a life with friends that I hope to never take for granted.
I was chatting with a relative newcomer to the game yesterday, and she happens to be a lady. She showed me all of her new clubs, and said that she’s anxious to get her first lesson. “I want to get started on the right track!” she said, with a smile on her face that reminded me of what truly is so great about the game of golf. She just retired from her job at 60-yrs of age, lost her husband a few years ago after a lengthy battle with cancer, and decided to carry on in his footsteps by taking up the game herself. “I ain’t got nothing but time,” she laughed. “I might not get great at it, but it beats sitting at home watching Oprah.”
We finished our smalltalk and right before I turned to leave, she asked me a question. “Hey, you’re a decent golfer, let me ask you something. And this is going to sound real stupid,” she said. “But what does a really good golf shot feel like? I need to know just in case I happen to stumble across one.”
I chuckled a bit and then thought about it for a second… she threw out a question that caught me well off guard. “Well, you know… it’s really not a stupid question, believe it or not. In fact – it’s a great question,” I replied. “But it’s a tough question to answer, because it’s a product of doing a lot of small-but-important things the right way in your golf swing. I guess my best answer would be this: when I hit a really good shot – it feels effortless… it feels like I didn’t really try. It feels like the ball just happened to get in the way of a relaxed practice swing.”
As I was telling her this, I noticed that she was all-ears and listening intently… she might’ve set the question up in a trivial, “oh, by the way” manner, but she was very interested in my reply, hanging on every word. Then she dropped the seriousness long enough to say, “Well, that’s not what my husband would always say. I heard him tell someone years ago that hitting a really good shot was better than having sex, and I just cackled at him and said, “Well – I hope you’re better on the golf course than you are in bed, honey…” And she burst out laughing, and I did too… it was nice to see someone who recently lost a loved one find something to help her get on with life, and I’ve always said that the game of golf isn’t just a great distraction – but probably one of the best forms of therapy ever invented. And you get to meet people and make lifelong friends in the process!
I was about halfway home when I started thinking to myself of what might’ve been a better answer to convey to her, because honestly – I think a really good golf shot is a lot more than just those things I said. I didn’t want to confuse her with mechanics or anything like that… but the longer I thought about it on the way home – the more I realized that there really is no universal, one-size-fits-all answer to that question.
But having a day to think about it a little more, had she asked me that question this evening, this is what I would’ve said, or at least attempted to convey.
A good golf shot feels like spending time with a good friend. You don’t have to try, you don’t have to think about how to be a good friend, you don’t have to think twice about something you say – because a good friend will look beyond your flaws and accept you anyway. It’s a feeling of contentedness, completeness, and trust – all rolled into a tiny, neat little package that you never have to worry about replenishing. Lastly – we never learned what friendship was in school, it wasn’t something that we were taught growing up. It just happened.
Good golf swings can make an afternoon on the golf course a lot more enjoyable, but most of all – good friends make life itself worth living. If you have a friend that you can trust, that you can talk to, that you can lean on during a tough time, that you can share both the joys and the occasional sadness in life with – you’ve got more going for you than a good golf swing.
Nurture your friendships. Don’t take them for granted. We only have so many holes left to play in this tournament of life.
I’m reminded of some of the age-old adages that most of us, at some point or another, have embraced as our personal mottos to right a sinking golf ship during a round. You know – those days when nothing seems to go right from the very get-go, and no matter how hard we try – things just continue to get worse with every swing and digress to the point where we not only lose our golf swings, but also the ability to think rationally.
Maybe there’s a certain realm of comfort that some players hope to tap into when they decide to go all-in and throw caution to the wind. There must be… or else we wouldn’t hear phrases like, “I didn’t come here to lay up” or “If you’re going to be a bear – be a grizzly.”
A friend and I had an interesting conversation a few weeks back with a gentleman who spent a few years chasing the dream of making it on the PGA Tour, and I guess you could say that he was fairly successful, given that he was able to eke out a living a bit longer than most players aspiring to that level. We’d all just played together earlier that afternoon, and although the rigors of a hectic career and less free time as a result have impacted the quality of his game, at least compared to where he was years ago as a competitive player on the Hooter’s circuit – you could sense that he was clearly an accomplished player at one point in his life. Most of us realized long ago that contrary to popular belief – golf isn’t like riding a bike… the motor skills and muscle memories aren’t etched in stone forever more after they’ve been developed. In fact – they don’t last very long at all without consistent maintenance. But aside from a few spots of rust that he was obviously trying to overcome that afternoon – to most mere golfing mortals he was still very much an accomplished player despite all that. He had a great golf swing with that unique sound at impact that suggested he had hit it flush and true, especially with his irons, and his putting touch was phenomenal. Every putt he stroked, regardless of the length from the hole, looked like it was going in.
Afterward, the three of us enjoyed a meal at the 19th hole, and we took advantage of the opportunity to pick his brain a bit. It’s not like I have the opportunity very often to play with a player who was good enough to chase the dream, and naturally I was a bit curious to hear some of his war stories.
But the one thing that stood out the most in our conversation that evening wasn’t about the physical skills that players at that level possessed, but rather how significant, even at that lower level on the pro circuit, having the proper attitude and playing strategy was in relation to one’s success. Matter of fact – he talked specifically about how he was struggling with his attitude and playing strategy early on in his career, which prompted him to spend a weekend with renowned sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, who has and continues to work with many of the top players on the PGA Tour today. We’ve all heard it said enough over the years to consider it a truism – that golf is 10% physical and 90% mental once one gets to a certain level in the game. Well, if one has the skills to compete at that level – his attitude and his playing strategy obviously need to mesh with the level of his physical skills. And it sounded like he needed some insight from that perspective, so he booked a weekend with Dr. Bob.
“I spent a weekend with Bob Rotella, he was working with me on my approach and my attitude. He told me, “The biggest difference between where you are and where you could be is the way you approach the game. When you get on a roll and make 3-4 birdies, you start playing conservative. You don’t want to throw away a good round. Those guys who are where you want to be – they continue to play aggressive, they’re not satisfied with just 3-4 birdies. They want to take it even lower. On the other side of the coin – when you start struggling – you get aggressive, you start pushing the issue. Not those guys… when they go through some tough stretches – they actually get more conservative. They don’t force the issue, they don’t take huge gambles out of frustration. They understand the value of reducing the pressure on themselves in those situations.”
Not that a light went off in my head after he shared that story with me and my friend that evening, because I tend to be much more conservative than aggressive in my own playing strategy and overall approach to the game… but I immediately thought about the number of times that I had gotten off to a great start in a round with a few birdies on the card, and instead of keeping my foot on the scoring pedal – I’d slammed on the brakes and gotten into the protect and prevent mode. So much of this game, once you really start to grasp the true meaning of confidence, relies on positive momentum! In my situation – it would be no different than doing 70 mph in a consistent flow of traffic on the interstate and suddenly slamming on the brakes!
But some of us, a majority of us I do believe – we have the exact opposite problem. When we’ve butchered a few simple holes early on in the round – we get frustrated and impatient. And despite missing the green with a wedge from a level lie in the fairway the very hole prior, we suddenly feel like we can pull off that approach shot from 200 yards away, over the water, with the ball semi-buried in the rough. That’s when we hear those famous last words, the official goodbye to any chance of salvaging a round for the remainder of the day: “I didn’t come here to lay up.”
Well, I guess we came there to scuba dive, because that’s what we’ll have to do to play our next shot from the bottom of the lake.
I know that we all go through a round from time to time where nothing is going as planned and maybe that miraculous shot from the semi-buried lie in the rough from 200 yards seems mighty tempting… we’ve all succumbed to the go-for-broke mentality at one point or another. But the thing about it is this: how many times has that attitude and careless strategy paid off in the past? Wouldn’t it be a smarter decision to take Dr. Bob’s advice and do what the better players do in that situation – play the safer shot and actually remove some of the pressure and stress instead of piling more pressure and stress upon yourself?
Par isn’t a bad score. Some bogeys are worse than others, but they’re not round killers. Better yet – they’re not momentum killers. In fact – I’ve walked off of the green of a tough hole after being out of position both off of the tee and the 2nd shot and still managed to make a bogey and felt like I actually saved a few strokes. That mindset, believing that you’ve salvaged something after a couple of consecutively bad swings – that doesn’t stop the momentum. Granted – it doesn’t propel you to this state of invincibility, but the most important thing is that you didn’t stop the momentum.
If you’re struggling with your scores, maybe you’re going through a scoring drought of some sort – try to make the next shot easier when you find yourself in trouble. If you get off to a sluggish start in your round – don’t throw all of the chips on the table with one shot and assume that the impossible shot before you is your defining moment in the round.
That mindset usually leads to the moment defining you.
Ode to the Frustrated Golfer
by Scott France
One would think that after all these years
that a few secrets of golf would evolve
maybe one simple move or a simple technique
granting all of my swing problems solved.
But this isn’t the case, not in the least
as over the countless strokes and years I’ve found
nary a trick of the trade that works
the same in each golfing round.
Take the ball above my feet for example
as I’m taught to aim further right
but to my dismay – as the ball’s on its way
I’m befuddled with the straightest ballflight.
The dreaded shank is yet another conundrum
which from out of nowhere it suddenly appears
sending my playing partners running for cover
as I brace for my darkest fears.
Where this dastardly strike from the hosel comes from?
really, nobody knows
but once one comes it seems the floodgates open
as this virus exponentially grows.
My approach shot that lands beyond the flag
seldom, if ever spins back
but the shot that lands well short of the pin
digs into the green and stops dead in its tracks.
The best tee shot of the round I hit straight and true
in all of the grace and power that goes with it
is a slap in the face, as I exclaim “what a waste”
when I find it in an old non-repaired divot.
The type of tee shot that finds the green
on a long par3 that I abhor
only to find the ball dead center
of where the hole location was the day before.
My tee shot on a long par4
on numerous occasions, to my despair
despite a helping 2-club wind
never seems to get in the air.
But then into the wind with my ball teed low
the magnetic force must beckon from the moon
as my ball takes off, going straight up in the air
as though it were a hot-air balloon.
Those days when I remember to bring my umbrella
to the course when I play a round
are usually the days when the sun shines its rays
and nary a cloud in the sky can be found.
Yet the minute I forget to pack my umbrella
Mother Nature adds to my woes
as the storm clouds roll in and because of my sin
I end up soaked from my head to my toes.
Yes, one would think after a number of years
some of these things would be figured out
but after 20+ years and countless tears
I’m beginning to have my doubts.
An old friend told me many moons ago
that I should take up a different game
one that wouldn’t cause such an unsettling nervous twitch
and compel me to take the Lord’s name in vain.
A fortune I’ve spent in those 20 years since
trying to satisfy a lifelong endeavor
of experiencing that day when everything goes my way
and my tee shots seem to go forever.
I’m still waiting for that day, needless to say
with too much spent for such little gained
all of the effort and time invested
in exchange for frustration and pain.
It’s enough to make me reconsider, for sure
that my old friend’s advice might’ve been true
but I’m in too deep – there’s no turning back now
what else on earth would I do?
I’m not sure why we continue to play
but eagerly we play nonetheless,
knowing full well ahead of time
that it’s very rare that we play our best.
It’s a game of opposites and endless riddles
an afternoon spent amongst friends
as we pass the time remembering our primes
and praying that it never ends.
So the game isn’t just merely about
hitting a little white ball into a hole
and those who suffer from the same affliction
can appreciate this story I’ve told.