Thursday, July 4, 2013

Freedom From Three Digits

Breaking Good
Today, with the day off and to Honor America, a good friend and I took advantage of several hours without violent thunderstorms -- the first day in central New Jersey to enjoy such weather since winter, I think -- to play a round of golf. We enjoy the game and have enough encouraging moments to keep coming back, but make no mistake about it.... we are not good. I have a hard time duplicating my swing, don't get enough club head velocity, and have shaky yardages, especially with the irons. Oh, and I'm also bad in sand traps. But other than that, I'm a stud. It's sad. (My friend is generally a little better than me, but the work off the tee is erratic, and he's got a magical ability to blow opportunities off the short grass, then crush something from the rough. Makes No Sense At All.)

I played a fair amount of golf before my kids were born, getting my scores down from the 120+ level  of Why Aren't You Still At The Range to the 110+ span of You Really Need Lessons. Now that the kids are getting older and have their own friends and interests, I have a little more free time... and since I live in a part of the world where a round of golf doesn't cost so much (I loved living in the Bay Area, but it's not for people who aren't independently wealthy), we go a few times a month. Now, I tend to be in the 100+ range of You're Never Going To Be Good At This.

But today? Today was a little special. Today was that rarest of experiences in golf -- the round where you play more or less to your potential, make more good shots than bad, don't duff or skull or slice or hook... or, at least, don't do it for more than a shot or two, and keep making enough good and/or lucky shots to keep the score sane. Today, for the first time on the East Coast and in this century, I broke 100.

The key was, well, maturity. I wasn't great off the tee, but short and straight and right is a lot better than OB and losing balls. From the rough and 200+ yards out, I didn't pull out the fairway wood or the hybrid iron and compound my problems. Instead, I played the 5-iron, got the ball in the air, and kept my head in the game. With remainder shots, I didn't go for Micklesonian 60 wedges that would either leave myself in traps or in other poor situations. Instead, I played chip shots that avoided bigger trouble. I played for pars and bogies, and half of the time, I got them. Oh, and the par threes were played like golf holes, rather than opportunities to show just how badly I could hit an iron.

I also got, well, lucky. Mercer East, where we played today, doesn't do too much with water and deep rough, otherwise known as, well, the mind trash that trips me up all the damn time. I hit the flag stick from a bunker, on a shot that was clearly heading off the green; instead, the ball stopped two feet from the hole and probably saved me at least two shots. The putting wasn't astounding, but I two-putted from significant distance a lot today. And with the whole thing slipping away on the 18th, I got the wedge to stick on the green and putted out. 50 on the front, 49 on the back, nearly 10 under what I generally do.

You win nothing for doing this, of course. Later in the day, after I passed out while checking email, I also realized that I had lost something else -- unburned skin in the places where my sunscreen failed. And I have to keep coming back, of course, to see if I can consolidate the gains, straighten out the driver, work on keeping the back leg stiff and the hip turn more consistent, so that my yardage starts to come back in line with, well, what it should be...

But all of that is tomorrow, and next week, and forever. Today, I broke 100.

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