Don’t Fall In Or Out Of Love Too Early

Three Nights in AugustBeen reading Buzz Bissinger’s Three Nights In August and picked up some valuable perspective about golf even though the subject is baseball.  The book is about how manager Tony LaRussa handled his Saint Louis Cardinals in a critical three-game series against the Chicago Cubs in 2003.  Included are excellent insights about his management style and life’s philosophies.  Regarding his observation of new player performances in spring training, he advises on a patient approach and to not “fall in or out of love too early, ”  because the 162-game major league season is a grind where players experience and expect ups and downs, but at season’s end you need to review the full body of work and not be too judgmental of short run performance.

In golf, we’ve all been guilty of experiencing the “ah ha” moment and thinking we have a problem permanently solved when in effect, we’ve experienced a brief euphoria and made a mistaken rush to judgement.  Golf is more about slow and steady improvement, as I have come to realize while working my way out of an eight-month slump.

Practical insights:

During my round yesterday, I mentioned to a playing partner that I thought my road to recovery was helped by more frequent play and he advised that when you only play once per week or once every other week, as I had been doing, you put too much pressure on yourself to play well.  I thought back to the day before during my emergency nine after work where I had played poorly and felt off on every aspect of my game, but was able to easily let it go because I had a game scheduled the next day.  And he was right.  I played beautiful golf yesterday.  The added benefit of more frequent play is that you pick up little tweaks during each round that are easier to add and recall than if you try to bank them and summon on a less frequent basis.

Another observation:  Always take the opportunity to play with players better than you.  Yesterday, I was paired with two pros from my local club and watching them murder tee shots 50 to 60 yards past my best tested my ability to play within myself.  I’ve found the best approach is to acknowledge better players are in a different league and enjoy their company and the experience, rather than try to keep up.  I recall doing the opposite way back when I was young and in my first tournament as an assistant club professional.  We had a business meeting followed by a local competition for the 25 pros in attendance.  Rather than acknowledge my newbie status, I tried to think of myself as a peer and was so intimated trying to keep up, I embarrassed myself.  I’ll bet young players who are paired with Tiger Woods play better when they view him with awe rather than trying to match him shot for shot.  Again, I found this to be the case yesterday on our par-5 fourth hole which measured 525 yards.  Pro #1 just hit one about 320 down the middle and it was my turn, but I picked a target and put an 80% swing on the ball and piped one about 250.  Completely segregating Pro sitting 70 yards in front of me, I smoothed a 3-wood about 225 into the fairway and only had a flip with the 58 left for a good birdie opportunity.  I was very proud of my ability to seperate instead of be intimated, and cruised my way around to a 1-under 34 on the front.

So remember to stay patient, play often, and don’t fall in and out of love too early!