Project 2 Handicap

Online log of a quest to drop my golf handicap from a nine to a two within sixty months. Sink or swim, I'll give it my best shot. Advice is not only appreciated, it's encouraged!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mysticism, God and emotional baggage

A friend's family tragedy hung over me like a rain cloud all weekend.

Fortunately for me, my own family was around for me when I needed them. My wife's sister, brother and his significant other arrived for a short visit Thursday. My son and his wife drove down from Charlottesville to visit the visitors. And my daughter and her boyfriend were also around all weekend. On top of my thoughts of my friend, this influx of my family and our happy time together put me in a reflective mood - a thankful to God mood - but also left me feeling melancholy.

Melancholy was still my state of mind as I drove to the course Sunday morning.

My playing partners, two brothers, arrived late and they had news as to why. Their stepfather had passed away during the night. The news wasn't unexpected - he was ninety years old and had been sick. But their news cemented my mood.

The older I get, as these sorts of experiences mount, I'm finally learning to savor every minute of life.

And to count my blessings.

And not to sweat the small stuff.

Like golf.

So, it was due to this sad turn of events that I finally felt what it is like to play a round of golf without emotional baggage. My score was inconsequential to me Sunday.

I played the front nine in one under par. I was just enjoying the company of my friends, and taking pleasure in focusing my energy into moving the ball to the hole. I hit a few shots really well but for the most part I just scraped it around without any big mistakes. I was just playing to my skill level, unburdened with any emotional baggage. My emotions were on an even keel. One under for nine was an unusually fine score for me, but I was in no mood to celebrate. At the same time, there were no nerves in play.

It was, after all, just a silly game of golf that were were enjoying.

A well struck 3 footer for par on 10 lipped out, bringing me back to par for the round. But what might have upset me on another day - well it just didn't matter Sunday. I had hit the putt that I wanted to hit and it just didn't drop. And that's just golf. And golf is just a game, not significant in the grand scheme. Pars on 11 and 12 put me on the 13th tee still even for the round.

Now, prior to this point in the round I admit to having allowed myself to wonder if today was going to be the day that I achieved my long time golf goal of shooting par. That thought came into my mind several times but never brought with it even so much as a raised heartbeat. If it was going to happen, it would happen, and if it wasn't it wasn't. Either way, it didn't really matter - not in the big picture.

So I stood on the par three 13th tee just as unburdened by emotion as I had been for each of the prior 12 holes.

That's when God stepped in.

I shanked my 7 iron into the closest bunker to the tee, and then - my lack of skill combined with poor execution of the skills that I do have - found me tapping in for a triple bogey just a few moments later.

My emotions then?

Same thing. My score remained inconsequential. Prior to each shot played during the disaster hole I had planned what I believed to be the right shot and then performed it to the best of my ability. I just didn't possess the ability to do any better than I did. I hadn't tripled the hole because emotions got the better of me. I just lacked the skill to do better. A shank. A slightly fat first sand shot. A misunderstood second sand shot. An unfortunate lie. A "best I could do" blast of a third sand shot. A well struck 20 foot putt that didn't fall. A tap in triple bogey.

On other days I likely would have reacted differently I'm sure. But Sunday it just didn't really seem to matter. How could I get angry with myself for not possessing the skill and hand/eye coordination I needed to recover from my shank?

I realized that I couldn't blame myself. And so I didn't.

And since my emotions remained in check I proceeded to play the last five holes as I had the first 12 - in even par - for a round of 75. Equal to my best ever at my home course.

So, on reflection I'm left with:

- A score of 3 over par - a mystical reminder that I played 17 holes of golf at even par and only the one at 3 over.

- A lesson that my skills, left to work themselves without my usual emotional baggage, can lead to some fairly good golf.

- A few reminders of where I need to improve those skills.

- An experience of what it is like, finally, to play an entire round of golf without any emotional baggage.

- A confirmation of the lesson that I had thought was true before but now know is fact. That, in golf, focusing on the process - staying in the moment and devoid of emotional baggage - leads to the desired outcome.

- And, of course, the big lesson - a reminder of how unimportant this silly game is in the big picture of life.

And, now that I see how inconsequential the matter really is I'm left to wonder if this is a seminal moment in my golf game.

How ironic would that be?


At 3:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

look this is the "diet" i told you about you should really enter the site :) bye enter the site


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