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The Man Behind the Putter – Part Deux

This past Sunday I made 8 birdies in 27 holes.  I actually heard the words from a competitor as I struck a putt from 20 feet into the hole for a second straight birdie, “Okay, we’re just about sick of this performance…”  Corey Pavin, thank you for the “palms out” putter grip.  Also, Odyssey putters, thanks for the white hot mallet!  34″ of pure joy and perfection. Yes, I changed again ONE FINAL TIME!

This Wednesday I play in a Virginia State Amateur qualifier at Virginia Beach National Golf Club (formerly a TPC).  It was to take place last Wednesday, but a tropical depression precluded play.  I actually avoided getting wet because my tee time was so late, most were soaked after – for some 8 or more holes – and relieved beyond words that it was finally cancelled.  I played one practice round a couple of weeks ago and timing and schedule has precluded another.  I am hoping that putting as described above coupled with the Hogan chipping technique on the par 5s discussed in the previous post will win the day (thanks Tom McCarthy, Jim McLean, and Mr. Hogan).  My iron play has improved dramatically (thanks PING S56s), but my driving has been a bit streaky.  Driving the ball is a personal thing requiring confidence, connection, and care.  Patience and trust will be their own reward I think.  I am a nearly 52 year old man who will be competing with high school and college players as well as established amateurs in the area.

I am a long shot and underdog.  I love underdogs!  My morning tee time is the next to the last on number 10, which means, for the afternoon round (of 36 holes total) I will be in the next to last group playing into number 18.  I want to own this opportunity – I want people waiting for MY SCORE!

Oh yeah – how can I forget my inspiration?!  My wife encourages success for me at the golf course every step of the way.  The photo shows not only the red, white and blue club head covers she made for me, but also the putter head cover – my “Sock Monkey” putter head cover.  The other night sitting in the den watching television she suddenly declares – “I made something for you!”  Hmm…”what is it sweetheart?”  “A putter head cover Chris!”  I immediately loved the idea of it, my wife making something for me without coaxing – a surprise – and something as cool as a sock monkey for my putter!  How can I putt badly after that?!  Look at that sock monkey peaking out over the top of the bag…he really wants the putter to be great…

Thanks Mr. Floyd – Man Behind the Putter

As an update to my recent putting post, I shot a 73 today and it was almost exclusively because of much improved putting.  Thanks to the changes I made described in the “Man Behind the Putter” posting AND a tip Raymond Floyd provided on television.

The Golf Channel’s recent 7 Nights at the Academy series aired this past week and featured tips and instruction by Sir Nick Faldo, Johnny Miller, and Raymond Floyd.  I watched some of the shows and they were very insightful and interesting.  A tip that resonated for me was a very simple one from Mr. Floyd in his putting segment.  He said to pick a very specific spot on the back of the ball when putting and stroke the putt.  How simple is that?!  I birdied the first hole, made 3 more birdies in the round and a bunch of “comeback putts” because of it.  The tip seems to focus your attention at what it should be on and keeps your head down throughout the stroke.

Sure,  I still had a couple of troublesome holes, but birdies sure help make up for some of those mistakes.  Thanks Mr. Floyd!

Tournament Experience

Golf is a Game of Opposites

I have stated this in the past, golf is a game of opposites and counterintuitive realities.  You want the golf ball to go up, hit down on it.  You want the golf ball to go where you aim, relax and let the swing happen (don’t try and control it).  It is difficult to remember this sometimes on the golf course and intuitively correct thoughts and actions (but, incorrect thoughts and actions) begin to take control during a round.  I found myself in that quandary last week during a Virginia Amateur qualifying tournament.  I did terribly.

Golf is Unforgiving

Princess Anne Country Club is one where apparently (to me anyway) the golf course was put in around and through the surrounding community.  Every fairway was lined with out of bounds (OB) markers and many of the tee boxes were set so that the tee shot was hit out over a road.  The fairways seemed generous enough, but the ever present thought of OB lurking on every hole somehow overcame my usual let it go attitude.  I shot a 90 on the first of two rounds last week and an 88 on the second – I am a 4 handicap.  I actually birdied 4 par 3’s in the first round.  I became victim of the issues I described in the beginning of this post.  The club gradually slid deeper and deeper into my palms without my knowing it because of my unconscious desire to control the shots.  With each errant shot came more desired control – I hit probably 6 or 8 shots that were 1 foot out of bounds.  In the end, I began hitting shots that I had no idea I could still hit (in a bad way).  Confidence went to hell.  Finally, during the last 9 of the 36 of the day my “give a crap” factor was pegged and I began letting go again.  I actually played much better and more consistently.  Interesting.

Golf can be a Forgiving Mistress

I played an emergency round late this past Wednesday afternoon at my home course.  I needed to because the next morning I had knee surgery and would be out for a couple of weeks at least.  Midway through the first 9 I remembered that I forgot to keep the club in my fingers and all became good with the world.  After a few birdies to make up for a couple of early bad holes, I rolled into the last hole needing a birdie for a 73 and I made it.

Yet Another Golf Lesson

What happened?  The pressure of a qualifier?  Playing on a strange golf course?  Maybe some of that…but, I had no illusions of qualifying, I simply entered to gain experience for the All-Marine Golf Trials this fall.  Nerves are not really an issue for me.  I get excited, but after doing the things I have done over the course of 28 years in the Marine Corps, golf doesn’t really make me nervous.  I guess I just let the moment get the best of me at Princess Anne and didn’t stay within myself.  Also, maybe I should take another read of Ben Hogan’s FIVE LESSONS.  Variables like the grip shouldn’t fall apart so easily…a golf lesson well learned, again.

EBAY and Golf Equipment

OK – Ebay can be a bit risky.  I ordered the Cleveland CG1’s with the “Tour Issued” heads and “Tour Issued” shafts I talked about in the last post and received them fairly quickly.  They are beautifully set up with near perfect heads (marks only on the sweet spot – a great golfer had these heads), beautiful silver graphite shafts with a blue Project X logo, and blue and black half cord grips from Golf Pride (the kind I use now).  I was excited to hit them!  I went out to the range the next day (yesterday) during lunch prepared to make an objective assessment of them.  I already own the Hogan APEX’s with wonderful Graphite Design GAT 95 shafts – but they launch a little high.  I was looking for a little lower trajectory.  I hit the 7 iron 3 or 4 times…lookin’ good.  I then hit the 5 iron 3 times and the head flew off!  As I walked the 40 yards or so into the range to retrieve the head I was beginning a slow burn.  Calming myself, of course then I began the second guessing game…were these the real shafts?  Who is this guy anyway? 

The guy I bought the irons from seemed genuinely surprised when I told him about my experience with the irons he sold me.  He told me admittedly that he had kept them in the garage the last 6 months in the cold (Georgia).  He is refunding my money.  I am sending them back today.  Happy ending except for time and a little expense with postage.  I will use the process at EBay to ensure all know how this went down. 

I have had a lot of luck with EBay in both selling and buying golf equipment.  They do an excellent job of keeping people honest and structuring the process so that people police themselves.  They also have process and means to arbitrate when – if the deal goes bad for some reason – the buyer and seller get together and cannot come to an agreement to settle.   I have never had to go through this process myself, but my wife has.  I believe she was happy with the outcome. Someone had agreed to buy a product, the highest bid, and then did not pay.  The problem with that is that there were people this person outbid who would have paid.  Through arbitration, EBay allowed the next highest bidder to pay the high bid price if they desired and they did…everyone was happy in the end, but not without a little angst.

You can find some really terrific deals on EBay, but you have to know details about what you want to buy.  I always back up information with some internet research prior to pressing the “Buy It” button.  I also try and provide detailed background information, precise condition information on the specific product, and detailed photos when I sell.  To be truthful, I had a little voice talking to me about these irons.  Project X does not illustrate iron shafts in graphite on their website, however, there are some recently fielded models of irons that come with Project X graphite shafts – Nike is one of them.  Since they are “Tour Issue” I suppose I gave the benefit of the doubt that they were pre-fielding shafts…but of course, they could be “pulls” put into CG1 heads.  Likely, the case is the latter since I had the experience I did with the 5 iron.  A well mounted shaft should never let go of the head like that…even if it sat outside in the elements of Rhode Island, let alone in a garage in Georgia.  Lesson learned and little voice – I’ll try and listen to you next time.

Happy New Year 2011

Another new season is here.  It is a little difficult to watch the professionals playing on television in Hawaii, it makes you want to get out and play and therefore brave the cold weather.  I have been playing in very marginal weather here in southeastern Virginia the past couple of weeks.  A couple of Sundays ago the snow came and melted twice during the playing day.  Of course, after the first snow had come and gone, there I was out there again only to be pelted by snow once more two holes into it.  I gave up, but there were some who braved on later in the day.

I have been riding the cart a lot in recent months, a knee problem, but I walked yesterday – well, semi-walked.  That is, I don’t think you really walk a round unless you actually carry your bag.  But, now that I think of it and feel my back and knee this morning, I am going to make that rule apply only to the under 50 crowd.  If you are 50 or over, anytime you are not sitting and moving is good and should be encouraged…in fact, the mere idea of being above ground and outside moving around is good. 

I have one of those tricycle bag carts that I push.  The three wheeled cart is really very nice and kind of the best of both worlds (walking and riding) if you get the right cart.  Mine has some places to conveniently keep things like pens, glasses, wallet and blackberry (on buzz), a parking brake (yes it needs one becasue it is that smooth), and some other nice extras.  I bought it at the All Marine Golf Try-Out Tournament in South Carolina last fall.  I hadn’t realized that the tournament did not allow riding, so I purchased the push cart I have now from the pro shop.  I used a rental pull cart the first day, but that was painful – those of you who have used one of those rental pull carts before know what I am talking about. 

I am doing some experimenting with equipment early this year.  Of course, there is always room to experiment throughout the year isn’t there…?  My driver is set – PING G15.  I have changed my 3 wood and utility wood back to the Bobby Jones (I am really striping the 3 wood right now).  My irons are currently Hogan APEX FTX with Graphite Design GAT 95 shafts.  These shafts have a great feel, but a little high on the launch.  Not complaining, the irons feel absolutely terrific, just thinking.  I have some Cleveland CG1’s with Project X 6.5 Tour Issue Graphite shafts coming this week.  I am expecting a little lower ball flight, we’ll see.  With those irons ($300 from ebay seller) will come a putter as a bonus – a Taylormade Daytona Rossa putter (white).  The irons alone were a great deal, but an added treat with the putter as it goes for $129 new.  Anyway, I had found 3 classic PING putters at a flea this winter for not much each and with new grips I have found I like to use 2 of them.  We’ll have to wait for the putter choice as the game bag go to putter until the weather gets nicer and the greens get into springtime condition.

Looks like I’ll have some ebay deals for someone else in a few months.  Look for 1putt on ebay.

Log 11/22/10

I have had quite a year on the golf course.  I have changed irons more than most people do in a lifetime.  Since this spring I have shifted from my PING I3’s to I10’s (sold) to Hogan Radials to Hogan APEX FTX.  I still love the radials, but they are too pretty to hit routinely.  I found the APEX’s with GAT 95 shafts and I hit them better than any iron I have ever hit.  I also shifted from the PING I15 driver to the G15 with serrano shaft as well as the serrano shafted G15 3 wood.  I am not sure the serrano stiff is stiff enough…contemplating an all GAT set.  For the most part, I have settled into a bag of clubs I am comfortable with.  Now to find the consistency.

I was accepted to try out for the All Marine Golf team.  I tried out, but it was a difficult scenario.  I missed both practice rounds.  A family friend died suddenly that week so instead of driving to South Carolina leisurely, I ended up there via Kentucky arriving in the wee hours of the AM just prior to my first tee-time for the try out.  That coupled with the impossibly slow and grainy bermuda greens of MCAS Cherry Point made it a challenging try-out to say the least.  I did not make the team, but enjoyed the challenge.  I thought this might be my first and last chance to do this, but I have been given another year in the Corps, so next year I intend to try again. 

My handicap is creeping back up, it is 3.8 now (15 Nov).  I am really playing to about an 8 or so.  While I feel I am striking the ball as good as I ever have, my scoring isn’t there.  My short game is coming around, but I can’t seem to put all aspects of the game together often enough.  Still reading and using Hogan’s principles.  I can’t see how I will go wrong that way.  Practice.