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All-Marine Golf

I tried out for the All-Marine Golf Team and I did not make the cut.  But, that’s OK.

Service Sports Teams

Many don’t realize that there are world class atheletes in our military.  These servicemen and women answer the call for service to our country and many still have a burning desire to compete at a high level.  They have opportunities within each service to compete at the service level, the inter-service level, and even the international level.  Sports teams and individual events include most sporting activities to include, of course, golf.  It is a big deal to make a service team or compete for your service on an individual level.  There have been, in past, service members who have actually qualified for and participated in Olympic competition.  It is a big deal.

Tournament Play

I am a real 2 handicap.  I can play just about any course and score in the mid 70’s the first time I play it.  But that is not tournament golf we are talking about.  If it rains too hard in casual play, you stop or you quit and get a rain check.  Unless lightening is in the area or the greens have standing water in tournament play, you keep going.  There are also pressures that exist in tournament golf that don’t in your weekend game.  I like to think it doesn’t affect me, I’ve been shot at many times for goodness sake, how can golf make me nervous?  It isn’t about the nerves, it’s about the pressure you put on yourself to perform – related but slightly different from the nervous tension.  I am a real 2 handicap, but I played like a 10 or 12 this past week at the tryouts.  It was somewhat embarrassing, but I was not the only one.  Another player mentioned to me that when he told his wife his scores she said, “what’s wrong with you?  You always play better than that!”  I heard the same kind of thing when I called home.  Not in a negative way, but in a truly quizzical not understanding way.

The Legends

The team try-out consisted of 2 days of practice on the course and 4 days of tournament play.   My problem wasn’t the golf course in terms of pre-weather condition.  The Legends Golf Course at Parris Island, SC  (yes – the famed Marine Corps Recruit Depot) is a fantastic course with fast and challenging greens and a great pro and staff.  The course is marvelous.   Andy Hinson and his team were terrific hosts and put on a truly professionally run event.  Have you ever teed off after being announced to the crowd?  It was run like a professional event.  Each day on the course brought its own new challenges.  One day there were lightening delays (three), another 15-20 minute heavy rain showers off and on throughout the day, and yet another a soggy drenched golf course.  This is a walking event and slogging along an almost 7000 yard course in your wet shoes and socks begins to wear on you after a couple of days…especially if you’re 51 years old.

All Services Tournament

Ok, I have deftly plugged in my many excuses in the text above.  But, there really are no excuses as we all played the same course under the same challenging conditions brought by weather.  While no one played under par, a few played right at par or just over.  There will be 6 quality players out of the 35 who tried out going to the All Service tournament at Fort Jackson, SC this week.  These players are of all ranks, from young NCOs to officers of varying ages and ranks (one Marine is a Drill Instructor there at Parris Island playing between duties!).  I hope they do well this week…at least beat the Air Force.  In the years since the inception of All Services Golf (1977) the Marine Corps has managed only 4 second place finishes and has never won the  All Services tournament.  There are probably lots of reasons for this not the least of which is the oft mentioned manner in which the Air Force builds and maintains bases.  It is said that they get the property, build the Officer’s Club and the Golf Course, then when they are out of money lobby congress for more funds so they can build the runways.  Judging from their record at the All Services golf tournaments through the years, there may be a little truth to that legend.

Marines

There was a special additional benefit to playing at Parris Island this week.  I got to be around Marines and recruits.  Driving onto the base and through it to the golf course before daylight each day, I passed scores of recruits already out in formations marching, running, and being “molded” into Marines by the most able and dedicated Drill Instructors in the world.  These shaved head youths volunteered to serve and to have the chance to be Marines.  Not all of them will make the Marine Corps team, but the Marine Corps is the most elite service in the world.  Those who try and don’t make it can be proud that they tried, and those who do make it will talk about becoming Marines the rest of their lives.

I tried to make the golf team and didn’t make the cut, but I am happy and proud I tried.  Those who did make the team, like the graduating recruits who became brand new Marines this past Friday, will also talk about it the rest of their lives.

 

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.

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.