A good walk

How in the span of a few weeks, I found golf again

Jeremy White
July 19, 2018 - 1:47 pm

Photo: Thomas J. Russo - USA TODAY Sports

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I could probably say that I'm not sure how it happened, but the truth is that I do. Golf got me. Again.

You remember golf, right? Maybe you're a lot like me, and you used to play a lot but just kind of drifted away from the game because it takes too much time, costs too much money, or you'd plateaued in ability. Maybe you got married and had kids and the idea of getting that much free time to yourself or with friends has become harder to come by. Maybe Tiger's fading from the top pushed you a little away from the major tournaments, and the bug that used to hit you when watching a great final-round Sunday didn't hit you the same way. Maybe you stayed through all of that and you've found that courses in the area aren't as packed as they used to be. I've heard many a story about a club lowering dues, or initiation fees... about rates dropping... about all that comes with a sport that exploded in popularity and then kinda settled back, regressed to some sort of mean.

Maybe that's just what I think is going on in the world of golf and it's been, for the most part, the same through the last 5-10 years.

The story I've always told about when golf died for me, takes place at Byrncliff. It's the last time I remember caring about my own score, tracking every shot, and entering scores to calculate my handicap. I was playing the round of my life, going to the 18th hole needing a par to shoot a 79. SEVENTY-NIIIIIIIIIIINE. 

I'm the kind of player that always knows my round score. I spent so much time trying to break 90 that at the end of every hole, I'd be thinking to myself "ok... -1 off bogey golf, or +3 on bogey golf." Two pars in a row meant I was well on track. Trying to play double-bogey free was how I would think from start, to finish.

I don't remember if it took one year, two years, or three years of actually charting fairways and greens in regulation before I actually did break 90. You'd think I remember the momentous occasion when I actually did it. I don't. I broke 90! Then I did it again. Then a few more times. Then it got to a point where breaking 90 was what had to happen for me to consider it a good round. A 93 was about my cutoff for feeling like I had a good or bad day.

But back to that 79... that 79 that I'd never even THOUGHT about before.

The finishing hole was the eighth at Byrncliff (I don't remember why we started on nine, tournament or something I'd imagine). 

It's a Par-3 that I had parred countless times before.

I stepped up thinking "SSSSSeeeeeventy N-N-N-N-iiine?" and proceeded to leave my tee shot short on the front of the green.

Up and down, for 79!

*Chunk*

Long put for 79?

*Blown by the hole*

Long put for... 80 is still good!

*Left it short*

Finish out 81.

Best round of my life, and I had one thought and one thought only: "It's gonna be so hard to ever even think about being that good at this again."

My motivation was toast. I'm not proud of it but, it all kinda disappeared that day. Maybe in the way that seeing your favorite team win a title kinda dulls your senses a bit. I'd still play from time to time, but in scrambles mostly. Scrambles are fun if you want to just walk around, swing hard, and walk off the course being able to say "We shot 7-under" and such.

I don't think I played my own ball, for 18 holes, for about... 4 years maybe.

For all intents and purposes, I was done.

(Also mixed in here are some lower back problems that still flare up but that doesn’t really make the story any better, just a bit more tedious. Sometimes I physically can’t play).

***

So how did I get back?

My brother-in-law, Matt, deserves a little bit of the credit. He plays Delaware Park (which I like to call Scajaquada Meadows, or The Links at Runner’s Circle, or Whispering Elms of Buffalo Creek, or anything I can dream up) and talked me in to finally getting out there for a round.

Scajaquada Meadows eased me back in. Forgiving fairways. Short holes. Wear a t-shirt and bring a bluetooth speaker for some tunes. Play early in the morning and be through 18 holes and home within about four hours.  

You hit a few good shots there and you get a little bit of the bug. I played with him and my father-in-law on Father’s Day out at Tri-County, site of the first ever WGR Golf Tournament.

My father-in-law likes to gamble on the course… and the format is such that everyone is in the mix, and lots of shots matter. We’re not playing for big money but… hey my focus came back a bit. You’re playing to win, and not let down a teammate.

I played in a two-man scramble earlier this year with Kevin Kearns from the Buffalo Bills as part of a media tournament. The two of us shot a 75, which kind of blew me away. I played well, and had a few more shots I liked an awful lot.

I could feel it happening… golf getting me back again.

It's all happened pretty fast. Where I used to get through about 12 or 13 holes and think “I’m ready for this to be over”… now I get to 17 and think, “I wish we had time for another nine holes.”

I still spray the ball quite a bit and shot a 102 at Holiday Valley last weekend that included TWO, yes TWO, NINES. That’s an 84 on 16 holes, and two disasters with lots of mistakes. I counted EVERY stroke. And yet, that 102 didn’t have me thinking about 90, it had me thinking about 80.

I immediately decided that I needed a lesson. At least one. I needed to get a professional to look at my swing and take out all the bad habits that I’d picked up in 4-5 years of swinging for the hell of it at scrambles, and get me back to swinging with a purpose. 

Left arm straight? Head cover under my front arm? Ball moves forward based on the club you use, right? All these things from lessons gone by swimming around in my head… yes even some stuff I probably picked up when I took “GOLF” at Syracuse University in my senior year. I got an A, but all you really had to do was hit balls on the range and correctly identify scores to par haha.

Brian Koziol, host of Tee to Green on WGR suggested I see Tee 2 Green’s Jeff Mietus. So I set something up and told him to shape me however he sees fit. I’ve been playing for about three decades and for the first time in my entire golf life, I put my swing on video to look at it, and work toward improvement.  

Jeff gave me tons of positive feedback with some quick corrections, and some longer term projects. But he seems to think my goals of getting back to where I was, are totally attainable. One day at the range and I’m feeling it even more too. I have the itch to hit the range more. I have the itch to play three times a week if possible.  

I got bit by the golf bug. My lesson intensified the symptoms. I’m back, loving golf like I used to.

Why am I writing about this? Maybe there’s something you drifted away from and figure it’s a good time to get back to it. I didn’t realize how long it’d been since I’d sought the advice of a professional, or a coach, to try to get better at something. I’m always out to learn as much as I can… reading… listening to podcasts relentlessly… in search of knowledge as much as possible.

So if there’s something that this makes you think of… get after it. Let’s do it together. Keep me posted on your hobby or goal. The marathon, or the 5k. The triathlon, or bowling that 300 game. Did you get close and just kinda fall away? I sure did.  

So I’ll be on the golf course as much as I can... And while there’s work to do, and a game to enjoy along the way… I’m hunting that 79.

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