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Look Out! My Best Golf Year Coming Up

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March 15, 2017

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They say it’s healthy to laugh at yourself. My theory is that’s why God gave us golf.

For a long time I spent more hours on tennis courts than golf courses. When I started dating the woman who would become my wife, she got me interested in golf after a long reprieve from the sport.

Golf was something we enjoyed together, and Jeanne confesses she liked having a better score than I did. These days I usually have the lower score and at times I hear some salty language from her. “You use salty language, too,” my wife said the other day.

Okay, I do let loose with a “gosh darn it,” or something more dramatic. I occasionally get pissed while playing golf and if I wasn’t so cheap I probably would hurl a club into the woods, or (gasp) break an iron over my knee.

As I have “matured,” I spend more time laughing at myself than swearing at the game sometimes referred to as a “good walk spoiled.” Golf just gets the best of me and I’ve come to realize it. I have been trying to score in the upper 90’s since Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were in the White House. I will probably still be trying to crack that target when Chelsea Clinton is announcing a run for president.

This time of year I am always optimistic about improving my game. “My best golf season is just ahead,” I say to myself again and again. To start the hoped-for improvement, I read a tattered card that has all the wisdom I’ve gathered about how to play the game. Handwritten notes with stuff like shoulder and hip turns, following through with every club, and imagining where I want the ball to land. I might even have something pretty drastic on that card like promising the Lord I will go to church every Sunday if He could help me par the last three holes on the back nine.

All this preseason optimism and planning sounds good until I hit a few shots at the driving range, or play that first round of the season. I notice at the range a lot of strangers are friendly and try to engage me in conversation. I suspect seeing my swing makes them feel better about their own games. Kind of an odd way to be of service to others, I guess.

People tell me to keep my head down when swinging. I finally have caught on as to why they give me that advice. With my head down, I can’t see them laughing.

That’s me.

My swing is somewhere between Charles Barkley’s grotesque mechanics and your average adult hacker who takes up the sport at 40 years old. Get the picture? I know it’s not a pretty one.

I can put a few good holes together now and then. Conditions, though, have to be right. It has to be hot outside but not suffocating. There has to be brilliant sunshine but no wind. God, no wind! And I need certain playing partners.

I can’t be playing with someone who crowds you on the tee box, or tells you the ball you just hit into the swamp was from a pretty good swing. Playing golf with my sons gives me the optimal opportunity to have a decent score.

My explanation is they make me more relaxed, and because we seldom play together my mood is jubilant. I am in kind of a different zone when in their company, and it reminds me somewhat of an experience I had years ago playing tennis. For about 15 minutes I was making serves and ground strokes that were light years better than my usual game. I was hitting the tennis ball so well John McEnroe would cower in a corner before taking the court against me.

Although I mostly struggle on the golf course, my math is accurate when I keep score. This is not true for all golfers when they record their scores hole by hole. Some players, for instance, can’t count beyond three or four. If appropriate, I can count much higher.

A friend of mine once played in a televised pro-am tournament. He totaled 11 shots on one of the holes, is how I remember this story. A few days later my hacker friend encountered a neighbor who mentioned he watched the tournament on TV and saw the struggles. My friend replied he had “nine blows” on his Titanic hole. “No, you had 11,” the neighbor corrected.

Through the years I have been tempted to improve my score “through creative means.” There was, for example, the Father’s Day card that suggested “new golf rules.” Courtesy of Tomato Cards and my son Bill, it suggested that:

“Every drive is a practice drive until you get one you like.”

“Chipping on the green will be replaced by an underhand toss.”

“If in a trap, your sand wedge may now be replaced by your sand shovel.”

Those “strategies” are tempting to a guy who watches golfers that have recorded more eagles over the years than I have pars. But I will stay on the straight and narrow. After all, 2017 is going to be my best year on the links.

Wink, wink.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

(2) Readers Comments

  1. avatar
    Tom Klas
    March 15, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    David, I've learned of a way to quickly drop seven strokes from my golf game. I quit after seventeen holes. - Tom Klas.

    • avatar
      David Shama
      March 17, 2017 at 8:28 am

      Tom, I never thought of that. Thanks.

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