So here’s the deal: If I don’t start playing better, I can actually get demoted. That’s what Scott Chilcutt, director of the Texas Tour told me anyway. If I continue to score well above my handicap for four consecutive tournaments, I can actually request to move down a flight. In my case, that would be from the Senior Palmer (4.0-7.9) to the Senior Hogan Flight (8.0-11.9).
I don’t really want to do that. How embarrassing.
But if I don’t improve off the 88 and 89 that I’ve turned in from my first two tournaments, that might be my best move. One thing I do know, though: I’ve got to play smarter.
In my first two events, I focused on playing without fear, trying to find the zone to make better swings, chips and putts. Believe it or not, I think I accomplished that in my second tournament. Yep, I did that at the Masters @ Magnolia at High Meadow Ranch Golf Club, north of Houston, where I shot 89.
But I not only played without fear and a lot of conscious thought, but I played without thinking at all – at least during the middle of the round.
I actually hit plenty of good shots. On the second hole, a par-5, I took it right over the flagstick in two, but couldn’t get it up and down from behind the green and made par. After six holes I was only 2-over par, and it could have been better.
Then on holes 7-13, I kind of went brain dead. Still swinging fearlessly mind you,I was hitting drivers in places I shouldn’t have, and then I made the worst mistake imaginable when I tried to cut a hybrid around the corner on a par 5. (Never, ever aim where a straight shot will kill you!) So of course, I hit it dead straight, where it wound up just 50 yards from the green – in somebody’s yard (that’s OB, folks, not good)… I won’t bore with any more details here, except to say during this stretch I went 13-over par over five holes, making some more dumb decisions. The other 13 holes? Four over par. Jordan Spieth just had a bad hole at his Masters, I had an epic meltdown. And it was really from poor decision-making.
So I went back to my mental coach, Steven Yellin, author of the Fluid Motion Factor. This is the guy who got me to play more relaxed, without a lot of conscious thought. Apparently, I took it a little too far, and decided to remain unconscious throughout the round.
“Keep it simple,” was his advice this time around. “You don’t want to throw in stuff like having to work the ball when you don’t need to.”
In other words, I could have hit a 7-iron to the middle of the fairway, which would have left a lob wedge, which most likely would have resulted in a birdie putt… instead of the double-bogey putt that wound up missing.
The worst part of all this was that even though I finished in a tie for last in my flight, it was only six strokes out of first place. Let’s see: that was pretty much two thoughtless holes on my part.
If you’re thinking I’m being hard on myself though, I’m really not. I’m actually encouraged. Because this is fixable. My golf swing feels fine, and my short game has been fairly reliable, too. Again, despite the final score, I had some really good up and downs, drove the ball well on the holes I should have hit driver on, and hit a lot of good iron shots. At least for 13 of the 18 holes. Hopefully, as I get more tournament experience, I start figuring it out.