PALM HARBOR, Fla. — It’s the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior Nationals at Innisbrook Resort & Spa, and there’s a buzz in the warm, humid air. Nearly 600 senior players (most of them pretty excited) over four days will do their best to take home the hardware, but honestly, just being here is an experience unto itself. It’s the first four-round tournament I’ve ever played in, which means, of course, every day represents a chance to do better than the previous day. And as I write this, I’m tied for first place.
Last night at the welcoming dinner, the Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner, Tim Rosaforte and Martin Hall shared the stage, discussing topics ranging from the Ryder Cup to Tiger Woods’ possible return to a little advice on how we can play our best this week. That advice came from Hall, host of the Golf Channel’s School of Golf. He told us not to try too hard, to manage the course as well as our emotions, and to play within ourselves. I particularly paid attention to the part where he invoked the Annika Sorenstam rule: If you can’t successfully hit the shot 70-percent of the time, don’t try it. I think I’ll take his advice. We’re never as good as we think we are. So, I’m going to dial it back a little this week and try to play within myself. What a concept.
On the other hand, though, this is gravy. My goal starting out was to qualify for nationals. And while it took me until the last tournament to do it, that part was accomplished. For this week, I’m just going to take in the experience, which also included an appearance on Morning Drive with Lauren Thompson to talk about playing on the Golf Channel Am Tour (airs today, Monday morning 7 a.m.-9 a.m. and 9 a.m. -11 a.m EDT).
This has all been a blast
Thompson asked me to sum up my experiences in one word. That was fairly easy – “fun.”
“Fun,” because the thing I like most about golf is competition and camaraderie, and that’s what you get on the Golf Channel Am Tour. I’ve always loved to compete, whether it was in Monopoly, baseball, tennis or golf. I’m don’t like to just go out and play 18 holes by myself without really keeping score (and endless Mulligans). I’d rather just go practice, if that’s the case.
Which is the beauty of the Golf Channel Am Tour. No matter what level you play at, the folks you’re playing with are like-minded. They’ve accepted the challenge, they’re competitive, and they’re good sports, too.
We all have different goals, but in the end, we just want to play our best. There were times where my goal changed in the middle of the round to not finishing last in my flight. And there were other times when I was in the hunt to win (admittedly, not often). The latter is an unbelievably addictive feeling. For those in the hunt this week, the euphoria is indescribable.
Simply put, this makes you a better golfer
So how does the GC Am Tour make you better? First of all, you simply get used to competing, trying to limit damage, knowing when to go for it, playing within yourself while still playing without fear. Much of it might seem contradictory, but these skills are only learned in competition. The beauty is that they translate well into casual golf with your buddies. If you’re playing against guys who don’t have tournament golf, you have a distinct advantage.
I also got some professional help (no, not that kind) along this journey. Steven Yellin, author of the Fluid Motion, did his best to work on my mental game. David Leadbetter took some time out of his busy schedule to take me through the paces of the “A” Swing. And then Mike McGetrick from the Golf Club of Houston and Golf Channel Academy, reworked my downswing in July. I struggled on that part for a while, but finally started to get it. I don’t know how this week is going to turn out, but I feel comfortable with my swing and my approach. You can’t ask for much more.
Anyway, it’s been a great ride, and this is the last part of it. There will be nightly receptions, a lot of golf and many more friends to make. For an avid golfer, it doesn’t get any better than this.