Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Golf, rather than baseball

If this blog is to be about 'Baseball & Other Things,' this is one of the other things. I miss golf. In high school, I played varsity golf all four years. That meant spending every glorious fall day on the driving range, the putting greens, or playing a quick 9 before heading off to work. It also meant free golf all year whenever I wanted and however often I wanted. No tee times; just show up and go for it.

Sadly, those days are gone. I haven't played at all since moving to Lincoln, since I'd actually have to fork over (lots of) money to do so here. And boy do I miss it. Every time I use the trunk of my car, my clubs are right there. They almost seem to be calling out to me, begging me to hold them, swing them, carry them, clean them, love them. But nay. Instead, I have to slam the trunk lid shut and pretty much pretend I didn't see the clubs, because I know full well I won't get to use them any time soon.

Today in the cafeteria, a show on ESPN was an acute reminder of how much I miss my golfing days. Unfortunately I couldn't watch much of it because I had to go to class, but I wanted to because it was about Tiger, whom I admire immensely. The show's title was something like Tiger Woods: the Best Ever? Whether or not he's the greatest golfer of all time might remain to be seen, but what I can tell your right now is that there is no better model of work ethic and desire for improvement than Tiger.

A few years ago, back in McCook, our golf pro, Lee Maiden, held two pictures out to me. They were both of Tiger setting up to take a shot, but were taken on different days. "Minda," Lee said to me, "What is the difference between these two photos?"

Well shoot. Tiger's approach to the ball looked exactly the same to me in both shots, so I was left with only the obvious difference: "He's...uh...wearing different shirts?"

"I know; that's all I could find too," Lee replied. "But Tiger is disgusted with his form in the picture on the left, so the one on the right is the product of weeks of meticulous work."

Let me say again that the pictures looked identical. Even a pro couldn't spot the difference. But to Tiger, there was a world of difference, so he worked hard to refine his approach until it came closer to his impeccable standards.

Lee's point in showing me those pictures was to show me how I should practice. All the range balls in the world weren't going to help me if I was just out there hitting them to get to the bottom of the bucket. Every yellow range ball I hit was to be an attempt to make my game better, my swing more sound.

In the summertime, I'd go out to the driving range at what I thought was an ungodly early hour -- 8:00 or so, and oftentimes I'd stay there until at least lunch. I'd hit bucket after bucket of range balls, using the yardage signs as targets. Then I'd spend time down on the ludicrously hard putting green, chipping and putting from impossibly difficult locations and slopes. And of course, I shot out of the bunker. While I was practicing, I was not a social creature. I'd say 'hi' to folks as they passed me by, but mostly I kept a laser-sharp focus.

The sad thing is, after all of that practice, I'm still just an average golfer. So even if I try to focus and practice like Tiger, I'll never ever play like Tiger, or even like...someone who doesn't suck. :-(

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