During one of my drives to or from work I started to ponder what I call the “professional golf effect” on mid to high handicappers, which basically equates to most weekend duffers like myself, and I would imagine some of you reading this right now.
We are a dedicated bunch, tweaking swing paths, pouring through countless range buckets, and watching endless rounds of golf on TV. While watching golf how many times have we seen these Professionals hit a an 8 iron 170 yards to about 3 feet from the pin and think; 8 iron, 170 yards, I can never do that, and then moments later you think; maybe if I move the ball back a few inches in my stance I might be able to get that extra carry on the ball. We then go to the range and try this out, and after 50 swings we flush one, and the ball travels 10 yards past your average 8 iron distance. At that moment you stop, walk over to an empty bench, sit and think...maybe it’s possible. Maybe I can hit my 8 iron as well as these guys. I might have in my bag an 170 yard 8 iron. You then start working through your other clubs and the potential new length; “how is this going to change my course management, will I be able to hit my 4 iron 220 yards”? You get up off the bench, pick up your 8 iron, and finish off the last 25 golf balls, hitting 4 of them flush to your new average distance; 130 yards!
Well at least that’s how it usually goes in my world.
I played soccer and baseball in high school and college, and I have friends who played basketball and hockey at the same level. While in those moments, like everyone else at this age, we all felt like we could or might make it to the “bigs”. Like everyone who plays a sport at this age, and who did NOT make it to the bigs, usually has had a defining moment in each sport that presented itself in a way that makes us realize we don’t have what it takes to move to the next level. At that moment we stop playing, and there are too many factors to pin it down to one reason as to why we stop playing, but we weigh all the options and we all decided to tip our “hat” and let it go.
Here’s my moment:
Like I said I played organized baseball from little league until about 20 years of age. I loved the game and like any player I had dreams of making it to the major leagues. That was until a cold and wet day in March during my senior year in High School. It was a typical raw March day on Long Island, it had rained the night before, the wind was blowing the cold right through you, and the puddles in foul territory were starting to freeze over. We were down one in the last inning, and they brought in a new pitcher to close the game out. I was up fourth in the inning so I was interested in seeing who the new pitcher was. After I peeled off my two hooded sweatshirts and winter gloves I made it to the back stop. What I saw was frightening; this guy was about 6’6’’ tall, throwing free and easy like it was midsummer, and bringing heat.
As the ball moved between the pitcher and catcher it was making a sound that no one had ever heard before it had this buzz saw sound. As each pitch hit the catcher’s glove it sounded like the ball weighed 10 pounds. It was the first time I completely understood the term “heavy ball”.
Each batter that faced this guy struck out on 3 pitches. I’m not a quitter, not then and not now, however I do know when I’m over matched. As I stood on deck with 2 outs, down by one, and in the last inning it was the first time in my baseball life I hoped my team mate would strike out. I never gave up on a game. I would always think we could win the game, but on this day it was more important to me to not face this guy then it was to win. At that moment I knew I was not long for the game. These pitches that where were being delivered were at a higher level that I was not willing to try and match. I continued to play for a few more years, but I was winding down after High School, and I at some point I stopped playing and never picked up a baseball again...that is until my Son began to play.
Over the years I continue to meet up with those friends who I mentioned before, and while playing golf we usually harking back to the glory days of each of our sports. Talking about how each one of us was so close to making it. We then eventually get to the part when the game changed for us, when the game became bigger than we could handle, and we get a big laugh out of that. As we make our way around the course we talk about the subtle tweaks to our swings that we are all working on while we wait for the big breakthrough that will put us all on to the PGA tour. We laugh a little harder at that prospect!
However if I can get 10 more yards out of my 8 iron and practice a little more I might be able to get my game ready for the Champions Tour?? You never know...