Every now and then, like a Mike Tyson punch-up or a Mariah Carey movie, your golf game goes afoul. Clubs get thrown, the language gets despicable, and the air gets thick and heavy. It's a bad day on the links - a day you won't soon forget. You feel wounded, helpless, abandoned, and above all, extremely irate. It's at these times, times when you're about to repeatedly smash your head against the ball washer, when you need to be reminded of a few things.
During times of failure, human nature dictates that something or someone (other than you) is really the culprit. Often you don't need to look far to find the real reason why you can't perform. This holds true in all aspects of life. For example, the other day my wife, with assistance from our cast iron frying pan, kindly reminded me that I hadn't cleaned out my car since 1992. As it turned out, the real reason why I had failed wasn't due to my own shortcomings.
Rather, it was a combination of the mistakes, inept attitudes, and lack of sensitivity of the hundreds of people who demanded my total attention at the various times when I was supposed to be cleaning out the rot in my car.
To further illustrate the point, last week my mother-in-law wanted me to take her to the airport. The nerve of her! Didn't she know that I was ten years, three months, and six days behind schedule in maintaining my car's cleanliness? Obviously not. It was her fault it didn't get done.
In golf, it could be as simple as the pimple-faced kid from McDonalds forgetting to take the pickle out of your hamburger, thus throwing off your equilibrium. Reach into your tickle trunk and your grubby hands will find them: rock-solid excuses (enough to last your entire career).
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As far as you're concerned, the greatest shot ever played could be the hosel-fade banked off the garbage can fifteen feet in front of the tee. Dare your playing partners to manufacture the same shot you just hit. Try as they might, they won't be able to. You have a shot that they can't hit. Remind them of this. Take pride. Rub it in and pat yourself on the back. You have talent.
Going eighteen for eighteen in tee-balls out of bounds to the right may not lead to victory, but it is a perfect record that indicates your tendencies without question or doubt. This is good. You know your game. You know your flight. Many people play golf their entire life and don't know where the ball is going. You're one up! Hallelujah! It's going right!
The ball washer can be a tough opponent for your cranium - but it won't kill you. True survivors (and golfing masochists) are encouraged and strengthened during times of trial because they know they are being tested and can overcome. You can be strong when your golf ball is weak.
Learning to overcome moments of shame and utter despair requires a special fortitude (and maybe a helmet). You must be willing to take the necessary mental positions that will allow you to conquer. Don't let mother-in-laws, ball-washers, or hosel-fades bring you down and defeat you! You have talent, strength, and numerous excuses at your side. Take hold, be strong, and remember: you've always got a full five minutes to search.
Andrew Penner is a 10-year member of the Canadian PGA. His upcoming golf humor book, titled "One Flew Over The Caddyshack," will be available this fall from Falcon Press.
December 10, 2008
Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. His work has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout North America and Europe. You can see more of his work at www.andrewpenner.com.
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