How scoring an “eagle” can wreck your golf Round…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Uncategorized

The Sherpa was not always aware of the affect that adrenaline has on sports performance.  Most assume that a little adrenaline would improve physical abilities.  This was certainly true of our ancestors who were avoiding becoming a meal for the neighborhood Saber Toothed Tiger.  The same dear reader is definitely not true in golf.

Alas my adrenaline lesson came several years ago, on the same day that I achieved a golf milestone.

Yes dear reader…on the same day I made my first eagle…it taught me a very difficult insight about myself.

The day was beautiful, by any standard.  The Sherpa was playing golf with his best friend in Vegas.  For years we made the annual trip to play golf, bet on the superbowl and ate way too much red meat. 

By this point, I had never beaten my buddy in a heads up round, and with too much pride on the line, the Sherpa had never asked for strokes.  Instead, I just gave my buddy about 18 bucks every time we played.

Today was gonna be different…

Let me give you some world-famous Sherpa context. 

This is my best friend I am playing with.  If he needs a place to stay or money to pay a bill, I am the “go to Sherpa”.  But I want to crush his skull after he has beaten me out of so much cash.  Odd isn’t it? How you can feel so much kindness for someone, but want to rip their heart out for a $2 carryover skin?  Anyway…I digress.

What my buddy doesn’t know is that the Sherpa has been practicing quite a bit and is looking for some payback.

Terrible golf mind…indeed.  But you get it don’t you?

We agree to play our standard bet:  1$ skins, ties carryover and ties on the 18th hole are settled on the nearby putting green.

I start off strong and am playing “lights out” (for my handicap at the time) and my buddy is having to really lean on his short game to keep up.  He is not long off the tee but can really make the ball “go in the hole”  from anywhere..even from the junk.  He is kind of like Chi Chi Rodriguez without the accent or cool hat.

We are now even for the day and currently on a three hole carrover going into number 14…a long par 5.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the bet, this means simply that we are tied on money so far and have tied the last three holes.  The competitor who wins this hole (#14)  could win 4 holes total. 

The Sherpa with better length off the tee is licking his chops.  “Oh baby”, I think to myself, ” if I can just make my normal swing, I could really have an advantage here.”

In a very proud moment, I was able to pick out a target, swing smoothly and (just as I made impact) a swirl of warm desert air, as if sent by the beating of a thousand angel wings, carries my ball into the next county….crazy long.

My buddy who was unfazed, because my length had provided little advantage over his uncanny short game, stepped up and hit his stock lazy banana slice into the middle of the fairway.

Special note:  Walking the mile past his ball to get to mine, I admit dear readers…was still pretty darned satisfying.

His next shot is a pretty good layup to his magic number of 100 yards.  To add insult to injury he is deadly from the “hundo” because of the 54 degree wedge that… I GAVE HIM (clearly in a moment of pure insanity).

Again, I gathered my nerves, looked at exactly where I wanted the shot to go and put it 14 feet below the hole. 

Now my nerves are jangling like tin cans in the back of my grandfather’s beat up old Chevy pickup truck.  I cannot believe that I am grabbing my putter after two shots…this is the most amazing feeling.  Even my buddy is now looking at me and obviously wondering to himself…”does he have the stones to hit this putt?”

Every tip…every article I have ever read about putting starts to fill my head like a chorus of violins being played with rusty saw blades.  It is a mess between the Sherpa’s ears and I can’t turn it off. 

My buddy stripes one about 8 feet and..it..is..on.

Now he thinks his birdie putt is going to rattle me and…well..of course it does.

No matter.  The Sherpa uses the time wisely as we approach the green.  Feverishly I try to get myself under control and manage to remember, thankfully, that a two putt is a push and the easy par three is coming up.

With that thought, I get into my routine, set up my ball and prepare to make the stroke.

Some things you never forget…your first bike…your first kiss…your first grade teacher.  I will never forget how that ball looked as it left the putter.

I hit it dead solid in the middle of the putter and it tracked like a frozen rope right at the hole.  Time is now standing still and after what seemed like an hour…

It goes in!

Some celebrations are as memorable as the achievements themselves… I would probably classify this one as the “mother of all celebrations”.  Obnoxious, loud, overly proud and downright comical is how I would detail it.  Adrenaline was running out of every pore and I felt like I could eat steel and spit out nails.

Then I had to play again…Uh Oh!

The Sherpa’s buddy was much more clever than I had given him credit for.  He had already learned the adrenaline lesson and in retrospect, I believe his knowledge drove him to fuel my frenzied celebration, knowing that I would be too hopped up to hit shots for the rest of the round.

He was right…the Sherpa couldn’t steer the cart much less control his swing.

Unaware of the trap that had been set, I strutted up to the tee on number 15 (a cute little par 3 with a water carry about 150 yards out).

Now he is calling the Sherpa, “the Lone Eagle, Eagle Man, Mr. Eagle”, anything to keep my blood coursing.  The Sherpa is eating this up and loving it…

Now comes the shot. 

Warning for those of you with weak constitutions, please skip this next part.

I am over the ball, have no idea where the flag is, thinking about how cool that last putt was and how this must be killing my buddy. I crushed him and I am so much more clever than he is. 

In short…I stopped playing golf.

The adrenaline soaked swing I made that day would blind onlookers, make children cry and force some people to avoid direct eye contact with forever, had they witnessed it.

The outcome was so bad that I still have no idea where that poor ball went, but I am sure it was hiding to avoid being seen with the Sherpa…ever again.

When one is in this state of mind, the badness tends to take on a life of its own.  When the carnage was over and I began to come out of the fog, I became aware that it had taken 8 strokes to finish that par 3.

The subsequent shell shock made it easy for my buddy to win the remaining holes and break even after the Sherpa’s glorious eagle and subsequet spastic rain dance.

I still care deeply about my buddy and admit that I am very glad that he was with me when I traversed this critical crucible of golf awareness.

Bottom line:  In golf, adrenaline kills.  If you hit a great shot, celebrate.  Just don’t  lead a Mardi Gras parade..unless it is the last shot of the day.  If you stop playing golf…you lose.

 

Play on…

The Sherpa

The day Dr. Jimmy scored his hole in one he gave me a Gift…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game, Uncategorized

The Sherpa has made many friends through the game of golf.  Some have taken more than they have given, some balance out and sometimes, even without knowing it, they give you a gift eternal.

Dr. Jimmy is one of those special people.

The story begins with Dr. Jimmy.  A patriot, who has served our country for over 20 years as a doctor, soldier and dispenser of laughter (ad nauseum).  He is a crazy cajun who will just as easily regale you with a quick joke as go into “Doctor mode” and advise you when he thinks you are being unwise about your health.  Both actions emanate from the same geniune heart and decency.

The Sherpa, as a rule, likes to surround himself with people like this because you never know…if I get hurt on the golf course, I will want to make it to the hospital with a pulse intact, but I want to hear a good joke in the ambulance.  Aside from these obvious benefits, Dr. Jimmy has learned to have fun no matter what happens on the golf course.

As reformed angry golfers, we typically theme our golf around how much fun we can possibly squeeze into 18 holes and score well if we happen to be playing well.  If he is on a roll, I will try to fuel his confidence and vice versa.

We have used this concept to win about 60% of the scrambles we enter and we don’t intend to change strategy ever. 

So what was this great gift that Dr. Jimmy gave me?  I will give you a hint…he did it while making the coolest eagle I have ever witnessed.

It was a chilly morning and we were the first group off on a very long and challenging course.  Known for its formidable difficulty, the day’s test would also include very undulating and speedy greens.

We both started off well enough, but Dr. Jimmy started to struggle a bit.  He is too tough to admit it, but his back was giving him trouble.  It was affecting his swing and so we talked about everything but his swing (as good golf buddies do).

Soldiering on, Dr. Jimmy announced he was going to have a great day anyway to which I replied, “if it’s not fun, it’s work that just cost us 60 bucks a piece”.  We both laughed, and he told me a funny joke about getting old that went something like..”you know you are getting old when you get a compliment on your alligator shoes…and you are barefoot at the time”.

When the laughter died down, Dr. Jimmy said. “You know, this is a great morning, we are playing golf, nothing else to do except hit shots”.  To which I replied, “you couldn’t be more right”.  As we neared the next hole (a long and difficult Par 3) I said, “get up there and hit a good one Jimmy”.

In typical fashion, Dr. Jimmy, with a sore back and ailing scorecard, bounds out of the cart, and with a fresh perspective, trots right up to the tee box.  Now I’m thinking, “how cool is that?  He is hurting, his score sucks and he is like a 2 year old at Christmas”.  “Go man!  This is why I want to play golf with you!”, I yell inside my head.

Little did I know what was going to happen next…except that my buddy was going to give it his level best.

As I got out of the cart, I could no longer see Jimmy because he was on an elevated tee box above my eyeline.  The Sherpa knows his swing and the sound his swing makes when he hits it flush.  The sound I heard next was like a rocket followed by the familiar sweet song of a ball making a turbulent whoosh as it breaks though uniform air on its way to the flag.

“Sounded really solid Jimmy”, I said as I looked up to track the ball in flight.  As it gently moved toward the flag I remember saying “man that is a good shot”.  Then, “man Jimmy, that is really good”. Finally yelling, “GET IN THERE” a millisecond before it disappeard from site into the holiest of golf grails.  “HOLE IN ONE”, I yelled and nearly fainted from joy and surprise.

Even now, in the telling of this story, I can relive the goosebumps and joy I felt for my dear friend on such a momentus achievement.

Later as I reflected on the day (literally hundreds of times) I began to realize that the event turned out to signify more than just a cool shot that my buddy made that morning.

Dr. Jimmy had indeed given the Sherpa a gift…..

He reminded me that no matter what has happened in the past, no matter your current condition, you always have another swing.  If you approach each shot with energy, curiosity and a belief that anything is possible…you MAKE anything possible.

Thanks Jimmy…

Play on…

The Sherpa