Now my friends and anyone who knows just a little bit about me know how much I love the game of golf. I didn't start playing until I was 13 years old or so, but I immediately fell in love with the game. I played as often as I could, and as high school rolled around, my friends and I all were going to try out for the golf team. Then came the big meltdown, Van de Velde esque in nature and shattering my confidence. In the final round of tryouts, I completely blew up and missed making the team. Let's just say I made a 13 on my first hole of the day and it only got slightly better as the round went on. That day haunted me for nearly a year and made me determined to work my tail off in order to make the team the next year. And I did just that. Now, I still had an erratic swing with a baseball grip on the club, and I didn't always know where the ball was going. But I had done it and was happy to be a part of the team.
I finally converted over to a conventional interlock grip going into my junior year, and my scores continued to go down as a result. I wasn't a mainstay in the starting lineup because we had a very good team, but I weazled my way into a few meets here and there, including one at Inverness where the greens were practically like trampolines. I shot 82 at a course in Glenview to qualify for Inverness, and it could have been about a 77 in my estimation if I had just held it together a little better. I shot 45-46-91 that day at Inverness. It was not great on paper, but I showed that I could at least make bogeys on a difficult course and hold my own in a pressure-packed situation.
The biggest meet of my life was my junior year in the sectional at St. Andrews in West Chicago. Our #1 Kevin Wittmeyer was out with mono, and there was one open slot in the lineup. It was between my brother and I for that final spot. Coach Martindale picked me and off I went to practice rounds and final to play in the meet with a chance at our team qualifying for state. I had the jitters on the range all morning. I just couldn't seem to shake the pressure knowing that three other players and a spotter would be watching my every move.
The first hole i played was #10, which I made bogey on and that was quite all right with me. From that point on, though, things took a turn for the worse as I accidently played the wrong ball on a par five, resulting in a two-stroke penalty to give me an 8. Then I made a 7 on a par 3, and I finished off my first nine by dunking three balls into the water and making a 10. Following that, I made an 8 on my 11th hole of the day. I righted the ship a little bit down the stretch, but the big numbers killed me. I didn't expect my score to count unless I played out of my mind that day, but the pressure clearly got to me.
My senior year was full of more improvement and I hit the ball more solidly than I had ever before. My distances on my irons were great (8-iron about 155-160 yds at the time), and I was hitting high, drawing 5-woods 250 yards on some occasions. Despite these accomplishments, it was hard for me to crack the lineup regularly because I couldn't consistently shoot 39 or 40 (9 holes), which would warrant me a spot in the lineup. Whenever I had the chance to make an impression, it'd always be a 42, 43, or 44 instead. While I did get some meet action, it was not significant and I did not play in the big meets either.
I say all this to show you how my early career in golf went. I will lay out more background in future posts, including how I came to start watching golf and how my passion for that is now unwavering. I will also talk about my play since graduating high schools, including some of the cooler courses I've played and how I've become a smarter player.
|Swinging the driver at a course in Arizona|