Among the surprises in the 2016 edition of my annual Club Championship Confessional, I learned a late-in-life lesson about lagging, experienced the electrical energy of a missed short putt, and renewed my relationship with Mr. Shank.
As your friendly neighbourhood performance coach and writer, I love Club Cs for the post-round stories of quads, yips, chilli dips and four-whacks. And the Club C is a great opportunity for learning—about myself and this infernal torment called golf—because it’s one of the few tournaments I play in each year.
Here are this year’s highlights from the three-day club championship at Blue Springs Golf Club in lovely Acton, Ontario this past weekend:
- The nervous energy of fellow Club C competitors is contagious. Most everyone is keyed up, tense and twitchy. I followed the advice of Howard Glassman, my Swing Thoughts co-host: I didn’t watch anyone’s swing or stroke. Just the ball. It doesn’t grimace, grunt or plead.
- When you have to putt everything out, triples and dreaded others happen. They are further proof that life is hard, and suffering is the portal to genuine personal growth.
- Bob Rotella says you should always “putt to make it.” Sorry Bob, but cozying it down there for a wee tap-in may seem cowardly and unmanly, but it’s much easier on the heart on fast greens with lots of slope.
- Similarly, this is the first year that I consciously hit a lot of shots—including approaches, pitches and chips—with no intention of trying to get as close as possible, but just to leave myself below the hole. And I made a crap load of pars on some tough holes.
- It seems that everyone misses at least one ridiculously short putt in the Club C as hearts palpitate and palms twitch. I started off the second round by missing a 14-inch par putt on No. 1. My body reacted as if someone had pumped me with 10,000 volts. Two doubles ensued.
- To keep or regain my cool, I used all my “tools” like breathing, walking meditation, looking into the trees and at the horizon, but when I get really rattled, it takes a couple of holes to settle down no matter what I do. (Note to self: play in more tournaments!)
- After working to eradicate an overly inside backswing over the winter and spring, I shanked a wedge on No. 3, leading to a triple in the first round. I think it was the second shank of the entire year. As discussed with Sean Casey, the ClubLink Academy’s Director of Instruction, our cursed swing faults can return under pressure because we don’t have the mental energy to consciously overpower unconscious habits.
- As for the scary and entertaining part of the Club C at Blue Springs GC… The 18th green at Blue Springs is like an amphitheater and a huge crowd gathers at the top to watch, needle and abuse everyone as they finish. After a good drive, I had a 7-iron for my approach and hit a shank about 50 yards—the worst shot of the day by a wide margin. I choked. There was no sound from the crowd. I hustled over to the ball and somehow put a smooth swing on a wedge and two putted for bogey.
- Despite what Johnny Miller might have you think, choking is not a bad thing. Honest. I choked. There. I wrote it twice. It doesn’t mean I’m weak or I need my Mommy. Choking means that I care, and that I just haven’t learned completely to be aware of what’s going on for me under self-imposed pressure. And that’s going to happen when I only play in a couple tournaments a year.
- Fittingly and not surprisingly, the Club C gross champion was Mike Alderman. Unlike me, Mike plays in lots of tournaments, including major events such as the Canadian Mid-Amateur and the like. He’s experienced tournament nerves many times; Mike has put in the work and the time, and he has reaped the reward for that effort. Congrats Mike.
- Mostly, I learned that a lot of my developing skills around mental performance are paying off nicely in my own game, but I must become more present to myself in all ways.
If you want to take your game to the next level, play in more tournaments like club championships. You can learn a lot and have a lot of fun. Scary fun, but fun.