You are a golfer. I know you. You love the smell and taste of a golf course, the sight of the cart girl approaching on a hot day, the excitement of finding a brand new shiny ProV. But most of all you love the competition, even if you’re only competing with your buddies for a toonie or bragging rights for the week. The word compete is definitely in your blood. And since I know you so well I want you to go get a pen right now and add this to your bucket list: “I will play at least one golf tournament in my life.” (Charity tournaments do NOT count).
It does not matter if you are a 90’s shooter; there are real tournaments you can play which will allow you to experience all of the trepidation, self doubts and roller coaster ride the pros go through on a weekly basis. If nothing more the experience is guaranteed to heighten your appreciation for this maddening game. And you will surprise yourself at times making shots you didn’t think were possible. Leave behind the notion that you aren’t good enough or will make a fool of yourself. If you really love golf you owe it to yourself to play in a real bona fide tournament at least once.
Lets pretend you’ve heeded my advice (don’t blame me later) and have arrived at the course for your first official tournament. You head for the range and notice the players warming up are really good, no topped shots or banana slices going on here. This is when your first thought of ‘what have I done” enters your mind.
When you arrive at the starter’s tent ten minutes before your tee time and handed a yardage book and pin sheet your face grimaces with a confused look. Reading a yardage book thick with detailed drawings of hazards, elevations and green slopes can look like a topography student’s final exam. You glance at the pin sheet; five paces on, 12 paces from the left, you start to think “I can barely hit a green in regulation, do I really need this piece of sheet? Are my competitors this good?
When you are told that your playing partner will be keeping your score you wonder how you can gain favour, your summer cottage for a weekend, a date with your daughter? The moment of truth arrives as the starter tells your group to begin play. Your two opponents have just smacked it straight down the middle a mere 270 yards or so. You’ve never driven a ball over 230.
Now they call your name: “From Richmond Hill Ontario”…” Holy Shankster, my name is being called, and so loud, why are these people watching me? I want my mommy. Can I trade this moment for a skydive, bungee jump, or a public speaking gig in front of ten thousand? I hate the guy who wrote the article suggesting I enter this stupid…Please don’t top it.”
There’s a small detail that you would normally ignore when playing with your friends, one that you’ll have to think about, those would be called rules. Yup, that means no gimmees, playing every ball as it lies even in large divots, no grounding clubs in hazards. Yours truly learned a hard lesson by earning a two stroke penalty for taking practice swings in a red staked area, dummy! Where you will really notice nerves dancing around like tsunamis are on the greens where those little two foot putts feel like they weigh 300 pounds. Don’t make the mistake of picking your ball up from 6 inches, it’s happened with rookies.
I may sound grim, but you are going to hit some great shots which will surprise even you. The interesting thing about meaningful competition is how a bigger stage can affect the mind. Over thinking and trying too hard is a frequent occurrence at all levels of competition, and some resulting poor shots are going to happen. On the other hand your increased focus will produce many amazing shots.
There is one advantage to playing a charity event; a room filled with a lot of nice prizes. At a serious tournament you won’t find a table flowing with golf bags, iPads, or Muskoka resort weekends. Oh, there may be a driver or a few sleeves of balls, but if you win or place you will get a trophy and your name published somewhere, and what can top that? Perhaps it will lead to a teaching career in golf.
Following a stressful and fun day of tournament play you will feel a real sense of accomplishment. You’ll realize just how many good golfers there are and what kind of game you need to have a chance of winning. You’re appreciation for the game and its time honoured rules will grow. And your overall game will improve. As the line in the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played says, “There’s golf, and then there’s tournament golf.”
It’s an experience you need to try at least once.