When I first started playing golf a few years back, I promised myself that I wouldn't become one of those crazy, wild-eyed hackers who threw clubs, spouted obscenities and sulked down the fairway after a poor shot.
Initially, it was easy. I'm not supposed to be good, I told myself. I'm supposed to hit all those bad shots. My mantra was: "I'm not good enough to get mad at my game."
And for the most part, I was a happy golfer. A drive that went 20 feet in front of the teebox was embarrassing, but I didn't get mad. Hitting into the water or woods never bothered me. Three- or even four-putting was OK by me. Airmailing a short chip shot over the green resulted in nothing more than a sarcastic smirk and a shake of my head.
I felt badly for my playing partners, to be sure. I hated that they had to suffer through such a round, but I never stewed. I never stormed off the green in anger. No temper tantrums for me.
I wasn't good enough to get mad at my game.
Oh, what a little improvement to your game will do.
Earlier this month, I played a couple of rounds that included triple-free golf. Always, I had scored at least one triple-bogey during a round. It was just a fact of life. Then, all of a sudden, I was hitting the ball better more often. Doubles and bogeys were even becoming fewer and farther between. Three pars in a row made me feel like Payne Stewart or Jack Nicklaus. I even had my first birdie on a par 5.
So, heading into the Carolina Pro-Am event sponsored by Oakley, I was getting excited. Maybe I can contribute a great deal. My handicap still was high, so if I can play well, knock down a few pars and maybe even a birdie, we might score well. Winning even crept into my head.
During a practice round for the event at Little River Golf and Resort in Carthage, I was hitting the ball so well. To be sure, I still wasn't a good golfer, but I was playing a lot better than I had three months ago.
I tripled the first hole after knocking my tee shot into the water. Then, a par on No. 2 and a par on No. 3, a 510-yard par 5 that's ranked as the fifth hardest hole on the course, put me on top of the world. For the round, 12 bogeys, three pars, two triples and a double en route to a 92, my second-best round ever in my life.
I was ready. I knew it. I was going to help my team and impress my buddy Bryan, a golf pro, who helps me with my game.
The one thing I forgot: I'm not good enough to get mad at my game.
For the first nine holes or so, I played like I did a year ago. Driving the ball off to the left into the woods; topping fairway shots and watching them go about 20 feet; chili dipping; hooking; slicing; hitting the big green ball before I hit the white ball.
And I got mad at myself. I can play better than this. What am I doing? Why am I hitting it so badly? All kinds of negative thoughts ran through my mind. I was sulking, pouting, not talking, grumbling. I was doing things that I had frequently criticized other golfers of doing.
Then, when Bryan asked me: "When are you going to get your head out of your butt?" I remembered, I'm not good enough to get mad at my game.
I apologized to my partners for my behavior. I started having fun again. And then, I started hitting the ball better.
My best shot came on No. 7, a short par 4 with water on the right. We had started on No. 13, so this was halfway through our back nine. It was our second shot on the hole, and we had about 175 yards to the hole. Everyone else was in the water with their approach shot, but I stuck a beautiful 3-hybrid right on the green.
I still wasn't good enough to get mad at my game, but I was good enough to sprinkle in some good shots with the bad - just like I'd always done. It's just now, those good shots are better and more often. I just need to remember that when - not if - I hit a bad shot, it's OK.
Bryan also reminded me that day that I have teammates. And thank goodness for that. Mark and Tyler were pretty good amateurs, and we used Mark's drive fairly often. Bryan, the pro in our group, finished in the Top 10 among professionals at the event. Our net score of 57 still wasn't good enough to win, but we sure had fun.
Except for having to deal with that clown stomping off the fairway after a bad shot. Oh wait, that was me.