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Confessions of an Aging Golfer

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I am baring my soul about what happens to my golf game as I mature.  I want to warn you, it is not all good and if you want to read a little upbeat inspirational guide to senior golf, don’t read on.  That said, golf is still great fun if not quite as pretty as it once was.

 

My confessions are about my Playing Skills, my Equipment and finally my Course Management.

 

Playing Skills.

 

Plan and simple, at some point in our lives all of our golf games will decline.   For the most part I think the decline for me was rather gradual and consistent, but there is a lot of evidence from the PGA Champions (Senior) Tour that something rather abruptly happens to us in our late 50s.  It is a rare occurrence when someone in their late 50s wins on that tour.  I also noticed a rather big change in my golf skill about this age.  There maybe some other milestone years that someone else will have to comment on, and I would like to hear from readers about these other milestone years so I will know what to expect.

 

Why would this happen in our late 50s?  I personally think that my ball striking skills diminish mostly from reduced flexibility, but I am sure that eye hand coordination, strength, balance, eyesight, and loss of muscle speed take their toll on our golf games.  I am sure that working on strength, flexibility, and balance help but don’t expect that you will turn back the clock.  I have been on a running and fitness kick the last few years, but my handicap does not know this as it keeps inching up.

 

In talking with Brent Norton, our manager of club-fitting at Miles of Golf, here are his observations on golfers 55-65 that he has worked with.  The vast majority of golfers that age swing 85-95 mph with their drivers.  Carrying the ball over 210 yards is not common and a drive of 230 yards is about it.  There are exceptions of course.  Two of the better senior amateurs (55 yrs. and up) in the country are from Michigan and have been tested on the Miles of Golf TrackMan monitor. Greg Reynolds who has won the USGA Senior Amateur and finished second another year and is in his early 60s can carry a drive 250 yards. The other, John Lindholm, carries his drives 225-230 yards with monotonous consistency.

 

Because I am distance challenged, I have to resist doing counterproductive things in attempting to hit it further.  Things like gripping it too tightly, extending my back swing beyond what my body rotation will support, and just plain trying to swing harder.  It is a classic example of the phenomenon of “the harder I try the worser I gets.”

 

A lot of my confessions relate to the fact that I started playing as a youngster.  If you on the other hand started golf late, you have the joy of getting better and this can go on for a long time as your skills improve.  I am envious of you.



 

Equipment.

 

If only the game were driving.  Ah, let’s talk about driving.  Since I have played the same course a lot for about 20 years, I can with some certainly say that my driving distance has changed less than my irons distance.  Unfortunately, I cannot take the credit.  The ball and driver have improved so much that there is definite evidence where here, indeed, “you can buy a game.”  The trajectory on drives with new balls and new drivers is so much more efficient today than even 7 or 8 years ago it scary.  The correct launch and spin on drives can neutralize a pretty significant decline in ball speed.  I can still hear the hissing sound of a well hit wound golf ball spinning like crazy as it fought its way through the air.  I like today’s jet-like sound much better.

 

There is help on the way for my irons.  Unfortunately, even with improvements in irons, this is where I see the most significant drop off in distance.  To help me with this problem, I seem to be on a hybrid a year program, every year I take out a club and replace it with a hybrid.  First I shelved my #3 iron, than #4, than my #5 wood, and last year the #5 iron departed never to be seen again.   I am not quite sure why hybrids work so much better than long irons as club head speed, and therefore ball speed, decline but they clearly do for me.  The ball goes much higher and carries much further than the irons I am replacing with the only downside being a slight loss in accuracy.   By making these changes in equipment, I am having unbelievably better success with the 160-190 yard range that I was pitiful trying to hit irons.

 

As time passes, I seem to be going for more forgiving irons.  I have noticed that my ball striking is less consistent.   I am guessing this is from poorer eye hand co-ordination.  The other thing more forgiving irons do for me is get the ball up higher which I seem to need.  There are irons sets in our golf shop that bill themselves as totally hybrid sets which means that every iron head is hollow.  Maybe someday, but not quite yet for me because I still seem to do better with more traditional short irons than these clubs.

 

Give me light ones that do not hurt.  The theory calls for lighter more flexible shafts than we used in the past.  I do play with lighter more flexible shafts than I did in the past but all shafts have become lighter over the last few years.  We get into some really deep discussions about the importance of shafts versus heads at our golf shop.  I tend to be more of a head guy.  Give me a club head I like and I can find several shafts that all seem to suit me fine.  The reverse does not work if I do not like a head.  That said, there are clearly some shafts that work better for me than other and it is worth experimenting to find the right ones.  I do play with graphite shafted woods and irons, but although graphite shafted iron are better for me, they are not all that much better.

 

And why can’t I play with a juiced golf ball?  I am still blown away at how good all golf balls are.  I could play with just about any ball on the market now and still be relatively happy.  At this point in my golfing life, I play a ball with a moderate spin rate and good short game feel.  Even though I am distance starved, I think it is foolish to get a ball that may go slightly further if it means I do not do as well around the green.  As times passes, I will probably need a ball that spins more, and don’t give me a chance to play with a good juiced golf ball because I will take it.

 

Although equipment cannot completely counteract the effects of time, I am convinced equipment changes, especially hybrids, have made the game more fun for me.

 

Course Management.

 

I consider the null option.  The first rule is should I play this course at all.  Some courses are just not that enjoyable if you cannot consistently fly the ball over a bunch of forced carries.  For me, if the course demands carries of 180 yards, count me out.  Courses with elevated greens and bunkers that do not lend themselves to the occasional run up shot are not favorites of mine.

 

Design my own course.  I make my own course by the tees I pick.  On a short par four, I want to be able to hit a short iron; on a long par four I want to hit something other than a 3 wood.  If I am playing with some big hitters, I want to be able to drive the ball to the same position on the fairway which means I need a head start.  Actually to be fair about it, my tee shot should be ahead of long hitters so I can hit the same iron they hit for their second shot. I don’t hesitate playing tees different from the rest of the group.  It is more fun for everyone if I do.

 

Just as the universe expands so have distances on golf courses.  Something I have been able to avoid but many of my friends have not involves club selection.  Too many of my old buddies can still remember the day when they once connected with a 7 irons that flew 175 yards.  These guys will hit shot after shot after shot short because they have not adjusted to the facts of life that they cannot hit the ball as far as they once did.  I am a big believer in laser range finders for many reasons, but one big reason is to truly understand how far you can carry the ball with each club.  Once you know this, get real.

 

 

My need for fuel at the end of a round has become apparent.  I do notice some physical and mental changes that I need to consider.  Where once I seemed to never tire when playing golf, I notice now that late in the game sometimes I do tire.  Another thing that has affected my game is poor concentration.  I used to have no problem being fully focused on my game for an entire round.  Now I find that I make mental mistakes and suffer from lapses of concentration I never experienced before.  The only thing that seems to help me to some extent is to eat or drink a high carb bit of something late in the round that can perk me up mentally and physically.

 

Older bodies are not intended to work in certain weather.  When we were younger, my very best golfing buddy used to say he can play in two out of these three conditions: cold, wind, and rain.  If all three occur, forget it.  I have had to modify this as I age.  Cold trumps everything, and if it is cold, I do not play, period.  I still can enjoy a round if it is windy or rainy, but when it is cold, my body refuses to move enough to enjoy playing. 

 

 

My mature nerves are an improvement over the old ones.  One very nice little positive thing that has happened to me is that controlling nervousness when playing is less of an issue.  Playing and especially competing can be nerve racking, but I seem to have a better perspective on this than I once did.  Clearly my expectations are different and maybe that has something to do with it.  Unfortunately, I do not think this is a universal phenomenon because I know of other golfers my age that nervousness has become more of an issue.

 

Everyone who plays golf must come to grips with the fact that inevitable their skills will diminish.  How you deal with it will be different from how I deal with it, but somehow things like this work out.  For me, I would not miss out on an opportunity to be with some good buddies on a golf course even if I just busted one 225 (including roll).

 

 

 




 

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Mizuno MP-20 SEL: Leftys rejoice!

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Hey you southpaws, I promise I didn’t just flip an image of an MP-20 to wind you up… This is a real deal!

Say hello to the Mizuno MP-20 SEL (Special Edition Lefty) made just for you.

So what makes these SEL’s special? You may remember from the MP-20 piece I referenced the “MP-20 family” and how Mizuno spent a lot of time analyzing set makeup data to fine-tune each club in each model to maximize performance from both an individual set perspective, and to combo. They took all of that data and flipped it on its head, or at least hand, to create a set combining the most requested clubs just for left-handed players.

The MP20 SEL is a combination of 5-PW MP20 (blades) with HMB 3, and 4-irons. All the flow, copper and tech from the right-handed models combined into one. Without getting too far into the logistic of this, it has to be said that unless you’re a maple-syrup drinking, hockey-playing Canuck (don’t worry its not an offensive term) where around 25 percent of golfers play left-handed the global golf population that plays left-handed is still below 10 percent.  Mizuno wants to do everything they can to offer an MP design for lefties, and as the data demonstrated, this was the best option to fit the most players.

For more information on the entire MP20 line up check out the full piece here: ( INSERT MP20 LINK ) 

 

 

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Morning 9: Nothing runs like a Frittelli | Royal Portrush takes center stage

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com; @benalberstadt on Instagram)

July 15, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1 Scottish Open: Wiesberger nabs second W of 2019
(Image above via Wiesberger on Instagram) EuropeanTour.com report…”Bernd Wiesberger…beat Benjamin Hebert in a twilight play-off at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.”
  • “The Austrian entered the final day at The Renaissance Club with a two shot lead but found himself trailing after Hebert carded a stunning closing 62 to set the target at 22 under.”
  • “Wiesberger had edged back ahead with two to play but bogeyed the 17th in a 69 before a par on the third play-off hole handed him a sixth European Tour title.”
2. Nothing runs like a Frittelli 
AP report…”While the rest of the leaders faltered, Dylan Frittelli surged to his first PGA Tour title.”
  • “Frittelli won the John Deere Classic on Sunday, closing with a 7-under 64 for a two-stroke victory over Russell Henley. The South African earned a spot next week in the British Open, finishing at 21-under 263 after the bogey-free final round at TPC Deere Run.”
  • “One of eight players within two strokes of the lead entering the lead, Frittelli was looking forward to the tournament’s charter flight to Royal Portrush.”
  • “I’m sure it’s going to be a fun flight,” Frittelli said.

Indeed. Full piece.

3. Goose is loose at Senior Players 
AP report on Goosen’s win at one of the low-key best venues for watching professional golf…”Retief Goosen birdied the final two holes to win the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on Sunday at Firestone Country Club for his first PGA Tour Champions title.”
  • “The 50-year-old Hall of Famer from South Africa broke a tie for the lead with a 15-foot putt on the par-4 17th and made a 10-footer on the par-4 18th for a 2-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over 65-year-old Jay Haas and Tim Petrovic.”
4. Kim outduels Thompson 
AP report…”I’m very happy to win, especially this tournament, because Marathon has a lot of history,” Kim said.
  • “With five birdies in the middle of her round, Kim pulled away from Lexi Thompson in their head-to-head duel at Highland Meadows Golf Club outside Toledo, Ohio.”
  • “She played some amazing golf,” Thompson said. “There was a stretch there, mid-round, where she stuck every shot.
  • “Had under 5 feet [for birdie] about four times in a row. So, it was a very well-deserved win by her.”
5. If only Tony Romo played playoff football as well as he does the American Century Championship…
(Kidding, Cowboys fans)
Golf Channel’s Adam Woodard…”Tony Romo is the man to beat in Lake Tahoe.”
  • “The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst has staked his claim as best celebrity golfer by defending his title at the 2019 American Century Championship, winning with a score of 71 points. Former MLB All-Star Mark Mulder (61) finished second, followed by tennis Olympic medalist Mardy Fish and another former MLB All-Star Derek Lowe (57). Actor Jack Wagner rounds out the top five with 55 points.”
6. *Points to Collin Morikawa* You get a tour card!
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”A week after Matthew Wolff earned his PGA Tour card by winning the 3M Open, Collin Morikawa locked up membership for next season.”
“The 22-year-old Cal product, in just his fifth pro start, tied for fourth Sunday at the John Deere Classic to collect 122.5 non-member FedExCup points and run his season total to 456.5. With just three weeks left in the regular season, that number, which currently would slot Morikawa at 88th, will assuredly be more than No. 125 in the final standings, meaning Morikawa can count on earning his card for the 2019-20 season.”
7. Portrush to center stage
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Much has changed since The Open last visited the coastal links of Royal Portrush. It’s been 68 years, in fact, since Max Faulkner scooped 300 pounds for winning the tournament despite never breaking 70. But that remains the only time the oldest major in golf was held somewhere other than England or Scotland.”
  • “That is, until this week. Long viewed as one of the best courses in the world, Royal Portrush now has a chance to shine in front of a global audience like never before.”
  • “And chances are, she’s going to put on quite a show.”
8. In a similar vein… 
James Corrigan at The Telegraph files his look ahead…
  • “Yet things change, as do politics, finance, perception and even dusty old men in blazers, and here we are in Open week. Everywhere you walked in Portrush on Saturday, with a big wheel spinning and looking down on families eating ice creams, and the brave dipping their toes in the grey ocean, it was clear that this was not a normal weekend. For, as the doors swing open, Tiger Woods is turning up on the Sunday morning and, no, that is not an everyday occurrence.”
  • “Perhaps Graeme McDowell summed it up best in a spectacular blog post on the European Tour website. “It’s been amazing to see the Open Championship evolve in the sleepy little town where I was born,” he said. “For anyone who has never been there, Portrush is on the very northern tip of the island of Ireland and is a very raw, beautiful, rugged landscape which feels very remote. To see an Open being staged there is mind-blowing for many of the local people.”
9. Fun yields win for Frittelli  
Good bit from Cameron Morfit going a level beyond the game story for PGATour.com…”It was mentality clarity,” Frittelli said, when asked to explain the difference at the Deere.
  • “With his attention divided and his career flagging, the 29-year-old with the prescription glasses found himself feeling stressed as this season wore on. His European Tour membership was running out, and he found himself in danger of losing his PGA TOUR card, too. That would mean going back to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where nothing is guaranteed except for the fact that it would preclude his playing in some big overseas events.”
  • “The clock was ticking, and Frittelli had to find a way to tune it out. Enter sports psychologist Jay Brunza, who helped Frittelli finally accept that he couldn’t affect outcomes, at least not positively, by obsessing over them. When he three-putted the 14th hole after driving the green Sunday, he not only forced himself to slow down and not overreact, he smiled.”
  • “I think I was the only one on the course who smiled after a three-putt,” he said.
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Tour Rundown runs toward Open with Frittelli, Kim, Goosen victories

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Something quite brilliant was in the air this week on the world’s golf tours. A new course debuted in Scotland, South Africa stood tall with two champions, and the world anticipated a return to a legendary, northern course that has not seen an Open Championship since 1951. The American tours are drawing to a close, and plans for 2019-2020 are firming up. Five events caught our attention this week, from Gullane to Toledo, from Iowa to Colorado. Plug in your charger and settle in for a nice read of this week’s Tour Rundown.

Scottish Open chalice rests in Wiesberger’s hands

Interesting stories envelope the Austrian golfer, Bernd Wiesberger. After a many-month layoff to rehab a wrist injury this season, 2 victories have come his way, including last week’s Scottish Open. The first 3 playoffs of his European Tour career all ended in defeat. In 2011, 2014 and 2015, he lost in extra holes at the Johnnie Walker, the Lyoness, and the Irish Open. Since then, he’s 2-0 in extra time. During the days leading into the 2016 and 2018 Ryder Cups, the 6-time Euro champ always seemed on the edge of breaking through to the European squad, but tailed off in the stretch run. On Sunday, under great pressure, he broke through for his finest triumph to date.

Soft ground and zero wind made The Renaissance Club an easy target during its championship debut. Wiesberger took advantage in round two, posting a course-record 61 to seize the lead. He held the top spot after 54 holes, placing all pressure squarely on his shoulders as round 4 began. It didn’t help that England’s Andrew Johnston had signed for a 62 before the Austrian pegged his opening tee shot. It also didn’t help that Benjamin Hebert of France was in the midst of his own 62, climbing the leaderboard. Ultimately, the duo of Wiesberger and Hebert would trade counters through the closing holes. After the Austrian holed a gutty, 7-feet effort at the last for a spot in the playoff, Hebert’s sound game betrayed him. He bogeyed the 2nd playoff hole, when par would have won, then 3-putted the 3rd go-round to finish 2nd.

As consolation, Hebert, Johnston and Italy’s Nino Bertasio earned the final 3 spots in this week’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

@ScottishOpen     @EuropeanTour     @Renaissancegc     @BWiesberger

John Deere Classic is Frittelli’s 1st PGA Tour victory

The 3rd weekend of July redefined the careers of its tournament winners. Dylan Frtitelli has long been a quality golfer, since before his days at the University of Texas. Frittelli found himself uncertain of his status for the 2019-2020 campaign. His major-tour memberships were at risk, and a return to the triple-A tours was not his number-one comfort blanket. Everything changed on Sunday, in the middle of the American continent, when Frittelli surged past 3rd-round leader Andrew Landry with 64. As Landry fell to 3rd spot, Frittelli reached 21-under par. His work wasn’t finished, however. After a 4-under opening nine in round 4, the kind that gets you into the top 10, Russell Henley continued to make birdies. He made 6 more coming home, including a marvelous one at the final hole. Henley reached 19-under, claiming 2nd spot for himself. Frittelli didn’t falter. He made 4 at the par-5 17th, one of the few holes Henley failed to birdie in his march to the green. Ultimately, the win was vindication, security, and an unexpected trip to Royal Portrush for this week’s Open Championship. Breathe easy, Dylan.

@JDCLASSIC     @PGATOUR     @TPCDeereRun     @Dylan_Frittelli

Sei Young Kim takes 2nd win of LPGA season at Marathon Classic

Sei Young Kim offered an LPGA marketing tutorial on how to pronounce her name (So Young!) a season or two ago. On Sunday, the 26-year old Korean golfer earned her 9th LPGA title by 2 strokes, over Lexi Thompson of the USA. Kim made 7 birdies over her first 15 holes, establishing a healthy lead as the tournament headed for home. Bogey at the 16th reduced her margin of victory to 2, but also served to secure trivia on the week: Kim’s scorecard’s were 64, 65, 66 and 67. A hand that would do some damage at the card table, also worked well at the Toledo LPGA stop. Thompson nor anyone else ever threatened the front-runner on day four. Thompson had too many bogies (2) and not enough birdies (also 2) on the outward nine, to mount an early challenge. 3 more birdies plus 1 additional bogey through the 16th, brought her even with Stacy Lewis for 2nd spot. Thompson closed fiercely, with birdie at 17 and eagle at the last. Her torrid finish made the final score appear closer than actuality. In truth, it was the Sei Young show all day long, a fitting tribute to a stellar performance.

@MarathonLPGA     @LPGA     @HMGCgrounds     @SY_KIM_lpga

Colorado Championship earns Ledesma a ticket to the show in 2019-2020

Argentina’s Nelson Ledesma had won on this level before. He triumphed at the LECOM in 2019, but that victory was not enough to propel him to the PGA Tour. In a campaign highlighted by higher, more consistent finishes, Ledesma’s victory on Sunday was enough to earn him a card on the golf world’s grandest dance stage. The walk home wasn’t easy on Sunday. Ledesma dueled with fellow southern-hemisphere golfer Brett Coletta the entire round. Ledesma went -1 on each of his 9s, but they could have differed more. On the outward half, the Platense was all over the place: 4 birdies, 1 bogey, 1 double. On the inward half, all pars until the last. Coletta might look back on Sunday and wonder, what went wrong on the par 5 holes. He doubled the first, bogeyed the 5th, and failed to birdie the 13th and 15th. A late birdie at 17 tied him with Ledesma, setting the stage for the 20-feet birdie putt that would settle the matter and send the champion to new heights.

@TPCColorado     @KornFerryTour     @TPCColoradoChampionship     @nelsonledesmaok

Senior Players Championship is Goosen’s 1st on senior circuit

There was a time, in the early 2000s, when a lead in Goosen’s hands was nearly as secure as a Tiger one. Then came the US Open of 2005, when his final-round lead simply went far, far away. Since those days, family, injuries and new challengers brought him back to the pack. Goosen won 4 more events on the European tour, never again on the US side of the water, until Sunday. Having followed Friday’s 62 with a Saturday 75, the South African found himself in 2nd spot, behind the 2019 story of the year, Scott Parel. This time, it was Goosen who hung on and the leader, that faltered.

Parel came out of the gate limping. He was plus-two through 14 holes in round four. Needing to make something happen to put pressure on his playing partner, Parel birdied the 14th and 17th holes. Unfortunately for him, sandwiched in between were another bogey and a double. He fell to a tie for 4th spot, 4 behind Goosen. In other groupings, Tim Petrovic and Jay Haas were making noise. Each closed to within 2 of Goosen, but neither had the firepower to gain any more ground. The pair tied for 2nd at 4-under par. As for Goosen, it was anything but steady or consistent. He had an eagle and 4 birdies on the day, including chirps at the final two holes, to seal the deal. He also had 2 bogies, along with a double at the 11th. It seems that excitement and thrills are part of the new normal for the formerly-unwavering champion. As long as the recipe results in victories, he’ll certainly cook something up.

@ChampionsTour     @SeniorPlayers     @BridgestoneGolf    

 

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