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Opinion & Analysis

Golf is what you make of it

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By Jim Wilson

GolfWRX Contributor

It had been one of those weeks. Several bad calls, some equipment failures, a patient complaint, and a critical medication shortage had all led to my now wanting to get a round in; I needed to get a round in. Big difference. The weekend could not come soon enough.

By Friday afternoon I was already in play mode. A quick check of the weather and I proceeded to go online to make my tee time. I had already called my normal foursome and none of them were available but there was no way I was going to miss out. The weather was supposed to be incredible, the rates are low this time of year here in Florida, and I was determined to marathon it at least one of my two days off.

We’ve all been in this situation. You don’t like the idea of arriving at a course that is crowded alone but at the same time you need the time on the course. Sure, I could head to the range and hit a few which would be sort of relaxing. But it isn’t the same as actually playing. Nothing is.

I arrived at the course a little over an hour before my scheduled tee time. At the tender age of 51 there is no way I can just hit the first tee without stretching and warming up. I might be able to get away with doing it once but odds are I would pay for it afterward. So, after paying for my round and a large bucket of balls, I headed over to the range.

Approaching the range there is this indescribable anticipation. The outcome in golf depends on a lot of factors. Some we can control and many we cannot. For amateurs repeating a consistent swing is sort of like buying a lottery ticket. You just never what to expect from your swing. When I was younger I somehow convinced myself that when I got older I would somehow magically have a more consistent swing. Now that I am older I look enviously at the younger players who are limber enough to have a more consistent swing. But no matter, it is still golf afterall and even bad golf is better than no golf at all.

As I was warming up the starter came over and pointed to three other gentlemen who I would be joining. I recognized two of them and had played with them before. The other young man was not familiar to me. The three of them were already chatting it up and getting to know one-another and so I decided that I too should amble on over and make some introductions. As I walked toward them I could see that the younger man, whom I had never seen before, was playing with a bit of a unique swing centered on using his one remaining arm. He didn’t hit it far but he hit it straight. And most important he managed to make consistent contact.

I walked up and said hello to all three and we shook hands. Were it not for how Jack handled himself and accepted his injury this would have been a really awkward moment for both of us. I wear a glove on my left hand and, because Jack only had one hand – his right, I quickly worked to remove my glove to shake his. He smiled and said that I “could leave it on as long as it isn’t all wet.” It was this kind of outlook and temperament that really made this round a special one.

The starter called our group to the first and we were off. I had placed my stuff into the cart with Jack and he actually asked me to drive.

“I can’t signal for left turns, ya’ know,” he said.

The entire round Jack actually made all three of us feel comfortable about just being around him. We are all, afterall, guilty of sometimes looking away. The woman disfigured by burn injuries. The man in the wheelchair. The homeless man on the corner. It is sort of human nature to try to avoid making those who in our own measure are less fortunate feel uncomfortable. Which is the irony of this sort of situation because we probably are making them feel exactly as we don’t intend. Not that we do it out of malice but the act of looking away prevents us from staring and I guess that somehow we convince ourselves that looking away is the lesser of the evils.

But this day of golf with Jack was far different. As opposed to feeling a need to look away one could not help but watch in wonder as this man accepted the challenge of playing an extremely difficult game with a physical disability. Part of the wonder of it all was his incredible attitude. It did not matter if he ball went into a hazard. And it didn’t matter that we were outdriving him by 100 yards or more. All that mattered was that it was a beautiful day and we were playing golf.

Near the end of the back nine I finally had to ask Jack about his arm. Turns out it was something rare that caused the doctors to opt to amputate. A rare form of bone cancer had left them with little choice.

“It was my arm or my life, so no brainer,” he said. “I signed the forms and told them to take it.”

There was an irony in his signature; turns out he was left handed and that form was the last thing he ever signed with his arm before they removed it. As we were finishing up Jack tapped in a short par putt on the final hole. Perhaps this was the absolute perfect finish to this round because it so perfectly defines golf, life, and how Jack has managed to accept his new life.

Both life and golf offer no guarantees nor do they offer apologies. While there are times of elation and joy often both can be unexplainably cruel. The better moments may, at times, seem outnumbered by the dark times. The key lay in placing more emphasis on those better times in order to help to make it through the difficult ones. Jack has the art of living down to a tee. Literally and figuratively.

Click here for more discussion in the “Golf Talk” forum.

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Dick Audi

    Oct 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Awesome article. Jack has it absolutely correct. It is not about you shoot, but that you are shooting.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Podcasts

Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole

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