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Senior golf blog: From the forward tees

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Something both strange and wonderful has happened to me in the last few years. I became a “super senior” golfer. This “super” thing has nothing to do with my golf game. I am decidedly and permanently average at best. “Super senior” reflects my age – somewhere past “almost old” and somewhere before “really old”.

I never really had an issue with being an almost old, senior golfer. After all, most of the tour players I identify with, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, and Tom Watson, were either already “Seniors” when I became a senior or followed along shortly. I loved watching them play on the Senior Tour. Heck, if it wasn’t for Tiger, I would probably rather have watched those guys play than the regular tour guys.

And as a senior golfer, I had an official reason for watching the fairer sex play. We all know that the LPGA tour is a better teaching clinic for seniors than the PGA Tour. The women’s game is more like ours (or like ours should be). No senior I know hits the ball 300 yards consistently in real life. We all ought to concentrate on our short games like the women do. Those are the money shots, aren’t they? And that the women are much more attractive than any of the PGA Tour types was pure coincidence.

There were also very practical reasons I liked becoming a senior golfer. Seniors qualified for senior discounts. It was a great feeling to play golf with guys who were “only” 54. They got this disgusted look when they saw me, a senior, paying 25 percent less than they did for the same round of golf.

But being a “super senior” is an entirely different story. Most of the perks of being a senior are used up before we become super seniors. The guys we followed on the Champions Tour aren’t much of a presence. When they do play a tournament, they are talked about in the same way that a Model T in the State Fair parade would be accorded. Everyone seems to think it’s amazing that Hale and the Toms can even chew their food much less play a competitive round of golf. And what’s worse, all the guys I play with now qualify for senior discounts.

So, is there nothing super about being a “super senior”? Or is it possible that the benefits or are the benefits of “super-seniorhood” there but are just not obvious. Maybe its time to ask the question, “If I have to be an old golfer, why not find the silver lining to “super-seniorhood?” And if there are not many “silver-linings”, maybe we can work on creating a few.

That’s what my blog is about – this state of golf life I am calling “super-seniorhood” how about just SSH for short?). Personally, I need to think and talk through this stage in my personal movement. I need to turn all of my “other world” skill set, being a multidisciplinary researcher, on the opportunities of SSH.

I also need to admit my limitations. If you are looking for help with your golf swing this is probably not the place for you.  I don’t know anything about swing theory except that if you have been playing golf for as long as I have, changing your swing is probably a bigger project than we can take on in a forum like this.

Well, what kinds of things will I be researching and discussing with you? For starters:

  • Is there golf equipment designed for “mature golfers” that I can make a day on the course more enjoyable?
  • What can I do to physically recover from a round of golf after I get home?
  • How do I deal with the mental side of SSH?
  • How do I play the betting games we have always played with guys who haven’t seen the physical drop off I experience? I hate continually begging strokes from the younger guys I regularly play with. Are there alternatives?
  • I was a walker all my golf life, partially because of the contact I felt with the natural world I found on the course. Now that I have to ride in a cart, how can I feel a part of the natural environment from the seat of a golf cart?

Unfortunately, these are the soft topics. To continue to enjoy the game, we will have to talk about some uncomfortable issues, as well. I imagine we will spend much more talking about arthritis, memory issues, and personal losses (read: death) than the “normal” golf blog.

SSH can be the most exciting stage in our golf lives. For most of us, we will have more time to enjoy golf as a SSH than we have ever had. We have more money. We have fewer distractions. There are wonderful developments in technology and healthcare that will keep us in the game for years to come. Let’s use these pages to share these wonderful years ahead of us.

Our golf life can look great from the forward tees but only if we face the challenges. Let’s talk about this interesting journey we have begun. I am looking forward to sharing the ride with you. Hit away!

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

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Besides being married to the same wonderful woman for more than 40 years, father to two great kids and grandfather to 2.5-plus more, I am a dedicated, life-long golfer. My life's work is being an associate professor of accountancy at a fine midwestern, Catholic university, Newman University in Wichita, Kan. In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I am the academic mentor for the Newman Jet's men's basketball and women's golf teams. Some of most joyful activities also involve writing and reading. GolfWRX has given me incredible opportunities to live out a fantasy that I could never have dreamed of. Because of GolfWRX, I am able to do both about golf, my favorite subject. For that, I give my thanks to Richard, Ryan, Zak and all my teammates at GolfWRX.

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Opinion & Analysis

Squares2Circles: Course strategy refined by a Ph.D.

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What do you get when you combine Division I-level golf talent, a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a passion for understanding how people process analytical information, and a knowledge of the psychology behind it? In short, you get Kevin Moore, but the long version of the story is much more interesting.

Kevin Moore attended the University of Akron on a golf scholarship from 2001-2005. Upon completing his tenure with the team, he found himself burned out on the game and promptly hung up his sticks. For a decade.

After completing his BS and MS degrees at the University of Akron, Kevin then went to Arizona State to pursue his Ph.D. Ultimately what drew him to the desert was the opportunity to research the psychology behind how people process analytical information. In his own words:

“My research in mathematics education is actually in the realm of student cognition (how students think and learn). From that, I’ve gained a deep understanding of developmental psychology in the mathematical world and also a general understanding of psychology as a whole; how our brains work, how we make decisions, and how we respond to results.”

In 2015, Kevin started to miss the game he loved. Now a professor of mathematics education at the University of Georgia, he dusted off his clubs and set a goal to play in USGA events. That’s when it all started to come together.

“I wanted to play some interesting courses for my satellite qualifiers and I wasn’t able to play practice rounds to be able to check them out in advance. So I modified a math program to let me do all the strategic planning ahead of time. I worked my way around the golf course, plotting out exactly how I wanted to hit  shot, and minimizing my expected score for each hole. I bundled that up into a report that I could study to prepare for the rounds.

“I’m not long enough to overpower a golf course, so I needed to find a way to make sure I was putting myself in the best positions possible to minimize my score. There might be a pin position on a certain green where purposely hitting an 8-iron to 25 feet is the best strategy for me. I’ll let the rest of the field take on that pin and make a mistake even if they’re only hitting wedge. I know that playing intelligently aggressive to the right spot is going to allow me to pick up fractions of strokes here and there.”

His plan worked, too. Kevin made it to the USGA Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club in September of 2018 using this preparation method for his events just three years after taking a decade off of golf. In case you missed the implied sentiment, that’s extremely impressive. When Kevin showed his reports to some friends that played on the Web.com Tour and the Mackenzie Tour, they were so impressed they asked him to think about generating them for other people. The first group he approached was the coaching staff at the University of Georgia, who promptly enlisted his services to assist their team with course strategy in the spring of 2019. That’s when Squares2Circles really started to get some traction.

At that point, UGA hadn’t had a team win in over two seasons. They also hadn’t had an individual winner in over one season and had missed out on Nationals the previous two seasons. In the spring of 2019, they had three team wins (including winning Regionals to advance to Nationals) and two individual wins (including Davis Thompson’s win at Regionals). Obviously, the credit ultimately belongs to the players on the team, but suffice it to say it appears as though Kevin’s involvement with the team was decidedly useful.

“One of the things we really focused in on was par 3 scoring. They finished 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the field as a team in their spring tournaments. Then at the SEC’s they struggled a bit and finished 6th in the field. At Regionals, they turned it around and finished 1st in the field with a score of +6 across 60 scores (186 total on 60 par 3’s, an average of 3.10).”

Sample Squares2Circles layout for the 18th hole at Muirfield Village. Advanced data redacted.

Kevin is available outside of his work with UGA and has been employed by other D-I teams (including his alma mater of Akron), Mackenzie Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and competitive juniors as well. Using his modified math program, he can generate generic course guides based on assumed shot dispersions, but having more specific Trackman data for the individual allows him to take things to a new level. This allows him to show the player exactly what their options are with their exact carry numbers and shot dispersions.

“Everything I do is ultimately based off of strokes gained data. I don’t reinvent the wheel there and I don’t use any real new statistics (at least not yet), but I see my role as interpreting that data. Let’s say a certain player is an average of -2.1 on strokes gained approach over the last 10 rounds. That says something about his game, but it doesn’t say if it’s strategy or execution. And it doesn’t help you come up with a practice plan either. I love to help players go deeper than just the raw data to help them understand why they’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where the good stuff is. Not just the data, but the story the data tells and the psychology behind it. How do we get ourselves in the right mindset to play golf and think through a round and commit to what we’re doing?”

“Even if you’re able to play practice rounds, this level of preparation turns those practice rounds into more of an experiment than a game plan session. You go into your practice round already knowing the golf course and already having a plan of attack. This allows you to use that practice round to test that game plan before the competition starts. You may decide to tweak a few things during your practice round based on course conditions or an elevation change here and there, but for the most part it’s like you’ve gained a free practice round. It allows you to be more comfortable and just let it fly a lot earlier.”

Kevin is in the process of building his website, but follow @squares2circles on Twitter for more information and insight.

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with Mike Yagley and Chad DeHart of Cobra Golf Innovation on Cobra Connect, new ways to evaluate good play, and the future of golf improvement.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Mondays Off: U.S. Open wrap-up | Steve plays against the new assistant pro

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Would Woodland have won the U.S. Open if he had to hit driver on the 18th hole? Knudson doesn’t think so. Steve loved the U.S. Open, but he didn’t really love the commentator crew. Also, Steve tees it up with the new second assistant pro at the club, how did he do?

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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