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Opinion & Analysis

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

Barney Adams: Why we play golf

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I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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Opinion & Analysis

By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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