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A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: August

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As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine. Here you’ll find the seventh installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here. For March, click here. For April and May, click here. For June, click here. For July, click here. In advance of August, we apologize for the abundance of italics. Grace and Flip have a LOT to say to each other.

Flip: Johnny Farrell and Willie Macfarlane were the only two golfers to defeat Bobby Jones in playoffs for major championships. Both did it in the US Open, or Jones would have six medallions. Macfarlane did it in 1925, at the Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts. Farrell pulled it off at the Olympia Fields Country Club in Illinois. For each, it was his only major title.

                 Grace: Why should their names enter your head, on a night like this one?

I think about long shots, and impossible odds, and overcoming the improbable, and realize that those things apply to life and relationships, in addition to golf. Now it’s your turn. Is it all right if WHO comes and stays for a few weeks?

Nobody, really. His name is Ramón. He teaches high school and shoots golf courses. I don’t really remember how I know him, but we stay in touch. He would like to see the courses of this region, beginning with Klifzota. He has good stories, and catches angles with his camera. Now I remember where I met him. He took a photo of me at
Sleepy Hollow, along the Hudson. Just me 
and my caddy, walking toward the river.
Anyway, I can tell him “No” if you like.

No reason to do that. We have plenty of room here. He’ll find a lot of courses to shoot. I can connect him with some of the private ones, too. When do you expect him?

                    Next week. The second week of August. Just before he returns for the
                    beginning of the school year. Will that be all right?

Absolutely. I’ll ask the front desk to make the reservation.

To us, it was obvious that things between Grace nee Agnes and Flip nee cirE had progressed to a point of confused adoration. That there was a cosmic connection within the pair was undeniable; many had been similar connections, that failed to stand the test of time and humanity. which direction would theirs take?

Speaking of names …

                    Yes, I ought to touch on that, right?

Unless you plan to continue as Agnes, I’d agree.

The woman that you first knew as Agnes Porter, my grandmother, was Grace
Éimí Seáin the first. She came to America from the county of Meath, from where the river turns. It’s not as romantic as Donegal, nor as feisty as Sligo, nor as well-known as
Cork. She had a daughter, who had me. My mother disappeared, away with the mists of time. We don’t, well, I don’t talk much about her. We are no longer a we, now that my grandmother is away on those same mists.

I won’t lie. I love the name Grace, and I’m intimidated by diacritical marks.

Plain accent marks won’t do for you, I see. Diacritical marks, they are, then?

Anyone who might have caught a drip of the conversation, should have dismissed it as harmless banter. For the advancing couple, it was more. Flip had once heard a student discuss love languages, at a moment of extraordinary success during the language. He himself manipulated the term into life languages, and recognized music, words, physical movement, and quiet perception as four of them.

Flip played no instrument beyond harmonica; he had picked one up to have something to do, when the mood imposed itself. He wasn’t interested in composition, nor in collaboration. He liked that he could create musical sounds and continuities by simply inhaling and exhaling. He also liked that it was not unwieldy, nor did it demand the synchronization of mind, heart, and hands. The only act that Flip caused with those three elements, sent a small, white orb sailing high into the sky.

Grace did have some musical inclination. Her grandmother, Agnes the earlier, had introduced her to Ireland’s national symbol, along with the mandolin and the bodhrán. “On the under-surface, you need to be gentle, and the harp provides that. Beneath that, you need to be fierce, like the energy you use to strike the bodhrán. As for dexterity, that is what the world must see in you, and the mandolin offers all that you require.” And thus it went. Grace mastered each in her manner, enough that she could lay claim to the promises made by her grandmother. They helped to shape her form and her manner, and laid a foundation for expression. She learned the dances as well, but those were much more private, and she kept them to herself.

When she entered the corporate world, the lessons of her grandmother revealed their application. Movement across offices, factory floors, and board rooms made itself easier, thanks to the hops and lifts, and bended knees, that she learned in her jigs and reels. When solutions were needed, she quieted her mind with the harp’s echo. She conceived plans, backed by the mandolin’s agility. And when Grace needed to enforce a decision, she summoned the force of the bodhrán’s cipín.

On this evening, there was no audible music for Grace and Flip. The Strangers, the local band made up of spanglers, session players, and rhythm-carriers, had finished its second set a half-hour prior. What there was, came from the swollen creek, the emerging insects and night critters, and the percussion of tires and footsteps against the gravel roads of Klifzota. Together, they traversed fairways instilled with the early dew.

Grace would not return to her guest quarters, nor would Flip make the ascent to his home on the gentle hill. Together, they would find a place where hearts meets, beneath an August moon. They would begin a new day beneath an August sun, unsure of where this collaboration might lead, yet eager to risk its path.

Art by JaeB

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Personal golf workshop – What you need to start gripping clubs

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You can set up your own golf workshop for regripping for about $100. I go over what you need, starting off with space and a workbench. Then I break down the simple tools, around $100, that it takes to grip and regrip your own clubs. Pretty simple and a great way to get into golf club building and tinkering!

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Here is the name of our teaching method…

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You have to listen to this to find out!

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: A shot to a spot

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Over the past few years, golf has entered the statistical era, with the help of ShotLink, launch monitors, and “strokes gained.” As more and more data is analyzed, much is being written about which parts of the game are most important to scoring and winning out on tour.

It started out with “strokes gained-putting” as maybe the best indicator, but of late, we are reading more and more about ‘strokes gained-shotmaking’, which is the measure of a golfer’s ability to keep it in play and hit greens in regulation.
However, the statistics on strokes gained on tour are very different from the game most recreational golfers play. Realize that “out there”, all these guys are extraordinarily skilled in every aspect of the game, so what separates the winner from the “also-rans” in any given week drills down to a very few specific things. That is a far cry from the game you play week in and week out.

So, what about your game?

From my observation, for almost any recreational golfer, hitting 2-3 more greens per round does two things for you. 1) It gives you that many more birdie tries, and you’ll just have to make some of them. And 2) it takes that much heat off your scrambling. For the average golfer, a missed green leads to a bogey or worse more often than not. Very few recreational golfers can come close to an up-and-down percentage of anywhere near 50%, and most are around 20% at best. Think about that.

So, here’s one way to look at how you might be able to hit more greens in regulation. On the PGA Tour, greens-in-regulation percentage drops by almost half on shots from the rough over shots from the fairway. If that doesn’t hammer home the importance of hitting fairways, I don’t know what will.

Growing up in the era of persimmon drivers – which I’m sure many of you completely missed – the driver was for positioning the ball in the right part of the fairway for an approach shot, not for just blasting as far “that way” as possible. The top players of the era hit their drives to particular spots that allowed for the best approach to the green, and they didn’t let it “all out” all that often.

In his 1949 book “Power Golf” Ben Hogan, listed his ‘regular’ distance with a driver as 265, but his ‘maximum’ as 300. Who keeps 35 yards in reserve for only those times when you really need it?

So, here’s a little experiment for you the next time you can get out for a “practice nine” in the afternoon or early morning.

Each time you hit a drive in the rough, walk it out to the fairway and then back 10 to 15 yards. My bet is that you’ll find that the hole plays a bit easier, even though you have a longer club in your hands for your approach shot.

Then think about how much better you might score if you thought of each drive as a comfortably controlled shot to a spot, rather than just “hit it that way as far as I can.”

Just something to change the game a bit and keep it interesting.

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