Monday, February 2, 2009

Putters Anonymous

I've got something to confess. I've been going to some meetings lately. They open something like this. A group of us sit around and the facilitator, usually a card carrying pro, asks, "Does anyone want to share?" After the obligatory uncomfortable moment of silence passes some poor soul will eventually get up, go to the front of the room and say…

"Hi, my name's X and I'm a lousy putter."

The rest of the crowd responds in unison with "Hi X!"

Yes, you guessed it. I've been attending the bimonthly Putters Anonymous meetings downtown. I'm not going to divulge the locations or times of the meetings because the participants who attend want to remain, well, anonymous.

One nameless person's litany of woe went like this last week.

"There's nothing worse in random draw doubles than not being able to hit a putt in an 18 hole round. Well, last week that was yours truly. My partner had been carrying me for so long that his shoulders needed a brace just to hold me up. I walked up to the next putt. An ominous basket loomed formidably in my way, not as my objective, but as my nemesis. It was a twenty-footer. I might as well tell you, the way I was feeling it wouldn't have made any difference if it were five feet or two hundred feet. I looked at the basket, lined it up and let fly. That's when the nightmare continued. The putter left my hand and did some really crazy things on its own, landing farther away from the pin than our original lie. The closest it came to metal was sitting in my car on the way to the park. The other team said something like NICE UP and that was that. My partner stepped up and drained it. I'm desperate. I need help, please!"

That was when someone in the group asked him what step he was at in the 12-step process. It turned out he was still in step 1, sleeping with his putter. He had been there for three weeks now and wasn't even close to moving to step 2, praising his putter. Step 3, lining up the two-foot putt, seemed like an inaccessible quantum leap for him at the time. He was in complete despair.

I felt for him. We've all been there, the infamous putting slump. It's a terrible place to be. What I've learned at these meetings is that putting is mostly mental. I even found out that ball golf (you know, that other golf game) has an official name for this affliction. Some of the top touring pros on the PGA circuit suffer from it at some point in their careers. It's called the Yips and it's been studied and talked about for years. There was even an article in the Wall Street Journal about it. No one really knows what causes it. Putts that have been falling consistently suddenly develop a mind of their own and don't fall.

The meetings have also taught me that you have to stay out of your own way. When it happens don't reinforce those negative feelings. When you step up for the next putt, if something doesn't feel right or you have those negative thoughts going through your head, walk away, take a deep breath, relax, step up again, clear your head and remember, YOU LOVE TO PUTT. By the way, achieving this mindset (the YOU LOVE TO PUTT mindset, even if you 4 putted the hole before) is step 12.

Having said that you also have to practice. Above all, the way to know you can do it is to have done it numerous times before. How else can you get that secure sensation besides practice? So go out and have fun practicing and if all else fails come see me. I'll discreetly pass you the time and location of our next meeting, but you can't tell anyone else whom you see there. It’s anonymous.


Anonymous said...

I like it! Stevie-Ray

T. T. Douglas said...

Thank you.