To try or not to try

Twice in the past week or so, an email from the Minnesota Golf Association has landed in my inbox. Both have said essentially the same thing: The deadline is approaching for the Players Championship and the Mid-Players. And, by the way, the State Amateur deadline isn’t all that far away either.

I’d really like to fancy myself as a good golfer. I really would. But I’m not a good golfer. I’m an above average and I’ve pretty much come to grips with that. There are good number of days when I shoot in the 70s, a few days a summer when I’m around par, but there will also be some days when I have to work hard to break 90. There will also be a bunch of days when something is off, I can’t string together good shots and I end up making easy bogey after easy bogey and finish with 83 or so. It happens.

That’s why I don’t really know whether I should try to qualify for anything. I didn’t try to qualify for anything last year and it has been at least two years since I played in the Mid-Am. I kind of want to change that a little bit. I have tried to qualify for state events in the past and I always seem to be good enough to just not make it. I’ve missed a playoff by one on a few occasions. I’ve missed by two a bunch of times. So what to do?

I won’t try for the true Players. That is just way too difficult and the young kids are just too good. But I sometimes wonder if the Mid-Players is possible.

A year ago, shooting 77 at a couple of spots was enough to get in. Obviously, I don’t know what the weather was like those days, but that’s not impossible for me.

I will probably try for the State Am if for no other reason than that one of the qualifying sites is the course I grew up on. It would be an excuse to go home, see my grandma and play out there.

But if I have more rounds like I did on Monday night, I don’t like my chances of moving on. It has been a while since I had more doubles than birdies in a round, but I pulled that off after work. The good news, however, was that I did get a full 18 holes in after leaving the office.

Round 18 featured two doubles. On No. 8, I tried to play it smart and hit 3-wood off of the tee. Then I hooked it off the planet. On No. 14, I made a mess of the right greenside bunker for another double.

I did make a birdie on 12 after a good 3-wood off the tee, a hybrid just short (hole was downwind) and a good wedge to 5 feet or so.

The update:

April totals: 15 birdies, 8 doubles. (199 holes)
Season totals: 18 birdies, 14 doubles (250 holes).

Why do you have to be inconsiderate?

I was going to write about something else, but that changed Saturday afternoon when I went out to play.

As I have mentioned, I have a new place to play this season. Even though we have almost reached the end of April, I still very much feel like the new kid at school. I don’t really know anybody. Most of my rounds have been played late in the day and by myself. I played nine holes with a guy on my first day there and played with three other guys one Saturday afternoon. All of that is fine as some of it is on me as well.

But I’m not a big fan of rude. After the Saturday morning season-opening scramble was rained out, it got better as the day went along. I got out there about 4:30 for as many holes as I could play in three hours before having to get home for dinner and Hot Tub Time Machine.

I roll into the golf shop and am told I can follow a foursome that is playing an ’emergency nine.’ I walk up to the tee and there’s a single guy just walking off the first tee. Dudes in the cart go in for drinks and take their sweet time so I put my bag near the first tee, grab my putter and roll some putts.

If I’m those guys, I see a single who looks like he has an idea of how to play and ask him to go. But not these guys. It was as if I was invisible.

So I follow these guys around. I try not to be up on their backsides all the time so I take extra putts on greens after I finish, sometimes I chip some balls. But the gap between the single and the foursome I’m following grows and grows.

When I got to the fifth tee, the foursome is barely hitting their second shots on the par 5. The single, however is putting out on No. 6. He was on No. 8 before the foursome was on No. 6. Without question.

Why wouldn’t these guys just holler at me and tell me to go? I just don’t get it. I hope this isn’t the new reality because that wouldn’t have happened at the old place.

A recap of recent golf.

Round 15. Thursday night. 16 holes. Started on 10 because there was a high school girls meet on the front 9. Played very solid, finished 3-over. Finally hit it on a good line on No. 16 and made a birdie. That made up for snapping one into the water on 12 (bogey).

Round 16. Nine holes after work on Friday. Only played nine because it looked like it was going to pour at any moment. Made an awful double on No. 6. Had to punch out on my second shot after a horrible tee shot left. Hit my third shot onto the green, but then proceeded to three-slap for double. Did make a tap-in birdie on No. 2, which was way downwind and I hit the green in two with a 4-iron second shot.

Round 17. Nine holes late on Saturday after the rain quit. Nothing too exciting. Made two bogeys and seven pars for a routine 38.

Updated totals after 17 trips to the golf course:

April totals: 14 birdies, 6 doubles. (181 holes)
Season totals: 17 birdies, 12 doubles (232 holes).

Getting back into the swing

I would say that the downside of having a job is that sometimes it just gets in the way of your golf game. Last week was one of those times.

Between trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air at work and some stupid windy days, I went a week without touching a club or hitting a ball.

That isn’t a good thing.

I am a golfer that needs some reps, but I can burn out as well. Play too little and my game kind of goes south. Play every day for a long time and I lose focus. I have great respect for guys who can play only on the weekends and still play well. It just doesn’t work for me.

So the beginning of this week has been about getting back into it. Played 18 holes on Sunday with a couple of friends for Round 12. Other than the fact that I busted out shorts and exposed my pasty white legs to the sun for the first time, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement. I didn’t make a birdie and I didn’t make a double. I played the same ball all the way around. I actually got on a nice par stretch on the back nine, carding eight in a row before a bad drive on 18 led to a bogey for an inward 37 and a 77 total.

Round 13 was a surprise nine holes on Monday night. The weather was perfect and I went out on a whim after work. I walked directly to the 10th tee and zipped around the back nine in about 1:10. Made one birdie — No. 12 after a perfect driver and a good long hybrid left me just paces from the green in two. Hit a nice 53 degree chip up to 2 1/2 feet and rolled in the putt. Was in position for an even par back nine, but then I pumped my tee shot on 18 into the water. Did manage to save bogey from there.

Round 14 was 12 holes after work on Tuesday night. The round started well as I hit a good tee shot on No. 1 and then stuffed 9-iron to a foot for my only birdie of the night. After missing a very makable birdie putt on No. 6, I went bogey, bogey, bogey to finish the front nine. Then made bogey on 11. Wasn’t my best effort, but I have had far worse times on the golf course.

Updated totals after 14 trips to the golf course:
April totals: 12 birdies, 5 doubles. (147 holes)
Season totals: 15 birdies, 11 doubles (198 holes).

Five bad minutes

Sometimes a round of golf is easy. It is smooth sailing and effortless. Drives go down the middle, approach shots find the green and you don’t leave yourself with many difficult, knee-knocking putts.

Thats kind of how it was for a good chunk of my Sunday. There were a bunch of fairways hit, a bunch of GIRs and a scorecard filled primarily with pars.

And then the wheels fell off. On the 12th hole, I hit a find 3-wood off of the tee, but hit a crappy layup shot on the par 5. The good news was that I still had a decent shot at the green and thought I took advantage. It was an 8-iron out of the left rough that ended up about four feet for birdie.

Life was good.

But then I misread the putt or made a bad stroke at the ball. I’m not sure which and it is certainly possible that it was a little bit of both. Whatever the action, the reaction was a putt that didn’t come remotely close to finding the bottom of the hole. And while I’m not one who generally bitches about making par — I’m sure as hell not good enough to do that — this was a big missed opportunity.

I don’t have nearly the temper I did when I was a kid — yes, I once got my Wilson R-90 sand wedge with the brown metal shaft stuck up in a tree to the left of the old No. 6 green at Willmar GC — but there might have been a bit of smoke coming out of my ears as I walked to the No. 13 tee. I was bummed at the missed opportunity. If I’m going to finish this golf season with more birdies than doubles, I need to take advantage of the easy ones.

And 4 feet for birdie is an easy one.

So what happens? Yep, that bit of fire turned into a bit too aggressive swing. What happens then? I hook the tee ball. It hits the back side of the left fairway bunker and kicks straight into the lateral hazard. Not only do I have to take a drop, but the hole doesn’t allow me have a shot at the green from where I crossed the hazard line.

The play-by-play would read like this: Hook, drop, punch, wedge, putt, putt. Add it up and you get a bad double (not that there is such a thing as a good double).

All of that gets us to the updated totals after Round 11:

April totals: 10 birdies, 5 doubles. (108 holes)
Season totals: 13 birdies, 11 doubles (159 holes).

There will be no more golf until an after work sprint to play as many holes as possible on Thursday night. I’m working on tonight (Tuesday), have to cover the Timberwolves finale on Wednesday night. I’m going to the Twins on Friday night and covering on Saturday. I will be back on Sunday for another 18.

Masters in 3D

Thanks to a friend, I scored an invite to a Comcast event on Friday afternoon at Midland Hills CC. There was food and drink and good company, but the highlight was the television.

The folks at Comcast had two big 3D TVs set up and the Masters was playing. So I put on the goofy glasses and watched for a while.

The quick verdict is that it was cool, but not that practical. You could certainly see where guys where and there was good depth perception. In addition, you could really get a better sense of the changes in elevation on the golf course than on a HD screen.

There were a couple of cons: I kind of got a headache from watching it. It could have been from putting the 3D glasses over my glasses. Plus the pricetag is pretty large at this point.

It was certainly cool, but I’m not going to run out and immediately buy a 3D set.

Followed up the 3D viewing with 9 holes on Friday night and 18 more on Saturday afternoon. Friday was very solid. Saturday wasn’t as great, but I scored OK. I’m starting to get things figured out with this new driver. As long as I don’t try to swing too hard, it really goes straight.

I did make a nice birdie on Friday night on No. 4. I drove it just off of the left side of the fairway and ended up in a fairway bunker. Didn’t matter as I got it up and down.

On Saturday, I made a mess of No. 10, hooking a tee ball into the left water for a double. I did respond with a good 3 wood and hybrid on No. 12 to make birdie.

Here are the totals after rounds 9 and 10:

April totals: 10 birdies, 4 doubles. (90 holes)
Season totals: 13 birdies, 10 doubles (141 holes)

Good customer service. Or the shortest time I’ve ever had a driver

Everybody has a vice (or vices). Mine, without question, is drivers.

I am, simply put, not the longest driver of the golf ball. Technology has certainly helped, but I know I cast the club a little bit and don’t get as much clubhead speed as I could if I held the angle a little longer.

That’s pretty much why I am addicted to drivers. I want to be able to hit the ball further. When I drive the ball well – a decent length while keeping it in play – I generally score well. I have shorter clubs into greens, which leads to more GIRs, which leads to more birdie opportunities and easy pars, which also means that I make fewer mistakes/big numbers.

I like my TaylorMade Tour Burner that I picked up in ’08. It is probably the best driver I have ever had. But it really does require a pretty good swing to get the most out of it. When I hit it good, I end up with a nice drive that goes pretty well. When I miss the center of the face with a bad swing, it goes OK, but the direction is horrible. My goal was simply to find a driver that goes straighter without being a bunt driver.

My love for gear is part of the reason why I enjoy stopping in golf stores and just checking stuff out. And it is why I spent a little more time than I should on sites such as golfwrx.com and bombsquadgolf.com. I’m not one of these super hardcore gear guys who changes out shafts all the time, but I do like hearing stories of others about what is good and what is kind of meh.

Coming into this season, it was very clear that I wanted to try two specific drivers more than others: The Ping G15 and the Callaway FT-IZ. Both have the reputation of being forgiving while also getting the ball out there in good shape. With the G15 priced $100 less than the FT-IZ, I gave the Ping the first shot.

It didn’t last long. After picking up a 9 degree with the Aldila Serrano shaft option, I took the thing out to Burl on Monday night for a quick after work nine (previously discussed). After hitting two drives on No. 10 to attempt to get used to the club, I noticed a rattle in the head as I put the headcover back on.

Long story short, I played with the driver the rest of the nine, but there was clearly something loose in the head. Throw in the fact that I was hitting this thing left on a pretty regular basis and I hated the club.

On Tuesday, I called my guy Scott at the Plymouth Golf Galaxy where I bought the club. There was never a question that they weren’t going to take the club back. The question for me was what to get now?

I ended up going with the FT-IZ. I took it out for a spin on Tuesday night and early results were pretty good. Despite cold temps and a lot of wind, I kept the thing in play and there was some pop to it. It’s also really straight. I certainly can hit it crooked, but the results from an average swing are improved. I’m still trying to figure the thing out, but I like it thus far. I am, clearly, in the honeymoon stage.

Because of the less-than-great weather, I only played nine holes. Results weren’t bad. I made one double on No. 7 when I completely made a mess around the green. Bad chip, bad first putt, difficult second putt. I did respond by going 3W, 9i to a front pin on the next hole. Left myself with about 20 feet, but poured in the putt.

April totals: 8 birdies, 3 doubles. (63 holes)
Season totals: 11 birdies, 9 doubles (114 holes)

Hoping to have a more complete idea of what this driver can do by the end of the weekend.

Baseball vs. Golf

I do like baseball. I’m in a fantasy baseball league once again, but expect to finish squarely in the middle of the pack. I watch the Twins when they are on TV. And I got a pair of 20-game season tickets for the first year of Target Field.

The last part is significant because I’ve never been anything close to a season ticket holder of a pro team. Call it the transition from being a reporter to being a fan.

But where does all of this fit in with golf. As I type, I’m watching the Twins open their season at the Angels.

When I bought the 20-game pack, I did so with the idea that I would sell some tickets at face value to friends and co-workers.

Is it wrong that I let golf pretty much determine which games to keep and which to sell? But that’s pretty much the case. Why, after all, would I keep tickets to a day game on a Saturday or Sunday? Isn’t a 1 p.m. start pretty much the worst time? It’s tough to play golf before and make the game on time. And it’s tough to go to a game and then rush out to the course.

As a result, I kept primarily weekday night games and Friday and Saturday night games. I don’t think that makes me a bad person.

Because while I like my baseball, I do love my golf.

Two more rounds to update here:

Round 6: Post Easter golf. Didn’t quite finish but got 15 holes in at Burl Oaks. Hit a perfect drive on No. 4, hit a smooth little pitching wedge in to a front pin to about two feet. Three holes later, I made a total mess of No. 7. Hooked hybrid, a crappy chip over the green, a chip barely on and two putts = doubles.

Round 7: Nine holes after work. Very uneventful 37 on the back. Two bogeys and then made my first birdie on No. 18. Decent drive (more on that club tomorrow) and a good 8-iron to 5 feet. Poured it in for a good birdie.

April totals: 7 birdies, 2 doubles. (54 holes)
Season totals: 10 birdies, 8 doubles (105 holes)