HOWARD WARD: Turnaround Just In Time For My Game
It came just in time. My golf game was rotten. My attitude was worse. I had reached the point where I didn't want to go to the golf course and when I did, I couldn't wait to get off it.
The same game that had produced 21 birdies and an eagle in 10 rounds a few months ago was tearing my heart out. I couldn't hit a driver in the fairway. When I found the drive, I couldn't hit a green. When I finally got the ball on the green, I couldn't make a putt. Four putts were common. A couple of five-putt horrors kept me awake at night.
I was a beaten, demoralized hulk of humanity who was beginning to hate the game I had loved for so many years. I had to visit my doctor for a colonoscopy and it was more fun than the round of golf I had played the day before.
I volunteered to give blood one day just to keep from having to make my tee time. I played golf because I didn't know anything else to do. I was beginning to think I played because I was into heavy self-flagellation.
It got so bad that the Gates Four Gangsome that I love so dearly really didn't want to see me pull into the parking lot. They moved the tee time up from noon to 10 a.m. and forgot to tell me. They changed the days we played from Monday and Wednesday to Tuesday and Thursday and forgot to tell me. Once I learned about the changes, when I walked into the pro shop before teams were selected I could see the guys averting their eyes.
The Gangsome guys are nice people, but they were a lot like me: They had had enough. My game was beginning to wear on them, too.
It got so bad that when the team captains selected players, they flipped a coin to see which one would have to take me.
I was embarrassed. I was hurt. But I understood. If I had been a team captain I would have left the room before choosing me.
But I have been rescued. At least temporarily. And I owe old friend Jack O'Loughlin my gratitude.
Jack, obviously not aware that I was serving a life sentence in golf Hades, invited me to play in a Men's Guest tournament at the Country Club of North Carolina last Thursday.
I thought about it a long time before accepting the invitation. Jack must have thought I was an idiot. Jack might be right. Anyway, I kept putting him off. "I think I'm going to have to have knee replacement surgery that week," I told him.
But Jack is one stubborn cuss. He kept asking and I kept fidgeting and finally one day last week I said OK, I'll do it. I mean's it's hard to turn down a chance to play one of those great CCNC courses even when your game is in a shambles.
So there I was on Thursday morning, so desperate that I actually went to the driving range and hit some practice balls. I was shocked to learn that I had some semblance of a swing. I was swinging and the ball was going in the general direction of my aim. Big improvement.
Anyway, to make a short story of a saga, Jack and I were teamed with two great guys, Jim Jones (hold those Kool-Aid jokes), and John Ruggles. They showed me respect, never laughed at my backswing, and even said "nice shot," a couple of times.
For 18 glorious holes I felt as if I could halfway play again. I hit some fairways, hit some greens and even made a couple of nice putts. For the first time in weeks I actually hated to see a round come to the end.
So now I'm in a quandary. I can't wait to play again. Can't wait to prove to my Gangsome team captain that I'm a new man. Can't wait to send that first drive rocketing down the fairway. Can't wait to stand over a birdie putt one more time.
If only I can coerce someone into picking me for his team.
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