Seeing Red: The Anatomy of a Mediocre Golfer’s Mental Breakdown
I’m an average golfer. Some days I have a few pars and think I’m on the cusp of joining the PGA Tour while others have me playing with old range balls by the 10th hole. That’s average right?
Like any mediocre golfer knows, sometimes you get in a funk where it seems like throwing your clubs into a fire pit is the only solution. Usually it lasts a few shots, maybe a few holes. But every so often it spans an ENTIRE ROUND. That’s 4-5 hours of pure misery. It can cause even the strongest, most mentally stable person to contemplate tying a cinder block around their ankle and diving headfirst into the closest body of water. It’s hell. And last week I was sitting next to the devil himself.
This is my story.
The sun is shining and things are looking great outside. Sure it’s a little hot but who can complain with 85 degrees? Not me!
We arrive at the course a little early so we have time to hit a few balls. There’s four of us so we don’t have to worry about getting paired up with that lone guy who slows you down by walking the course because he “loves the exercise.”
You sir are no hero!
We head over to the tee box to start the round and even though I didn’t hit the ball particularly well at the range, I’m filled with optimism; like a teenager heading to his first dance. Maybe I’ll get a kiss! And like that idiot, it’s only a matter of hours before I’m in front of my mom wondering how it all went so wrong.
First shot is a beauty for the first 100 yards. Then it appears to come to a 4 way stop, remembers it left something at home and takes a sharp left. I’m not talking about a gradual, hooking left. An actual 90 degree angle. Not a good sign.
First hole is done and I’m putting an 8 on the board. Not a great score but the day is young.
I’d kill for an 8 later in the day.
My drive on the 2nd hole hits the ground six inches from the spot it is teed up and darts into the water. How does that even happen? I’m still not sure. Can Neil deGrasse Tyson get on the phone and fill me in? After looking to my playing partners for an explanation, all I can come up with is that this could be the longest day of my life. (Spoiler alert: It is!).
Help me Neil!
Just finished the 4th hole and I’m already wondering if I have enough balls to finish the round. Mind you, I’m splitting a brand new pack of 24 balls with my brother who hasn’t lost a single one yet. I figure that as long as I don’t lose more than 2 per hole for the rest of the day, I should be OK. On the other hand, if I lose 2 balls per hole the rest of the day I may get a one way ticket to North Korea; I hear their work camps are beautiful this time of year.
5th hole. Par 3. 147 yards.
Splash! Like Kevin Costner in Tin Cup, I calmly reach my hand back to my brother and ask for another ball. He throws me one. I lay it down, and swing again. Splash. So many thoughts are running through my head.
Why is there water there?
Are you allowed to throw the ball down the fairway instead of using a club?
Should I be watching CSI since my childhood crush Elisabeth Shue is the co-star?
But all I can do is stare blankly into the distance like a guy who just walked in the YMCA changing room for the first time after the 6am Senior Swim Session.
Some things you can’t unsee.
Just finished the 7th hole and my score card reads as follows.
8, 7, 8, *, 6, $, 8,000
Sometimes it’s better to give yourself a fictional $ sign than to actually count up all your strokes and realize that if your score was a person, it’d be able to do everything except rent a car.
Finally done with the front 9. Even though there isn’t really anybody in front of us we’re moving at a slow pace. Could it have to do with me hitting 10 shots every hole? Possibly…but I’m open to other explanations.
Sun+Selfie+Dozens of lost balls= Constipated Face 10 times out of 10.
Finally teeing off on 10. I contemplated staying at the bar and ripping shots but I figure I’d probably hook those left as well. Plus, I need some redemption!
Sticking with my driver even though it has failed me all day. Kind of like returning to the same pizza place that has given you food poisoning the day before. Maybe, Geno washed up today!
This means you Geno!
No thinking Mike, you can do this. Be loose!
Swing and a drive. It’s long and gliding right. It could be out of play but I’m secretly thrilled I made solid contact. Guess who’s back baby?!
The ball is nowhere to be found. It may have hit a tree or God may have sent an angel down to remove it from earth and put me one closer to death. Hey who am I to argue? It’s his plan!
My 5 iron almost goes flying from my hands on a swing. Likely from the pounds of SPF 30 I’ve applied every hour but hey, if being a pale skinned, lumpy bastard were easy everyone would do it!
I’d give anything to get blasted by lighting right now like my fellow paleface Powder.
I start to snap. After another terrible drive, I drop in the middle of the fairway because rules went out the window the moment I started playing with these knockoff Pinnacles (can you get lower than that?). My dad tells me to take my time. Holy shit pops, really? It’s like telling a baseball player who hasn’t gotten a hit in days that he’s due! Just in case you didn’t know, here are a few things you shouldn’t say to someone struggling on the golf course.
Keep your head down.
Hey thanks for the tip. Should I have a safe flight too? Out of my control man!
Take your time.
I could sit here for 2 hours and we both know my next shot is going to skip more times than Punky Brewster after hearing she’s been adopted by Henry Warnimont. (Nice timely reference Mike…Shut your face).
Hit another one.
I’ll hit another ball whenever I want. As Ivan Drago would say, I play for me…for meeeeee! (Getting closer to modern day with that reference but still a bit off…I know, I know).
When I was young I tried to replicate the Drago flat top haircut. Does that make me a commie? Possibly.
16th Hole. By some grace of God I’m putting for Par. Instead of playing the slight break from right to left, I decide to blast it with all my might right at the cup. Kind of like Happy Gilmore when he first gets on the green. But unlike Happy, I can’t drive the ball 350 yards. Although getting my hand ripped off by an alligator like Chubbs seems pretty appealing right now.
You lucky bastard Chubbs!
18th hole. Bam! A drive 225 yards right down the middle of the fairway. Holy shit! I’m back baby! No clue how or why it happened but it did. It’s almost like I was being punished for something I did in a past life and now I’m free. Let’s birdie this bad boy.
My second shot goes an estimated 17 yards. Woof sandwich.
Third shot and I’m in chipping range. I hit the ground about a foot behind the ball and almost break my wrist. I wish I did, then I wouldn’t have to golf for months and I’d get lots of Percocet. That’s a win-win!
I tap in for a score somewhere between a 7 and a 10. Round finished. Spirit broken.
Should I quit golf forever? Should I finally embrace that gut I’ve been harvesting for the past couple years and join a bowling league? Maybe weekly poker nights is more my speed?
I’m a broken man. My hands are calloused, I’m crashing after a diet of candy bars and gatorades, and I’m pasty from a year’s worth of sun tan lotion used in 4 and 1/2 hours.
But on the ride home a funny thing happens; all I can think about is that beautiful drive on 18. 225 yards, RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE.
Wanna play again on Monday? my dad asks. I pause only for a moment. Sure!
Back to Geno’s. Hopefully this time he washes his hands.