We all did it.
We dreamed as kids of being a professional golfer and playing in all the big events, all over the world.
Sessions on the driving range included envisioning hitting that big drive past all the trouble and out into the fairway, way down there.
As we walked around the local muni, we imagined what it would be like to traverse Pebble Beach.
We announced before a 5-foot putt, “This is to win the U.S. Open!”
And now that I look back at that youthful exuberance and as I watch events like the Ryder Cup, I have one overwhelming thought:
Thank goodness I didn’t become a pro. It might have ruined it for me.
But that’s just me. Maybe you have the opposite perspective. Maybe it’s filled with regret for you. I realize that it all comes down to this:
Pressure or leisure?
Some people are thrill seekers, and our great game fits right in with their search for the perfect roller-coaster.
They can’t tee it up without “making it interesting.” They have to be playing for something, no matter whether it’s lunch, a few bucks or just bragging rights.
I’m in the other group. Leisure suits me. I’d rather not play for money – the challenge of the golf course is enough. I put enough pressure on myself to hit the right shot. The last thing I need is to cough up my own money or even take someone else’s after the round.
I’d rather just stroll around the golf course and take it all in. There is no better place to be in the universe, and I am very comfortable in that setting … until too much competition starts detracting from the experience.
I watch these pros, and I am amazed by what they can do under pressure. Can you imagine having to hit those shots with the whole world watching? If you think you could do that even one time, you’re still back in your childhood, dreaming.
The intensity of the Ryder Cup ratcheted it up that much more.
In a normal round, if I stand over a 3-footer, I know that it will hurt my score – nothing more – if I biff it. I won’t make every single one. That’s not golf. But the next hole is a new hole. Maybe I’ll birdie it.
Match play is a completely different animal, and that’s what makes it so fascinating. The loss of a hole, and the loss of momentum that goes with it, can be devastating in such a tough competition.
I don’t know how they even move the putter through the ball and execute the stroke, let alone make the putts. But maybe they’re much better putters in that scenario than they are in a practice round with friends.
And hitting the shots they had to hit at Whistling Straits? Oh my gosh. I’m an 8 handicap, and I would consider anything under 100 a good score on that track. My over/under for number of golf balls lost would be around six or seven, and my over/under for three-putts might be that high as well. Those greens … yikes.
I would love to play that course someday, just for the experience. I wouldn’t expect much. I would just admire the beauty, the challenge, the nearly 1,000 bunkers.
I would think back to my childhood visions and just laugh. Do this for a living? Are you kidding?
So go play some golf this month, no matter what your pressure preference. But, please, have fun. That’s what it’s all about for us mere mortals.
And if you’re a young player with the ability to play in the Ryder Cup someday, by all means get the right training, the right equipment and the right attitude.
But keep in mind that golf is for a lifetime, not a season. Don’t burn out. Develop a healthy respect and passion for the game, and then continue to develop it. It will never let you down.
In other words, learn how to play for leisure, too. That 5-footer won’t always be to win the U.S. Open.