The idea for this post first crystallized for me a couple of months ago. I was playing a casual round of golf at home and as we arrived at the tee of a 400-yard, uphill hole, I could see the beverage cart girl coming around the back of the green from left to right. Her big, green and white canopy would never have worked as camouflage.
I paused a couple of beats to see if she understood that her brilliant marquee was moving across my field of vision. Apparently not. She rounded the bend and began to come down the hill.
As I teed my ball up, I dawdled a bit to see if she was going to stop at some point, preferably out of reach of my driver. She didn’t. She kept coming…and coming. They don’t train them like they used to. All they’d have to do is get an assistant pro to take them to the driving range on their first day with an old cart windshield to demonstrate that you can’t trust your life to Plexiglas.
Finally she stopped on a flat section of the path…and well within range of my driver. A beacon of green and white seducing my attention.
So knowing how I was processing all of this, I decided to ignore her and focus with laser-like concentration on the left center of the fairway, my intended target in the first place.
But at the top, I was still afraid I would hit her, my “laser-like concentration” got diffused—destroyed, more like it—I instinctively began to pull out of the shot and my tee shot sailed straight over the top of her cart. She, of course, never knew. I, of course, was greatly relieved I hadn’t killed her.
This is why I fear hitting the cart girls. And why others fear hitting it into the hazard, out of bounds, into bunkers. When I was chasing the Champions Tour, it included hitting balls next to prodigious ball strikers.
So what do you do? You invite more of it until you no longer fear it or you remove the distraction. My mistake with the cart girl was that I hadn’t taken the time to do what I routinely do: wave her on down the cart path and out of consideration.
In the case of boundaries and hazards, I got the reps in on my swing so that when I aimed away from them, I knew the ball would go where I was aiming…or at least closer to where I was aiming. I still hit shots out of bound and into hazards, but it isn’t because I’m afraid of them.
In the case of bunkers, I spent hours in them. Even if you don’t come away with tour-quality capabilities, you’ll be way better than you were. I can count on one hand the number of players at my club who spent more than a couple dozen shots in the practice bunker. That’s nowhere near enough.
And in the case of prodigious players, keep putting yourself next to them. I learned this the hard way early on in my chase when God kept putting me next to this one intimidating guy on the range. It wasn’t anything he was doing; it was all me and my pitiful little ego. It was like he was chasing me! Finally, one Sunday morning in Sarasota, I looked up to see him coming towards me again. I just laughed. And relaxed.
And that was the end of it.
And it’s like that everywhere in life.