Last Wednesday I was distraught to wake up to see yet more snow had fallen. It was a final kick in the proverbials at the end of what has been a most trying winter in terms of both golfing and simply existing.
The key reason I was so perturbed about this particular precipitation was that Saturday was to be the first Medal of the year at Banchory. As the blizzard raged through Wednesday afternoon and the depth of covering increased, the chances of that competition going ahead looked remote.
For the last couple of months the year’s first Medal has been a distant, faintly flickering, beacon. As we dealt with heating crises, cars being stolen, burst pipes, broken washing machines, flooding… the thought of 18-holes in spring-like conditions off the white tees was just enough to stop me doing a Captain Oates – Opening the back door, stepping out into the snow and shouting to Jessie (wife,) “I’m just taking the dog for a walk, I may be some time.”
So, I was delighted and astonished by the speed at which this final snowfall retreated. Not only were we able to play on Saturday but the course was even open on Friday afternoon for a cheeky practice round.
In that practice game my form was remarkably good – I was round in level par without doing anything spectacular. So I was fairly confident of producing something reasonable in the Medal.
After I’d snap hooked one off the first tee, my confidence was shaken a little. I hacked my second off a bank and it hit a tree immediately in front before careering back down the fairway behind me. I opened with a double bogey and my confidence was smashed to smithereens.
I was a totally different player from the day before – nervous, unsure of what I was trying to do and impatient – I hit another out of bounds on the eighth, trying to play a miracle shot around a tree that, with hindsight, was never going to work.
Anyway, I limped in with a dismal score, uncertain exactly what had happened, (except that 0.1 had comfortably been added to my handicap.) I asked my playing partner – European Challenge Tour player Greig Hutcheon (who cruised round in five-under) – what he thought the problem had been. “It just looked like you were trying too hard,” he said.
I hadn’t thought I’d put added pressure on myself for the Medal but I probably had. Now I think about it, the amount of negative thoughts swirling through my head during Saturday’s front nine was quite incredible. Rather than having a clear strategy, the average brain tremor was – “Oh god, don’t do that,” and “Please god, don’t let me miss this.” And I don’t even believe in god!
Why does simply having a card in my hand turn me from competent level-par golfer, to dribbling Saturday hacker? Greig’s advice – “Somehow you just have to be able to switch off – just think ‘Golf-bot.'”
I’m going to give this a go this coming Saturday. When I step on to that first tee I’m going to clear my mind. I’ll simply plot my way round the course methodically with no thought of failure. I might even put on a Stephen Hawking-style voice to complete the effect.
To add insult to injury – When the howdidido scores were emailed to me on Monday morning, I realised that, in my disgruntled haste to complete proceedings on Saturday, I’d signed for the wrong score so I had to speak to the secretary and disqualify myself. Not a great start to my competitive campaign in 2010. I guess it didn’t really matter though as it was 0.1 up either way.
But at least the golf season is at last underway and, if any further confirmation were needed, it’s just two days until we’ll be watching the World’s best battling it out amidst the azaleas and dogwoods at Augusta National.
I can’t wait for the Masters. It properly heralds the start of a new golf season. Like the first daffodil or first returning swallow its coming always gives me strong feelings of hope and promise that my golf game will be great this year. After watching Tiger et al. negotiate the pristine fairways I’ll have convinced myself I’ll be able to shoot the lights out next time I play. All thoughts of my first Medal outing will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Roll on Thursday evening.