Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Round Reflections: Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot

Ok, so maybe today wasn't really a WTF kind of day. It wasn't great, and it might hurt my position as an A flight golfer in the league, but it could have gone much, much worse. Still, it did suck a little.
So Tuesday when I played, I three-putted a whopping seven of nine holes. Determined not to do that again, I spent every night this week using my Accelerator Pro putting mat and Balls of Steel weighted balls. It felt like I did some solid work and I was getting pumped to play. I was NOT going to be a bad putter today. I knew my swing felt good and my short game was solid enough that as long as I guarded against any double bogeys or worse with good putts, then today would be a good day score wise. And it was a net score day, so my handicap (12 currently), would be applied on top of what I felt confident would be a solid, sub-40 number.
Driving to the course I told myself to be confident, to trust the putts, and to keep my stroke solid. To stay in the present, not worry about score, and keep my primary focus on two putts or less per hole.
I had intended a short putting warm up, but was told that my ENTIRE 9 o'clock group was a no-show so I needed to play with the 8:50 group. This is fine and usually happens, but it did  rush me a little bit. So, of course I three putt the first hole. No biggie. I got some fight in me and wasn't going to let it get me down.
Then I somehow managed to bust my putter on the second hole. I putt with an Odyssey Tank Two Ball putter, and there is a little weight screwed into the bottom on the back to serve as a counter balance to your stroke. I really like the heavier club head, as I feel like I can keep my stroke in line as I putt. Well, today, the screw holding in the little weight fell out, and the weight came right out with it. Not sure if I will be able to get it fixed, as it will need to be checked for some damage.
The putter essentially still worked fine, but it did not have the same feel as I had practiced all week. And so even if I was chipping well, or by the time I was finally hitting greens (I hit three in a row at one point and feel pretty great about that), many of the par putts and at least two birdie putts turned into bogeys or doubles.
But I was still fighting and wanted to finish as strong as possible. Then on the ninth, I picked the perfect club but swung a little too far outward, reaching a side bunker that I've not yet experienced in previous rounds. This bunker had some thick sand and rocks, and the rain from the previous night made it heavy. Sand does not intimidate me and I usually play well from greenside bunkers (just learn some good fundamentals and swing easy!) but you wouldn't know that from the three swings it took for me to get out of it today.
So all in all, a season-high 43. After handicap it should be a 31, or +4. Not enough to win the flight for sure, and possibly a detriment to my handicap. They are calculated every month and I won't get another round in before July.
It will probably take me a day or two to think of what I learned from today. It was just a few mistakes here and there that cost me several strokes. I'll find some way to be positive, but it doesn't yet feel that way.
And a final gripe: one of the women I played with kept saying things like "well, now you have an excuse!" She said it right after I realized my putter was broken, "well, now you have an excuse to putt bad!" And she said it after talking about her vacation the previous week, "I hiked a mountain last week, so I have an excuse to play poorly today." She also said it to the handicapped woman we played with (I'm pretty sure she has rheumatoid arthritis and so she used a motorized cart special for those with disabilities - but, she was a tremendous putter and beat me by 3 strokes today) after she mentioned something about her health that week, "Well if that's the case, then you have an excuse!" It just was really off-putting and got under my skin at a certain point.
I was about to tee off on the 6th with her negative words rattling around in my head. That's when I remembered a concept from my absolute favorite coaches at  Vision 54 : the Think Box and the Play Box. Pre-shot, you can be in the Think Box, and have thoughts floating around your head because you need to make decisions about your shot. The decision I needed to make in this instance was actually not about my swing, and instead was to stop being bothered by her words and to let it be. Then, I stepped up to the ball (or into the Play Box, as they would say), and with no thoughts in my head, swung away, hitting my first of three greens in a row.
Seriously, check out Vision 54 if you want to become a happier golfer. They have some amazing mental game concepts that are easy to implement and can transform your game.

Life Hack for Runny Noses on the Golf Course

So "life hack" is such a silly, overused phrase, is it not? Feel free to consider possible miss use by yours, truly, as I really just could not come up with a better headline. Alright, side note over:
So for years, either I or my players would suffer fairly bad allergies at some point in the season, needing boxes upon boxes of tissues during a round because even decongestants and anti-histamines wouldn't be strong enough to tackle what we had going on in our nostrils.
Tissues, as you know, are terrible for your skin if used for extended periods of time. Wiping away snot repeatedly dries out the skin, and then the tissue itself can become abrasive, with subsequent wipes of snot chafing sensitive, vulnerable nostrils. On top of that, wind and cold temperatures can aggravate the situation even farther, making for a very painful and uncomfortable Rudolph-the-Rednosed-Golfer situation.
In competitive golf, these are distractions one just does not need. But until I became a mom, I did not know there was a better way to wipe snot away.
Enter the Boogie Wipe. I don't know how I lived life without these. Babies are snot machines, but are incapable of blowing their noses. And the aforementioned problems with regular tissues in adults are even worse on the tender skin of babies. So the Boogie Wipe answers that problem by being a soft but durable cloth made with a saline solution that gently helps eliminate snot without drying the skin.
And they are awesome. We buy them in bulk now from Amazon, because everyone in our family keeps a pack close at hand for whenever a runny nose strikes. Admittedly the toddler relies on me keeping them close by for him, but you know what I mean.
Not only do they work well, but they even feel refreshing, which you never get from a regular tissue. That sudden, cooling sensation is such a nice pick-me-up when you're experiencing bad allergies during a round of golf . And while it's gross to think about, you can use one wipe two or three times without the wiped up snot getting all over the place. If you can't get to a trash can on the course and need to stick it in your pocket, it won't disintegrate into a million tiny, germ-filled pieces. Even better, they're great if you suddenly get dust or sand in your face, like if you have to hit into the wind out of a bunker. That way you can delicately wipe sand away from your eyes. I keep them in my bag now and can't imagine life without them on or off the course.
I wish I had known about Boogie Wipes as a coach, because these would have been my team's secret weapon during allergy season. I would have removed the label and tried to make them less obvious so the guys wouldn't feel so weird about using a baby product - but honestly I bet that as soon as they used them for the first time they wouldn't care.
What other mom "life hacks" have you learned that can help on the course? I'd love to hear them!
Disclaimer: I was not asked to provide a review, nor given any samples for free, nor affiliated with this company in any way, nor will profit from readers buying this product. I spent my own money on this product, and am nerdy enough to think it warrants a blog post about it. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

Like many people, my dad taught me the game of golf. I remember he took me with him to the country club once as a very small kid. Then I had no exposure until high school. As a sophomore our athletic director implored the girls in my school to sign up, as apparently for small private schools it's entirely possible to go all the way to State with just a team of warm bodies. He was right.
So I signed up as a joke one Thursday in February. And then forgot all about it. Suddenly in March, the athletic director came over and handed me a grotesque, royal blue boys polo shirt (they didn't bother buying girls styles since only two girls signed up) with instructions to meet at the course Monday morning by 7 a.m. This was also probably a Thursday, and so I don't know why I put it off until Sunday to ask my dad over breakfast, "hey, can you teach me to golf today? I'm playing in a tournament tomorrow."
He was excited in his adorable characteristically reserved way, and that afternoon we went out to the driving range with my mom's dusty 1980's clubs to go over the basics. My dad had always been involved with my sport experiences, primarily basketball, and so he was used to showing me things. Still, it's quite a big task to give a crash course in an entire sport on one afternoon.
But he managed to do it, and to everyone's surprise (including my own), I won the tournament the next day. 
Ha, just kidding. I took a double-par on every hole (the tournament's scoring cap) for a whopping 144. But, I was hooked.
From then on, my dad and I had a very unique way to bond and spend some quality time together, and I have always loved getting to play with him. When I was a beginner, he would always keep an extra ball in his pocket and if I hit a bad shot, a new ball would mysteriously appear at my feet for an endless supply of mulligans. When we kept score, he always put my name on the top line with his very neat, clear, all-caps handwriting with the little pencil. Before tournaments he would send a positive text of encouragement, and was never judgmental when I recapped less-than-stellar rounds. 
But my favorite thing is how it added a new element of fun during family vacations. We are the only ones who play in our family, even though both sisters have taken a stab at it at some point. We've played in Florida and Hawaii on family trips, and we played (with my husband and sister) one Christmas Eve when my parents and sister spent the holiday at our new house in Texas. I wish I had started sooner so we could have played even more fun places. But I'm very excited that next week we will play in Colorado!
The one thing I regret from playing in those destinations is that I never took photos together on the course to remember the rounds, and I have some very fond memories that I wish had photo evidence.
So that's my mission next week, to not only play with dad (and hopefully any others who want to play), but to capture it on camera for longevity.
happy Father's Day to all!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Lonely Golfer

Alternative title: the day I three putted 7 of 9 holes whilst anxiously reflecting upon my desire for golf girlfriends and trying to tell myself that that's ok and not let existential dread ruin my day.
So this week, as I was taking the above selfie during a random Tuesday round, I realized it was  a little refresher of my adult golf life up to this point. By and large, it has been extremely lonely.
 My high school years didn't provide a lot of golf girl friends since I started relatively late as a sophomore, but, I didn't think too much about that at the time. College golf was a blast, and my closest friends were on the team with me.
Post-college, however, it has been hard to find girls (I guess we're actually "women" now) to golf with. The Texas town of about 300,000 my husband and I lived in had no women's league, and probably about 5-10 women who golfed anyway, and always when I was working with the team. Because we lived two hours from the closest major city, I was turned away from golf associations there because of my out of area zip code. An attempt late in my time there to start a women's league fizzed out (because again, 10 women played...). In five years the city course  hosted one actual women's championship (after giving first place several years in a row to a really talented golfer by default, and I still can't decide if that was a joke or serious), and I came in third of four, one of which was a college team mate I brought down from Austin to play.
 And as a coach I was reluctant to play with my players because I felt like me playing made it harder for the focus of practice to be on them, and honestly because I didn't get to play or practice regularly, it was hard to keep up with their talent anyway. (In other words, "they were a lot better than me as they should be and I didn't want to be embarrassed.")
There were technically coed but basically all male leagues I could have played in, but I just never felt comfortable with the older men there. For one, cheating was rampant in that crowd. And secondly, a few in particular just flirted way too hard and it was weird. 
A lot of my husband's coworkers played, but in our social circle I didn't like the idea of being the woman playing golf with all my friend's husbands, hanging with them while they drank beer and complained about life and work. I'm not sure I can describe it, but it just didn't feel right.
One Christmas my dad, husband and sister played with me, which was a blast. But beyond that, my husband, a novice, worked a lot and did shift work, making golf the furthest thing from his mind on his days off. 
So whenever I could play for those five years, 90% of the time it was by myself. Ok, more like 95%. 
And that's hard, because this is such a social sport. Without anyone to play with, I spent a lot of time in my own head. I would try to keep score but often fudged it a little because it didn't matter. I got a lot of gimmies and mulligans, which doesn't keep your game very sharp. I also lost a lot of balls for the silly reason of having poor eyesight, even when the ball would be well-hit to good locations.
That isn't to say there aren't perks to playing by yourself. With a cart, I could easily do nine holes in about an hour and a half, especially if the course was empty (as it often was in the Texas heat). And much like runners have a lot of good ideas when they go out to run, I sometimes would have fabulous brainstorm sessions out there walking on my own. And I never worried about awkward chit chat. 
But now that we live in a big metroplex, I've been determined to grow my circle of friends through the game I love. I joined a ladies league, which has helped give me ladies to play with, even if it hasn't given much in the friends category yet. I'm about 30 years younger than the other ladies, and while I do enjoy their company, I just know I might not be making best buddies.
And so when I saw the flyer for a tournament this week for ladies only, I was determined to play. Entry fee was only $45. I had two weeks to prepare, and much of that time was spent finding a babysitter, which fortunately worked out. But then I called to sign up, and was turned away because I didn't have a team. It was a two-person best-ball format, which I knew, but I guess I figured they would have a list of singles to get paired together. So I shamelessly abused our league's mass email list to see if anyone wanted to play. No bites. I downloaded the Golfmatch app, but the five or so women golfers in my area that I could find all work during the day. No tournament for me.
So rather than cancel the sitter, I decided to use the day to play in DC or Maryland. I have a mission of playing in all 50 states and the territories, so I wasn't going to squander an extra morning to do so. 
I settled on the executive course at East Potomac Park, a.k.a. Haynes Point, in DC. It's one of the three courses in the District, and was the only one with open tee times that day. Not wanting to spend a lot on the babysitter for a solo, semi-pointless round, I figured walking nine holes would be good enough.

It's a fairly flat and basic course, and I could see it working well for groups with mixed golf abilities. Plus it was alwesome to actually drive the ball, something I don't get to do playing par-threes every week. It's pretty open so it felt nice to swing away, plus I got some great bounces. You catch the top of the Washington Monument and some of the Jefferson Monument. The greens are elevated and some of the pins felt oddly placed, but it was decently maintained. As for how I played, I hit the ball beautifully but putted like crap. My 11-over could have been only 4-over without the seven three-putts!  Didn't allow myself any mulligans of gimmies this time since I want to be sharp for league play Friday.
 It was nice, and it was fun, and the morning was beautiful, but I was extremely lonely. 
I was reminded about how grateful I am to be in a ladies league, even if it means that I am about 30 years younger than my competitors. In that way, I kind of have a renewed energy for my Friday morning rounds. Guess I needed that perspective shift. 
 I'm not trying to get any pity about it, I still love the game and would play every morning if  could, playing partners or not. And yes, in my quest for golf friends I would be happy to play with some nice guys too, but I guess I crave the friendly sisterhood golfing with women creates. I'm hoping the GolfMatch app works out in the long run. I'll definitely report if anything happens there!

Monday, June 13, 2016

How Coaching Golf Made Me a Better Stay-At-Home-Mom

Oddly specific title, I will admit. Hey, this is a very niche blog, after all.
For a refresher or for new readers, I spent five years as the head men's and women's coach at a mid-size regional university that played at the NCAA Division II level.
Coaching is like, the best job. Leading groups of people to the "battle" of competition was always a thrill.
But the job was so much more than a single tournament, and an unbelievable amount of preparation had to go into each event. And I'm not just talking about the skills of the players; as a small program I had no assistant for many seasons and was expected by the department to do much of the administrative work including budgeting, trip arrangements, post-trip paperwork, and much else that head coaches of some "bigger" team sports have two or three salaried employees or grad assistants to pass it off on. Many people were shocked at how much office time I would have to dedicate to the minute details of all that business.
Coaching was also a great way to put my Psychology degree to work. As a person who loves the mysteries of the mind, I had up to 20 fascinating real-life sport psychology case studies at any given time. Plus, there was always the group dynamic to contend with. Sometimes I felt like I was an expert on that, but many times I found myself needing to be a lot more agile to maintain my lead of the team.
It would take a several-thousand word post to go into all the detail of the job of coaching. In short, these are just some of the hats I wore as a college golf coach: administrator, teacher, travel agent, bus driver, statistician, curriculum developer, disciplinarian, therapist, academic counselor, career counselor, first aid responder, seamstress, purchaser, accountant, designer, politician, janitor. Only maybe 10-15% of the time was my hat an actual golf hat, for actual golf.
And I got very comfortable being uncomfortable. I learned not to take too much personally. I learned that I set the tone for the group. I learned to work hard not give my athletes personality labels, and instead to love, accept and work with who they were, even if they suddenly changed sometimes. I learned that communicating is a two-way street and that as a leader it was my responsibility to keep the flow of traffic going. I learned to apply consistent and fair boundaries and consequences, and to communicate those boundaries and consequences well in advance of when I might need them. I learned to think quickly and delegate tasks. I learned that I could not be all things to all the players all the time, and to not pretend to be. I worked to help empower them to act like adults and make wise choices. I learned to seek out a supportive community of peers. I learned that I needed to take care of myself if I expected to do the job well. I learned that the testament to the quality of my team is what the players did when they weren't in my presence. I learned that I needed to keep learning. I learned that nurturing the good out of people is serious business that shouldn't be taken lightly.
All of this has helped me keep a pretty even head in the often-isolating and extremely stressful world of being a mom. And as many working-women-turned-stay-at-home-moms know, job experience like this can make for very beneficial skills when raising a family. I also believe the reverse is true: leading a household makes for a good worker, and hopefully when I  lucky enough to work outside the home again that I can find an employer who shares that mindset.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Round Reflections: Rules Rule

After a little golf and blog hiatus for a fun trip to NYC (recap coming soon!), I was back at it today. Hot and sticky but not unbearable, it was nice to enjoy a morning outdoors. I learned they gave me a 12 handicap based on my first three scores. Not too thrilled to be in double digits, but the plus side is that I made the cut for the A Flight, so at least now all I have to do is whittle down my handicap and not worry about climbing flights. They're recalculated monthly. 
The higher handicap would be advantageous today, however, as this rusty swing put me all over God's green earth, as well as in some bodies of water.  But it wasn't the worst day yet, and I scored 13-over. So the net will work out for me and I'm anxious to get the score report. 
My group today was very fun and friendly. They were definitely the youngest I've been paired with even though I'm still quite in a different stage of my life, so to speak. I'm not quite young enough to be their daughter, but I could have been their daughter's baby sitter. It's been a strange dynamic most weeks but this week it didn't seem to be so awkward.
What is awkward, however, is the weird local rules for this league. For the most part I understand some of the modifications from a practicality standpoint. For instance, one hole has a tricky tee shot that often puts players OB on the left (I was there today, in fact), and for pace of play purposes they allow a drop two club lengths from the stake line, like you would a hazard (normally in an OB situation you play your next shot from the same place as your last with a one stroke penalty). My gripe is that because the local  rules are not applied universally, I feel that every time we need to discuss a ruling, whomever in the group who is the most veteran in the league seems to just make rules up on the fly. Or, as was another case today, the veteran member seemed to make up her own definition of hazard areas in an area of tall natural grass that wasn't marked in any way as a hazard,  and incorrectly advised the other player how she should drop. Every week I have played with at least one novice player and it irks me to think they are learning the rules wrong. I debate myself with how much of a stickler I want to be, especially since I am new to the local rules of this particular league. Today we weren't even to the second green and this was already an issue, so I decided I just needed to let it go today and have a good time. And once I relaxed, I did! Can't wait to be out there again in two weeks.
I would love to hear some golf rule horror stories if anyone has them.