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Mark His Words, Tournament Golf Is different

You’re gonna love this one. It’s a beauty. Listen: We’re on the first green at qualifying for the Carolinas Senior Amateur – Logan Jackson, John Rudolph and me. We’re jockeying for position on the green, repairing ball marks, cleaning mud off our balls, removing the flagstick. I was waiting for Jackson to putt when I reached into my pocket and felt something unexpected: My coin was still in my pocket. A dizzying, sick feeling descended from the top of my head to the pit of my stomach. I had forgotten to mark my ball. After Jackson putted, I announced to the group, “Gentlemen, we have a problem already.” I relayed the information, still feeling as if my voice was here and my body was someplace else. None of us knew what the penalty was for such an infraction but I knew that the procedure was to replace the ball as close to the original spot as possible and proceed from there. “First senior moment of the day,” Jackson said. So, instead of a 10-footer for birdie, I had a 10-footer for par – or worse. Naturally, I missed. On the low side. On the third hole, I found a rules official and told him what I had done. He laughed. I didn’t find it so damned funny. He consulted the Rules of Golf and told me that the procedure was correct and the penalty would be one stroke. For the first five holes, I was flailing around in another world, struggling to stay afloat. The club felt foreign in my hands, my head was spinning off its axis and my legs were no more supportive than rubber bands. My body had been kidnapped and replaced by a zombie, who could only make bogeys, which I suppose is what zombies do. The only thing in my head that made any sense was that I just needed to play the rest of the holes, complete the round and turn in a score. But I have to tell you, I had no idea how I was going to pull off such a thing. You see, I’m relatively new to competitive golf. And if you really want to feel inadequate, go to a qualifier and try to compete without much tournament experience. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and I’ve yet to qualify for an event, although I’ve come close a few times. But the idea that you have to handle your nerves, think clearly, be precise with targets and, especially, play with confidence are great concepts. As North Caroilna basketball coach Roy Williams has said, you work hard to formulate a game plan for an opponent and moments after the opening tip, the game plan is tossed out the window and you play by instinct and feel. Famous sports psychologist Bob Rotella says that, in quiet moments, you should visualize yourself do- ing well in tournament golf. See yourself making good shots and good putts before you actually do it. Even picture yourself holding the trophy. In the handful of nights before the qualifier, I went to sleep playing the holes at Gaston Country Club in my mind, making birdie on each one.


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