I often wonder is golf more physical than mental, or the other way around. Tuesday was the US Senior Open qualifier at Diablo Country Club, and after a near perfect practice round on Monday, I allowed a distraction to nullify my chance to play in this years USGA SENIOR OPEN.

Despite being an individual sport, golf is played with other players that can have an effect on how we play. There are certain players that I get paired with that always seem to allow me to play my best golf. But WHY?

Mental comfort and familiarity are HUGE in golf. Remember the day when Tiger Woods dominated golf, and it didn’t matter whom he played with in final rounds of majors, he had a mental effect of fear that had most all of his competitors playing less than their best golf. I guess in their minds they could not beat Tiger, and Tiger knew this and fed off their weakness.

On Tuesday in the qualifier I was paired with a player that I know and like, and was pleased to see us paired together. The third player I have never seen his name before, which is not unusual. I had spoken to him briefly on the putting green when he commented on my side saddle putting style like he had never seen it before. At the time, I was unaware that he was our third player in the group.

I was scheduled to tee off last in my group, behind this player I did not know. He was a tall left handed golfer, with a very strange golf swing. The first hole is a tight driving hole with OB both left and right. Its not a long hole so something less than driver is ideal. The first player hit an ok tee shot, followed by a long delay as the group ahead had not cleared the blind landing area. After about 5 minutes we go the OK to finish teeing off. The second player in the group with the unusual swing, hit a half high shank into the parking lot landing with a thud on a parked car. This was not quite the visual I was hoping to see before I hit my opening tee shot.

I was able to keep my tee ball in bounds, but certainly not a good shot in the left rough, leaving me a difficult second shot on a downhill lie. Player #2 was now hitting his second tee shot from the right fence, a chip out resulting in a triple bogey seven.

I was able to make a shaky par on #1 but I knew I was in for a long day with a player that clearly did not belong in this qualifier. On most holes we looked for his ball in high weeds, that were heavy with allergic pollen for people like me with Hay fever.

I was able to keep my focus in tact for most the front nine, that ended with a birdie on #9 to shoot even par 35 on the opening nine. Knowing that even par 70 would be the max score to qualify, as there were only 2 spots  with 90 players, I knew I had my work cut out for me on the difficult back nine. Usually after a player shoots 47 on the front nine, they cut their losses and depart. But this player was determined to get his full 18 in at Diablo CC.

On the par five 10th hole, the last par five on the course, I decided to lay up while only being 235 from the green. The pin was tucked front right, and I felt that a lay up shot would give me the best chance at birdie. My third shot from 70 yards looked good, but landed a little past the pin, and didn’t pull back to the hole, leaving me a very fast downhill 20 footer. After the player that shot 47 on the front nine, finally got a ball over the green, he would take forever to hit his putts as he would study them from both sides of the hole, and then take 5-10 practice strokes before hitting his putt. I now became inpatient, and after lipping out a birdie putt on #10, I missed the come backer from 18″ inches away. A putt I could not afford to miss.

The 11th hole was the one that actually did me in however as this play hit 3 consecutive shanks, and had trouble finding his ball twice. I have great empathy for a golfer that is struggling and having a bad day, but none for a player that either knowingly or not affects the play of his playing partners by being inconsiderate, and clueless to what is going on in his group. This player had no consideration for me and my playing partner as we both were in the hunt to qualify at the time.

From the middle of the fairway on #12 I had a lie that was so bad I could not advance it onto the green, and my frustration was at a very high level, as my chances diminished. My round ended with a birdie on #18 for a 73, 3 shots out of the playoff for the last spot. In the end, the player in my group had +24 or 94 on his card, and did sign and turn it in. I have played many times when a player knows that posting a score like that will end their chance for the USGA to accept another application to enter a USGA event.

I am not allowed to talk about my putting situation other than I hit about half my putts with my eyes closed, half with em open. Today is another chance to make progress in a tournament as I am playing in the Billy Bell Invitational at Del Rio Country Club today and tomorrow with my partner and long time friend Joey Ferrari. Followed by the Olympic Club stroke play this weekend at the Olympic Club.

I’m not sure what to say about being paired with a player that is distracting and challenging to play with. The game is hard enough to play in ideal circumstances, and I did not do a very good job staying focused and ready to play when it counted. But this BLOG is all about giving you the realities of the game that we love, the challenges, and the occasional victory that makes it all worth while.

I still have a lot of mental training to do, I believe you need to be not only physically tough, but mentally equally as well. I hope that some of you can relate to this, and together perhaps we can all work on the mental side together sharing ideas.


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