By Joe Soraghan
"Forget the last shot. It takes so long to accept that you can't always replicate your swing. The only thing you can control is your attitude toward the next shot." — Mark McCumber, pro golfer
The word tee is derived from the Gaelic word, tigh, which means "house." Quite possibly the use of the word came from the sport of curling, where the "tee" is the line through the center of the targets. This area is referred to as the "house." A house or home is typically where you find your comfort zone. Home should have a calming effect on a person. So, why is it when a golfer arrives to the first tee, he or she shows nerves that interfere with the golf swing? The results are "topped" shots, balls that find the out-of-bounds, or find geographic areas that have yet to be charted. The majority of golfers go to the first tee with some nervousness, and that includes some of the top professionals in the game.
Annika Sorenstam was, arguably, one of the best golfers on the LPGA tour. She won 88 events. Her game was so good she was given an exemption to play in a PGA event, the Colonial, against the men. After hitting her drive on the first tee, which she laced down the middle of the fairway, she feigned wobbly legs and breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief. When the round was over she was asked about her actions. She admitted it was one of the most nervous points in her professional career.
Andrew "Beef" Johnson, a current tour player, was interviewed after his first round in this year's PGA Championship. Johnson stated that he gets nervous on the first tee of every tournament. But unlike the weekend amateur, Johnson said, "I use that nervousness to my advantage and look forward to playing in competitive events."
Most of us play the majority of our rounds on the same course. How many times have you, or a member of your group, who has just hit a shot that the most adventurous "ball hawker" will have difficulty finding, turn and say, "I was hitting them great on the range"? Until the moment of impact, you had all the confidence in the world. But, with maybe two feet left on your downward stroke, you forgot how to hit a golf ball. This is not how you want to start your day of golf. Of course, your buddies are sympathetic to your plight. Comments such as "Do you want a breakfast ball?", "Are you really going to search for that one?", "I'll find that next spring when I'm walking the course!", or "That's my partner!" are heard all around. You are playing your course. You know where to hit the ball. You know the areas that should be avoided. Why did this shot appear on a course with which you are most comfortable? You probably were not prepared for the first tee, or you attempted to hit a shot you were not capable of doing.
It's a beautiful day for golf. You are playing with a group of guys who you know well. Having fun is the reason for this outing. But, it's a competitive group and you're in the first foursome. You are up, with 16 other players watching. Missing are Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo to announce each player and the outcome of the first shot of the day. But wait, your friends will chime in with heckling, false compliments, and commentary that Nantz and Faldo cannot use on televised golf events. How are you going to handle the added pressure of "first tee jitters?" You are going to get yourself settled, breathe easy, select a target and hit the ball down the middle of the fairway. You don't want to overswing and try to kill the ball. Doing that will get your "mini-gallery" all fired up and your day will start poorly. Relax, the tee is home. It's the start of a great day and should be embraced. Don't overthink this. Golf is fun. Putting undo pressure on yourself can only lead to some bad golf. Take your practice range swing, a smart positive attitude and a calm demeanor to the tee. You're home!
• North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway, (603) 356-9391:
The annual visit of two golfing groups will occur this weekend. The world famous Garibaldi Club will grace the NCCC 18 for three days, and the Marcoux Golfers will be there for two. These guys play some great golf and enjoy the golfing venue. Members will take to the course on Sunday to play the Men's and Ladies' Fall4/Ball Tournament. Next Sunday the Mixed Scotch is scheduled. Sign up with the pro shop or check the bulletin board next to the locker rooms. The best news of the week was off the course. Roy Burns, who has worked at the club for a number of years, most recently as a ranger, is back home recovering. We all wish him well. Roy and I often talk about how to make golfers aware of their slow play. "Roy, this time it will be alright to take your time and work on getting yourself healthy!"
• Wentworth Golf Course, Route 16, Jackson, (603) 383-9641:
The Wentworth Ladies' League held a scramble event last week. First place went to the team of Rena Pomerleau, Maryann Lowry, Nancy Pittenger and Barbara Theriault. Two teams tied for second. The team of Ellen Daly, Daryl Mazzaglia and Helen Toohey tied with Maureen Fitzgerald, Nancy Lundquist, Mary Ellen Gallo and Lynne Walker. This week the Ladies' League played an individual net game. Taking first place was Debbie Chase, second went to Beth Ellis, and third to Susan Dugdale. There were three "chip-ins": to Sheila Hastings, Deb Bryant, and Maryann Lowry. The Fall 4/Ball is scheduled for Oct. 2. You have until the 25th of this month to sign up. Congratulations to Dan Willig who posted his fourth career hole-in-one last Friday. Dan "aced"the 147 yard, 5th hole, with Roy Polmquist, Dave Gorke and Don Mason witnessing the shot
• Eagle Mountain Golf Course, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090:
After two weeks of Fall Don Ho action, the New Team is in first place at -15. Two teams, the Six Styxxx and GB Carrier, are in second at -12, with the Divot Kings one stroke back at -11. Chris Bates got closest-to-the-pin honors, while Becky Armstrong, Mary Hansel, Bobby Labbe and Steve Puzas claimed long drive honors. The Phil Kelly Food Pantry Scramble saw two teams tie for first place. The team of Rick Pillion, Dave Fall, Eric Pendleton, Pat Markey, Mark Lyons, Lucien Morin and Curtis Milton tied with Bal Nash, Luvon Nash, Rick Kardell, Viggo Kardellll, Hidalgo Kardell and Bob McGraw. Brian Smith saw his golf lessons pay off, as he secured closest-to-the-pin honors. The Thursday Eagle League saw the team of John Chanley, Jeanne Chanley, Dennis Soraghan, and Russ Veale take top honors. Russ Veale also got closest-to-the-pin. In the Mixed Tuesday action, it was the team of Mary Waldron, Terry Fitzgerald and Jeanne Pierce taking first place. Closest-to-the pin went to Sally Treadwell.
Eamonn Darcy is a professional golfer from County Wicklow, Ireland. He was the winner of 15 European events and a member of the 1987 Ryder Cup team. He was also a contemporary of Nick Faldo and Seve Ballasteros. But Darcy might be best known for a one-liner he delivered to his new caddy, Frank McBride. "Listen mate," said Darcy, "I want you to know that I have a horse at home that is better bred and has more brains than you. If you remember that, we will get along just fine." I can only hope Darcy was a good tipper. Have a great weekend of golf.