“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”
– Arnold Palmer
I have been playing golf about the same amount of time I have been in the Navy, which is coming up on 17 years. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge, and I believe the game mirrors life and its constant ups and downs. Pat and I had some great conversations over the course of a few rounds at Virginia Beach National while we were both stationed at Navy Network Warfare Command about four years ago. That is another thing I love about the game. Not only is it challenging, but it promotes social interaction, which only intensifies the overall experience.
My last tour on USS IWO JIMA (LHD-7) was the most challenging assignment of my career to this point – especially because I was not able to play golf for 22 of the 28 months. The time away from the game increased my desire to not only play but to improve and achieve goals I had set for myself years prior. When I found out I was coming to Naval Postgraduate School, I had 16 months left on the ship, but I knew I would be able to make up for my time away from golf without issue. Once I arrived in Monterey, I began work on my ‘second Masters’ in earnest!
The lowest my index has been was 11 while stationed in Hawaii from 2002 to 2006. Fast forward to my arrival in Monterey in September 2015, and my index was 19.5. I quickly learned not picking up a club for about two years is detrimental to one’s golf game, so I signed up for lessons with Ben Alexander at Bayonet and Black Horse. Ben helped me get my swing back on track after the long layoff, but my scores suffered and as a result, my index began to rise. When Ben retired, I ended up switching instructors to Cole Handley at Poppy Hills. While working with Cole, things started to click, but I was still battling the typical amateur inconsistencies, and my index crept up to 23.5. A couple of the specific issues I was dealing with were simply swinging too hard, coming over the top (slice city), and not making consistent contact with my irons. Fast forward to October 2016, and my index is at 14.2, and I recently beat my previous personal best of 83 when I shot an 82 at Black Horse. Since that round, golf has kept me humbled, but I have only raised the bar and have adjusted my goals accordingly!
The game also appeals to my goal-oriented nature as once you beat one milestone; several others are immediately available. If the game of golf was an MMORPG, it would be a game with no end, and it is the endless challenge that pushes me to improve. As to the previously mentioned goals, I currently have two related to golf. The first is to break 80 and the second is to get my handicap under 10. Those two items represent my long term goals, and in the short term, my primary goals are to practice and play regularly and focus on short game and putting during practice. It is fun to hit the long ball, but anyone who has played golf for a significant length of time knows a deadly short game is the best way to drop strokes. Will it work for me? Only time will tell!
Golf serves as a sanctuary for me which helps me come back to center when life gets chaotic. No matter how much equipment I go through, the game reminds me it is the fundamentals that matter the most. Shiny new clubs are nice and all, but having a complete understanding of what every club in my bag can do is more important, which is why this coming year I am focusing on reducing the number of club changes. Here is the Cliff Notes version of the equipment changes I have made since I got to Monterey last September. Seven drivers, nine fairway woods, five hybrids, six sets of irons, six different wedge configurations, seven putters and 15 different bags. Needless to say, I have owned enough equipment this year to open a golf shop! I had a lot of gear turnover, but I was never attempting to ‘buy’ my game. Thankfully, what I have in my bag now is working very well for me and with consistent practice will continue to help me achieve my goals!
While there are times the game drives me crazy, more often than not, it is keeping me active, giving me a chance to sort through my thoughts, and continually challenging me. As my time in Monterey winds down, one thing is for sure: if I am not on campus wrapping up my thesis, you can find me teeing it up at one of the many fantastic courses in the area!