Mid-Am Blog: My Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect
By Robert Williams
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of first-person articles about one man’s quest to compete in a USGA national championship — the U.S. Mid-Amateur
Chapter 4 – My “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”
After what has been an exceptionally rainy spring and summer here in the Northeast (the U.S. Open at Bethpage being a model example of the kind of weather we’ve had), summer appears finally to have arrived. Between the rain and the twins, I have not had much opportunity for golf in recent weeks. As I head into the home stretch leading up to the Mid-Am qualifying round in late August, the factors of better weather, an encouraging boss and one very patient wife seem to be aligning to allow for several opportunities to play and practice.
While trying to balance family and work, Robert Williams squeezes in putting exercises in his home. (John Mummert/USGA)
Recently in an interview that my father-in-law and I did for StoryCorps, part of a USGA Museum pilot project called "Voices of Golf," he asked me, “What makes you think you are a candidate for competing in a national USGA championship? I mean, you don’t get to play much, you are only a member of a driving range, you have three children under the age of 3, and are busy at work. You can’t be thinking you are going to win…”
To be frank, it is a good question, and it did occur to me when I shot 84 the other day and asked myself, ‘What am I trying to accomplish?’ The simple answer: to make a dream come true.
Tiger Woods plays in the U.S. Open to win. He knows he can, and has, but for many people it is a dream come true just to play in a U.S. Open. My intention for the Mid-Amateur is toward the latter; it would be a dream come true just to play in the championship. It may take several years of trying to qualify, much to the dismay of my wife, but making the attempt gives meaningful focus to my golf.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur is always conducted in the fall, which means you can “dangle the carrot” of the championship all season long to help make the most of each ball struck -- to grind on a 5-footer on a Tuesday evening playing by yourself and always be trying to get better at a very difficult game. (This year, the Mid-Am is being held at Kiawah Island Club’s Cassique course, Oct. 3-8, with 18-hole qualifying rounds at 68 sites around the country, Aug. 24- Sept. 8.)
From the practice range to the living room swinging a weighted club, I have made all the swing changes I am going to make. For the next month, forget the swing thoughts: It is now all about visualizing what you want to have happen and then executing. Bob Rotella’s book Golf is Not a Game of Perfect will be my mantra. I don’t expect to play perfect golf at the qualifier, but I expect to find a way to give every shot my full attention and in doing so get the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes I possibly can.
It sounds so simple, right? There is no need to make a complicated game more complex. The only thought I want over a 6-foot putt for par is, ‘this is going in the hole,’ not ‘release the putter head’ or ‘keep the putter low to the ground through impact.’ The next few weeks of practice will have its place, mostly in the living room, and when I can get out on the course it will be about using the shots I am confident in and leaving the overly aggressive, “hero” shots in the bag -- along with the doubles and triples that often accompany them.
Now back to my very patient wife, Kristen. Which is an exaggeration. She’s not that patient, and as far as golf is concerned, I am constantly trying to “bank” good deeds in order to remain (or get in) her good graces. For example, our older (by 2 minutes) twin, Rhys, is a restless sleeper and needs his binky to be put back in his mouth several times a night. My wife and I are not a “tit for tat” type of couple where we count how many diapers changed and bottles fed and try to keep it equal. But when I pop out of bed to feed Rhys his pacifier and Kristen sleeps from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., she is very thankful in the morning. She freely admits to thinking twice about complaining about golf after a full night’s sleep.
But then there are the times, like last weekend, when I’m invited to an overnight at one of golf’s meccas, Pine Valley Golf Club. Coincidentally, the boys just had vaccine shots, and Kristen was up most of the night with them and their fevers while I was sleeping soundly after a round on the 10-hole short course, a steak dinner with great wine, a nightcap and a cool 18 the next morning after a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Two steps forward, one step back.
I might blame her father who, chauvinistically, taught only his sons to play golf. Today, they are both single-digit handicappers. If only he had included his daughters! Kristen might understand my need to play, my desire, my obsession. But then again, he is the one who invited me to Pine Valley, so I blame him for nothing, and thank him often for this and other similar invites. Kristen has said that she wants me to teach all three of the kids to play golf – sometimes I think more to get us all out of her hair than as some sort of redemption for her never learning.
I planned to play the qualifying course, Gillette Ridge G.C. in Bloomfield, Conn., in the next two weeks and begin to build a game plan for shooting even par. As for aspirations of winning the Mid-Am and getting invited to the Masters, I will focus on the shot at hand rather than think about the final tee shot on the 18th hole. The next goal will be built on successfully achieving the first. That, and to be home the night after the boys’ next vaccines.
The 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship will take place Oct. 3-8 at Kiawah Island Club's Cassique course. The deadline to enter is Aug. 5, 5 p.m. (EDT). To download an application form, click here. To read previous Mid-Am Diary articles, click on the links below.
Chapter III: Homecoming
Chapter II: Applying to Play
Chapter I: Deciding to Play