Monday, 28 May 2012

Fighter V Lover

We've all heard the expression 'you need to get out of your own way'.

Here's the problem;

You've practised all through the Winter months, you've hit thousands of balls, you've disassembled, reassembled and tweaked your swing, worked on your short game, fine tuned your putting stroke. You may have even read a golf psychology book or two. Now that the season has begun you should be able to just go out there and shoot a low score, right? You have a divine right to get cut by 2 to 5 shots having put the hours in over those dreary cold months.

Maybe. Maybe not.

You know for a fact that you're a better player, your skill levels are much higher than they've been in previous years. Why is it that those low scores aren't coming yet?

In recent weeks I've come up with a few excuses.
  1. 'The weather hasn't been great, the grass is too wet and the course is playing long.'
  2. 'The greens are so inconsistent, some days slow, others quick.'
  3. 'I'm having lots of bad luck lately on the golf course.'
  4. Insert your own excuse here!
I think there's a difference between 'making' something happen and 'letting' something happen.

To me, the expression 'making it happen' suggests that something needs to be forced, odds need to be overcome and every ounce of will, determination and energy in my body will be required for the battle. Actually, just reading those words is making me tired, stressed and fearful of what's to come! If things don't go my way during a round, I'll feel like I need to increase my intensity level and try even harder. A few rounds like this and I'll get very frustrated, maybe even angry. Chasing is hard work.

On the other hand, 'letting it happen' suggests an openness, an acceptance, thoughts of 'going with the flow' rather than 'swimming against the tide' come to mind. If things don't go my way at some point during a round, I'll be more likely to accept it and move on to the next shot without carrying any baggage from the previous one! A few rounds  like this, and dare I say it, I may even enjoy myself whilst playing golf, imagine that!

Get out there and let it happen.


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

King Cal bleeds Golf. Part 2 - Interview

Chapter 1: Bloody Nora

I arrive at Cal's ground floor flat, where he lives alone. The front door is open but I give it a gentle knock anyway. 'Come on in!', he shouts, 'straight down the hall and turn right.' I close the door behind me and walk to the living room where Cal is sitting and smiling in his armchair, ready for the interview to begin. We have a quick general catch up on news from our golf club and I explain that I'm interviewing him for my blog. Aware of the brief and with obvious enthusiasm, Cal begins to speak..

Cal (furthest on right) during World War 2
1945, Verona, Italy.
'I've always been a keen sportsman and ultra competitive, I've never been pleased with mediocrity', he says. I end up being disappointed with myself a lot! I get annoyed with myself when I play badly, but I try not to let my frustration affect others.

Before the war I was into cycling and after it, tennis. I didn't cycle competitively,  I met my wife (to be) through the cycling club. We bought a tandem and we would cycle on it together, setting the pace for the people in the club who were preparing for competitions.

I've always played to win, and nowadays when I play golf,  bridge and bowls it's for the same reason.'

He continued, 'My wife and I once made it to the semi-finals of the Cambridge mixed doubles tennis competition, she was an extremely good tennis player.'

In his late thirties, Cal took up golf. Two years later, his wife followed suit.

'She was a bloody good golfer' he says. 'She went from a 36 handicap to 15 in two years. We won many mixed events together at the golf club.'

'Once I placed a fake golf ball (soap based) on the first tee for my wife to play, unbeknownst to her of course. I didn't realise a crowd had gathered on the tee behind us. Anyway, she hit this ball and it dissolved into thin air. I was up the creek for a long time after that!'

Cal in his 'heyday'. Aged 60
and playing off 9.
Cal disappears from the room for a moment and comes back with a few photographs. 'This is me in my golfing heyday', he says. 'I was 60 years old and I'd got down to a 9 handicap.' 

As I gaze at the photo, I begin to wonder what my handicap will be if I'm fortunate enough to reach 60, let alone 93.

'I used to be able to hit it 230 yards off the tee, now I'm lucky if I hit it 150 yards. It's soul destroying', he says. As he utters these words, I look him in the eyes and I can see he's hurting. He wants to be out there competing with the long hitting whippersnappers.

I tell him that for 93 years of age, he's doing extremely well. I quietly wonder if it sounds patronising. He nods and smirks. And once again I sense that the young man inside him is frustrated by the physical limitations that come to all of us in time.

Cal posing with two of his many trophies. I'm jealous.

'The thing about golf is, well - you're always learning, no matter what age you are or what your level of skill is. It's a true challenge.' 

I ask if he's had any golf coaching over the years.

'Oh yes', he says. 'And you know, the best lesson I ever had was with a lady golf coach called Miss Anonymous' (For privacy reasons I won't mention the lady in question by name. As soon as Cal mentioned her name I realised he must have had this particular lesson in the past 5 years. The coach he spoke of had only been in the area for that amount of time.)

'Ah yes, I know her, I've heard good things. So this was a recent lesson then Cal?, I subtly enquired in amazement.

'Yes', he replies. 'I must have been 88 or so at the time, she sorted my swing out for me and helped me enjoy the game again.'

'What an inspiration', I thought to myself, realising that Cal was still searching for the Holy Grail of golf, just like the rest of us. And why shouldn't he? Seeking that one quick 'fix' or 'tweak' to get an extra few yards from a drive or get the ball closer to and into the hole.

'Years ago, I went through a phase where I was having trouble with short chips around the green', he says. So I bought a chipping club, you know - one that looks like a putter with a bit of loft.' 

I nodded

It worked wonders for me, so much so that my playing partners christened the new stick 'Bloody Nora!' 

'Bloody Nora!' they would say, 'he's only gone and holed another one!'

The room fills with laughter and as it subsides I ask a question - 'If you could give one tip to someone starting out in the game today Cal, what would it be?'

He doesn't hesitate in his reply.

'It's alright saying 'keep your head still, get your stance right, grip the club properly and so on', he says, but all of this requires concentration. You lose that when you get older. It makes the game much harder. But I still try hard to concentrate and I think that's what anybody who wants to be good at golf needs to do. They need to be able to focus and concentrate on setting up the shot but at the same time not have too many thoughts floating around in there when they're playing the shot. It's a delicate balance.'

Wise words from a man who's been playing the great game for over 30 years. Both of his sons are in their 60's now, one playing off 6 and the other off 9. One can only assume what other pearls Cal could share with me if we had the time.

Perhaps I'll ask him to have a look at my swing sometime.

Speaking of swings, here's a clip of the man himself in action!

Chapter 2: The Oldest Bandit in the Club

Cal is a multi major winner at our club, but his biggest win came in 2008 at the healthy age of 89 years young.

He won the Captains Day event, with a score of 47 points, playing off 28. The course is par 69, to save you the maths he played to 15, beating his nearest rival who was half his age and 6 points behind on score.

'They cut me by 5 shots and I deserved it', he said. 'Everything went right for me that day. After 9 holes, my playing partners knew I had a great score going and they geed me up - 'Keep it going, keep it going Cal!', they would say.'

'I got some stick  from my playing partners at the club after that win. They got a caricature of me drawn up (pictured left). 'The Oldest Bandit in the Club!'.

I'd planned on taking no more than an hour of Cal's time, but we ended up chatting for two. We concluded the interview, shook hands and exchanged goodbyes. With a notebook full of scribbles and a head full of thoughts and images, I walked to my car.

The voice in my head said; 'When I grow up, I want to be just like him'.


Thanks so much for reading, see you around!


(P.S I'm currently planning an interview with another local golfing great. He's 78 and plays off 9. Every time I've approached him with a swing problem he has solved it. If you enjoyed reading about Cal, I'm sure you'll enjoy reading about 'The Fixer'. But that's for another time, another place.


Thanks Cal. All hail a King amongst Bleeders.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

1 year on - We Bleed Golf

Today marks the first birthday of this blog.

27 posts and almost 5000 page views in, I would like to thank all of you who have read it, shared it, RT'd my posts on Twitter and 'Liked' the Facebook page. Thanks also to everyone who has commented and said  they enjoy reading. As long as people are interested in reading, I'll keep writing.

There's a few people I'd like to say a special thanks to. The list below shows some of the people I interact with on Twitter - fellow and lady golf addicts. If you're not currently following these people on Twitter, I suggest you check them out!

Three reasons, not exclusive:

  1. There's plenty of fun to be had if you follow these people. (Bags and bags of it!)
  2. You might even learn a thing or two. (I have!)
  3. You may even make a *real-life*, golf obsessed friend or two on the way. (Check!)

Sorry if I've left anyone out, there's so many great people to list. In addition to the list below, please have a look through my 'following' list, they're all great people and true lovers of the game.

We Bleed Golf!

Matt Holbrook - @MattHolbrook86
Sean Tracey - @seant666
Sophie Walters - @FD_ShWomenstore
Kieran Clark - @OnParWithGolf
Jay - @JaysGolf
Ron Lewis - @Ron_Lewis
Matt Wabe - @mattwabe
Patrick McLaughlin - @lochlainn
Shelley Hardman - @ShelleyHardman
Jackie Smith - @jackieesmith
Anthony Roberts - @kennykeano
Lee Skidmore - @LeeSkidmorePGA
Eric Dyer - @TheGolfingGuru
Gordon Blackwood - @GordonBlackwood
Neal Hamer - @Mock0503
Hank Haney - @HankDHaney
My biggest fan, the one and only @TigerWoods ;)
And me! - @ibleedgolf1

Thanks again everyone, looking forward to plenty more laughs down the line.

Fore Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!