Ahhh, spring in Ontario. It brings us all out of hiding after many long winter months spent dreaming of the day when we'd once again be able to wear as little clothing as possible in order to start working on looking more like healthy humans and less like pasty white floppy fish.
It also means getting the golf clubs out of storage and getting ready to start the annual right of summer a little early: thinking you can golf like you did back in the fall after not having touched a club for a few months.
And as it happens, Mother Nature somehow co-operated with us mere mortals and provided a string of warm, sunny days to help expedite the spring thaw on our local courses. That means the crush of eager floggers was greater than usual for late March at your favourite stomping grounds, no matter how chilly it might be for that first-of-the-day grouping.
Yes, Lefty shook off the rust recently and took advantage of the gorgeous weather to get the sticks out and pick right up where he left off -- mostly ignoring the reasonable and thought-out swing thoughts in his head and instead falling back on his usually-wrong baser instincts.
To be fair ...
Ok where was I? Right, to be fair any first round of the year isn't going to be overly pretty because of the aforementioned rust and general inactivity for the average golfer. I could feel the tension in my shoulders as I began to loose up even in spite of the fact that an early morning frost delayed our tee-off by about 40 minutes. A little extra stretching of the hips and hamstrings was required since I knew we were walking for the full 18 (no carts - it IS March, you know) ... so once I was happy with how I loosened up the important joints, off to the first tee I went.
Okay, my only thought at this point was to keep it simple and make solid contact. I didn't care if it went right or left; I merely wanted to make good contact and feel like those swing thoughts hadn't completely abandoned me.
Well, I went left - about 15 feet left, to be exact. Ok, tee up another one to at least get the feel of contact and then go play your first shot. Straight this time, about 12 feet off the end of the tee deck. Did I mention that I had an audience of about 20 people watching this manly display of ball-striking?
So, once I got my head on right and sorted a few things out physically I found my stroke. Good contact, nothing overdone. Head down through the full swing.
Triple-bogey as a prize. We're not in 2020 any more, right?
Okay, as my wife's podcast this week says, at least in part, it was time for me to shuck my expectations of what I thought I'd play like and focus on small goals. The next few tee shots gave me some hope that I was going the right way. Even, balanced, no stinging pains anywhere in my body! The putter wasn't warmed up just yet, but thanks to a fast-climbing sun I was getting there.
A few banana hooks with the driver later had me raising an eyebrow and that mini version of myself in Loudmouth shorts that occupies the real estate between my ears during golf season kept chirping about keeping your backswing flat and at an even pace. So in case you're wondering, yes ... I told him that I had it covered. And then I ignored him for a few holes (okay, more than a few).
I didn't really let it get to me. I stuck to the mini-goals I set for myself: good contact and don't over-swing. Things began to fall into place, as I picked up a string of well-placed shots that felt like something close to what I had intended. Making the turn, I felt my confidence starting to pick up, aided by a few lucky bounces and some more solid play. Anyone who has ever played at The Fox Golf Club near Granton knows that its mostly an open track with a few trees and some water in just the right places to remind you it's not a really fancy golf simulator.
My tee shot on #12 was one of those reminders. Low ground pull that skirted right along the tree line and managed to miss the first eight pines until the ninth kicked me back into my fairway with 150 yards to go. Even with that gaffe, I kept forging ahead mentally and was rewarded with a nearly perfect 16th hole: left-centre drive, followed by another low-running fairway metal up the right side to within easy chipping distance of a front pin placement. Two shots later and it's the first bird on the card for 2021.
The last two holes weren't spectacular (baser-level decision making followed a solid drive on the 18th, but we won't dwell on that), but after getting in the first round of the year in March I can't complain. The body will loosen up and I'll get my legs back under me as I move forward into the heart of golf season, and I'll keep setting those mini goals as I go along.
But for now, I have to fall back on something the great George Costanza once said (check at about the 1:30 mark of this clip):
I'm ready for what's next, 20201 -- bring it!