MASTERING THE MENTAL SIDE OF F*%#ING GOLF
by Todd Hartley
As many of you know, I consider myself an avid golfer — and by avid, I mean that I only play sporadically but still become enraged when I don’t hit each shot perfectly. Although I’m not so bad now, once upon a time a round of golf with me was almost guaranteed to include gratuitous cursing and even some club throwing.
I have fond memories of playing golf with my parents and older brother when I was a kid. This is largely due to the fact that my mother and brother have tempers that are worse than mine and would make me feel stoic by comparison. A round with the two of them could include not just cursing and club throwing but even tears and the occasional storming off the course in frustration.
I like to watch golf tournaments on TV while I nap on the couch, and one of the things in which I take the most joy as an amateur duffer is seeing a pro golfer hit the kind of craptastic shot I typically hit.
I always think about how ticked off they must be. I figured if I got spittin’ mad because I topped an iron on my way to a 92 that no one cares about, a PGA Tour pro must be in an absolute rip-snortin’ fury if he hits his drive in a lake while trying to win a tournament. The difference is that he can’t fling his driver into the weeds the way I would.
Anyway, last week, I got the chance to go to the BMW Championship, an important PGA Tour event held at Cherry Hills Country Club south of Denver. It was great, and if you ever get the chance to go to a golf tournament, do it. You walk around, get a little exercise, clap politely and get to be right next to the best golfers in the world. My son and I met 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and David Duval, who was the best golfer in the world before things went wrong.
But we were talking about crappy golf shots, not crappy ends to careers, and I saw a really bad shot at the BMW Championship. Mind you, it wouldn’t have been all that bad if I had hit it, but I’m not a pro.
The shot came courtesy of Chesson Hadley, a young, fairly anonymous tour pro looking to make a name for himself. He was playing the 18th hole (it was his ninth hole of the day, as half the groups started on the 10th hole), and I don’t know how anyone was expected to play the hole well. The second shot called for a blind, uphill approach to a green practically encircled by extremely distracting bleachers, but somehow most of the pros managed it.
Not Hadley, though. He hit a shot way out to the right that conked off the head of a woman in the bleachers (she was OK). He was allowed a free drop, but the ball bounced down into a horrible lie and Hadley had to play the next shot with his heels teetering on the lip of a deep sand trap. He chili-dipped the shot and had to chip again on his way to a double bogey that dropped him way back in the standings.
All I could think of was how mad I would be at myself and the bleachers and the officials who made me play from the horrible lie, and I figured if Hadley were anything like I am, he’d be seething.
My son and I saw Hadley a couple of holes later out on the course when he came over to the rope to get a fleece top from one of the tournament workers.
“Sorry,” she said, handing it to him. “It was in Russell Henley’s locker. They got confused by the names.”
I figured that Hadley, after enduring a double bogey at 18 and getting punked by the tournament staff, would say nothing and likely stalk off in a huff. Instead, he cracked a joke.
“You see that?” he asked the crowd. “No respect. You think they’d do that if it was Phil Mickelson’s?”
I was astounded. How on Earth could he be so cavalier when that double bogey just cost him $70,000? I couldn’t figure it out.
The next day I played golf at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs with a trio of avid duffers from Maryland. They all shot in the mid-90s and cursed after virtually every stroke. I felt like I was home again.
Todd Hartley can’t hit a f—ing sand wedge to save his f—ing life!