Lessons in golf and life

Birch Ridge Report

Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2006

Golf has been defined as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle, followed by a cold drink at the 19th hole.

Well, that certainly describes the golf I’m familiar with. How else do you explain having the worst round ever in a tournament and ending up with a birdie on the 18th hole? Thankfully, the 19th hole was there with the cold drinks! I really thought I had already learned the lesson of humility in life, but just in case I needed a refresher course, my humiliating round in the Peninsula Amateur this past weekend reminded me all too well how to be humble!

It also reminded me once again how golf reflects life. For instance, I figured out that if you keep swinging the club, eventually you hit the ball. I’m sure there’s a life lesson there somewhere, right?

What other life lessons can we learn from golf? Maybe the five Junior Golfers that showed up for the seventh annual Junior Golf Tournament on the July 13 (previously postponed due to rain) would agree that not just in golf, but also in life, it’s hard to win if you don’t show up. Though the field was slim, the competition was tough. In the 8 to 11 age group, Tyler Yamada, Richard Han and Alice Han played six holes from the Custom Junior Tees, which were set up anywhere from 150 to 200 yards out from the green. Tyler Yamada shot a 33, including one birdie and one par. Alice Han posted a 38 and Richard Han a 39. In the 12 to 14 age group, Josh Harvey and Ryan Fusaro tied after playing nine holes from the red tees. Both shot a 38. (No, ladies, that’s not a miss-print!) They went on to a sudden death playoff with both shooting par on the 10th. Josh won on No. 11 with a bogey when Ryan got into trouble off the tee, shooting a double bogey.

Next year the tournament will be held immediately following the last session of the Junior Golf Clinic. I’m sure these Juniors would agree that it was better to have golfed and lost than never to have golfed at all.

Maybe they could teach me a few things?

The Peninsula Amateur this past weekend provided lots of life’s lessons to those of us who participated. Kathy Herring learned that playing extremely well in a tournament makes your handicap plummet, which I’m sure can be translated into a life lesson somehow, right? With six ladies playing, the two lowest net scores took the prizes. Kathy had a net 123 and Lisa Parker posted a net 131. Although Paula Crowley scored lowest gross (174), her lower handicap kept her out of the winning circle. Congratulations to you all for some great play!

I personally want to thank my playing partners Jana Query and Carolyn Turkington for helping me laugh my way through such an excruciating final round and apologize profusely for any effect my multiple strokes may have had on your play. Is this the time to remind us that “keeping score isn’t always the most important thing?” OK, I didn’t think so.

The men learned their own lessons I’m sure, though I’m not privileged to that information. So, I’ll make some assumptions even though assuming isn’t a good thing to do, in life or in golf. Probably keeping a good grip and following through helped Todd Eskelin take first place in the Championship Flight with a gross 155. One stroke behind was Bob Sizemore, proving once again that having a good drive is a key to success. Justin Herman, with a 163, took the low junior trophy.

In the Men’s First Flight, Darell Jelsma could probably teach us a few things about golf and life, posting a 163 and taking first place. As could George Stein, with a 177. In the Second Flight Men’s Division, first place went to Phil Turkington with a gross score of 200, and Gary Dawkins took second place with a score of 207.

Would you all agree that good form is the key to success in golf and life? Maybe a little luck and a great sense of humor is just as important?

Steve Dexheimer had the long drive for men, Paula Crowley made the long drive for women and John Roderick was closest to the hole on No. 6/No. 15. Different strokes for different folks.

The Alaska State Championship Qualifying Tournament will be held Aug. 12 and 13 in Anchorage, with a match play format. To be eligible to play, participants must qualify through their local association. Two men and one woman from the Kenai Peninsula will be allotted to play in the state tournament. Birch Ridge and the Kenai Golf Course will hold a two-day qualifying tournament Saturday and Sunday, with 18-hole play each day. The two lowest scratch scores for men and the lowest individual scratch score for women will qualify. Entry fee is $50, with each player paying his or her own green fees. Tournament directors will set the tee times, and all prize monies will be evenly distributed among the qualifying golfers to help offset the costs of participating in the Alaska State Championship Tournament. Applications are available in the clubhouse, or call Dan Murphy at 398-1687 for more information. Applications must be received by 6 p.m. on Friday.

The Wednesday Night Men’s League on July 12 once again proved that teamwork gets the job done. The winning team was made up of Gordon Briscoe, Dave Stein, Rick Harman and Mike Azzara. Individual effort paid off as well, with Mike Azzara being closest to the hole on No. 6 and making the longest drive. Caleb Sizemore posted a pure birdie and was closest to on No. 8. Don’t forget that next Wednesday is the last Wednesday of the month and therefore BIG Wednesday.

Twelve Seniors came out to share life’s lessons and play golf on Monday morning. Darell Jelsma posted the lowest net of 33. Don McGhee was closest to the hole on No. 6, with Charlie Muhs being closest to on No. 8.

The Tuesday Morning Ladies could sure give lessons on playing interesting formats. This week, each team played a pink ball game with players alternating holes with a pink ball. If the pink ball gets lost, the team is eliminated. Obviously not losing the pink ball was the winning team of Louise Schaedle, Pat Schmitz (who also birdied No. 8 with the pink ball) and Kathy Herring. Kathy also had the fewest putts and was closest to the hole (oops there goes that handicap being lowered again!). The mystery game this week was who had the best poker hand on their scorecard, with Kathy Nielson winning. With next week being the last Tuesday of the month, don’t forget to bring a dish to share for the potluck.

And then there’s the Tuesday Night Couples with so many of life’s lessons to share — even if it’s in shambles (Oh, wait, that was the game we played). Teams of four each teed off and then chose the best drive. From there, everyone played their own ball into the hole and then used the best two net scores (after handicap). Once again we thank our couple-in-charge, John Tongen (who continues to share his humor) and Jane Tongen (her wisdom) for making Tuesday nights so much fun! Just ask John about the little red wagon and the cat — I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere, but it escapes me at the moment.

As for the Winklers (Gerald and Barb) and the Hammarstroms (Del and Cheryl), I’m sure the lesson they learned is that winning is better than not. As for the Murphys (Dan and Linda) and the Keatings (Dave and yours truly), the lesson was that second isn’t all bad.

My own personal lesson that I learned is that I score much better hitting Dan’s drive than my own. If you would like to join this fun group, call John and Jane at 260-5265 and get your name on the list for next week (by noon on Tuesday).

TOM’S TIP FOR THE WEEK: Three lefts to be right in the scoring zone: When you’re within 60 yards of the green, many players struggle with fat or thin shots. Often these faults are remedied by simply setting up correctly, while in the scoring zone. Remember the simple phrase, ‘three lefts to be right,’ and soon you will be on the correct path to better shot-making around the green. Here are the three “lefts”:

· Aim left with your feet, hips and shoulders. An open setup position will encourage better control of the backswing length, club path and hinging;

· Sit left into your hip, feeling the majority of your weight on the left side. This anchors your lower body, assists a free arm swing and a chest turn leading the forward release; and

· Lean left with your shaft. Position the ball off the sternum. Set your hands ahead of the ball to encourage solid contact, generating backspin from a descending strike through impact.

Practice the three lefts when in the scoring zone and enjoy improved scores during your next round.

SHARON’S THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: “Achieving a certain level of success in golf is only important if you can finally enjoy the level you’ve reached after you’ve reached it.”

OK, I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Maybe when I reach that level I’ll pass it on.

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