I used to be a golfer. And I was a pretty decent golfer at that. I wasn’t going to turn pro or anything, but I had gotten to the point where I scored fairly well every time out. I started playing when I was around 11, and kept on going until I was about 17.
In high school–about 10th grade (maybe 11th, I can’t remember)–I even joined the golf team, and in my invidivual matches that season I went 7-1, and my only loss came against a nice guy who just happened to outplay me that day, a nailI used to be a golfer. And I was a pretty decent golfer at that. I wasn’t going to turn pro or anything, but I had gotten to the point where I scored fairly well every time out. I started playing when I was around 11, and kept on going until I was about 17.
In high school–about 10th grade (maybe 11th, I can’t remember)–I even joined the golf team, and in my invidivual matches that season I went 7-1, and my only loss came against a nice guy who just happened to outplay me that day, a nail-biter down to the end.
At the end of the season we played in the county tournament, wherein us golfing dudes from around the county competed in one giant tournament. And I went in feeling good. Really good. After correcting a slight mechanical glitch in my swing, I was playing the best golf of my life and playing with a lot of confidence. With every shot I just felt like I was going to do well.
Now, when we showed up at the county tournament I didn’t think I was going to win–I wasn’t quite at that level–but a top-10 finish was within my sights, and if played at my peak, a top 5 was a definite maybe.
It was a beautiful day–blue skies, nice breeze–and I was just so totally in the zone. So the first hole, a par 4, I get up there–confident as all get-out–and after landing on the green in two strokes thanks to a nifty second shot, I nailed a 30-foot put for a birdie. Sweet. The other three guys in our foursome were giving me the [i]wow, who’s this guy?[/i] looks.
Next hole was a tricky par 3 with a deep valley leading up to the green on a hill, and I landed on the green in two strokes. Again I nailed a long put, this time for par. Sweet. I’m kicking ass and feeling great.
So along comes the third hole–another par 4–and because I won the last hole, I get to tee off first. I grab my ball and tee, plant in the ground, sitting up nicely for me to knock the stuffing out of it. I stand up there with my club. I feel it in my hands. I look down at the ball. I concentrate. I take a deep breath. I relax.
And then I …
Wait. Something doesn’t feel quite right, so I step away. I shake it off, clear my head. Okay, I’m ready. I’m standing over the ball, ready to do that thing that I do and then …
No. Something’s wrong. Something is very, very wrong. I’m standing there, a hot flash blasts through me and I’m staring to sweat. I purse my lips. I squeeze the club. And all I can think is something is wrong. Something is [i]very [/i]… [i]very[/i] … [i]wrong[/i].
I?m panicking. My heart is beating a million miles and hour. I’m having an anxiety attack. I holding the club in my hands and it’s like a Twilight Zone episode, like some alien force shot a mind control laser beam into my brain because as I’m looking at the golf club in my hands I’m thinking [i]what do I do with this? I don’t know how to use this club[/i].
And when I say that I didn’t know how to use the club, it was like a bow in my mind unraveled. Something had shifted. The degree was minimal–a nuance–but that difference was all the difference because suddenly the club, which had felt such a natural part of me for so long, now felt alien to my. It’s like my hands and arms simply didn’t understand what they were supposed to do.
I got the yips.
The yips is usually ascribed to athletes that, for whatever reason, inexplicably lose their ability to perform at even the most basic level what they had been able to do at a high level. In one case, ex-catcher Mets Macky Sasser, for whatever reason, couldn’t throw the ball back to the pitcher. Ex-Yankees second baseman–a gold glove second baseman–after 10 years in the majors as an all-star suddenly couldn’t throw the ball properly to first base.
This is what happened to me.
The best I can figure is that a very old mechanical flaw in my grip finally caught up to me. Without getting into too much detail, as a golfer, you’re supposed to grip the club with your weaker hand at the top of the club (my left), and then your stronger hand (my right) lower down and on top, to guide the club. But the top hand is supposed to be rotated counterclockwise, preventing your wrists from rolling during the swing. Because if they do roll, you’ll have a big hook–meaning your ball, if you’re righty, will hook way, way to the right after you hit it. And that’s what used to happen to me.
Why? Because I gripped the club more like a baseball bat, with my top hand–my right hand–more open, facing up. Thing is, over time, the rest of my swing had improved to the point where I could counteract the hook with a nice, fluid motion.
And what I think happened is that, in that one moment–on the third tee at the county tournament–the flaw in my grip finally caught up to me. The timing was most brutually unfortunate, because the rest of the day was the most excruciating 16 holes of golf I ever played. I was hitting balls in the woods. I was missing the ball completely.
It was like I had a muscle memory stroke. It’s like my brain short-circuited–on the spot–and what was easy and natural 30 seconds before was now totally foreign and mutant to me. All of a sudden my hands and arms wanted to swing a certain way, and that was [i]totally, completely wrong[/i].
My mind and body simply couldn’t function in sequence. And it’s not that I didn’t want to. I couldn’t. [i]I didn’t know how to make this work[/i]. And I didn’t know why this was happening!
Talk about humiliation. After that awful day, I tried playing golf maybe two or three other times, but that was it. For me to be a golfer again I would have to break down my swing and start all over again, unlearning what I know and relearning properly. I miss playing golf–I liked it–but it doesn’t really bother me that I [i]don’t[/i] play. What bothers me is that I [i]can’t [/i]play. My mind just won’t let me do it, and I don’t have the time, patience or motivation to start all over again.
I’ll never quite understand why I got the yips when I did. Why then? Why couldn’t it have been [i]after[/i] I kicked ass at the county tournament? I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll never know. But it was a real lesson in humility. I can think I know what I’m doing all day long, but the Universe has a real funny way–and sometimes a real snarky–way of reminding me that what whatever I think I know, I’ve still got a heckuva lot more to learn.
p.s. To read about another case of the yips I’ve experienced (and still do), check out my Oct. 2 blog on My ‘Past’ Blackouts.
Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/09/30 09:46
Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/09/30 21:31
Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/10/02 06:48
Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2007/11/07 07:06