Walking With A Pro

cart thursdayI usually write my posts in the morning to noon time, but you’ll all have to bear with me until I get off Pacific time.

As I said, caddying for a pro (Jerry Crowell, PGA of America) in a PGA Tour qualifying event is about as high as you can get, whence I come.

Ten and a half years ago, in the summer of ’05, I dug my clubs out of the closet years after I’d quit the game in disgust (the modern swing concepts, which completely baffled me as an athlete).

A little over eight years ago, I began to blog about the golf swing as I studied theory and tried to build the model of a mechanically-correct and athletic swing.

Two days ago, I found myself carrying the bag of a pro who missed out on qualifying for the Farmers Insurance Open by 3 strokes.

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Until I actually follow him around a Tour or Champions event, or carry in one of those, this is as heady as it gets for a swing analyst who has never played professional golf, and in only 2 amateur rounds, nearly 20 years ago.

And it was a head-turning experience, even though I was so focused on my particular task at hand (put up, shut up and keep up, and remember to keep my pro on his routine and adjusted setup before each full swing).

If you’re thinking of playing competitive golf, then I have some advice for you – don’t even bother, unless you are prepared to dedicate your existence to the task.

Even the lowest tier pro golfers (and BT is certainly lower tier, having narrowly missed out now on a Champions Tour even qualifier and now a regular PGA Tour event – this is a quality of player who is just finding his place, and is getting better every day, you mark my words, he’s going to play on the big stage before he’s done) play at a level you can’t begin to fathom until you follow them around for a day during an event.

They not only play on a higher level, they know what it takes – as Jerry and I made our way around the punishing Bear Creek G.C. course yesterday, he stated emphatically that a 69 would likely make the qualifying mark.

As the day wore on, we agreed that a 70 might do it.

The winner, Brian Smock, a former Tour player himself, turned out to take it with a 70.

I asked Jerry after his 73 (which was a hair’s breadth from being a 70 or 69, but pros don’t do “coulda-shoulda-woulda,” it is what it is for them) what it would take for a handicap player to have shot the same score on yesterday’s course and setup.

He’d have to be least a +2 or +3, was his reply, and I’d add, or unless they had the round of their life at a slightly lesser rating.

So, do you hear that?  Unless you’re a +3, you shouldn’t even bother trying to play in a qualifier like  yesterday.  And you likely won’t even stick around on the Tour even if you make it on somehow, unless you’re somewhere around a +5.

That is far beyond what most good players will ever achieve. And that’s why you see pros turning in scores at times that make even the best courses look easy – they’re that good.

And I mean at playing the game. The golf swing is one part of it, but the game of golf involves much, much more than just the swing.

BT Lines Up An Eagle Putt On Practice Round Sunday

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I saw some brilliant short game and recovery stuff from Jerry and other players that would make your head spin.

And they never give up on a hole, or a round.

Starting the 2nd nine on the 1st hole yesterday, Jerry missed green with his approach out of the bermuda rough, and he was +2 after the first 9 holes.

“Pitch this one in!” I said as we walked up the fairway.  He nodded, serious as a heart attack.

His pitch out of the green front rough, steeply uphill, didn’t bounce on as he thought it would, and he was still off the green playing 4, on a par 4.

“That’s makeable,” I said, as much to boost my confidence than anything, and Jerry proceeded to chip that one in for a thrilling par.

They never.give.up. I would have checked out by then, even playing a casual round and looking going 3 over with a likely winning score around 69 or 70.

It was the turnaround that saw him play the front 9 (his second) in -1, 2nd best front 9 of the day and second only to the winner’s -2.

So, be careful when you talk of becoming a scratch player or being a tournament player – if you have a job, or a job and a family – you aren’t going to putt in the time that it takes to get there, and that’s that.

I saw some implosions as well, and personally witnessed a 6 from a player on the par 3 hole that Jerry birdied in textbook fashion, smoothing a 9 iron to an into-the-wind hole at 135 yards with a ribbon-narrow green and a pure, uphill putt dead center from about ten feet.

How do you shoot 6 on a par 3 hole that’s playing only 135 yards?

Pressure.

There were a lot of big scores on that hole, and the bodies were piling up on the bank of the Bear Creek itself, running just off the front of the green.

I could go on forever about yesterday’s experience, but that should be enough to give you the vibe.

Next, I’ll address my own contribution to Jerry’s round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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