A game of hopelessness – golfing – Brief Article
I was playing an important match with a golfer from another club. I was swinging well, and I had my opponent on the ropes–or so it seemed. Every half-baked solution he tried–swinging harder, swinging easier, teeing off with irons instead of woods–merely made his problems worse. Finally, when I had him 3 down with four to go, the look of anguished intensity vanished from his eyes. I could tell that he had given up.
“Uh-oh,” I thought.
I was right. As soon as he stopped caring, his drives straightened out, his wedge became a weapon and his putts began to drop.
He won three holes in a row with two birdies and a par, and, before either of us had fully comprehended what had happened, our match was all square.
“Whew,” I thought.
Once again, I was right. Suddenly realizing that victory, against all odds, was within his grasp, my opponent began to care again, and his swing promptly imploded. I myself had been floundering at that point, having watched with growing horror as my lead slipped away–but I had just about resigned myself to the inevitability of a humiliating defeat, and, therefore, the new tension in my arms had gradually dissolved. Thus composed, I was able to scramble for a double bogey on the final hole, beating my opponent’s triple. The match was mine.
Despair has the same relaxing effect on a golf swing that self-assurance does, and it’s far easier for most of us to come by: Hopelessness is the poor man’s confidence. The most dangerous player in match play is the one who has mentally surrendered, because conscientious effort is the gremlin that destroys a hacker’s swing. We all play better when we play alone, because when no one is looking and nothing is at stake, we stop paying attention to ourselves. But when the outcome begins to matter, we go back to getting in our own way.
Beware of the golfer who has given up. Study your opponent closely, and blow gently on the embers of his diminished hopes the first time he fails to slam his driver back into his bag. Keep him focused on the match. Don’t let him stop to smell the roses, and, whatever you do, don’t let his thoughts drift forward to the post-round beers in the grill.
Praise his shaky putting stroke. Compliment the sweeping arc of his slice. Never let him think that he no longer has a chance.
COPYRIGHT 2001 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group