WOLAK: A ray of light in the midst of awkwardness

Nich Wolak • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:50 PM

“Why don’t you warm up while you’re waiting.”

It was a statement, not a question, although lightly spoken by my golf instructor Troy Thom.

The problem was, I wasn’t sure if I remembered how.

Practice makes perfect, but I hadn’t touched a club since my first lesson — which was more than a week prior.

My helter-skelter Taco Bell-eating lifestyle had gotten me once again, and there was no one to blame for eating my homework. My dog lives with my parents.

The balls slowly dribbled away as I swung, unsure of what to do with themselves. I was sure of something though — I was about to be exposed.

Or so I thought.

It’s kind of hard to look like an idiot hitting a golf ball, when you don’t swing at golf balls.

“We’ve got to train your body without a ball 1,000 times,” Troy said early on in our lesson. “... When you have a ball in front of you, you revert back to your muscle memory.”

I didn’t have that yet, but I certainly had bad instincts that needed to be tamed.

My instructor took me back to the basics, and added a little bit more.

It was an awkward start.

I put the club behind my head, looking at the start like a steroid-era baseball slugger before transforming into God only knows what.

The drill was to work on my posture. When getting in my stance I wanted to arch my back, but by putting the top end of the club on the back of my head and having the rest go down my spine, I was able to maintain a sharp angle when I bent down.

From there, every sports (and dancing) instinct failed me. I wanted to get low — too low for golf. Apparently, I was at risk of topping every ball by bending my knees so much.

After reviewing posture, grip and alignment, Troy began to work with me on my takeaway.

 It was a complicated dance. If my head wasn’t in the wrong spot, my back, wrists or toes were certain to be.

I eventually developed some rhythm.

When doing a half-swing, your arms and wrists are supposed to come back to the side of your body in one motion, almost as if you were doing an abs drill with a medicine ball.

The forward motion is led by the back big toe. I continuously worked on this rotation, practicing isolating the toe if I got away from the fundamentals.

And then I abandoned them completely.

Troy’s words turned to Charlie Brown teacher squabble, and I began to drool a little bit.

He has a ball, he has a ball! Who cares what he’s saying, I’m going to hit a ball!

 I don’t know if I would call what happened next a hit (maybe to my ego). I was once again introduced to Mr. Failure.

“Already you can see that you revert back, and you don’t have 30 years of bad habits,” Troy said. “… Imagine if you did.”

In order to not have the lesson destroyed, he had me begin to take three practice swings before each shot.

And by golly, it worked.

My next half-swing got the ball into the air for a 140-yard draw.

“For you to do that your very first time is a very good sign,” Troy said.

I wagged my tail, and continued to make my trainer proud.

Two, three, four, five — all of them were good shots.

And then Troy asked me to try one without a practice swing.

I lost sight of No. 6 right away.

It was an angel, soaring into the sunlight, landing very close to where my first shot had.

There would not be another one like it that day.

Everything felt weird when I went up to hit No. 7, and I chunked. 

The streak was over and I restarted a more familiar one — sucking at golf.

I topped several others before calling it a day.

Troy reminded me that you need 10 minutes a day to retain muscle memory, 30 if you’ve missed the prior day.

I’ve got some homework to do.

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