WOLAK: Putting for real

Nich Wolak • Jul 21, 2015 at 3:04 PM

“You’re set up like you’re trying to hit it 200 yards.”

Hadn’t Troy figured out that was what I always wanted to do?

I was ready to let the balls fly free like doves, but instead I was stuck chipping and putting. The short game is the bane of every golfer’s existence, and once a week I get to pretend like I’m one.

While a hater of authority, I have somehow always managed to be coachable. I heeded Troy’s advice and shortened my stance.

He, of course, was right. These short distances needed some short movements to match.

I was playing a game called Up and Down. Theoretically, I was supposed to chip the ball as close to the hole as possible.

Per usual, my start was not the greatest, as I went 2-for-4 in Troy’s deemed scoring area, which made a diamond around the hole.

But then, a string came together — and it started to get a bit cheesy.

No. 5 earned a “nice,” No. 6 received an “excellent” and No. 7 was “awesome.”

I was dialed in.

My eighth attempt brought out one of the best sounds you can receive when someone is watching you do just about anything — an oooh.

That sucker had almost went in, just lipping out to the left.

I was 6-for-8 — not too shabby.

Once upon a time I had a basketball coach who told me (and the rest of my team) that when you have a downed opponent you need to stomp on his throat.

I don’t think I’m violent enough for golf (or life for that matter).  

My next two shots looked nothing like No.’s 5-8, as I hit one behind and barely made my last attempt into the diamond.

Then Troy told me the second part of the game — I was supposed to try make each putt in one attempt.

The key word here was “try.”

“This is hard,” Troy said. “If you can make one, this will be progress.”

One. That shouldn’t be too hard. There was no way I could blow this, right?

The scattered balls made for some extra thinking on procedure.

Troy had told me that when you practice putting you should start from closer in and work your way out to build your confidence. That somewhat made sense here, especially since the longer balls would have a blocked path from their closer counterparts, but I also didn’t want to risk taking the “easier” shots before I hit my putting grove.

That putting groove did not come in the first half of my attempts, as I continually heard two phrases that no man ever wants to hear, “too hard,” “too fast.”

I decided to take a risk on putt No. 6 and go for the second-closest ball. I just missed.

Troy and I have talked a lot about golf, but not too much about the etiquette that surrounds it. My verbal response to that physical mistake may illustrate that lack of knowledge, as I channeled the bad boy of fictional golfers.

“I’m about to go Happy Gilmore on everyone’s a**,” I exclaimed.

Troy’s critique of the putt stung even deeper. If I had just kept doing what I had been doing, I probably would have made it.

“If you would have hit it a little bit harder, it would have kept its line and went in,” Troy said.

I continued to putt like Happy, missing everything until I got to that closest ball.

I looked, calmed myself, took multiple practice swings and tapped it in.

Then I fist pumped like Tiger.

“You look like you just won the U.S. Open,” Troy said.

I felt like I had.

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