It’s amazing how rich one round of golf can be.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to remember and value the lessons. Clearly, I need to reflect on what I learn in order to remember…

And, maybe the score really doesn’t matter that much after all? Yesterday’s big fun showed up on my scorecard as a disappointing 102 at the always challenging Stonetree. But, besides a thoroughly enjoyable experience and winning the team match (more on that below), I learned more about letting go and just playing the game… and perhaps that’s a much bigger win than breaking 80 will be when I get there.

It was another up and down day with three pars in a row at one point and two times where I put my team out of the hole before we even left the tee. (We were playing two-man teams, total score of both players on each hole, match play, $5 Nassau.)

Because I’m gearing up for the two-day Stonetree Club Championship next weekend, I started the morning with an 8AM lesson before the 9:40AM tee time. I was so excited and jacked up on coffee before we teed off that I guess I knew in the back of my mind that anything could happen. The first hole was an acceptable bogie after a decent tee shot, weak 2nd, excellent pitch, and two putts. But the inconsistencies began on #2 with a toed tee shot into the bushes on the right.

Cutting to the chase, part of my purpose in playing modest betting games was to put performance pressure on myself like I will have to in the tournament, and to slay the demon of letting leads get away. That’s a painful pattern and I had done that with my partner Eric in the past, and I didn’t want that to happen again. But, it did happen again on the front nine. I started to feel a bit of what I imagine Michelle Wie must feel: “Needing to learn how to win.” We were three up with three to play after six holes–in a great position to win the front nine–when my poor play let our opponents win the next three holes in a row. So the front nine was a push. The back nine was much tighter, but we had them dormie again, two up with two to play. Then, I four-putted #17, once again letting the pressure get to me.

Fortunately, this is when the lights came on. My wonderful friends and playing partners generously and compassionately shared with me the reminder that I tend to stand too long over the ball and think too much about what I’m doing instead of just playing the game. In fact, my pro, Doug had talked to me about this same thing earlier that morning. I took this friendly advice & coaching to heart as I stood on the 18th tee (418 yards, par 4) with the $10 bet for both the back nine and the overall match on the line. It may have been enough to slay that demon…

Stonetree #18Boom. My drive went right down the middle. As I stood over my 4-wood approach with the pin back and the wind hurting left to right, I remembered my lesson and the smooth, easy and free swing which can work so well when I remember to let it happen. The ball came out a little low but flew nice and straight. It hit the steep mound of tough rough right in front of the green but had enough steam to kick forward and trickle onto the putting surface. It was a good 30 feet left and short of the pin, but I was dancin’.

Again, this time while putting, I relaxed and let it go, just playing the game. I simply rolled this long uphill, right-to-left breaker without a lot of over-thinking and a whole lot less tension in my body. As I looked up, my heart danced again. The ball was right on line, and in the end, it had enough speed to get right up to the cup, stopping just about 1/2-inch short… just enough for the kick-in par and the win.

Great Lesson: Just play the game. I can do that. It’s always more fun when you win, but even if I don’t win, it will still be more fun to play more freely. Learning to let it go may be one of the most important lessons I ever learn (when I finally get it) and this kind of thoroughly enjoyable learning experience–in the great outdoors, with my pals, just playing the game–is one of the main reasons why I love golf so much.

My next step is to start monitoring and actually scoring (on a scale of 1 to 5) how freely I swing on each shot. At least for a while, I think this needs to become my main focus.

Thanks for reading.