Sheesh, a woman could produce a baby since the last time I wrote and published a piece on this here blog. Thank God it wasn’t me or my wife, we’re done in that department. So why discuss timely, noteworthy or important issues when we can about my year in golf! I’m sure the interest level will be high for at least a handful of people—though I may be getting ahead of myself there.

To be fair, after an epic journey in 2012 to the home of golf, Scotland, playing the most legendary courses the world has to offer—including The Old Course, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Royal Dornoch, Prestwick, to name just a few—poor 2013 was primed to be a letdown year. And like a 115-yard wedge shot that mysteriously falls short of the green, that’s the feeling I’m left with about 2013.

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic and negative as there were many highs and thrills to go along with the disappointment and frustration—and, for a spell, abject terror. Here they are in mostly short review, followed by goals for 2014.

–Shot 76 gross, my best round of the year, in our Spring Field tournament. 14 pars, 4 bogeys, boring yet efficiently solid. Absolutely stoked as I walked off 18, fully expecting to be the clubhouse leader in Flight B (8-12 HCI), only to see a 73 (from a 11-handicapper) and 74 (from a 10) ahead of me. Shock. Dismay. Mutters of “f***ing sandbaggers. And a third place finish. What more could have I done? Nothing to be ashamed of here, for sure.

–Getting 3 sandies in 4 holes at Pinehurst #2 to help my playing partner Chris (3 HCI) pull even in a match after being 4 down. Oh, and all during a tropical storm, too.

–Played in my first-ever Greenspan Cup, where we play a Ryder Cup-style format, at Pinehurst. Just awesome!

–Playing the annual Heart Attack Anniversary round at Gold Mountain’s Olympic course with my buddy, Nick. Even though I lost to him (again), it’s a blast to play the game with a guy who loves every aspect of the game like I do.

–Three gutty performances during Greenspan. I easily could have lost 3 matches and gone 1-3-0. Instead I helped halve one (above), carried my partner for 17 holes on the other and battled hard to make my singles match come down to the last hole after being 4 down at the turn—all while battling a vomit-inducing case of the yips. Record: 1-1-2. The uneducated might not be proud of that record, but I played and fought my ass off when others would have thrown in the towel.

–Lots of course variety kept the game feeling fresh after Scotland: Pinehurst (#2, #4, #7), Kapalua, Wailea (Gold), Home Course, Gold Mountain (Olympic and Cascade), Sand Point (thanks, Nick!)

Disappointments and Frustrations:
–The handicap dropped, somewhat, from 7.7 to 7.1. Not at all what I expected after spending the winter and spring working diligently with Marty on swing fixes.

–Played exactly one round the entire month of July. A travesty considering the incredible Pacific Northwest weather.

–Inconsistent and terrible iron play—particularly on approaches. And despite that, my GIR actually went up compared to last year. So that must mean….

–Shooting 91 in the WSGC Fall Classic. The lowest low point I’ve had in the game in years. After taking an 8 on 16, I Nolan Ryan-ed my ball into the woods, spewed a string of profanities about the fairway, the green and the pin placement that would make a pimp blush—all of it in front of the VP of the men’s club. (Some of it he needed to hear, but that’s another story.) I wanted to walk off the course, and leave my clubs right behind the green. Instead I birdied 17.

–With my long irons, I have no clue of what I’m doing on my downswing. Everything’s flying right and short. Real clankers.

Abject Terror

–The putting yips. Not just a whiff or push or pull here there. We’re talking about doing unspeakable and indescribable actions with the putter that would make Dave Pelz quit his job. And Dave Stockton, too. It all started during Saturday’s rounds at Pinehurst. On Sunday at #4, I started flat-out missing putts inside 18″. Outside of 6-7 feet I was marginal, at best. Yet ask me to make a putt inside 3′? Forget it. The yips somewhat subsided on Maui, yet continued unabated into August, culminating in an embarrassing 5-putt in front of my Scotland buddies—from inside 5 feet.

Just to make sure that wasn’t a fluke, I managed the second 5-putt of my career just a couple of weeks later during the Fall Classic at WSGC’s 115-yard 3rd hole. I was on in one.

And that’s how the yips can ripple through the rest of your game. Every shot had to get close just to have a shot at par. Of course that didn’t happen; that’s way too much pressure for and to ask of one mid-level single-digit handicapper. Trying to be too perfect in golf is like drinking arsenic, nothing good comes of it.  And that’s where I am now.

The Goals

The Swing
Putter: First and foremost, eliminating the yips and the need to make a perfect stroke every time. So, where I used to have a routine where I’d make 3 practice strokes—one slow, one fast, one in between—then try to mimic the last, I’ve thrown that out. Since October, and using some tips from Marty and gleaning stuff from here and there, I’ve got a new, simpler routine that relies more on my first and initial read (a good thing), picking a spot a few inches in front of my ball on that line, taking one practice stroke, step up to the ball and stroke it right over that spot. On short ones, where I can see details in the cup, I follow the same routine, only now I pick a spot—literally a spot— inside the cup‚ focus on it and make the stroke. After a 2-3 rounds since October, it really seems to be taking.

The Full Swing
Marty’s had me working on one move all winter long, and it’s feeling better, and I’m compressing the ball more at impact, gaining distance and accuracy and a lower ball flight. Still not consistent, though, but that will come. Trouble is, I’m still getting lost on the downswing.

I played a total of 3 WSGC tournaments last year. That’s not enough to feed my desire to compete and test myself. So, even though we’re buying a house, the youngest is nearly 2 and entry fees are minimal, time to play as many events as possible–especially match play. I hesitate to set specific goals (example: “in ’14, I’m going to win the Spring Field event!) Well, duh, of course I want to win events and coin. Those are always my goals. What I want to do, is walk out onto the course and feel I have the knowledge and increased skills to make the shots.

That said, let me be a total hypocrite and state these goals: 1 win (somewhere); top 5 in all stroke play tourneys; top 25 in money; and make good, deep runs in match play.

Greenspan Tournament
No longer a rookie and not playing a legendary course this year will temper my nerves. Feeling very confident after my self-described gutty performances at Pinehurst. This is a team game. And if I go 1-4, and the one win comes on the last day during singles to help the 206 win, then that’s good. Again, I’d love to go 5-0, and I’m striving for that, naturally. But being in the high side of .500 is a goal.

7.1 to start the season is way too low for where my current skill set. Love to get to around 5.5 or lower, and I think that’s possible, but I’ll need to shoot in the 70s more consistently.

So, 2013, you were frustrating, to say the least. I’m glad you’re gone for a number of reasons, especially outside of golf. 2014, it’s nice to meet you. Here’s to bigger shots and better, more consistent scores in the season ahead!