Following a disastrous performance in the April medal competition, it was essential to get back out on the golf course last Saturday.
Joining three pals for an early-morning start, I began well – par, bogey, par, par. One over after four isn’t bad for an 18-handicap golfer, though on the fifth hole, my troubles began. This, however, had little to do with the par-five, 490-yard hole we were tackling.
After such a decent opening, I became chattier, more relaxed and took my eye off the ball – almost literally – a topped fairway drive was dangerously close to being an air shot.
In fact, with the exception of the par-three 11th, it wasn’t until the final four holes that my card again acquired a modicum of respectability. Playing only half the course well is not exactly a recipe for success, but what caused this sudden reversal of fortune?
Most amateur golfers display a remarkable propensity to talk about anything as they meander around 18 holes. Cracking jokes, discussing sport, politics, women and a host of other complicated subjects does tend to affect one’s concentration. Such loss of focus was conspicuous by its absence at Augusta last weekend.
I was particularly impressed by Jason Day’s preparation for virtually every stroke; eyes closed, he mentally pictured each approach shot or drive. Then there was Adam Scott’s almost metronomic putting.
When amateurs attempt something similarly serious, we often sense the impatience of our playing partners.
The dilemma is that being affable, an integral part of the game’s universal appeal, is often at odds with the need to concentrate and focus. Professionals make the period when they’re not executing shots look easy and relaxing, although their minds rarely stray from the job at hand, especially in competition.
One man who encapsulates these features is Sam Torrance, confirmed this week as another high-profile participant in August’s Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship at Nailcote Hall.
An outstanding performer on the European Tour for two decades, the man now renowned as much for his rich Scottish cadence and sense of humour featured in eight Ryder Cups. When I heard that such a respected figure was competing in the event, I immediately booked a lesson with the club pro!
* Peter Sharkey is playing in the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship between 6-9 August. Follow his progress in the Post as he prepares for the event.