Sunday, May 9, 2010

The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades!!

Wow.  I saw where Tiger Woods dropped out of the Players Championship during the 7th hole of the final round today.  The first reports out of Florida say that he has a possible bulging disc in his neck and will have an MRI tomorrow.  Now we will have to endure the next several weeks as the sportswriters and the know-it-alls from the "mainstream" media begin their seemingly endless micro-analysis of what went wrong and all of the reasons that could have possibly have led to his withdrawal.

No matter what Tiger's reason, I can tell you for certain that playing golf through any type of injury is no picnic.  I had a case of "golfer's elbow" a few years back.  It's a lot like "tennis elbow" - except it is an inflammation of the tendon on the inside of the elbow, while the tennis-player's version is on the top/outside.  The symptoms for me were a sharp pain like somebody was sticking a steak-knife into my forearm right next to my right elbow...and a weakness in my grip that was so bad I couldn't even hold a club, much less swing one!!

After a couple of months off (which felt like YEARS!) - and, with my discovery of an elastic and Velcro elbow-support strap, made by the Ace Bandage people, (something that wraps around the forearm and somehow takes the strain off the inner tendon - don't ask me how it works, but it does!) - I came back.  I never play golf without my elbow support now...even though I have not had any flare-ups in at least two years (knock on wood).

Since I tore my left rotator-cuff tendon last month, I have not played any golf ... nor have I even swung a golf club.  Well...I did take my three-iron into the back-yard a couple of weeks ago and made a few swinging motions...but I can't remember the last time I hit a golf ball. 

I've been thinking for several weeks now that I simply MUST get out to the driving-range and check out whether-or-not I'm ever going to be able to play my beloved game of golf again.  Since I've decided to forgo the shoulder surgery, I know that I could possibly be living with this injury for the next two years.  On the cusp of leaving for India for two years, this is not a comforting thought, to be honest.  Not playing any golf for two years??  I'm not sure I could even think of doing that!

But, if the truth be told...I'm pretty sure that I've been afraid of the truth.  I've had a few opportunities to go over to our local driving range in the past few weeks...but I didn't go.  You see, what if I go over to the range to hit a small bucket of balls and it turns out that I physically cannot swing a club, what will be my reaction??  How depressed will I be??  Yeah...I think I was scared. 

As I wrote last Friday, Amy and I took a little much-needed "mental health" break for the weekend down at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe (just up the road and a little inland from her horse-show at the Del Mar Racetrack)...and it happens to be one of our most favoritest places in California.  On Saturday morning, we got up and had our coffee.  I was flipping through the "amenities" book that comes inside the room...and I saw that there is a golf course about 2-miles down the road.  I told Aims that it was "now or never" - and that I was going to go over to the golf course and see if my shoulder will allow me to actually swing a club.  I think she knows what an important step this was...and she sent me on my way.

Since I hadn't brought my clubs down to Del Mar - the plan was to borrow a demo seven-iron from their pro-shop and head out to whack some golf balls out on their practice range.  If I was unable to actually swing a club, the feedback would be obvious... and instantaneous.  So, I drove over to the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club (which looks very nice...I had no clue ahead of time was so exclusive...I didn't know at the time that it's a private country club.)  When I walked into the pro-shop and made known my request...the man behind the counter was pretty direct:

"I see.  O.K. - and when, exactly, did you want to do this?"

"How about right now?", I said.

"Well, sir, I'm sorry, but you are going to need to change into proper golfing attire!"

Hmmm.  I guess that my baggy grey sweat-shorts and USC tee-shirt aren't considered "proper" in some hoity-toity circles!!

So, back the the hotel I go, changing into golf shorts and a collared shirt.  I made my way back to the country club and said "Hi, I'm back..."

"O.K.,'s your club. We couldn't find a seven-iron, so I hope this six-iron will do. Oh, and you're going to need to tuck your shirt in at the range."

"Tuck in my shirt??"  Only because I really wanted to find out if my shoulder was going to be "golf worthy" ... I didn't tell him to stick that six-iron up his...nose!

I nodded my thanks and walked out of the pro-shop and over to the bathroom to "tuck in my shirt".  As I walked, I was wondering if the "Tuck-in Police" were going to come and arrest me for showing too much shirt-tail.  I walked past the actual clubhouse, over a small hill to the range with the shiny new Hogan Apex six-iron in my hand and grabbed a bag of practice balls.  There were only a couple of other guys banging balls out there, but I picked a spot all the way down at the far end of the range.

Nervously, I dropped the first ball onto a spot of grass.  I took a couple practice-swings at about half-speed.  No pain.  Setting up to address the ball, I thought to myself: "O.K., Scott - - it's now or never!" 

Whack!!  Straight as a string with a little draw.  The ball landed out by the white flag I was using to aim at (which I found out later was 156-years from the practice tee.  Shoulder pain?  None.  Zero!!

Whack!  Whack!  Chunk!!  Whack!!  I hit almost half of the bag before I hit a truly bad shot... and it was amazing!!  No pain...although I was prepared for some.  I don't think I was following through as high as I wanted to...there may have been a little "ouch" at the top when I really went after one for more distance.  Not all of the balls I hit flew as perfectly as the first couple of dozen...but, by far the majority were good, well-struck shots!!  I finished up and returned the club to the man at the pro-shop.  As a final act of radical defiance, I un-tucked my golf shirt and walked out to my car.

Needless to say I was thrilled!!  I can't say that the shoulder wasn't a little sore all day today...but that's why golfers my age keep lots of Advil in their bags!!  I'm back!!  Bring on Boulder Hills Country Club in Hyderabad! Get me a starting-time for the morning after we land!!

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