Friday, August 8, 2014

My Daughter is Amazing

“You’re holding three medals, we are insanely proud of you, there are other little girls with no medals, don’t cry.” These were my words to my daughter two days ago after she competed in the sub regional for Drive, Chip and Putt at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club. She was naturally upset that only the top two finishers advance to the regional at Crooked Stick in Indiana and she had placed third. Six points stood between her and advancing, when all was said and done.

Hailey was completely inconsolable; meanwhile my Husband and I were in complete awe of her ability to garner 60 points with her effort. You get three putts, at different distances, three chips at the same distance and three drives. Right out of the gate, she holed the first putt, the second putt was within inches of the hole and the long distance putt was close enough to garner some points. As I was watching this display, I was thinking I ought to be taking putting lessons from my nine year old.  She came in 1st place for putting, scoring 45 points.

When it came to the chipping portion of the competition she struggled but in fairness the chip was downhill, the green sloped left to right. The children were setup to chip from the far right side of pin. I debated about whether to say anything to my daughter about making the ball land left and run out. I did not. Looking back, I wish I had said something to her, to avoid her being disappointed about not advancing. At the same time, I’m never going to be standing next to her, arming her with extra information on a golf course, unless I am caddying for her. She went on to only score one point for the chipping portion of the competition.

The driving portion of the competition is last. The fairway was fairly wide, giving the children a fairly good chance of scoring points. Hailey scored 14 points, all three of her drives counted for points. She came in 2nd place for driving.

It’s such a delicate balance as a parent to a natural athlete, as Hailey is, when it comes to helping. My Husband and me have a hand off policy with her, in that we exert no pressure. We do not do overbearing helicopter parenting. She is also an incredible soccer player, very tenacious for her stature. People have been approaching us since she was seven with regard to recruiting her for travel soccer. We decided as parents that travel soccer at seven was not in her best interest.

Now, she has had some lessons with PGA teaching professionals in Maryland and Illinois. My Husband and me have given her general golf instructions. The two children that advanced had proper swing instructors. The notion of a swing instructor for a nine year old seems like overkill to me. I don’t want to ruin golf for her at nine; I want her to love this game for a lifetime. She has been blessed with such a beautiful natural move at the ball, the type of swing that makes a pro scoring a competitions jaw drop. Part of me is afraid to let anyone intervene at this stage.

In some ways I can’t relate to my daughter. I have always been athletic but I have always had to work really hard to achieve anything. Here, I have this little girl who is naturally gifted with an insatiable desire to compete. So, I stood there trying to console her, telling her an anecdote about how I came in second in a basketball one on one competition at age eight.  I was attempting to illicit a smile or laughter, informing her that only two people showed up to he tournament. I’m parentally at a bit of a loss, with that in mind, this closing portion of the blog is directed at my Hailey, who thinks Mom writes a blob and that it is incredibly nerdy.

Hailey, you have given my life more meaning since you came into it a little over nine years ago, than it ever had. You and your little brother are the reason I get up every morning. You are my heart. If you scored no goals on the field or no birdies on the golf course, (she nearly had an eagle a few weeks ago) it would not make me love you less. Everything you do, you do with so much heart. In life, the effort that you put in is what truly matters, and that you have fun. You got three medals on Wednesday, all by yourself. You outdrove and outputted the little girl that won the competition, which makes little sense looking back on the event. You accomplished all of this by yourself, without a swing instructor, or me and dad hovering over you. You were remarkable. I marvel at you. We will spend more time working on your chipping and next year, you will return victorious.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Custom Club Fitting

Back in May I was approached by the PGA Tour Superstore to participate in their Custom Fit Club Fitting Event. Basically, I come in for a free fitting with a professional and the store gives me free equipment. The only matter that gave me pause before saying yes to this opportunity was that most of my equipment is fairly new. I replaced my irons in Spring of 2013; my driver and three wood are about two years old. My mentality about clubs is that if they are still working, they retain their space in my bag. The Cobra four hybrid that I carry is 8 years old.

So, I said yes and went in for the club fitting since I am at a stage in my ongoing love affair with golf, where being armed with more information and custom fitted equipment could only bolster my game. As an aside, the head professional at my home course informed me that by accepting over a certain dollar figure in equipment, there was a chance that I was giving up my ability to compete in certain amateur competitions.

Disclaimer, I have been approached several times to use different golf products and talk about them publicly and I have said no. When we relocated to Chicago in Spring of 2013, I fell in love with the PGA Tour Superstore in Downer’s Grove, Illinois because of the broad selection of equipment they offer, particularly for women and the plethora of golf apparel. As you know if you follow me on social media, I have quite the assortment of golf clothing. This is a store I shop at frequently and talk about constantly anyway.

One Sunday afternoon back in May, directly after a round of 18, 
I met with Dave Sluder, the head club fitter at the Downer’s Grove PGA Tour Superstore for a full bag fitting.  Before I touched a club, the fitter measure my arms and hands. I went into this completely opened minded and willing to listen to all of the feedback I was given. Most locations of the PGA Tour Superstore have eight monitors.

We started with a driver fitting. My last two drivers have been Taylormade, so I tested the SLDR. Lofting up wasn’t working out for me and I was getting too much spin with this particular driver. After demoing several drivers, we deduced that I was getting an ideal launch angle and spin rate with the Callaway Big Bertha driver with 13.5 degrees of loft and a 50 gram Mitsubishi Fubuki Zeta Graphite shaft. I also added a Big Bertha 3W and a 5W to my bag. I was a little uncertain about carrying a 5 Wood because in the past when I have carried one it has been used infrequently.

Before we moved on to the iron fitting a discussion ensued about how people focus on the wrong numbers on the monitor. To summarize, ignore the distances you see on the monitor and focus on your launch angle, spin rate and club head speed. These are the numbers that are critical.

Dave put tape on all of the irons that I was going to demo so that we could see where on the face I was making impact on good swings and mishits. I demoed six sets of irons. The club fitter remarked that my set up to the ball, grip and the manner that I come through the ball were all good. When I did have a mishit it was tempo related and closer to the heel. I was fitted for Titleist AP1 714s 5-W bent 1 degree flat with Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 50 gram graphite shafts. I also added a Cleveland 588 54 degree wedge to my bag.

Finally, we moved on to a putter fitting. The club fitter remarked that I had too much wrist involvement in my stroke. To compensate for my non-quiet wrists Mr. Sluder suggested that I consider going with an oversized Superstroke 3.0 grip. I ended up settling on an Odyssey Versa Black White Black Putter.

Prior to writing this particular blog post I wanted to play with my new equipment for several weeks before I gave an honest assessment as to whether this club fitting was beneficial to me. The Titleist  AP1 714s were backordered until mid June and that threw a wrench in the works.

For the past three weeks I have been playing with my new equipment. After the first round I decided that in order to keep my rounds fun while adjusting to the new driver, I would continue to carry my old driver, a Taylormade RBZ with 10.5 degrees of loft. I had the space in my bag to do a Phil. What I found with the new driver was that when I mishit it, I was spraying the ball errant. Going from 10.5 to 13.5 degrees of loft is a massive adjustment. The notion ideally is to get more carry. In one instance where my contact was perfect with the Callaway Big Bertha I murdered a drive 30 yards past my longest drive on a particular hole.

The Titleist 714 AP1s, I want to marry them.(to borrow from my kids' everyday slang) My feel is incredible and the ball gets up easily. Sadly, I do have a slight gap in my bag. I would love to add a 3 iron back in, once I have the driver situation sorted out.

The 5 Wood whose purpose I deliberated has become my favorite club in the bag. It’s is a lot easier to hit off of the fairway than a 3 Wood. It is nice to be confident holding a club.

The only club that I was fitted for that I am not enamored with is the putter. I love the oversized grip but, I have found that I simply have less feel off the face of the Odyssey Versa Putter. My old putter is not broken; it’s a Nike Method Putter. I have such great feel off of the Polymetal face.  Sadly, I am not carrying the new putter. I most likely will re-grip my Nike Putter with an oversized SuperStroke grip.

Go get a fitting. If you are going to spend major money on equipment, do not buy it off the rack. You are cheating yourself if you do. The PGA Tour Superstore will soon have 22 locations. They have well informed club fitters, who are not paid commission to push given equipment on you.

In closing, the best thing about being presented with the nice opportunity of the Custom Club Fit Event was that I get to pay it forward. I am donating a set of irons to the First Tee of Chicago. Our teenage babysitter expressed an interest in the golf team at her High School and I am giving her a game improvement set of Pings I have in my garage. This is a great way to grow the game, by giving your old equipment to newer golfers.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Offseason

Although, I would love to make excuses for failing to update my blog for,gasp, over a year, all I can offer you,readers is that life has gotten in the way. Most of you are aware that I relocated from Washington, DC to Chicago, IL last March, well I have finally readjusted to life in yet another big city. Now, that I feel everything is in balance again I can focus again more indepthly on all of my interests, including this blog, Fabulous Follow Through.

One of the greatest readjustments in relocating is entirely relevant to Winter golf, in that last year I was able to play all but, one weekend in DC when it was 22 degrees and the ground was completely frozen. Those of you that follow me on Twitter will recall the infamous video of me on course last Winter with the cordless drill, by drilling into the ground, I was able to tee it up. There was minimal snow in DC last Winter, whereas here in Chicago this year it started snowing on October 22nd and has yet to cease. Packing away my clubs during the Winter was not a contemplated thought in the past, I was mystified by my Midwestern friends that would undertake the aforementioned ritual every year. One of the members at my prior club in DC actually cackled at me when I informed her as to how I was going to play during the Winter months in Chicago. My friend, Dixie actually gave me an entire informational packet relevant to Winter Golf as a parting gift.

Winter golf,what was I thinking? This is my front lawn.

My clubs are not quite packed away because I simply cannot bring myself to do that. I love them. They are a part of me. The local indoor range and Top Golf are only a short drive. Intermittent practice has been occurring. Additionally, I have a practice net complete with a mat in our storage area, chipping net and a practice putting device scattered about the house.  A friend sent me a Birdie Ball and I have been randomly hitting that around the house too, I reason I cannot do too much damage, unless of course I crash into something with my backswing.

Exercise has always been a big part of my life, in DC when I was not golfing I was kickboxing and doing some yoga. Last Summer, I joined a studio here in Chicago and I instantly realized how beneficial increasing the amount of yoga I was doing was on my golf game. A large portion of yoga is simply focusing simply on your breath. I recall Phil Mickelson saying after he won the Open Championship last year that coming down the stretch remembering to keep breathing was crucial. I have heard this said numerous times before by other professional golfers in post round remarks. This really resonates with me where my own game is concerned. When you focus on your breath it forces you to slow down and simply relax as you step up to your shot. It provides you with a clear mind and allows you to visualize your shot.

During these harsh months, I have thrown myself into my yoga practice to also strengthen my core,flexibility and balance three things that are critical for making solid contact with the golf ball. I have also participated in a gong meditation workshop, an inversion workshop, a 30 day plank challenge, a 30 day squat challenge and have started meditating daily for 20 minutes at a sitting.

Five times a week I venture to the studio and either do a core strengthening class or a sculpting class which incorporates weights. The days that I am unable to get to the studio, I work on inversions at home on my mat. Simply getting upside down requires an insane core and when you fall over, as I often do, it humbles you.


Me working on a yoga inversion known as tripod.

The past year has been incredible, I managed to take 4 strokes off of my game, meet a wonderful group of my golf Tweeps and travel to Amelia Island, Orlando and Atlantic City to play golf. Locally, I attended the BMW Championship and got to meet one of my absolute favorite golfers, Lee Westwood.

Me and the future US Open 2014 Champion, Lee Westwood.

This year I have  a trip to the US Open at Pinehurst and a trip to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Scotland planned. There are so many things coming golf related that I look forward to and wish to share with all of you here on the blog. Thank you for taking the time to catch up with me in this off season. Please follow the blog.