LOOKING BACK

Some special memories from a game called golf

Commentary

Larry Bowers
Posted 4/19/17

My days of enjoying the game of golf while swinging a club are over. A couple of little things have caused me to cast the sport aside, namely the third and fourth disks in my back.

If I pronate …

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LOOKING BACK

Some special memories from a game called golf

Commentary

Posted

My days of enjoying the game of golf while swinging a club are over. A couple of little things have caused me to cast the sport aside, namely the third and fourth disks in my back.

If I pronate (or rotate) through a swing at the golf ball for 18 holes, I will be forced to lie flat on my back for some time. It’s a sacrifice I’m no longer willing to pay.

Ben Hogan said it best several decades ago, when he opined that the best swings in the game have adequate supination of the wrists at impact. It allows the club to come into the ball square, maintaining a straight flight.

Achieving ideal supination requires rotating your hips to the left, which places extreme pressure (during the turn) on your lower back. My back doesn’t want to go there anymore, so I’ve given up the urge to play.

I imagine Tiger Woods has a similar decision to make when considering whether or not to continue the game. Of course, he made a few more dollars than I did — which will at least someday carry him handsomely into golfing retirement.

I probably enjoyed the game and the competition almost as much as Tiger, and we both had a few temper tantrums (and said a few non-exemplary words) over the years. My words were mostly under my breath, while a few of Tiger’s could be heard on TV.

I remember once when I lodged a favorite putter high in a cedar tree, and was too embarrassed to get it down.

I didn’t win 80-plus professional tournaments, but I won a few amateur events. l played an exhibition round with Arnold Palmer (before 20,000 fans), as Tiger did, and we may have about the same number of holes-in-one. I’ve had five, but I don’t know Tiger’s total.

He’s known as a golfing legend, and I was known as an above-average amateur. My distinction is now a thing of the past, but his contributions will last forever.

I enjoyed the game, I still enjoy the memories, and I enjoyed all the times I watched Tiger play the game on TV. But, I guess you can probably say we’re both has-beens.

In my estimation, there was never a greater golfer than Woods (in his prime). I’ve seen all the greats since the middle of the 20th century.

Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were the first to provide the game with a boost into the limelight, but it was Tiger who later brought it to where it is today. Today’s golf professionals are appreciative to not only the two longtime legends, but to Tiger for raising the level of their paychecks.

Many others, such as Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino and Byron Nelson, were huge contributors, but it will be the three above who will be the most remembered.

Perhaps Woods will be satisfied to be included among this threesome and walk away from the game, but I think not.

Tiger, like myself, would like to continue to play the game. He continues to try, while I am resigned to my fate. He may make the same decision in the future, but regardless he has already had a tremendous impact on the sport.

I began the game late, when I was 20. The father of my then-fiance and her two brothers were golfers, and asked me to make up a foursome for a round of golf.

l had never played, and was forced to borrow some clubs.

I played better than anyone expected, but I don’t blame that for the end of my relationship and potential new family. I found new friends at the golf course.

My second year of golf I captured the Wallace Hills club championship (in Maryville), and was playing a minimum of four to five times a week. We would travel on the weekend to play in invitational tournaments throughout East Tennessee.

I made many friends and acquaintances through the game. Among my more enjoyable games came in pro-am events on Mondays. I was able to play several times with the late Connie Day of Cleveland, who was a cousin (by marriage).

Another family member and accomplished golfer was Lynna Rader of Greene County. The professional at Twin Creek Golf Club in Chuckey, she is the daughter of a first cousin. For a number of years, she held the world record as the youngest female golfer with a hole-in-one, at 8 years old. That mark has since been broken by a 6-year-old.

Among the most enjoyable things about golf, to me, is that it took me away from the indoors, and from a hectic workplace and family worries. I was outdoors, with few distractions, and enjoying one-on-one or team competitions.

Weekend trips with golfing buddies provided feed for current memories, and Monday pro-ams were a weekly treat. I also enjoyed providing golfing tips to family and friends, and even considered a career as a professional at one time. I had an offer to become a club professional, but quickly realized club pros have little time to actually play.

Also, I knew I could not make a living playing the game professionally because my driver was about 30 to 40 yards short of a profitable career. I decided to continue in journalism, but over the years have realized my driver (paycheck) was a little short there, also.

I did play golf professionally for about three years, but it was more of a hobby than a career and was prior to taking up “big golf.” I was one of the early Putt-Putt professionals (No. 195), and traveled to tournaments on weekends throughout the Southeast.

I won several tournaments (in Macon, Ga.; Kingsport; Bristol; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Cincinnati). Winning paychecks in most of these tournaments were only $500 to $1,000, but that was a lot of money to me, and the competition was great.

I met a number of outstanding individuals, as well as a number of characters, during my “big” golfing years. Some were outstanding amateurs, other professionals, and even some former professionals.

Among the characters was former PGA professional and pro at the Madisonville Golf Course, “Dock” Goss. He was a towering individual who could hit his driver astonishing distances. He often had to hit only a wedge to the green.

Asked one time what he contributed to his success, he said, “It just takes a little touch.” He then took a wedge, hit a golf ball and it bounced into the cup. “That’s $50 of touch,” he announced.

Goss attempted to play on the PGA Tour, but a balky putter brought him back to Madisonville with his friends.

Another friend and outstanding golfer was Ray “Rounder” Franklin. He also attempted to play on the PGA Tour. He had the game, but immaturity brought him back to Maryville. He was the golf professional at Wallace Hills Golf Course, and later a golf course designer, among them Lambert Acres in East Tennessee.

There are other names I could toss out, and many I’ve forgotten. I probably will never play the game again, and all of my trophies and medals (and cash) are gone. But, I have my memories.

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