Betting on Yourself

With only a few months remaining, the stakes have been raised even higher

Editor’s Note: This is part six (read part five here) of a year-long series tracking our editor as he attempts to reach a 10-handicap. Money is exchanging hands in our new online community via a squares pool, with the majority of wagers estimating his final 2021 index to be somewhere between 10.4-11.9. You can get in on the action here.

My buddy Colin is the Ernest Hemingway of the modern golf lexicon. In a scant few words—often ones he’s created himself—he can sum up entire rounds. “Whaddya got there? 8-iron? Better stand on that one. I’m gonna sauté a little 6.” Colin is not talking baseball when he says it’s time to carve a slider. And if he calls you “pro”—as in, “Nice job, pro.”—he has just delivered his most devastating insult.

Another phrase Colin knows well is when things begin to move quickly. This is reserved for those suffocating moments every golfer experiences when the earth crumbles beneath them and they can’t stop one bad shot from turning into three (or more) and suddenly an entire round is derailed by a devastatingly high number. This phenomenon recently happened to me, but because nothing normal has happened in this wild odyssey, it was in a wholly new way.

It didn’t even happen on the course. I was recapping my latest nine-hole adventure over at the Broken Tee Society’s new online home, explaining how I managed to shoot 41 with three doubles and somehow lowered my handicap from 13.2 to 12.8. Progress! It was a great conversation—people on the chat began trading secrets for great driving range sessions and tricks to help in the mental department.

Then, out of nowhere, the earth shifted.

Speculation arose if I could actually reach my goal of a 10-handicap. Some thought I could. Others (including, it should be noted, my turncoat publisher) were convinced it wasn’t going to happen.  Before I knew it, the Broken Tee Society had an actual squares pool—with people betting actual money—on where I would finish.

In the words of a legendary newsman, that escalated quickly.

Faced with such a wild leap in the stakes, most people would react by running back to the golf course. I ran to the nursery to change more diapers. We welcomed baby No. 3 into the world in late September, and she is perfect. The back of her little head fits snug into the palm of my hand like a softball. When especially hangry, she goes beyond crying into this huffy, oinky snort. She sleeps well for a newborn, sometimes going north of four consecutive hours. And, along with her 4- and 2-year-old sisters, she makes playing golf regularly next to impossible.

Before degenerate gambling took it over, a big part of our conversation was about time management. More than ever, I am now convinced that in order to succeed (and prove my damn publisher wrong), I must outmaneuver the overflowing tasks on my calendar. This revelation occurred in light of some positive news: My reworked swing is in a decent place.

A week prior, I’d been invited to the Wednesday pro-am for the Constellation Furyk & Friends event here in Jacksonville. It took some creative lifting in terms of child care and work requirements to pull it off, but there I was, shaking hands with my teammate Rod Pampling on the first tee of Timuquana Country Club. I hadn’t swung a club in about three weeks, so I had no clue where the ball would go.

But the practice swings felt good. The lessons hammered into me by my coach/Yoda Mike Miles—mantras that couldn’t have been further from my mind over the previous three weeks of 4 a.m. hangry cries and marveling at how a creature so small could fill up so many diapers—immediately came to the fore. Throw the club back. Shift my weight. Pull my hands through. Be a pendulum. I tonked the opening drive down the left side of the fairway, right where I wanted it. Then I hit 9-iron from about 135—Mike says I’ve really got to get to my front side on these shots—to 25 feet. Easy two-putt par and Team Pamps was on our way.

Trivia time out! How much money has Pampling made over the course of his career on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions? Answer: North of $17 million. Seventeen million dollars. And after watching him turn in the most casual 63 I’ve ever seen, including a hole-out for eagle from 194 yards on a long par 4 and a vodka-cranberry on the back nine, I wondered if he should have made even more.

My buddy Colin also knows how golf can get funny when someone’s on a heater. Our group responded to Hot Rod and we all joined in on the birdie parade. It was a handicapped team best-ball format, and we ended up using a couple of my 4-for-3s on the way to a 57 and the overall pro-am victory. (My only regret: I would have threatened breaking 80 on my own ball. Would have been a nice number to enter into the magic GHIN machine!)

That experience coupled with the aforementioned 41 made it clear that getting to a 10 is absolutely possible. Equally obvious was the combination of a growing multimedia empire at work and a sprouting trio of adorable knuckleheads at home standing in my way. The only way to get there is to aggressively make the time. So I am actively working my built-in advantages: The Yards, the 12-holer near my house, is about to have a sleep-deprived single on the sheet early every Wednesday. Grandma is about to spend some Wednesday breakfasts with her granddaughters. And I’m about to learn how to sauté a 6-iron. Place your bets accordingly.