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Golf is a great teaching tool, regardless of the sport

June 22, 2009

I love the game of golf for a lot of reasons.

It's true that my 12 rounds a year since leaving the golf business is by choice, but playing is much more enjoyable.

Along with teaching, being around a bunch of people who love the game and juniors who spends hours around the pro shop, the biggest thing I miss is getting to try all the new toys - especially the drivers.

I have really never been able to hit a 3-wood worth a darn, but being able to lace 'em up tight and swing hard with all the new drivers was fun.

It was also fun taking a new driver, handing it to a member, teeing the ball up some three times higher than they were used to and watching them hit it in the air higher than their knees and a ton farther than they were used to.

Teaching was also a lot of fun because I rarely taught the golf swing.

Most amateurs do not have the time, nor do they make the time to practice enough to work that hard on their golf swings.

They just want to hit it straight and not onto Lovers Lane.

I would say at most country club's there is no more than 15 percent of the players who really grind on their games.

So, how much people really practice is a myth.

That, of course, is unlike the professionals.

I have said for years that most amateurs should spend 90 percent of their time practicing from 100 yards and in. That would improve their game much more than trying to hit that perfect 3-hybrid on the range.

Notice how many pars were made from nowhere at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

I have no idea what will happen today in the final round of the Open. But, watching this event has been a lot of fun.

You watched guys hit it 50 yards right and 60 yards left of the fairways and still make par.

You saw that a lot of rain doesn't necessarily play right into Tiger's hands. A lot of rain allowed every player a chance because hitting a ripped 4-iron will stop on saturated greens quickly enough that a birdie putt is plausible.

The other part of golf I love is that there is no coaching from the first tee to the 18th green.

Guys have themselves and their caddies to try to figure things out.

The ebb and flow of a round of golf is hard to describe - especially at a major. It's interesting to see how professionals deal with the good and bad, with some of that on the same hole at times.

Lucas Glover began his Open with a double bogey.

With the hundreds of rounds of golf I have played with amateurs, more than too many times I have heard, "Well, it's going to be one of those days," and that 6-handicapper goes on to shoot 89 and be no help to the team.

Glover played the last 17 holes in 3-under and shot 69.

He backed that round up with a bogey-free 64.

After he played holes 6-8 on Saturday in four over I would bet there were more than a few of you who thought he was done.

You might have been, but not him.

He played the back side in 3-under 32 to give himself a shot.

How many of you have double-bogeyed the first hole, so to speak, and then mailed it in the rest of the day?

Just because you start double-bogey-double does not mean the round is over. The last 15 holes will reveal your character.

For junior golfers who play 9-hole matches, that start does not mean you can't break 40. That start does not mean you can't shoot even par, or under par.

That start also doesn't mean you have the right to mail it in and shoot 50.

That start is no different than a basketball team being down 20-3 after one quarter. That beginning does not mean you can't win. That start just means it got a lot harder to win. So, how hard will you play?

Witnessing your game go south also reveals your character.

It's easy to smile when things are going smoothly.

Mike Weir had a big grin when he birdied the fifth hole on Saturday to get to 7-under and four shots back of leader Ricky Barnes.

Weir then played the last 13 holes in five-over to make the final 18 that much harder.

But, he never threw a club. He never stuck one in the ground on purpose.

He just played. He wasn't happy, but he gave it his best on each shot.

Junior golfers, if he can do it, so can you because, on the talent scale, he's a lot better than you.

My uncle was a scratch golfer in his 20s. The older he got, the less he practiced, the more he drank (he was an alcoholic) and his golf skills deteriorated.

One day he was playing golf with clients and, by now, he was no better than a 20-handicap, at best, still playing with clubs he used as a scratch golfer with sweet spots no bigger than a pinhead.

He shot a million and kept getting mad because he remembered the old days when he used to be good.

His clients, though, had no clue he used to be good.

After one of his "fits" one of the three turned to him and simply said "You're not that good to get that mad."

Regardless of the sport, how mad do you get?

I am not as big of a Phil Mickelson fan like my friend Gene Martin, but I am pulling for him or David Duval to win.

They have a lot of strokes to make up, but Barnes and Glover have never been in this position.

And, like the late Payne Stewart used to say, "If you haven't choked, it means you've never had the chance."

I am not saying they will choke, nor do I wish them to do so, but if they happen to falter, there are enough good stories out there to make one heck of a read.

It is also great hearing the New York fans. They are loud and hearing those roars throughout a golf course is a lot of fun.

I heard them two years ago when I covered the Open at Oakmont and hope to hear them again next year when the U.S. Women's Open is at Oakmont.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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