Long hitting Jason Kokrak won his second tournament of the year at Ben Hogan’s old haunt Sunday, beating Jordan Spieth and his cheering minions by two shots. I think if Kokrak can figure out how to control the spin of his wedges, he may be close to unbeatable. Faldo thinks he should get new wedges that are grooved to cut down on spin, but I think a top notch pro should be able to control spin with any clubs. Certainly Tiger and Phil could, along with Sergio and Morikawa. But if Faldo is right, and there’s no reason to think a six time major winner would not be right about anything golf, the grooves on our irons are more vital than we amateurs might think.
Anyway, Kokrak was able to drive the ball far and accurate enough to put himself into short iron range and make a ton of birdies. This is good for all of us to know since that is one of the basics for success with this game. Whether you’re a scratch player or a high handicapper, the closer you can come to the green on your drive, the better, with basically two ways to achieve this: find a way to hit drives farther or move up in tee boxes according to your handicap, age, gender, or physical condition. As I’ve said before, tee boxes should be more plentiful, if possible, and color coded only to take the stigma out of using them. At 75, and a cancer and heart failure survivor, I’ve been moving up accordingly and do not feel guilty for doing so.
A short while ago, I wrote a post advising Matt Wolff, the young phenom with the helicopter swing, to read my book in order to extricate himself from a dark place golfers can fall into from time to time. Well, obviously Matt never did read my book, The Mindful Golfer, since he has all but dropped out of the professional golf scene. I do know he played poorly the last couple times he was in a tournament. And he did withdraw from the PGA for no obvious reason. So there doesn’t seem to be a medical cause for his absence. The reason is emotional, it seems. Matt Wolff may well be depressed and discouraged around his golf game. He’s a great talent, a basically positive person, and I wish him well.
It was great to see the crowds back at the PGA and the Schwab. The cheers. The enthusiasm. The masses surrounding Phil and Brooks on the last hole, reminding me of how it once was for Arnie, and much before with Francis Oiumet in 1913 when fans carried him off the course after the amateur won the U.S. Open, beating the British greats Vardon and Ray. But one thing that struck me as odd was the lack of fans of color in the crowd. I don’t bring it up to criticize or accuse golf of racist procedures. I truly don’t know why there weren’t any Blacks or Hispanics in the crowd in both of those tournaments (at least that I could see on TV). It’s just an observation. The days of blatant racism in golf are over, but there does linger socioeconomic factors that may be limiting minorities from participating in the game.
When I was a kid in Philly, my public course had plenty of Blacks playing, even Charlie Sifford on a few occasions. Green fees were cheap and most took no notice if you were paired with an African American at the first tee. Later, that was true of my course in Northern Cal as well. Public golf seems pretty democratic and inclusive from my perspective. The common denominator–love of the game–trumps skin color, profession, wealth, or anything else that divides people, at least for the most part.
The PGA took place in South Carolina, and the Schwab in Texas; but still, in the past, I’ve seen plenty of people of color in the galleries in those states. It was just curious to me. It’s easy and convenient to pin the blame on systemic racism, but I suspect the reasons are more nuanced than that. I’m open to hearing from others concerning your take on this observation.
In line with this last note, even with the advent and popularity of Tiger, there are still so very few African American pros on tour. This too puzzles me. Is it economic? Is it cultural? Is it preferential? I count three African American guys at present: Harold Varner III, Cameron Champ, and Joseph Bramlett. The women’s game, I think, only has Tiger’s niece, Cheyenne Woods, Shasta Averyhardt, and Mariah Stackhouse. Thoughts?
In my continuing journey/battle to get my swing back to some semblance of functionality, I lighted upon a basic tenet, touched upon by my current instructor, Jack Young: A critical fundamental is to find a pace that will more insure that you strike the ball on or near the sweet spot. The speed of your swing is entirely up to you, but if you are not hitting the ball solidly, you’re probably swinging too fast (or too slow). Today, I had an excellent session at the range with a swing only a turtle and a 90 year old could appreciate. But you know something? It bloody worked. No half shanks. No grounders. No massive pulls. Just mostly solid hits with decent distance that drew me to this game in the first place years and years ago. Hallelujah!
And speaking of Hallelujah, a deep bow on this Memorial Day to our military who fought and fight to preserve democracy, opposing tyranny here and abroad.