Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Burning Bush

I have now had my "burning bush moment" in golf.

I best take heed.

For you heathens out there, the burning bush fable comes from Exodus, Old Testament.

Let me summarize:

The Egyptians are persecuting the Jews. A burning bush appears to Moses, with an image of Yahweh (God) inside, telling Moses to take his people out of Egypt to Canaan.

Moses, skeptical, basically says: "Yahweh? That's not really you. Come on!"

So Yahweh starts messing with Moses.

Yahweh then performs various demonstrative miracles in order to bolster Moses's credibility. Among other things, a staff was transmuted into a snake, Moses's hand was temporarily made to appear leprous, and water was transmuted into blood.

And then Czaban's driver was transmuted into a deformed, crooked, elm branch. His tears, transmuted into blood. His putting, leprous.

The Golf Gods' message: "get out!"

Message received.

My foray into the 36-hole Virginia State Amateur Qualifier was short lived. I went 9 holes and gently bowed out, telling my playing partners that I was sorry but, "I do not belong out here today."

And I truly did not.

I did not make a single par. I hit a 6-iron OB on a 165 yard par-3 (it was 30 yards left). I hit my next drive on a short par-4 dead right, OB. I hit 2 other drives that were weak, weak, pop-ups, which ended up maybe 190 and on the edge of OB.

Yet I wasn't slowing down our group. I wasn't throwing tantrums. I wasn't too embarrassed to turn in my scorecard (it was looking like it would start with a "1").

I just didn't belong out there. I was the Salahis of amateur golf. An impostor.

And I applied for the event in good faith, with the requisite sub 5.3 handicap. A handicap, based on holdover rounds still in the "system" from last year's late summer/fall scores. (See my rant on the stupidity of the USGA index from Monday.)

A few of these rounds from last year, were played with just one other friend. Under perfect still blue September skies. On gentle, 6,300 yard home layouts with few hazards and no OB.

This, suffice to say, does not prepare one for tournament golf.

Someday, I will return to tournament golf. But I do not know when. It may be years. And I will need to start at a much lower level.

Hello, C-Flight at my local muni! (Not a joke, folks.)

I need to go back and "un-learn" the crummy, pressure vulnerable, flip-and-hope swing I have. A swing that I have, sadly, been grooving for years now.

This will not be pretty.

My golfing BFF Mike McGowan put it succinctly.

This won't cheer you up, but your golf swing is indeed weird. It's perfect at the top of the backswing, and perfect at the finish, but at impact it's funky. I'll bet you can make it look better at impact -- using your pro's (NAME REDACTED) drills -- but I don't know if it will immediately lead to better ball striking. Somehow, you have trained your body to hit good shots with hips square at impact. If you "fix" your hips, you have to figure out how you've been compensating -- and then fix that too. That secret compensation move might be harder to fix than the square hips.

I harken back to the wise counsel I received from PGA Teaching Pro (Name Redacted): "Mike, you're a 6 now, but you could be a scratch player with just a tweak or two. You crush that power fade almost every time, but you need to reshape your clubhead path to hit draws. All good players draw the ball."

That was 2004. I'm now a rising 17.0 Index with a two-way miss. Only dim-witted stubbornness has kept me from quitting this ridiculous game.

REACT: He's right. I have a "square-hip-flip" move that involves a lot of compensatory moves. They are like an array of complicated servos and pistons and springs in a Willy Wonka like machine.

Some of them, I am sure, are so imperceptible to my eye, or even a pro's eye, that it may take months (or years!) to discover.

So why tear apart this car engine and start over?

Well, what else do I have to do? I mean, really. This is my hobby.

I remember when I was a kid, and my uncle Tom Czaban in Schenectady, NY would drive a low-level stock car on dirt tracks on the weekend.

When my dad (his brother) would take us up to visit in the summer, I recall watching the hours and hours Uncle Tom and a cadre of adults would spend hovering around the spare garage that housed the red white and blue "Big Daddy #1" car.

So much of low level racing like this, depended upon getting the car sufficiently tuned up to run well, with adequate power. And once you did, you were one spin out, or wreck from having all that time wasted.

Yet, if you had the engine, and you were leading the race, there was nothing better.

And this is like my golf. My engine is crap. It simply won't run in any level of competitive "race" above a scramble.

I am not quitting golf. Just re-calibrating. Getting out of stupid tournaments for quite a while. When (or, rather if) I ever get into a proper position at impact, I can assure you I'll post it here.

In the meantime, I am done boring you with my golf game. As the policeman in front of the smoldering wreckage would say: "Go home people. Nothing to see here."


  1. Think back to your best rounds ever. Don't think so much.

  2. Czabe, I love the way you hate on yourself. It's what we do to ourselves. It happens. Our game goes to shit and we hate. On our selves. It's goofy but we know who put us in that damn bunker. I did. I choked. I sucked. I shanked. I sliced, oh boy did I slice.
    But I love it just like you do. You don't need to be a scratch golfer to gain peoples respect, you must merely attempt to be better each time out. Who could ask more?

  3. Do it Czabe! I'm in the same boat as you, about a 6 handicap (though rising), but with a swing that I have wanted to deconstruct and rebuild for years. Family, a job and other commitments have prevented me from doing so, so I'll be living vicariously through you, best of luck!

  4. In a book on Hogan, I read that he too quit 2 or 3 tourneys. I thought this was taboo, but apparently it is not a sign of an internal character flaw. Of course after Hogan quit, he probably went to the range for four hours.

    Myself, because of my own bad habits, I have thought many times about learning the game left handed. I think you may find it easier to learn the game from the southside, than to fix your swing.

  5. I respect you for even entering a tournament like that. My game crumbles under pressure and I can't imagine how much pressure a tournament like that would generate.

  6. Czabe, here's a little advice... the only person interested in a golf story is the person that's telling the story. The only reason we endure it is so we can reserve the right to tell our own golf story at a later date.

  7. I'll be surprised if the story doesn't change in a week. After a couple rounds at the local muni you'll be wanting more.

  8. Czabe, I love the honesty and just had to share a similar story. My moment came in the 2006 San Antonio Men's Amateur. I was peaking and shot rounds of 72, 79, 73. My final round (on my birthday, June 11th) included a 9, triple, and double. I shot an 83 and have never broke 80 since. I tried to play in a couple more tournaments after that, only to realize that I am simply not recovered/ready. I am balancing being a dad and working, as well as eventually putting my swing back together. I'll be 25 next week, so I realize I have time, but I got a good kick out of your story and couldn't help but reminisce. Best of luck with the swing and still hoping every day to hear you guys back on the national airwaves!

  9. you'll have total conciousness and a perfect swing on your deathbed - before you die - so you got that going for you - which is nice.

  10. Czabe - i was in the same boat back in 2000. 11 handicap and i worked full-time during the week, hit balls after work and played at least one round a weekend. then one weekend i played in a member-guest and "it" happened: i lost my game. snap-pull hook OB off #1, push-block-fade IB on #2, bladed (and i mean put a smile on the ball bladed) wedges on #5 and #7. put up a smooth 50 on the front, and i won't bore you with details on the back side...let's just say it was sixty-something.

    embarassed, frustrated, confused, and scared, i spent the next few months pounding balls on the range and sought out a couple of pros to help "fix" my issues. time and money later: it's still happening. i know my swing is ok on the phyiscal level, it's just the mental and competitve side i can't get past. so i quit. flat out stopped playing for five years. and it hurt.

    after this self-imposed golf exile, i can now go to the course and have fun again. throw back a couple of pops, make a few pars, a few doubles, win or lose a few bucks, and just be comfortable that i'm not going to be a sub-10 index or win the club championship. let it go, and you'll find it again.

    gunga galunga.

  11. Czaban!

    Been a long time since our round at Bulle Rock when you played karate kid on the driver.

    Last year I decided I was going to try the PA Open Qualifier since the PA Open was being held at Oakmont. I'm shooting low-mid 70's pretty consistently, so I go out to see how I'll do and promptly put up a 62 on the front 9. On the first hole I was on with 15 ft for birdie and took a triple 7. It never got any better. 2 pars and no birdies. 43 on the back, but still a bloodletting.

    Bad enough? Not for me. Thought it had to be a fluke, so I decided to play in the mid-am qualifier 3 weeks later. Played 2 practice rounds, shot 73-75 and mapped out every shot. Of course I mapped out where I wanted to hit my shots to and from, but I had not planned for where I actually hit them. 7 Lost balls later, with easier pin placements and a bunch of ball snatchers on the course (old fellas) i breezed to a cool 97.....My coach said don't bother going back out until the likelihood you'll shoot par is greater than the likelihood you'll shoot 80. So I've been re-tooling my game for tournament golf as we speak.(also, staying away from scrambles). going for the mid-am again this year. I don't need to qualify, just finish respectable.

  12. Hi, I really like your burning bush image. I'm going to use it for a background, and I'll give credit when I'm done putting it up. Thanks :)