For as long as there has been golf, there have been horrible, pitifully bad golfers with swings that looked more like a new born giraffe taking its first steps than a human being trying to swat a tiny white pill down a fairway. There’s also been the 1% of the 1% of golfers who make this painfully difficult game we all love look as easy and natural as inhaling and exhaling. With such a disparity, the question of whether or not the folks who make up the minuscule amount of touring professional golfers on the planet are flat-born with the ability to be great, or if their skills are learned, developed over what can be an excruciatingly long process, extensive hours on and off the course and more work than most of us can ever imagine, is one that comes up often. Is Rory McIlroy a result of passion, work ethic and sacrifice colliding or was he, at birth, a chosen being touched by the hands of a superior golfing deity, declared to be the next big thing?
Or is it a little of both?
I apologize in advance – this is a little long-winded. Stick with me, though.
As a golf junkie who has been blessed to write about the game I love, play much more of it than most my age and even caddie at two of the North East’s most prestigious private clubs, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and speak with hundreds of people about the game at length. One of the most common quandaries is aforementioned: Can anyone be a pro under the right circumstances or must you be born with it?
I’ve always believed that human beings can do anything they put their minds to – and that’s what I plan to do. My whole life, I’ve always been “pretty good” at every athletic endeavor I've undertook without really trying. For a long time, I was quite proud of that. It was nice being able to skip workouts and still get hits during the game. It was fun being one of the first picks in pick-up football despite never playing a down in junior leagues or high school.
Now, at 27, I’m realizing the folly of my ways. I can barely make it up the stairs without being tired some days. My ankles sound like a tiny tin drumroll as I walk up them. I’ll go to throw a snow ball at my car for ha-ha’s and the shoulder that used to routinely throw 100 baseballs a day in the upper 70’s and lower 80’s now feels like I tried to bench press a Honda Civic after just one toss. It’s disheartening.
Genetically, we aren’t that different, Jason Day and me -- comparing his DNA to mine wouldn’t look too terribly different under microscope – but Day at 27 is a major championship winner, a physical specimen who, when not plagued with bouts of vertigo (and hell, sometimes when he is) is one of the finest athletes in one of the toughest games on the planet. He constantly works to be the best and feeds his body right.
As for me, at 27, I’m a former high school athlete who treats every whiffle ball game, every round of golf, every pick up football game as if it were the World Series, the Masters on Sunday or the Super Bowl – and I usually end up paying the price for it the next morning. I rest on my laurels, eat SweetTarts and Doritos almost competitively and drink more Coca-Cola than your average monkey eats bananas.
That being said, over the last five years I’ve buried myself in the game of golf and have built a swing of which I am quite proud. It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as that of say, Louis Oosthuizen or as powerful, long and athletic as Dustin Johnson, but it has produced dozens of rounds in the mid-to-high 70’s in the last 24 months; feats that would’ve been deemed impossible by 23-year-old me who was content with a round of 89 and no hangover the following morning.
Since then I’ve caddied at Vineyard Golf Club and the Hartford Golf Club, played with Division 1 All-Americans, dozens of aspiring club pros, gotten impromptu lessons from a local legend, and bounced swing ideas off players whose talent I would literally commit murder to have. For lack of a better phrase, I have been truly blessed in my golf life.
Because of this, I've decided to see just how far I can go; to finally find an answer to the "born with it/work for it" debate.
Over the next 14-16 months, I will attempt to transition my mind, body and game from their current states (cluttered, over weight and inconsistent) to that of a championship golfer. I will be overhauling my diet, beginning a stringent exercise routine, adopting rigorous practice regiments, play in local and state tournaments in Massachusetts and Connecticut to collect valuable competitive rounds and basically do everything else your average touring pro might -- all while working a full-time job and keeping my new bride from leaving me.
All of this is in an effort to take my self from a 3.7 handicap to the 1.4 necessary to attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open in 2017 at Erin Hills.
Now, I'm not talking about going all Roy McAvoy on everybody -- just getting to the qualifying stages would be huge and, honestly, a position that most average golfers on the planet would be content to reach. I'm here to prove that it's possible for anyone.
Along the way, I'll be asking for help, taking questions and keeping you posted on my progress. Hopefully, whether you believe I will or I won't, you'll come along for the ride, learn some things on the way and perhaps realize that your potential is fully in your hands.
With the help of Adam Fonseca, I will be updating you here at Golf Unfiltered on a weekly basis, while those interested in the day-to-day grind can follow my diary at Hacktohero.blogspot.com.
Follow me on Twitter at @HacktoHero27 for even more updates along the way.