Lt. Governor Accepts Signed Copy of Louisiana Golfer’s Paradise

On 6/15/11 I presented Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne with a signed copy of Louisiana Golfer’s Paradise: The Audubon Golf Trail. I would like to thank Lt. Governor Dardenne for his warm reception and interest in the book. The Lt. Governor is in charge of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism which runs the Audubon Golf Trail. I could not have asked for a more wonderful reception from everybody in the Ddepartment of Culture, Recereation,and Tourism and the Office of Tourism. I would like to give special thanks to Steve Windham of the Lt. Governor’s office for his help and support.

Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and rt tulley

Lt. Governor Dardenne Receives Louisiana Golfer's Paradise from rt tulley - Photo by Steve Windham

 -rt

 

The Sportsmanship Award

One of the first times I ever played golf, when I was maybe 5 or 6, I was sent back to the clubhouse to wait for my family to finish playing because of “conduct unbecoming of a gentleman in the game of golf.” That was my dad’s way of telling me that my temper got the best of me. Despite this early lesson in restraint and the gentlemanly playing of the game, I struggled for many years with temper issues on the golf course. People who know me would never think that about me because I am generally so laid back and gentle. But put me on the golf course and I can become a fuming monster.

My father told me about one tournament he played in as a youngster. He recalled that he was playing so badly that he just made the best of it and smiled and laughed at himself as he made his way to the final hole. For that, he was awarded the Sportsmanship Award. My father always recalled this fondly. To me, it was nice but Sportsmanship Awards were contrived for losers. You never heard of Jack Nicklaus winning a sportsmanship award. At the time, to me, being a champion was more important than character issues.

When I was in the ninth grade, a group of my golfing friends and I took a train to Pensacola and stayed on the beach (my first beach visit, by the way) to play in the Southern Junior Golf Tournament. At the tournament we met a boy named Dudley. The four of us became fast friends. He was a couple of years older than I and he became an instant hero to me. After that trip, Dudley came to visit us in Baton Rouge and we all played a round of golf at our home course, Sherwood Forest Country Club. I wanted so badly to impress him that I put undue pressure on myself to perform well. What I didn’t realize at the time was that he was a friend not because of my golfing abilities but because of who I was. Well, I was so disappointed in the way I was playing that I let my temper get the best of me and I blew up. I later heard that Dudley had said how surprised he was to see me acting like I did. That comment devastated me tremendously and I became determined to do a better job of controlling myself on the golf course. Sometimes it takes hitting bottom before you can drive sense into yourself. Not only was I behaving in a manner “unbecoming of a gentleman in the game of golf” but I was also hurting myself by letting the bad shots get to me and destroy my game.

So this incident forever changed the way I behaved on the golf course and made me appreciate my father even more. He was my golf coach, my caddy, and my mentor. I remember playing with him and his friends on Saturday mornings and playing with him in father-son golf tournaments. The memories of those events are firmly implanted in my brain but it’s not the scores we shot that I remember. Those have faded out of mind. But it’s the relationship we had that I treasure. The good times together. The bad times together. How when I was nearly in tears about the way I was hitting he would put his arm around me and then would try to calm me down and systematically coach me back into form.

I remember making fun of my father’s brightly colored vertically striped orange and green windbreaker that he put on one Saturday morning on the first tee. Since he passed away many years ago, it has become one of my prized possessions. When I look at it hanging in my closet, I smile.  And I remember. Things like his Sportsmanship Award. Maybe character is more important than ability.  rt

© 2011 rt tulley

The Yips

The yips are defined as involuntary muscle spasms that occur on short putts causing the puttee to hit the ball in an unplanned manner. Simply put, you miss the putt. The yips seem to be associated with putter anxiety resulting in terrors as one lines up a putt. I have luckily not been afflicted with putting yips but I think I have the iron yips. All I can say is thank goodness I don’t have them on my chipping and putting. Those are my only reliable shots.

It began many years ago on my long irons. My nerves on those shots would cause me to yank it, skull it, or whatever bad name you can think of. You name it, I did it. Then it progressed to my mid irons and often makes it to the full short iron shots. I’ll skull them, top them, yank them left, or hit a weakly hit shot to the right that goes about half the distance it should. Jerk, klunk, klink, kill, skull, shank, smother, slice. Those are words which profusely make up my vocabulary. Dare I say it? Whiff. The yips are even starting to make their way to my fairway woods and occassionally, the driver. I used to depend on my driver so much. It was either because of my accuracy or my mechanical looking swing that inspired my high school golfing buddies to call me “Machine.” Well, this machine is badly in need of a major tune up, rehaul, or rebuild!

Put me on the driving range and it’s all fine and dandy. Put me on the first tee of the course and I start to worry about my mechanics and jerk it; or if I face a 150 yard shot over water, I invariably chunk it. Because of this, I have seen my scores progressively increase like the national debt. I am taking the reverse path of when I first started to play golf, getting worse rather than better. Is this an age related thing? No! I refuse to give in to age. Perhaps it has to do with anxiety. A history of bad five irons causes you worry about how you’re going to hit the next shot so much that it affects your confidence and your ability to execute a smooth swing. Pressure? No. It’s not like I’m playing for money or glory or a Tootsie Roll. It’s just me against the golf course. And the golf course has been winning. Frequently. And this is supposed to be a fun game?

I have made a recent discovery. Sometimes I hit the ground 6 inches past the ball. That’s extreme. The scientist in me has deduced that to do that on my downswing I must be moving laterally forward, pulling my head with it, causing the center of my swing pivot to shift forward. I’ve found that on the driving range I am turning my hips, hitting smoothly, and not forcing the action. The results are usually fairly good. Whether this discovery leads to better shots on the golf course I will let you know. For now, I am a little too scared to try. So I will keep going to the driving range, visualizing each shot I hit on the imaginary hole that I am playing. And in my mind I will invariably break 80 during that exercise. (Why stop at breaking 80, go for 70, or even 60, you say? Well, let’s not be ridiculous!).  Maybe I’m on to something – just stay on the driving range! Why spoil it by actually playing a round? rt

© 2011 rt tulley

Simona

OK, I know this is a blog about golf. But I’m calling in my Blog Master Privilege. I will get to the golf but now I’m going to write about the Indianapolis 500. I have to preface this with a description of my brother. My brother Fred, Super Race Fan, who is now an attorney and an excellent photographer, has been going to the Indianapolis 500 since we were kids growing up in Indiana. Fred first went when he was quite young, but I wasn’t allowed to go at first because I was too little. Instead, one year my dad bought me a baseball bat to ease his guilt and my complaining about not getting to go to the race. While Fred was at the race, I got hit in the head with the bat trying to take it away from the neighbor bully who wouldn’t give it up. Blood and stitches. That’s all I remember. Plus telling my dad, “See what happens when you don’t let me go to the race?” I laid it on good. I bet you know what was next: I got to go to every race after that. When my family moved to Louisiana we stopped going.  When Fred got old enough he began going on his own or with friends. While he was in Law School at the University of Virginia and having no money at the time, he convinced the Charlotte, Virginia newspaper to send him as a reporter. We Tulley’s find ways of getting our way! I think he’s been every year of his adult life since then. But I hadn’t gone back in 50 years (that thought makes me cringe). Not until last year. Fred asked me to accompany him and his brother-in-law Rick from Texas. Oh what a time we had! The race cars when I was ten compared to the race cars now aren’t even in the same stratosphere. I had to wear ear plugs this time and now they go by so fast you can’t see the numbers so you have to study the coloring patterns on the cars in order to identify them.  And the engines are now in the back.  When they began moving them to the back way back then they were called funny cars. Now they are the only cars.

Fred let me use his on-track radio to listen to the driver/crew conversations which was really fun. I latched on to a rookie named Simona De Silvestro. I enjoyed the way she talked like a college kid with her Swiss accent bubbling over with enthusiasm. Fred explained that she had shown to be a real good communicator with her crew and had previously had success racing cars, winning 5 races and 4 poles in the 2008 and 2009 Atlantic Championship. She’s pretty but not the sexy-but-stern-jaguar that is Danica. She’s more like the girl next door you always played baseball with, who could hit the ball better than you and would slide head first into the catcher standing his ground at home plate.  But she would be someone you could call your best friend, always fun to be around. She has rekindled my interest in Indy car racing.

I became a huge Simona fan that day. She was one of my picks to win the race. Although she didn’t win, she finished 14th and was chosen as Rookie of the Year. Now I follow her the way that I follow David Toms (see, I didn’t forget about golf). I check her web page, her Twitter messages, and her Facebook account. I watch her real time laps online and on TV when she’s on. She’s been in some accidents and was seriously burned twice and gotten a concussion from her most recent accident. But she’s always gotten back up to race again. She has shown guts and courage and fight beyond that of most men. She has shown a great ability to drive, especially on the road courses, even with a car that’s not quite up to current standards. So if you want a real life honest-to-god hero, look no further than a 22 year old race driver known simply as Simona. rt

© 2011 rt tulley

The PGA Shot Tracker

I have recently discovered the Shot Tracker on the PGA Website (http://www.pgatour.com/shottracker). By clicking on a golfer’s name, the round, and the hole, you can graphically follow every shot he makes in a particular tournament. Of course, David Toms is my favorite PGA tour golfer. Now I follow him around every tournament through every hole. Although not as good as being there in person or seeing it on TV, this graphical tool gives me up-to-date scoring and allows me to tell how he is playing. It gives driving distance, whether they hit the fairway or not, how many greens they hit in regulation, and how many putts they’ve had. You can actually see the placement of each of their shots on the computer monitor with a graphical depiction of the hole.

Following his first win in five years at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, David Toms took a two week break. Needless to say, his game suffered and he missed the cuts at the Fedex St. Jude Classic and the US Open.

Using this tool, I was able to determine that even though he didn’t score particularly well in the third round of the Traveler’s Championship, I knew his game was back on track because Shot Tracker told me he hit all of the fairways and only missed one green in regulation. It was only his putting that held him back. Even though he began the fourth round ten shots back of the lead, sure enough, he shot 64 to take the lead in the clubhouse and eventually finish in a tie for 17th. Now, even though I am not physically present, you can be sure that whenever David’s in a tournament I am there watching his every shot. OK. Call me weird. rt

© 2011 rt tulley

David Toms

When I was in the playing and photographing the courses stage before I even began writing my book Louisiana Golfer’s Paradise: The Audubon Golf Trail, there was no doubt in my mind who I wanted to get to write the Foreword: David Toms. After all, he had designed Carter Plantation, one of the courses of the Trail, he was on “This is my Louisiana” advertisements for the state Office of Tourism with an alligator, he was an all-American golfer from LSU, and he is arguably the most successful professional Louisiana golfer ever, having won the PGA Championship in 2001 and having earned a total of 13 tour victories and more than $36 million. Beyond that, I knew that he was a HUGE LSU sports fanatic. That sealed the deal. My family and friends will tell you nothing ranks higher to me than LSU sports. The question was “how am I ever going to get him to do this?” We had never met each other; I had spent my career as a Clinical Chemist and Professor. There was no reason that we should have met. How was I, a nobody in the golfing or business world, going to get David Toms’ notice? Years ago, I never would have had the courage to even ask. But my advanced age tells me that if you want something bad enough, you should do what you can to try to get. Tomorrow may be too late. (This is the same principle that guided me to take action on realizing my dream of publishing.) So I wrote to the David Toms Foundation, and asked if he might be interested. They had me send a draft copy of the book and after many discussions my proposal was accepted. Erin Laney and Adam Young of the Foundation were so amazingly helpful in the long process. When I finally had my hands on a copy of the Foreword by David, I was ecstatic! He did a wonderful job. But I still had not met him, Erin, or Adam.

At the end of April, 2011, thanks to Jim Hutchinson, Melody Alijani, Steve Windham, and others, the State Office of Tourism accepted my plea to work with them in the Audubon Golf Trail booth at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans to help announce the impending arrival of my book. During the tournament, I was able to take off some time from the booth to follow David Toms around a little. He ended up finishing in a tie for 18th; however, I could tell that his game was about to explode and I told everybody I knew. He was pinpoint accurate on his drives and his irons were exceptional, especially his short irons. If he had been able to hole many of his shorter putts I believe he could have won the tournament. I know as a golfer that putting comes and goes. But with his beautiful putting stroke I believed that it wouldn’t be long before he would put it all together and explode.

I didn’t have to wait long. Two weeks later he hovered near the top but then took the lead in the third round of the Player’s Championship and held it until the last few holes on the last day. However, he made a spectacular long iron shot out of a divot on the 18th hole and sank a long putt to earn a playoff with KJ Choi. On the first playoff hole he barely missed a birdie which would have won the tournament. Unfortunately his putter failed him on the comeback putt to earn the victory for KJ.

Most people would have let that experience defeat them. But not David Toms. He stormed to an early two round lead with dual 62’s at the Crowne Plaza Invitational in Fort Worth the next week. A disappointing third round put others in contention, but David never let up and an eagle obtained by holing a wedge shot on #11 on the last day sealed his win. I wish I had been there. Even on TV, you could hear the gallery shouting L-S-U! L-S-U!

In early June, 2011, about ten days after David’s victory, I arranged a trip to the northern part of the state to bring copies of my book to the pro shops in the Audubon Golf Trail and to the David Toms Foundation office in Shreveport. I had just turned off I-49 toward Alexandria to visit OakWing Golf Club when I got a call from Erin Laney of the Foundation saying that David was in the office and I would be able to meet him. I scurried out of Alexandria without making my planned stop and arrived at the David Toms Foundation office two hours or so later shaking from head to tail. I was not disappointed. He was very busy answering well wishers about his recent victory but he took time out of his schedule to see me. I congratulated him, thanked him profusely, and gave him a couple finished copies of the book. We chatted briefly but I can say that David is gracious and a true gentleman. I was so excited and nervous about our meeting that I failed to ask for an autograph. But what a day!

So why do I root for David Toms. Selfishly, sure, his success can possibly help the sale of my book. But it’s more than that. How can you not root for someone who strikes the ball with such precision? How can you not root for someone who is such an ambassador for his community, his school, his state, and his nation? How can you not root for someone who is so family-oriented? How can you not root for such an LSU fan? I can’t. Geaux David!

Please support the David Toms Foundation. They do a wonderful job in providing programs for enhancement of self esteem and character in abused, underprivileged, and neglected children. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Louisiana Golfer’s Paradise: The Audubon Golf Trail will be donated to them. For more information visit their website at www.davidtoms.com. rt

© 2011 rt tulley