TERRE HAUTE — There they were stacked in a dusty enclave in my garage. Staring at me … perhaps even taunting me.
It was a set of golf clubs that had not been used in at least 10 years. I had taken them off my dad’s hands for reasons unbeknownst to anyone in my family considering I was approaching my second decade of having turned my back on the sport.
Yet something inside me clicked that day. My personal Cold War with the game of golf was about to thaw. I wanted to hit some balls again … with hilarity sure to ensue.
My relationship with golf has always been uncomfortable. Unlike others, I was never indoctrinated into the game, my family was not a golf family when I was a kid.
My “heyday” of golf activity was my late teens and college years when I’d play with my buddies or with my dad and uncles. My skill level was miles below average, and to make matters worse, I’d physically suffer on the course during my pre-Claritin allergy days.
Worse, my course demeanor was just south of psychotic.
I made Happy Gilmore’s rants look like a Barney skit. I couldn’t hit a good drive to save my life, but if I hooked one into the trees or failed to hit it past the ladies’ tees, I was the Nick Faldo of angrily smashing beer cans.
I decided to give the game up for my own health, both allergy- and anger-management related. I haven’t played a round since the early 1990s.
Despite my long sabbatical, I have to admit as I (literally) dusted off my ancient clubs, that I was excited. I never had anything against the game of golf, just the way I played it. Maybe maturity and a near two-decade absence from the game would do me a world of good? I even told my kids that if all went well, maybe we’d walk a real course the following day.
Never have I spewed anything more insanely optimistic in my entire life.
I went to Fore Seasons Golf Complex with my kids and my ancient bag (no driver, only one wedge, etc.) in tow. I found a choice spot to re-introduce myself to the game, and by choice, I mean a spot far from anyone else to avoid braining someone with an errant shot.
I peered into my bag. Why start with a mere, work-a-day iron? Let’s start with a bang, with the longest club in the bag … my 3-wood. And when I say wood, it is wood. There’s not a hint of carbon fiber or graphite in it. Such space-age concepts seemed as far off as flying cars when my circa-1985 clubs were made.
I mosey up to the tee. I made my best guess on my stance and distance from the ball appropriate to the club. I remembered to keep my head down and don’t over-swing.
Here goes … and it’s a swing-and-a-miss. I had instantly forgot everything I told myself as I looked up mid-swing to admire my effort to “Tiger Woods it” all the way to Sullivan County.
I take a deep breath and tell myself it was OK. It was bound to happen as I shook the rust off. I step up again.
Contact! The ball sailed off the tee and looked majestic as it soared maybe 100 yards into the western horizon.
Unfortunately, Fore Seasons’ range faces south. It was quickly evident that everyone in the immediate vicinity, and perhaps as far away as Honey Creek Mall, was in grave danger so long as I had a club in my hands. When I hit, I should just skip “fore!” and go straight to “incoming!”
It quickly dawned on me how much my knowledge of the nuts-and-bolts of golf had deteriorated. It’s clear I need a golf lesson … or 900 of them. You could pool together the golf professionals from Vigo County and I’m confident I would drive each of them to madness with the monolithic task of teaching me the basics of the game.
For example, I had no idea how the properly grip the club. I still don’t know how … besides the putter, my putting grip honed at Putt-Putt’s from coast-to-coast. I was rocking some sort of reverse baseball bat grasp with my 3-wood.
Yet I kept spraying away. Did I hit the net on both sides of the range? Many, many times. Did I hit the roof above me? Check. Did I drill the windshield of the ball-scooping machine? Yes, and it was awesome, but it would have been cooler had he been in front of me, not at a 35-degree angle.
I have to compliment the architect of the range at Fore Seasons. Your design ensured a miraculous zero fatalities during my 60-ball barrage, though I’m pretty sure the ball-scooping machine driver had his life flash before his eyes.
I was emasculated, but undaunted. By all rights, I should never touch a golf club again and may God have mercy on my soul, but I have a Don Quixote-like determination to get this straightened out.
So after a cursory read of basic golf skills on the Internet — you know, the way the pros hone their game — I went back a few days later. I was much more relaxed and had much better concentration. I was still beyond God awful and I have no business polluting any area course with my presence yet, but I felt better and hit the ball straighter.
On one shot, it all came together. With my 3-wood, I somehow put all of the elements of a good swing together and crushed it. The ball sailed 200 yards, straight and true.
That kind of shot made me realize why duffers like me keep coming back to this frustrating, but breathtaking, game.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE — There they were stacked in a dusty enclave in my garage. Staring at me … perhaps even taunting me.
- From the Press Box
Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best
It’s hard to run with Secretariat. Secretariat, for the uninitiated, won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1973 and famously stormed to victory in the Belmont Stakes by an unfathomable 31 lengths. Secretariat is widely considered to be the greatest thoroughbred of all time, and his Belmont performance is one of sports’ all-time greatest moments. In Missouri Valley Conference terms, Wichita State is Secretariat.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Odum rises to WSU challenge
When you’re getting ready to play the No. 2 team in the country — the undefeated No. 2 team in the country and the best Missouri Valley Conference team in a generation — the unwritten rule says you’re not supposed to rile them. That you’re not supposed to poke the hornet’s nest.
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Before March Madness comes the March mystery of the run-up to Selection Sunday.
From the Press Box: Loss couldn’t ruin great day for ISU, Terre Haute
When I write, and when I can, I like to give myself a bit of time to soak in what I’m going to write about. After Indiana State’s 65-58 loss to No. 4 Wichita State on Wednesday, I went home, had a bite to eat and pondered what I thought the night was all about.
I knew ISU’s disappointment cut deep. Really deep. A cruel reality of sports is that losses linger on in the memory with greater resonance than wins often do. Given the shots that rattled out, fell short and missed the mark in the final five minutes, this is a defeat that will, sadly, dog the Sycamores tonight, tomorrow and 20 years from now.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Little to lose, a lot to gain for Indiana State
It’s hard not to get excited about today’s Missouri Valley Conference summit meeting between co-leaders Indiana State and Wichita State. Who wouldn’t be?
From the Press Box: I’ve seen the enemy … and it’s the double bonus
I’ve seen the enemy.
I’ve seen it turn the game of basketball from one of exciting flow into a nonstop parade of tedium. I’ve seen it morph hundreds of what would-be thrilling, last-minute, end-to-end conclusions into foul shooting exhibitions that suck the life out of a gym or arena near you.
It’s the double bonus. It’s a scourge, one that is often overlooked when ideas on how to make the game more entertaining or to speed the game up are put forth.
From The Press Box: If ISU figures out defense, look out
The Great Alaska Shootout is not going to provide the Great RPI Bump that Indiana State’s participation in last year’s Diamond Head Classic provided.
From the Press Box: Damage is done for ISU football
As a parent and a professional, there’s a bit of advice I’ve tried to pass along that I’ve found to be true.
No matter what you happen to be doing — whether it be job performance or just your own personal behavior — you can do the right thing for a period of time, even the vast majority of the time, but all it takes is one slip and the goodwill you’ve built up can be gone in one fell swoop.
TODD GOLDEN: Munn, Odum want to make paper accomplishment a real one
When it comes to Missouri Valley Conference Media Day, it has historically been a kick in the gut for Indiana State's basketball teams.
But not this year. For the first time since formal MVC preseason polls began in the mid-1980s, the Sycamores rule the MVC roost.
TODD GOLDEN: Colts fans paid Manning ultimate tribute
Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis was many things — the return of a beloved prodigal son, a battle of Colts’ No. 1-draft-pick quarterbacks and last, but not least, the visit from one of the AFC’s last reminaing undefeated teams — but most of all, it could have been a battle for the Colts’ fans soul.
From The Press Box: ISU in top 2 of top-heavy MVC
Change doesn’t often come to Missouri Valley Conference basketball. Until this season, it had endured with the same 10 members since the mid-1990s. But the reality of conference realignment finally hit the MVC where it lived last spring as Creighton departed for the new Big East Conference. The MVC responded by adding Loyola University.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Sycamores shocked by 1-5 start to season
It was a play that not only symbolized Indiana State’s 17-14 loss at South Dakota on Saturday, but perhaps the Sycamores’ entire season.
Down three with 6:39 left in the fourth quarter, ISU faced third-and-9 from its own 39. ISU ran Shakir Bell to the left and the senior standout had daylight.
From The Press Box: An avoidable loss
It couldn’t last forever.
From The Press Box: Colts dodge bullets ... it's what they do
Just a few minutes into the second quarter, it seemed Colts fans could kick back and enjoy a Sunday on Easy Street.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Indiana State proves plenty in 20-14 loss at Purdue
No moral victories?
Bull. Its always been bull and it will always be bull. The Sycamores proved again that moral victories are very real, and can be very rewarding.
All they needed to do to prove it was to look at the stunned faces of the Purdue faithful at Ross-Ade Stadium in the Sycamores’ near-miss 20-14 loss to Purdue.
From the Press Box: Stipends? No. Off-field income? Oh yeah, bring it on
The war flags have been raised. The trumpets have sounded.
With the Johnny Manziel autograph hullabaloo and the ongoing Ed O’Bannon suit against the NCAA for using his likeness as background, many have rallied to the battle standard of stipends as a means of compensating NCAA athletes who are allegedly being exploited for income by their universities.
This rally cry has a particular resonance among those in my profession, many of whom dislike the current system, and who detest the NCAA with a virulent passion.
TODD GOLDEN: Golf ... the beast within?
Like many sports fans, my interest in professional golf is confined to the four major tournaments. Many prefer the Masters, some like the back-to-roots British Open, but I’ve always liked the U.S. Open the best.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Close, but no cigar, theme for ISU sports in 2012-13
When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
Maybe the prospect of ISU’s season had me so pumped that I decided to get it started close to three hours early? (Or more truthfully, maybe I was over-vigilent about predicted traffic horrors on the Indiana 46 bypass that never came to pass.)
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Content McKenna has enjoyed seeing ISU's progress
It all happened so fast in June 2010.
One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
MVC can't wait on Crieghton to move forward
Will they go or not? That’s been the question that the Missouri Valley Conference and Creighton have been faced with since rumors of the Bluejays’ potential exit went public in December.
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Mastery of a basketball season comes in many forms. Mostly, it comes in forms that involve avoidance of turnovers, anemic scoring and poor defense.
The mechanics of X-and-O success in basketball are obvious, but what’s often overlooked in building a successful campaign is managing the rhythm of the season, which is the hardest thing of all.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Accountability isn't Lansing's alone in ISU's recent struggles
Taking ownership has always been one of Indiana State men’s basketball coach Greg Lansing’s strengths.
When ISU has lost games in his three seasons at the helm that it was expected to win, Lansing has always been willing to fall on the sword and take blame for it.
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You’d think I’d have learned by now.
It’s 20 games into Indiana State’s men’s basketball season and I still expect the Sycamores’ offense operate like a well-oiled machine from the opening tip.
Sycamores blossom on Hawaii trip
Quick quiz … what’s the state flower of Hawaii?
Don’t worry. I can’t just rattle state flowers off the top of my head. I had to look it up too, even though I’ve seen them all over the place in Honolulu.
I didn’t even know that Indiana’s state flower is the peony, which replaced the apparently unloved zinnia in the 1950s.
Hawaii’s flower, and they’re ubiquitous in Waikiki tourist shops and in actual flora on Oahu, is the yellow hibiscus.
The yellow hibiscus is big, bold and bright. I’ve never seen one blossom, but I imagine it has to be a beautiful sight.
What I have seen blossom — and it’s the only reason flowers would be brought up in my column — is the Indiana State basketball team at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
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To glean perspective on Trent Miles’ time as Indiana State’s football coach, I went back into the Tribune-Star’s archives to remind myself of what the football program was like when Miles arrived to rebuild it.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Scoreboard watching and the threat matrix for ISU
Indiana State football coach Trent Miles reaffirmed his belief Tuesday that a victory over Youngstown State on Saturday will propel the Sycamores into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the first time since 1984.
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- Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best