News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 29, 2012

RUB OF THE GREEN: Sometimes this can be a confounding game

Bob Arnett
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — To be sure, the great Sam Snead certainly knew what he was talking about when he delivered his favorite axiom, “The sun don’t shine on the same dog every day.”

A local player, Mac McCalister was definitely correct when he referred to his own golf game by stating, “Some days it’s chicken and some days it’s feathers.”

What’s going on when a golfer can shoot 67 one day and then go back to the same course the following day and stumble to an 82. It doesn’t make sense. Same player, same course, same clubs, same weather conditions. What’s going on?

In regard to repeating excellence, Dr. Robert McDavid has confided on more than one occasion that the kinesiology and physiology involved in producing an outstanding golf swing is an activity that is not impossible, but it is surely most difficult. I can recall a player who shot a mid-60 round to lead the British Open after the first 18.

After the second round, he was history, failing to come close to “making the cut.”

Some might blame bad luck on their inability to post a good score following one of their best nines or 18s. Admittedly, luck can be a part of many golfing endeavors

When Hulman Links was still in its infancy, a high school golfer who had scored a 69 in a tournament in southern Indiana arrived at Hulman Links for the IHSAA sectional. He finished with 112 strokes and he lost a dozen balls.

Interesting is the fact that since many trees as well as much of the rough has been cut away, Hulman Links has been more user-friendly.

Regardless of the difficulty involved in repeating good scores, there is little doubt that plain, old-fashioned luck still plays a large part.

Is it the capricious nature of the game that spellbinds its practitioners? What goes on in the minds of world-class golfers that suddenly causes their abilities to “short circuit” at times their skills are needed most?

Greg Norman had The Masters wrapped up and “in his pocket” going into the final 18, but by the 10th hole, his pocket had been “picked” and the poor Shark finished as though he had been harpooned by Nick Faldo.

While playing in a national collegiate tournament in Texas as a freshman at Indiana State, I hit my tee shot down the middle of a fairway only to watch the ball bounce directly right into deep rough behind a tree.

Bad luck? You can bet it was, especially when I got close to the point where the ball had taken the horrible 90-degree bounce. My ball had hit a brick that was lying “dead center” in the middle of the fairway.

I felt the course was difficult enough without adding to the hazards already in place.

At times, bad luck is something that is self-induced. Take the circumstances of a player who I’ll call Buck. He always wanted desperately to make the championship flight in the city tourney: something he had never done.

One day he opened with a 72 and all he would need on the second day of qualifying would be something around 80 or so to realize his goal. But this was where bad thinking combined with bad luck.

Buck retired to his favorite “watering hole” at noon and proceeded to celebrate his good round until 2 a.m. The following day, Buck posted a 92 on the scoreboard and headed home to attend to his world-class headache.

Of course good luck for some means bad luck for others. Back around 1953, Indiana State was involved in a dual match with Eastern Illinois. Approaching the ninth hole in a match that was all even, this writer selected an 8-iron for his second shot. As soon as I hit the ball, I knew I had misjudged the distance when the ball traveled into a grove of trees located some 30 yards past the green. Then I heard the ball hit the trees. After a few seconds, my ball came floating back to the green and finished about three feet from the cup.

My opponent muttered something about “dumb luck” and I agreed with him. He played the back nine very poorly.

• Tip of the week — It seems there is a move afoot to ban the extra-long putters. If you are using a belly putter now, you might want to get some practice with a shorter model. Long putters may soon be outlawed.

Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.

Bob Arnett can be reached by e-mail at