by Jaacob Bowden

Recently, someone asked me about the first time I shot par.  What were my thoughts?  Keep the ball in play?  Putt well?  Relax?

I don’t recall that first “par” round, however, I do remember my first tournament round in the 60s.  It was actually one of the “safer” rounds I ever played.  Very rarely was a firing at a pin, even on shorter shots…I was favoring the safe side of the green – in places where if I missed I thought I could get up and down.
For example, there was one hole where I had a full PW in to a green.  The pin was on the right side and I decided to not take chances of short-siding myself and I aimed to the middle of the green even though it was just a PW.  I actually ended up missing to the right and the ball landed about 2 inches from the hole.  I had a tap-in birdie…but had I aimed at the pin and missed to the right like I did, I would have been in some really deep rough without much green to work with.  It would have been a tough par and likely a bogey.
Another hole, I had a chance to get to a par-5 in two.  I could have hit 4-iron in to the front pin, but there was water on the right that went as deep as the first third of the green.  I decided to hit 3-iron to the back of the green so that I would clear the water just in case I missed to the right.  I ended up hitting it straight and safely on the back of the green, and I two-putted for birdie.  I didn’t make eagle, but I basically was guaranteeing myself of an easy par.
With the driver, I was swinging very smoothly and without any jerky or rushed tension.  I kept my ego in check pretty well that day and wasn’t trying to kill my drives.  I was pretty much just swinging too…very little mechanical thinking.  Consequently, I hit the sweet spot quite a bit and the drives ended up going long and mostly straight.  

I didn’t have a particularly hot putter, but i made the short ones and I don’t think I 3-putted.

I was also in a really good mental space.  If I ever got thinking about my score or something like that, I was catching myself pretty well and tried to think of something I was thankful for…for example, I would be walking along and I would notice the grass and feel grateful that it was there, which made me feel grateful for the lawn mowers that cut it, which made me feel grateful for the people that built the mower, etc, etc.  This went on and on and I tried to stay with that mind-frame as best as I could.  Overall, I did a good job of staying grounded and keeping my energy out of my head.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I think the mental stuff was the most important that day.  Because I was in such a good space, I was making good decisions, playing smart, swinging smoothly and just swinging, missing in safe spots, and not trying to force a long drive or shot to happen.

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