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Friday, 21 November 2014

Don't Count Your Chickens At Least Until They've Hatched

I've found myself thinking more and more about the great times I enjoyed on the links with my dear departed friend, Gerry. He was with me when golf imparted to me some rather poignant life lessons, like the one about not counting your chickens until they've hatched.

I played golf every day for a few years as a kid in Picton back in the sixties. It was a nine hole course in those days and I would ride my bike to the course in the early morning and go round and round until dark many days. When the Colonel was posted to England, I carried on playing, but certainly not with the sort of regularity I did in Picton. In fact, I didn't really start golfing regularly again until I joined the penitentiary service and became buddies with the Big Man.

Gerry and I started playing around the Kingston area and early on in that partnership we found ourselves on the 17th hole at Amherstview. I had been starting to get it back a bit and, in retrospect, rather foolishly announced to the big guy that all I needed was two bogies to shoot 76. He politely nodded and then watched me proceed to hit three in a row into the weeds; and I mean way into the weeds.

I'm sure the silence that followed this rather dismal performance was deafening. I was rather high strung, if not downright unstable, in those days so Gerry had the good sense not to remark upon this disaster. After all, I was holding a club at the time. He just sort of half smiled, half grimaced and tried to silently convey to me that he shared my pain. Actually, he was probably trying very hard not to laugh, because I was probably purple with rage and if anyone understood that it really didn't amount to a hill of beans whether I shot 76 or 86, it was Gerry.

So we finished the round rather quietly and I posted another 81 and said no more. But this rather demoralizing experience taught me something I've since had to relearn several times. The lesson was that in golf, as in life, it is better to let those damned chickens hatch before you count them. It is better not to know the score you are shooting and, if you do, it's better not to think much about it.

If you want to break eighty or a hundred, or sixty if you're a touring pro; don't think about it. Don't let yourself ponder anything more than the next shot. The kiss of death in golf is the thought, "if I can just..." When things are going well out there, just let it happen. You may find yourself silently praying that you can finish it off without choking. After all, it's hard not to know when things are going really well on the course and, interestingly enough, it is when things are going really well that many of us have trouble. Most of us just can't stand success. It makes us nervous.

The postscript to this story is that Gerry was good enough not to ask me what I shot on that dark, dark day. He just bought me a beer and reminded me in his inimitable way that it would all be better next time.