Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

Everyone has had a incredibly high score on a hole before.  I’ve had a few myself.  Kevin Na, a PGA Tour Pro carded a 16 on Thursday at the Valero Texas Open.  He set the record for the worst score on a par 4 in PGA history.  You have to see it to believe it.

Click here to view the shot by shot provided by ESPN (3 minutes)

Here is the mic’d live feed of the footage (It’s 6 minutes long, but worth the watch.  I belly laughed many times due to my ability to relate to what he was going through and all the hilarious comments):

After watching these videos, you may be wondering how he kept his emotions in check while trying to get the ball out of the woods.  Think about how you would have reacted in this situation – would you have been laughing while walking up to the green?  I know the feeling very well – a numbness throughout your body and mind due to the inability to believe what is happening to you at that moment.  It’s almost like an out of body experience where you are trying your best and nothing is working out.  In addition to his strength of character throughout the event (minus his club toss on the tee), he even had the integrity to call a penalty on himself and count a whiff.  Being so far back in the thicket, there is a good chance he could have lied and got away with it.  He also had the perseverance to come back to shoot a 33 on the back nine.  All in all, he shot an 80 with a duodecuple (+12)  bogey.  His interview after the round was exemplary as well.  Unfortunately, I was not able to find the interview on-line.

Overall, Na’s 16 wasn’t caused by numerous poor golf shots as much as it was caused by a couple of bad decisions.  First of all, after hitting his first shot in the woods, he might have been better off switching to a different club when he re-teed.  Secondly, his decision to hit the ball out of the woods set him up for failure (see rule 28 below).  When he hit the first shot from the woods, he no longer had the opportunity to take the ball back to the tee under the unplayable lie rule.  At that point none of his unplayable options would get him out of the woods.  This is why he kept hitting shot after shot from the woods before getting his ball out.  Had he taken an unplayable instead of hitting out the woods on his fourth shot, he would have been hitting five off the tee.  In retrospect, he could have still  kept his score under 10 with this method.

Rule 28  – Ball Unplayable (taken from USGA.com): The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.  If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

a. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

It is easy to look back and see what he probably should have done after witnessing the outcome.  Knowing what to do when you are standing over the ball  is not nearly as easy. One thing is for sure, this experience is going to change the way he makes decisions on the course forever.  Below are a few of my high-score moments that changed the way I make decisions.

Here are my top three moments:

1. 15 on a par five while playing for Bradley University at the Lady Razorback Spring Invitational.

Bad Decision: Hitting many erratic wood shots and incurring numerous penalties, instead of hitting an iron just to advance the ball down the hole.

Impact on Future Decision Making:  1. When it’s going bad, just keep it in play – even if it’s with a 7-iron.  2. Your worst hole could be followed by one of your best.

Most interesting fact about the day:  I carded a birdie (2) on the next hole.

Favorite quote from my Coach:  “15, 2, that has to be the greatest comeback in the history of collegiate golf.”

Funniest moment:  On the van ride back to the hotel, my teammate asked, “Laura, how do you get a 15 on a hole?”  My response, “You hit it 15 times, no wait, I only hit it about 11 or 12 times, the rest were penalty strokes.”  The best part of the whole thing was that the same girl who asked me how I could get a 15 on a hole ended up getting a 16 on that same hole the next day.  Her response  when I inquired about her 16 was, “I should have kept my mouth shut yesterday.”

2. 8 on a par three while playing in my first LPGA Tour event, The State Farm Rail Classic.

Bad decision: My Dad and I misjudged the wind twice on a challenging par three with water on three sides.

Impact on Future Decision Making: 1. Learn how to hit a punch shot to keep it out of the wind.   2. Forget about a bad hole and move on so it does not affect the rest of your round.

Interesting fact:  I went into the 5th hole one under par and came out four over.  I went on to shoot 73 that day and missed the cut by one stroke.

3. 14 on the 9th hole of a junior tournament when I was around 11 years old.

Bad Decision: Trying to hit the same shot over and over again without success – Tin Cup style.  By the way, I still have to turn the movie off when that part comes on.

Impact on Future Decision Making:  1. Doing the same thing over and over without changing anything will not likely produce a different result. 2. Be flexible based on your game that day and the situation you are in. 3.  Don’t be a hero.  Sometimes good enough is…well, good enough.

Interesting fact: I had an 8-stroke lead going into the final hole and then ended up tied.  Luckily I won in a playoff.

Favorite Memory:  On the ride home, my Dad inquired as to why I kept hitting the ball out of bounds with my 7-wood (trying to hit over trees and a creek) instead of hitting an iron and then chipping onto the green.  My response: “Well that’s what we decided I should do when we were playing the practice round.  I stuck to the game plan. You told me that I could hit that shot and I did…eventually.”

So, the next time you have a bad hole, just be glad it’s not being broadcast on national television and remember it’s better to laugh than to A. cry, B. quit, C. throw your clubs into a tree, the water, etc.  You never know, you may birdie the next hole or shoot a 33 on the back nine.  Oh, and at least you’ll have a good story to tell.

If you would like help with your on-course decision making, Baker National is now open and I am available for swing lessons and playing lessons.  Call 763-694-7670 x2 to schedule your lesson today.

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