‘Shanks’ for the memories

June 2, 2022

Out of the clear blue it happens, without warning, like a bee sting when you are working in the yard – the dreaded “shanks” have crept into your game. Somehow, your swing deserts you and a 10-yard chip goes 30 yards on a 90-degree angle to the rough.

If you saw the movie “Tin Cup,” then you remember when Roy McAvoy (Kevin Costner) came down with a bad case of the shanks and it almost scuttled his game. (Thanks to psychologist Renee Russo, he recovered to play in the U.S. Open.)

The shanks will drive any golfer to stop the cart girl numerous times but related to that disease is the “yips.” The yips crawl into your head, as we all know, when you line up a two- to five-foot putt. Somehow your body begins to slowly turn to marble and your arms weigh 100 pounds each.  You stand over the putt for what seems an eternity, then back off the ball and notice the cart girl looking at her watch as she waits to sell you a beverage to stop the shanks. Nine times out of 10, your ball comes up short, or worse, goes two feet beyond the hole. Then the torture starts all over again.

There’s a mathematical formula few amateur golfers know or understand which relates to distance and time standing over a putt. The formula is TOP+D=Y+18 TB, which means time over putt + distance = yips + 18 triple I know why I took algebra in high school.

To put this in perspective, your golf game is 90 percent “mental” and 10 percent “mental,” but there will be days when your driver is on fire, but your putter is ice-cold; your irons will be crisp, but you top your woods, and if you keep your arm straight in the takeaway, your head comes up.

Now that I’ve given you a free diagnosis of your mental state and what can go wrong with your swing at any given moment, take heart – it happens to the best of them.

In the 1973 Sea Pines Heritage Classic, Hale Irwin shanked an iron into a greenside gallery but the ball disappeared into the crowd. Irwin was about to declare a lost ball when an embarrassed spectator told the officials the ball was lodged in her bra.  The ball had bounced off someone near her and went down the front of her dress, but she was too embarrassed, at first, to speak up. She retrieved the ball, and he was awarded a free drop. 

Another pro golfer, Curtis Stifford, was playing in the Quad City Open when he shanked an iron into the gallery and his ball ended up on a spectator’s hot dog that had been dropped in the rough. The officials gave Stifford a free drop after he cleaned the mustard and ketchup off his ball.

The legendary Sam Snead once hit a wayward shot over the green in the Cleveland Open, which went through an open locker room door, rolled into the men’s bathroom and came to rest under a toilet in the last stall. Snead was penalized two strokes and eventually lost the tournament by one stroke. 

Pro golfer Brian Barnes takes the medal for the worst case of the yips during the 1968 French Open. It took him 12 strokes to hole out, while putting from only three feet away from the cup. On a par-3 hole, Barnes was on the green in two with a long putt for par.  After his first putt came up short to three feet, Barnes stood over his next putt, fuming about his upcoming bogey and after what seemed an eternity, he putted, and his ball lipped out of the cup.  Now suffering from anger and temporary insanity, he began to rake the ball back towards the hole and missed again. While the gallery stood in amazement, Barnes then hit his next putt while it was still moving, hockey style. When that didn’t work, he tried a croquet-style putt, adding another penalty stroke. When all the regular and penalty shots were assessed, his final score on the par-3 was 15.

The 19th Hole Trivia:

• Arnold Palmer once carded a 12 on a 568-yard, par-5 during play in the 1961 Los Angeles Open. He hit four tee shots out of bounds. The club members of the Rancho Park Golf Course later erected a bronze plaque to commemorate the Roy MacAvoy (“Tin Cup”) moment.

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