It happens without warning

June 13, 2019

It happens without warning, out of the clear blue; like a bee sting when you’re 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 Renee Russo, the psychologist, 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 “yipes.” As we all know, the yipes crawl into your head 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 like 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 ten, your ball comes up short, or worse, goes two feet past the hole.

There is a mathematical formula that few amateur golfers know or understand, which relates to distance and time spent standing over a putt. The formula is: TOP+D=Y+18 TB (time over putt + distance = yipes+18 triple bogies. Now I know why I took algebra in high school). To put this in perspective, your golf game is 90% mental and 10% 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 lead arm straight in the take-away, your head comes up. Now that I have 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 in the crowd. Irwin was about to declare a lost ball, when an embarrassed lady spectator told the officials that the ball was lodged in her bra.

The ball had bounced off someone near her and went down the front of her dress, but at first she was too embarrassed to speak up when Irwin was looking for his ball. She retrieved the ball, and he was awarded a free drop. Another pro golfer named Curtis Stifford was playing in the Quad City Open when he shanked and iron into the gallery and his ball ended up on a spectator’s hot dog dropped in the rough. The officials gave him 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 in the last stall under a toilet.

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 yipes 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-three hole, Barnes was on the green in two with a long putt for par. After his first put came up short to three feet, Barnes stood over his next putt, fuming about his upcoming bogey.

After what seemed like 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 toward 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 putting stroke, adding another penalty stroke. When all the regular strokes and penalty strokes were accessed, his final score on the par three was fifteen.

19th Hole Trivia

Ian Woosnam was penalized two strokes in the 2001 British Open when his caddie left Woosnam’s practice driver in his bag during the final round. He had fifteen clubs, not fourteen, and ended up in a six-way tie for third place, costing him 312,216 pounds. This time a caddie was responsible for “the wheels coming off the cart.” He was fired after the round.

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