Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eli 10.10 Hits the Links

Golf is the one major sport that Eli's never been exposed to, but he started showing interest about six months ago. He got a starter set of clubs during spring break, but then the sports schedule exploded (hockey/soccer/track/tennis), he had no time, and then he got hurt.

Finally, with his ankle healed and the start of summer, there was time to learn.

I don't think I ever mentioned this, but when I was a kid, I played golf. A lot of golf. Not fancy-pants country club golf, but burnt greens rock-hard fairways muni golf.

My neighbor Johnny had a business in Corpus Christi, which was also about five minutes away from the Corpus Christi Golf Center. He left for work at 7:15 in the morning, and I'd go with him. He'd dropp me off at the golf course, then swing back around and pick me up at 4:15 on his way home.

In-between, I'd play a morning round, putt, eat lunch, play an afternoon round, and putt some more. For two summers (one in Arkansas, where I wound up with the same set-up, basically, except my mom was taking me to the course), when I was ten and eleven, that's all I did.

I was decent. I was shooting in the low to mid 80s off the men's tees regularly, and I still wish I hadn't quit. At that age, though, I really needed an adult who could act as a golf mentor, and I think I just got tired of doing everything on my own.

The benefit of hitting thousands of balls as a kid, though, is that my swing is grooved. Before Eli was born, I went through a period of a few months where I started playing again regularly, and I was shooting in the mid 70s.

I hadn't played since Eli was born, but the first time we went to the range, I felt totally comfortable and hit the ball as well as I ever did. Muscle memory.

That's all to get to this point (finally): I'm competent to give Eli general instruction in the game. Golf is a very strange game in that it is highly technical and not technical at all. It's very easy to get lost in minutia, when really, just doing three or four simple things right (stance, grip, takeaway, and swing rhythm) will produce an excellent outcome most of the time.

So I showed Eli a simple grip and the basic stance and just had him hit balls. He hits 75 balls (I hit 25) each time we go to the range, and he's now been four times.

Here's some video from last Saturday, which was the third time he's played:

You can see how relaxed and comfortable he looks. His left arm isn't straight on the backswing, but otherwise, his swing is very solid. After three days, which is completely ridiculous.

We watched the U.S. Open over the weekend (I watch the four majors each year), and he wanted to go out yesterday and hit balls again, so we did.

I talked to him about the left arm and explained why it needed to be straight (club position at the top of the backswing and better shoulder rotation). We also talked about using the big muscles on the takeaway (shoulder rotation) instead of small muscles (wrist).

He's been using basically 9 and 7-irons on the range (starting out, they're easier to hit), but he looked good enough where I thought he would enjoy hitting the driver. So he did, and here's what it looked like:

After talking about the left arm/big muscles for about two minutes, he basically walked up and incorporated it into his swing immediately. And that ball (and the other drives he hit) went 160+ yards.

He weighs 78 pounds.

The best part about working with Eli is not that he gets better so quickly. It's that he listens, and he enjoys the process. He likes to think about how things work, and his attitude is somehow easygoing and focused at the same time.

Sometimes I think he's the one doing the teaching.

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