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March already? Time to get motivated for the new season

By Jennifer Mario, Contributor

This is supposed to be the year I break 80.

enthusiastic golfer
If you can't be the best golfer in the world, be the most enthusiastic.
enthusiastic golfer

But I just realized that I haven't picked up a golf club this year. Somehow January, February and a goodly chunk of March have come and gone, and my game hasn't gotten one iota better. It's been so long since I played golf that I'm secretly afraid I've actually forgotten how.

My 10-year wedding anniversary is coming up in May, and my husband wants to know what I'd like to do to celebrate. "A golf trip?" he suggests hopefully.

Last year I would've jumped at the offer. But this year, I'm just thinking about how much practice I need to put in between now and May so as not to embarrass myself. Breaking 80? Out of the question.

Or is it?

I'm not one to give up on a goal lightly. My most recent one was to run a half-marathon, and my medal has been hanging proudly by my desk for a couple of months now. It's time to get my goal-oriented butt into golf shape.

At my current (lack of) skill level, breaking 80 seems highly unlikely. But much like the putt that has a greater than 99 percent chance of not making it if you hit it short, there's a greater than 99 percent chance I won't break 80 if I don't get moving.

But how? If you're like me, you go as dormant in wintertime as brown Bermuda grass. Even when the weather starts improving again, the call of the couch can be so compelling. And hey, isn't it a little chilly out?

The best thing about finishing that 13-mile run was the feeling of accomplishment. If I can do this, I thought, I can do pretty much anything.

So perhaps breaking 80 isn't unachievable. Maybe, just maybe, with some hard work I can get there.

One thing I learned while training for the half-marathon is that running isn't all physical. Long-distance running requires not just endurance but a few mental tricks too (besides general insanity, of course). Perhaps the same applies to golf. Maybe some of the mental tricks I picked up running could be applied to my golf goal as well.

For example:

• Take baby steps. Start small. On their first day of training, marathoners don't run 15 miles. Begin by cleaning out your golf bag. Stock it with some new balls; toss out the candy-bar wrappers and worn out gloves that seem to multiply so aggressively during the off-season.

• Some runners are motivated simply by buying a new pair of running shoes each season. Likewise, shopping for new golf gear might help you get in the right frame of mind. Also, it's kinda fun.

• Many runners take advantage of professional help in the form of a personal trainer. So get a golf lesson. Not only will you get some good tips, but if your swing has in fact turned ugly you have someone else to blame.

• Runners don't develop endurance by sitting at home; they hit the road or the treadmill. But they don't overdo it. Likewise, it's time to hit the driving range. But start with, say, one bucket of balls. Hitting ball after ball until you have blisters and sore wrists probably won't do you much good.

• If you're still having problems getting motivated, try lying. When I really didn't feel like going for that weekly long run, I would tell myself, You're not going to run, you're just going to put on your running shoes and walk around the block. After walking that block, I was itching to pick up the pace.

Tell yourself you're only going to the range to take a few swings, no playing allowed. After a while those fairways will be crying out for your attention and there will be no resisting their pull.

• Runners join running clubs and find running buddies. Surely you have a golf buddy or two who wants to hit the links with you. Call them up and set a tee time. Join the Tuesday Ladies Club. It's harder to bow out when someone else is counting on you to be there.

• Nothing gets you moving more than a deadline. Runners create deadlines by signing up for races. You can do the same by signing up for a tournament.

• Lastly, accept who you are. If you're a runner, you've probably heard of John "The Penguin" Bingham. A penguin, according to Bingham, is a runner who has come to terms with the fact that he or she is slow. They're not out there to break any records, except maybe their own.

Likewise, I know I'm not LPGA material, or really even a potential ladies' club champion, but there's always room on the course for another average golfer like me.

So, will any of these tricks help me break 80? I'll keep you posted. First I just need to go hit the course. Baby steps, remember?

Jennifer MarioJennifer Mario, Contributor

Jennifer Mario is a regular contributor to the TravelGolf Network and the author of "Michelle Wie: The Making of a Champion" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2006). A graduate of Duke University, she lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina with her family.

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