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Looking for Sympathy, and Finding None

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - I am looking for some sympathy, but I don't expect to find any. My putting is way off. Not just a little bit, but off in the kind of way that Sports Illustrated was off when it picked Oregon State to win the Rose Bowl before the college football season began.

In the past five days, I have putt on A-1 bentgrass, Crenshaw bentgrass, Tif Eagle Bermuda grass, Champion Bermuda grass, and little to no grass. I have faced stimpmeter ratings that would make putting in a bathtub seem slow (13 at Charlotte National) and stimpmeter ratings that would make putting through a tub of maple syrup seem fast (about an 8 at Blackmoor in Murrells Inlet, S.C.).

When it comes to rolling it these days, I know how Yankees second baseman turned outfielder Chuck Knoblauch must have felt as he chucked yet another wild throw at first baseman Tino Martinez.

Yankee fans used to boo Knoblauch's mental mishaps, so why should I expect any love from my playing partners.

"You play so much golf, you must be good," said one unsuspecting playing partner of mine before we teed off at the Caledonia Golf and Fish Club in Pawleys Island.

"Well, I carry a 14 handicap," I said.

"Gee, I thought you would be better," he said.

"Gee, I thought I could only wrap a three iron around your neck once, but twice would be a bonus," I thought to myself.

My chipping is off, and its not because I neglect my short game. In fact, I got all kinds of practice at King's North in Myrtle Beach the other day. On one hole, it took me three chip shots just to get in from 100 yards. In the past five days, I have hit down on my Strata golf ball with my Cleveland pitching wedge and found surfaces ranging from hard pan to wet coffee grounds.

I am also having issues with name recognition. In the past five days, I have sampled courses designed by Arnold Palmer, Russell Breeden, Willard Byrd, Mike Strantz and Gary Player. I feel confident that if I ever get to play another Russell Palmer course again, I will play much better than I did on the Mike Player layout I hacked it up on the other day. Of course, if I had my druthers, I'd play a Willard Breeden track every time.

"I don't know who designs these things, I just play them and enjoy them," said one playing partner of mine at Blackmoor.

"Wow," I thought to myself, "that must be like eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and not worrying about the 50 grams of fat per spoonful."

There I was in the lounge at Caledonia the other day, sipping a cold beer and waxing nostalgic about the old days when I used to play the same course on the same day of every week, designed by some guy I didn't know from Adam.

I remembered firing an 80 on a number of occasions, knowing that 79 or even 78 was just around the corner. Now that I play routinely on some the best golf courses this country has to offer, I am happy to bag an 85 and get a turkey sandwich that doesn't have a half-life.

This Saturday, I am heading out to my somewhat regular course to play in my somewhat regular two-man/woman best ball match. My opponents will ask why I can't put them away on the front nine, since I have played 90 holes in the past week.

My playing partner will ask how I can play so much golf and miss a three-foot putt to win the hole.

I could bring a copy of this column and distribute it before every match. Somehow, I don't think I'd get any sympathy. And you know what? I don't deserve a lick of it either.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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