As I write this month’s article, my golf team is completing its final qualifying round to see which five players will be making the trip to our first spring golf tournament in Melbourne, Florida. Let me assure you, they are all trying very hard to make this tournament. It’s been a tough winter to prepare. It is showing a little in their scores, but we’ll get things worked out. By the time you read this, we will have already played, so keep an eye out for scores.
As we’ve been at Willow Point Country Club practicing and qualifying during the last few weeks, it is apparent that it is still winter. The parking lot is not busting at the seams as it normally is during the warmer months of the year; however, people in town seem super excited about starting their golf years.
I just returned from Orlando where I once again attended the massive PGA Merchandise Show. I felt that there may have been a few manufacturers whose presence was missed – such as TaylorMade, Nike, Golf Pride and Lamkin Golf Grips – and there were a few that had returned, namely Mizuno Golf. Whether the show was smaller or larger, I’m not sure, but I do know there were just as many people in attendance as normal, and that is a large number.
I sensed a heightened level of energy in the room this year, and I have to believe that a good bit of that is due to Tiger’s return to good form on the PGA Tour. There’s no arguing the statement, “Tiger doesn’t move the needle; he is the needle.”
This year at the PGA Show, we experienced some shockingly cold weather. You may have even heard about the iguanas falling from the trees in Florida. It was true! These poor little guys, who are cold-blooded, were actually freezing in the trees. Their bodies were virtually locking up, and they would fall onto the roads, sidewalks, yards, cars and on top of people standing or walking under the trees. That would be a bit shocking to this Alabama boy, having an iguana land on my head.
Anyway, during this cold week, there was one warmish day during show week and that is when visitors, mostly from the North, ran to play the Florida golf courses in the area.
As I walked through the show, I could sense the energy and the desire from all in attendance that golf season was not far away. These people were anxious to have it come. I have to imagine that most of you are looking forward to those beautiful spring days when a light sweater is all you may need; however, don’t forget to enjoy the bonus warmer days that we usually get between now and then.
Here’s my suggestion: If you are a member of a country club, get out and start playing a little; even if there is only time for three or six holes. Get on the course and hit a couple extra bunker shots, approach shots or drives. These bonus days of play will pay dividends in your game when the weather really warms up. I appreciate that most people ride in carts these days, but if you are healthy enough, take a small golf bag and only a few irons, three or four golf balls, a driver, a sandwedge and a putter, and have a nice walk while playing a few holes. If you play at a daily-fee course, ask the pro shop if there is a reduced rate for playing just a couple holes. I have to believe that many of them would be flexible, especially during this time of year.
At Willow Point, we are fortunate to have what I believe to be some the best fairways in the state of Alabama. They were built correctly with proper drainage, and they have been maintained extremely well. During the winter months after days of rain, even at Willow Point, golfers have to remain on cart paths periodically. On those days, don’t let that stop a round a golf. A player may walk more than normal on those days but honestly, that’s a good thing.
When playing on days when carts are restricted to paths, obey the rules. When driving the cart to prepare for an approach shot, don’t take just one club to the ball – take three. If you believe you will have a 7-iron shot to the green, take along the 6 and 8 irons, as well. If you do, you won’t have to walk all the way back to the cart to make a club change.
Another note, if the course you are playing has sand available on the golf carts for refilling divots, take the pitcher of sand onto the fairway. That damp fairway is most likely going to shoot up a bigger divot than when it is firm. Fill in that divot and at least one more.
If introducing a new person to golf, the best time to take them onto the golf course is now. He or she won’t feel as rushed, embarrassed or slow anyone down, since the golf course is more vacant than in the prime season.
In Alabama especially, we are so lucky to have those special bonus weather days. If work doesn’t allow you to get onto the course, at least stop by to hit some practice balls, putt or chip for a while. Thankfully daylight hours are giving us a bit more sunlight, and on March 8, we jump into Daylight Savings Time.
For those that find the weather still too cold, it’s a good time to replace old grips and spikes and check equipment.
This year is super exciting for me as I watch the PGA Tour. One of my former players qualified and is exempt on the PGA Tour. His name is Chase Seiffert, and he played at Central Alabama Community College in 2000 and 2001. After his two years here, Seiffert transferred to Florida State University, as he is originally from Panama City. The summer following Seiffert’s junior year at FSU, he won the Florida State Amateur, Florida State Match Play, the Florida Open and the Oglethorpe Invitational. He earned Amateur of the Year honors following that summer in Florida. For his first year on Tour, Seiffert has done quite well. He has made a number of cuts and was even tied for fourth place going into the final round of the American Express in La Quinta, California.
We recently spoke, and he asked me to wish everyone in Alexander City well. He is so appreciative in how he was treated and the opportunity he had in town and at CACC. I hope you will all enjoy following Seiffert this year on the Tour.
Are you ready for golf season to start? I know I am, and I’m chomping at the bit.
See you on the first tee!
~ Dave Jennings is the men’s golf coach at Central Alabama Community College.