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CACC golfers (from left) Keith Watkins, Hayden Carner, Tanner Brown, Jarod Edwards and Tanner Guthrie picked up a 9-stroke victory at their first tournament of the year.

I am feeling better about some things these days. Now that I have taken both of my vaccinations for COVID-19, I am honestly experiencing an inner calm that was lost last year. I cannot stress to you how badly I would like to see everyone receive this medication that may allow us to put this madness in our rearview mirrors. To tell the truth, due to my bout with cancer 11 years ago, I have been fearful of contracting COVID-19. Nearly 14 people, who I either knew well or knew of, have passed away because of this horrible virus; I was indeed afraid. After the vaccinations, I was waiting for the well-documented side effects to come. But for me, they were mild. The first shot gave me a sore shoulder for a day or two, and the second vaccination came with much less discomfort than the first shot. I experienced a little fatigue, but nothing that slowed me down from working. Do not be afraid of this thing.

The National Junior College Athletic Association and our conference have allowed us to resume a more normal schedule. This past fall season, we were not allowed to travel out of state, and we could not invite anyone from out of state to compete in our home tournaments. Gratefully, those restrictions are no longer in place. 

At the beginning of February, we traveled to Melbourne, Florida, for a tournament hosted by Eastern Florida State College. As I was driving that morning, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had not traveled out of the state in 12 months. That is nowhere near my normal schedule. We have continued with certain safety protocols; however, I am looking forward to a day when masks are no longer mandated, and social distancing is a thing of the past. 

Currently, masks are to be worn in the hotels, golf course’s clubhouse, and on the practice putting green at tournaments. There is no indoor restaurant dining. Social distancing is required, as are constant temperature checks and COVID-19 team travel forms must be documented and stored continuously. 

I am tired of pointing thermometers at foreheads. I am ready to see people smile in groups again. Our Florida trip did surprise me a bit. I have to say, Alabama residents are wearing masks much more than what I found in Florida.

The Central Alabama Community College Trojan Golf Team just got back from Coastal Alabama Community College’s tournament in Fairhope, Alabama, on the Azalea Course at Lakewood Golf Club. The boys played really well, especially on the first day. They shot rounds of 69, 71, 71, 72 and 73. Anytime we can throw out a score of 73, our chances of winning are pretty good. 

We had a 10-shot lead over Eastern Florida State College after the first day. At the start of the second day, we were quickly leaking some oil, and I became concerned if Eastern Florida or Jefferson State, which started 11 shots behind, would catch us. Our Trojan golfers kept grinding and managed to acquire a 9-stroke victory over Eastern Florida and Jeff State by the end of the day. Freshman Hayden Carner finished runner-up and sophomores, Tanner Guthrie and Keith Watkins tied for fifth. Hayden has been a great addition to the CACC Golf Team. He has finished in the top five of every tournament we have played so far this year. He is in line to play SouthEastern Conference level golf when he leaves CACC.

January and February, will all of the rain and crazy cold temperatures we endured, made it very hard for the team to improve as I would prefer. The last week of February and early March were beautiful, and my boys are anxious to be on the golf course as much as possible. Who doesn’t like spring-like weather?

Of course, all of my players have been working on their full swing, as usual. But I have been focusing on long putts when working with them individually. Lag putting is somewhat of an art. I’ve been pretty good at it over the years. To keep three-putts away, golfers do indeed need to be confident with putts from 5 feet and shorter. For the longer putts, realizing what you have to traverse and using your imagination is the secret to success.

How to read a putt and from the various angles is key to good lag putting. If I have an uphill putt, I want to first read the green from behind the ball. I would do this by looking at the terrain going towards the hole. I never want to look at this putt from behind the hole. 

After getting a good idea that this putt will break from the right to the left, I will walk midway between the ball and the hole, about 10 feet below my intended line, and in my mind’s eye, I imagine a ball rolling from the ball towards the cup. I watch how the imaginary ball rolls up the hill and where it begins to break. I keep visualizing until I can virtually see the ball fall into the hole. After that bit of imagery, I will return to a few feet behind the ball again. I have to find a spot 3 to 5 feet in front of the ball to line my putter up. This spot should go down my start line. 

As I address the ball, I first align my putter to that aligned spot, then I square my feet, hips and shoulders to that spot. I look down my starting line, just right of the hole. Sidenote: I never look at the hole from the address location. Looking at the hole in a breaking putt will usually pull the putt. 

Then, I go back into my mind’s eye, back to the imagery from earlier, and I only concern myself with having the correct speed; no thoughts in the mechanics of the stroke or worry of getting the ball on line.

It was funny to me, while working with one of my players and describing what I wanted him to do with this lag putting philosophy. He asked me, “How far do I take the putter back?” 

I handed him a golf ball and walked about 10 feet away. 

“Toss me the ball,” I said.

He did; and then, I asked him, “How far did you swing your arm back to toss me the ball?” 

Of course, his reply was, “I don’t know. I didn’t think about that.” 

The same thing goes for this stroke; do not worry about things like that. Fill your mind with information about the putt and allow your subconscious to do the rest. There’s very little in the mechanics that a decent player needs to do to become a good lag putter other than being mindful and allow the body to respond.

For the remainder of the year, I have a lot on my plate. Hosting a college tournament is a bear on its own, especially when doing it out of town and during these COVID-19 times, but I will be hosting three this spring golf season. We will be hosting at Glenlakes Golf Club in Foley in mid-March; then, off to Decatur for Calhoun’s Spring Invitational. For our post-season, I will be hosting our conference championship at Lagoon Park in mid-April; and then, again in Montgomery at Arrowhead Country Club for our district championship.

In May, we travel to Lubbock, Texas, for our national championship where CACC won in 2013. Oh yeah, I would love to duplicate that again. Due to last year’s shutdown, we remain the defending national champions from our win in 2019 in Florida. I expect our Trojan golfers to put up a whale of a fight to acquire another ring. Go Trojans!

I hope to see you all on the course soon. When available, please take the vaccine. If not for you, please do it for your family and friends. God Bless you all.

~ Dave Jennings is men’s golf coach at Central Alabama Community College.