By bkuehn1952 on 7/18/11
Brian "bkuehn1952" Kuehn's latest guest column soothed my golfing spirit to the core. It's good to know there are other's out there who have suffered immensely on the golf course too! Enjoy!

The people at Merriam-Webster define “choke” as to lose one's composure and fail to perform effectively in a critical situation. That sounds a lot better than it feels when you make triple on the 18th and lose a match to your opponent. To describe what I and many Oobers have gone through as “losing composure and failing to perform effectively” is akin to describing the Civil War as a minor disagreement.

Like many of my fellow Oobers, I’ve coughed up a few fur balls in my golf career. Here is a little sampling:
  • Under Par Round – I stood on the finishing green needing just 2 putts to record my first under par round. I had never shot under par so this was a big moment for me. The hole was maybe 20 feet away and slightly downhill. Four putts later I had a nifty 73.

  • Tournament Playoff – I was tied with another player so we re-played the opening par 5 hole to decide the 5th flight of the Ann Arbor Men’s Amateur Golf Championship. At that point I had played in 15 Championships without ever getting a shot at winning my flight. I was excited. I was nervous. Nine shots later I was the runner-up.

  • Short Putt – We have all missed some short putts. However, my guess is most people have not missed a shorter putt than the one I missed on the first hole of my inaugural City Senior Championship. Unless you whiffed or stubbed your putter, I have the record. As usual, my nerve synapses were all firing at the start of the tournament. When I found myself in a greenside bunker on the opening par 5, my heart rate was probably around 200. Somehow I successfully splashed out to about 15 feet and my first putt was eased up to within an inch of the hole. Looking back on the event, I think I was so relieved to have not made a complete hash of the first hole that I momentarily forgot what I was doing. I calmly tapped the ball about 90 degrees off line, never threatening the hole.

  • Clutch Player - On the opposite end of the scale from a choker is the clutch player, one who maintains their composure and performs superbly at the critical time. He is the guy or gal you place in the cleanup position of a scramble team. My buddy “Dave” is such a person. When I was on his bowling team and we were struggling against the #1 team for the championship, he finished with 6 consecutive strikes to carry our team to victory. He is the only person I have played with that made par after a stroke & distance penalty. My record against him in match play is something like 2 – 58 – 5. When most of us are running on empty, he always seems to have that reserve tank. I hate him.
My hope is that before my golf career is over I can shed my self-imposed title of choker. Hey, look what Rory managed to do; he went from a choke artist to the next Tiger Woods in a matter of months. Maybe my resurrection is just around the corner?

* * *

So what about you, clutch or choke? Any particularly inspiring stories or tales of utter disaster to share? Let’s hear from you!

This was written by Brian Kuehn, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.

photo by mnd.ctrl

[ comments ]
falcon50driver says:
Hit a 6 inch putt 5.5 inches in a tournament. My three team partners simultaneously turned and walked away silently.
dartboss04 says:
i don't think i'm a complete choker, and tend to step up during competition and scrambles, however, i've had my share of personal choke jobs particularly when approaching low scores...and personal milestones...

a few weeks ago, i was playing a very good round, and wasn't going to tally my score until the end of the round...on 18, i pushed my drive behind some pines, almost out of bounds and proceeded to top my next two shots...i finally punched out and hit a gap wedge to about 8 feet...missed the putt for a tidy double bogey 7 on a par 5...should have at worst parred that whole...luckily hung on for a 78...
dartboss04 says:
excuse me...79...must have been a golf freudian slip...should have had a 78, but 79 was still my first legitimate round under 80 since starting to post here...

i think another microcosm and a good test of whether you choke or not is how you handle yourself when you play through another's like your a tour pro for a shot with a gallery of 4 watching...gotta love that pressure...
meatball413 says:
after officially entering my 100th score on oobgolf, i think my game is starting to come around and becoming a bit more consistent. but I dont consider a missed opportunity a "choke". just means I still have much to learn...
homermania says:
I'm a clutch-choker.
tartantoml says:
After only a year or so of serious golf, I had an ace on a 140yd par 3 several months ago on a course we play most Sundays. Now I cannot seem to look at it as my favorite hole as I measure each shot against it. Almost hit a condo last weekend, probably my most feared hole now as my buddies watch on. Just happy to get over the water these days.
SteveMM says:
I'm not normally a choker, but I choked bigtime a couple of weekends ago. We were playing the third round of our golf weekend out of town. The front nine was disasterous for me, so I was just focusing on having a good back nine. I didn't do so well on the first hole of the back nine, but after that I was extremely solid, scoring a number of bogies and a couple of pars. I had a shot at being below 50 for the nine (my usual goal, but one that I don't usually reach) so long as I scored lower than a triple bogie on the final hole. I completely self-destructed, hitting my tee shot into the high grass (and losing it) then chunking my second shot, hitting my third shot into the bunker, and then taking two strokes to get out of the bunker. Ugh.
SD Charlie says:
Another gem of an article. Love your work!
Bryan K says:
Yeah. I'm a choker. But I'm not that good either, so I think it's all relative. But under pressure, I've even worse.

I think Peyton Manning put it best. "Pressure is the result of not spending enough time preparing". I agree with that when it comes to my golf game. I mean, to get good at this game, you just need more time than the average person has.

But I think I turned a corner over the past two weeks.
SpaceMaNy0 says:
If I count my score or notice I'm doing well I usually choke down the stretch. Prime example, a week or so ago I noticed I started the back nine with 5 consecutive pars. I finished double, double, triple, double. My last round was my best ever though, and I knew it down the stretch, had to make myself not think about it.
birdieXris says:
clutch moment - 1997 shooting 80 to get into a playoff to place in my first trip to leagues. played the first hole at Whitetail in Bath,PA against a kid who had been whooping on me all year. He was in with par and I had 12 feet for birdie with the rest of the team and some other competitors watching. buried it and got a medal.

choke - last year at the WAHC third round. the entire round. also in state qualifying years back. on a course that I could shoot 81 in my sleep, I posted 104 - missing a 15 inch putt for 103 on the last when 100 would have put me in the last spot.
Goodlow20 says:
My brother is clutch, while I choke. few years ago, we were both playing in a small tournament for our summer league and we tied with two others in our flight. The playoff hole was a short par 3, and he stiffed it to 2 feet for the win. My shot was thin (read: sculled) and sliced off to the right (with a 9 iron?).
BAKE_DAWG40 says:
I choke on par 3's. They kick my ass when I play in the league. When I play in a scramble, I hit the majority of them. My average GIR on those puppies is barley over 30%. I know it's pathetic. But, dammit, why? I could talk about both the two footers I missed for birdie two weeks in a row too, but why torture myself?
TeT says:
one of the better posts I have read on this site... Pay the man shirley!!!
robbie.dejarnette says:
Actually, just the other day I choked! I turned the corner 4 over (best yet front nine) at my home course. Par on 10, doubled the Par 3 11th, ok, s!*T happens, bogey 12, double the par3 13th. OK, 5 over through 4, nothing to worry about. Par 14, bogey 15, par 16, bogey 17 and all I need is a double to card a personal best of 84 at this course (par 71). Yep, you guessed it I tripled 18 to tie my personal best of 85. AND IT WAS A PAR 3!!!! My worst score EVER on that hole, BY TWO STROKES!!! Killed me to card a 6 and an 85 at the same time!!
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