She picked me as her caddy when the FUTURES pro golf tour went to The Links at Gettysburg a few years back, not for my golf swing, but because I’d been around the place a few times.
My game took me to some remote corners of the course, and I played there enough to know contours of the greens and where the bad places were.
The FUTURES circuit was like the developmental pro tour for women golfers. But these ladies were good. Some moved up to the big show, the LPGA.
Salimah Mussani had won the Canadian PGA Ladies Championship and played in the U.S. Women’s Open.
This wonderful young woman hit the straightest golf ball I’ve ever seen.
We worked well together during the practice rounds and when the pros had to declare whether they’d be accepting advice from their volunteer caddies, she did so.
The tournament moment that stays with me today occurred on the third tee of the last practice round. The signature hole is 187 yards and into a steep valley and green in front of a red rock backboard. A ridge runs front to back down through the middle of the green.
We agreed on the club and with the pin cut on the left half of the green, I reminded Salimah “don’t go to the right.” We didn’t want to negotiate the ridge to get to the cup.
In a constructive tone, the Canadian young enough to be my daughter and able to give me a stroke a hole and still kick my Aztec, said that I should, “Tell me where I should go, instead of where not to go.”
She said that focusing on avoiding lurking trouble puts negative thoughts into her head at a time when she should be confident and committed to the shot.
The other moment that stands out came after I handed her the driver on the eighth hole on the first day of the tournament. She’d hit it there the day before in practice. But then I noticed that the tee was forward 20 yards, a second before the teeshot ricocheted off the red rock wall at the turn of the dogleg and went into the sandtrap.
Practicing Salimah’s mindset proves to me that the power of negative thinking is hands-down more powerful that its positive counterpart. So, it’s best to block out impending doom when possible.
This is so true as we explore other terms of enjoyment out there.
When streamside, give too much attention to that limb dangling over a riffle sure to hold trout, and that bait or fly isn’t coming back. The line coils around the woody twig with a gleeful tease.
In the deer woods, an experienced archer can drop arrows into the same quarter dot on the range from 20 yards all day long. But see two saplings bracketing the vitals on a buck, and it’s like threading a needle that has no eye.
A broadhead company’s popular slogan is, “Pick a spot.” It’s better done to not consider the worst outcome. To shut off the brain that says, “Don’t go to the right.”
As in tubing down the Yellow Breeches and zeroing in on a snag of limbs on the outer edge of a turn and turbulence that seems to suck you in that direction. You cannot look it off and paddle away without sensing that something bad is about to happen. So you take a small innocuous puncture that slowly leaks air, forces you to abandon the tube, gets you partially wet, and causes your wedding band to slip off your finger.
In the outdoor world, where life and limb are at stake, recognizing and respecting danger is most important.
But being able to wall-off negative thoughts from the start is a game changer.
When the dastardly 10-pin stands alone in the right corner, the bowler might as well throw the next one into the Grand Canyon. That’s how big the gutter looks. If the ball doesn’t magnetically dive into the canyon, it’s likely to hook well left as the body overreacts to danger.
With a fly rod or four-iron it’s almost impossible to “unsee,” once impending bad fortune enters the picture.
It’s as if peril is its own mind-game magnet.
When trying to thread a needle I’ve found that fewer things go wrong when I think of how things can go right.