Do you know when PGA Tour announcers are talking about a certain someone standing over a putt, and they say something like, "He's probably practiced this putt in his head a thousand times when he was a kid?" Well, I was that kid.
When I first wrapped my sweaty hands around a cord grip, I was hooked. I liked basketball, and had an arm for baseball, but it was golf that caught my attention. I'd be out on a putting green for hours thinking my spikes were digging into the 18th green at Augusta National, or I was battling Tiger Woods at Valhalla. It was the dream of a kid that didn't know any better.
But as you get older, you realize your talent. You go to college and find other interests and realize there are a lot of people better than you at certain things. I remember reading a story about Carson Daly growing up competing against Tiger in junior tournaments, and eventually quitting the game because he thought there was a person like Tiger in every city, and while it seems crazy, it isn't too far off. There are incredible talents at every golf course in every city in the world. Don't believe me? Go to the closest municipal golf course next time and say you want a money game against a regular. The pro there will know someone that will dust you like a Swiffer and won't think twice about it. I have friends named Eric, Ashdon, Casey and Wes that could all go low on any given golf course on any given day of the year. It's just the way it goes.
So as you start to realize where you rank in the world, the dream fades, but it doesn't die. That's why on Wednesday I'll be teeing it up in the local qualifier for the U.S. Open. I've never made it through the local ranks, and probably never will, but as long as the USGA will accept my $200, I'll happily tee it up with a dream in mind. Maybe it really has become a dream at this point, as it seems every year I practice less and work a little more, but it's still there. One good round where I'm making some putts or I'm really smacking my r11, and I'm through, no questions asked. As "Tin Cup" once said, they don't ask you who you are at the U.S. Open, just if you can play.
Do I think I can do it? Honestly, not really. My golf game is as sinister these days as the Taliban. I'll go out one day and fire a 66, only to follow that up with a 75 the next. It's golf, and it's frustrating, but there is always room for improvement. That's why Tiger has always changed his swing, and Padraig Harrington was never happy, and Phil Mickelson works on things almost daily.
So the dream continues on Wednesday. Who knows what I have to shoot, I just know that once a year, I get those butterflies again I used to get when I was a kid. They flutter around on the first tee as I take my driver back, and they don't normally leave until my Trailblazer is pointed away from the entrance, headed back to my real life. I'm never going to be a pro golfer, but for one day a year I get to act like one. Call it the golfer's Halloween. I'll dress back in my normal attire on Thursday.
You can find out how I play, and just for golf news in general, over on Twitter.