There is a rhythm that cuts across the sport of golf. And when that rhythm is interrupted, it’s difficult to recapture that mojo.
Unfortunately, this past week when I visited Snohomish Golf Course, I experienced absolutely no mojo.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I arrived at Snohomish GC to experience the rhythm of life on the golf course from a different perspective, Greg Erickson and Larry Palmer, two of the course marshals, met me.
The idea of spending an hour racing around in a golf cart with Erickson, 61, who takes vacation time from his job as athletic director for the Marysville School District in order to be a course marshal, seemed intriguing. Here is one of the most decisive guys around heading out on the course to make his rounds much like a sheep dog does when tending the flock. There is a need for attentiveness, quick action, and persuasion when managing the 18-hole course on a busy summer Wednesday.
And Erickson is the perfect fit for this job.
One need only look at how he negotiated a backlog on the 10th tee to know that this is a guy who can handle upset golfers.
Here is a guy who in his day job experiences more irrational parents, fans and young athletes than Tiger Woods experiences nightmares about his ex-wife wielding a nine iron.
Here is a guy who fastidiously negotiated with contractors on behalf of the taxpayers in the city of Marysville to construct one of the finest football and track complexes in the state of Washington.
Here is a guy who regularly challenges his coaching staffs to do more with less; and gets their complete buy-in.
The backlog on the 10th tee was nothing.
The problem on this day was a fivesome backing up two foursomes after having let another foursome already play through, which is often a recipe for disaster. But for Erickson and Palmer, this is just another day enjoying the sun and the people.
That’s what’s great about guys like Palmer and Erickson working the course; they know how to work with people. Both are educators and both have excellent communication skills. And they aren’t easily rattled.
In fact, when one frustrated golfer on the backed up 10th hole announced, “This is crap” as Erickson attempted to assuage those waiting for the golfing faux pas to be minimized, Erickson put the outburst in perspective by simply looking at me and shaking his head.
At the same time, one can’t fault the irritated golfer. For all we know, he was in a groove at the turn and had his rhythm thrown off.
One may wonder why guys who are well-respected in their professional careers are drawn to the job of course marshal.
And why does the 60-year-old Palmer, the Lake Stevens girls’ golf coach, do this thankless job?
“I’m (like) a crack addict,” he said.
And what Snohomish GC is providing is free crack. Err, golf. For their services, Erickson and Palmer get free, unlimited golf. And for a junkie, that’s a pretty good arrangement.
These guys truly are perfect for the job, acknowledges John Brandvold, PGA head professional at Snohomish. And John knows what he is talking about. He has seen other guys do the job simply for the free golf but who lacked the personal skills. Often they don’t last long because being a course marshal requires more than simply carrying the badge.
In fact, as Palmer shared, it’s easier to appeal to the golfers’ sense of guilt when prodding them to pick up the pace.
“I discovered that it’s best to use the mom approach with guys on the course. They don’t care about you, but they do care about the people behind them,” Palmer said.
So, rather than attempting to win their favor through intimidation, Palmer simply communicates clearly and appeals to their sense of shame about not keeping the pace going so that those behind them don’t get frustrated.
Anything to keep the rhythm going.
Brandvold impressed upon me the concept of rhythm, as well, when he gave me a quick lesson. He shared with me that professional golfers have been timed for their consistency when it comes to their routine as they approach their ball, remove their chosen club from their bag and then go through their ritual of addressing the ball prior to the swing.
According to Brandvold, when a professional golfer is on top of his/her game, the difference from stroke to stroke in this routine is negligible, within tenths of a second.
Now that’s rhythm.
It’s also something that was sorely missing as I bumbled my way through an 18-hole round on a sweltering day.
“Thousand one, thousand two, thousand …”
No consistency and no rhythm led to a score well over 100.
Rhythm — just one more thing to improve on before next May.