In The Zone

A student asked me a while back when I most felt in …

“The Zone”

The first thing that would come to mind would be my play at the US Amateur in 1983.
I was just 19 at the time, I qualified in Hawaii to get their only spot, that I had to win in sudden death playoff. I qualified for the match play after some decent golf, and then won my first match which was a tough one. The second match I played, I beat former Champion Nathanial Crosby, which was particularly tough because everyone was rooting for him, being the son of the beloved Bing Crosby. The strangest match was against Billy Andrade. We were both really off that day. For some reason I couldn’t do anything but hook by driver. I don’t think I hit one fairway.
Billy has the opposite action going and was blocking every drive way right. This being a USGA Championship, the rough was really high, but no matter where I hit, I seemed to end up with a good lie and a shot at the green. Every time I hooked it left, into the deep trees, I would find it, and have a decent lie, and some kind of daylight shot at the green. Even my caddy was laughing! If there were ever mystical forces working out on the course it must have been that day.
Andrade was not so fortunate as he kept having to punch out and scrape for par or bogey. We only had to play 13 holes and I won the match 6 and 5.
Back in those days the final four players got invitations to play in the US Masters, so you can imagine how difficult it could be to get a good night’s sleep, yet alone getting one step closer to winning such an event. The quarter final match I faced Chris Perry who was the collegiate player of the year and had won 7 events that year. I really felt a bit out of my league, but I straightened out my driver and played a hell of a round against Perry rolling in a 15 foot birdie on the 17 to go one up going into the 18th, a long 4 par.
The stage was set after I hit a 4 wood to 40 feet on the left fringe.
Perry hit a long iron in above the hole about 30 feet. I putted up to about a foot good for par. Perry’s putt was straight downhill with about 8 feet of break, one of those “just get it rolling” kind of putts.
I can remember it as clear as day, thinking there is no way he is going to make this putt. I was so confident I had won the match, and a ticket to Magnolia Lane at Augusta. I remember him hitting the putt and watching Titleist rolling around the ball in a circle, it started way left, then took the break ever so slowly, rolling toward the hole.
I remember him raising his putter as it was about 6 feet away, and I watched it drop into the cup, and he was jumping around the green like he had made the greatest putt of all time. It really was incredible, and really tough to get composure for the playoff, but I still had a chance to win.
I remember being so pumped up, and actually believing I could beat this guy, I drove it 40 yards past him and had only a wedge left into a
444 yard 1rst hole. I must have driven the ball 320 yards with a piece of persimmon. Perry hit first, a 7 iron onto the front edge. I fired a wedge at the pin that landed 6 feet from the pin, but hit firm and bounced into the back rough leaving a tough downhill chip. Perry was away and putted up to about a foot, for par. My chip was played nicely landing on the fringe and trickling down the fast green stopping 6 feet past the hole. This time things didn’t go so well and my putt hit the right lip and spun out giving Chris the win. To think I was so close to getting a chance to play in the Masters was amazing
yet as one might imagine, very disappointing. It really was a tough way to lose because I really played out of my head and surprised myself by staying in “the zone” all week right to the finish. The 73rd hole I played well, even the putt was struck well and could have gone in. I still to this day wish I was talking about my experience at the 1984 Masters, rather than my defeat at North Shore CC in Chicago!

Nonetheless, this was the week that stands out as my most in “The Zone”

Wow, Great story Lag. Those were the days, huh? You were that close to Tee’n up at the Masters. Amazing.

I think I found myself in the “zone” twice in my life, maybe a few other times.

I’m a 5 , so breaking par for me is a super rare thing. I shot 1 under as well as 3 under at Pinehills (Nicklaus course) twice. Not an overly difficult track, really a drivers paradise. Never really missed a shot all day when I shot 3 under 69 and missed a 4 footer on 18 for a 68. I played it from around 6700 yards that day (MP60s and a TM R510 (modern gear).

My biggest zone was my one and only time playing Pebble Beach in Aug of 97. I was playing my best golf that year. My index was a 4.0.
Here is my quick hole by hole ( I played the back tees, but the last 5 holes my caddy put me on “the disks”, which are the US Open Tee markers.

1 - Thin 3 wood to the left part of the fairway, hit 6 iron from a very side hill lie to 10 feet, made the putt birdie
2 - Killed a drive up the left hand side, hit 5 iron to 8 feet, easy two putt birdie
3 - 3 Wood over the trees with a draw, had only 95 yds to the green, hit a poor SW to about 25 feet, 2 putt par.
4- Solid 3 wood (J’s professional Weapon) up the middle, skulled a SW into the front bunker, 2 shots to get out, double bogie
5- (the orig. par 3, which is now not played), Hit a good 6 iron to about 20 feet, 2 putt par.
6- (great par 5) , Hit a solid drive, but ended up in the left hand bunker, hit 6 iron out half way up the hill. 8 iron blind 3rd hot to 15 feet, 2 putt par
7 - 110 yard par 3, Hit SW to 20 feet, 2 putt par
8- another great solid 3 wood up the center. Hit 6 iron from about 190 (downhille), stiff, but went over. Lipped out the chip and made a 10 footer uphill par
9- Great long drive , 9 iron to 15 feet , par
10- Another solid drive up the middle, 8 iron to 9 feet , 2 putt par
Shot even on the front nine.
11. Great drive up the right hand side, 8 iron to front, 2 putt par
12. 195 yd par 3, Hit a solid 4 iron to 25 feet, 2 putt par
13. Hit my drive right in a bunker, made double ( 3 putted)
14 (Par 5 dog right). Solid drive up the right hand side, 2 iron lay up, Wedge to 20 feet, par.
15 (one of the holes I looked forward to playing because of the somewhat daunting tee shot with tree’s overhanging). Blocked my drive a bit, but was in the 1st cut. Hit a great 8 iron to about 16 feet, 2 putt par.
16. Great hole, hit a solid drive that left me a wedge. Hit the wedge 3 feet short of the green, up and down par.
17. (played it from 205), the pin was front right. Hit the best 3 iron of my life just over the flat into the back fringe, par
18. Here is where it gets ugly. The back tee as being rebuilit, so we had to play from the front. I wanted to hit 3 W, but my caddy told me to hit driver and go for it in 2. Hit my drive OB right and made double for a 76.

My most memorable round to date.

I’d almost have to say I felt some kind of wierd “zone” thing going on yesterday…
Playing with Macs and Arnie here in SF, we choose a near freezing cold day, alternating between drizzle and down pour,
at Lincoln Park. Inadequate rain gear and not even a towel, all grips were completely soaked through by the 4th hole.

After lipping out birdie on #1, I dunked a wedge into the cup on #2 for an eagle. Birdied the next, then on our 5th hole, I dropped the approach shot in for a another kick in birdie. As it got colder and colder, I could feel my hands freeze to the point I couldn’t feel them anymore… I had to visually look at them to make sure they were on the club as I couldn’t feel if my right pinky finger was even touching my left hand as I use an overlapping grip… same thing with the putter. Things were so bad, Macs literally had the club fly out of his hands on three or four occasions… (yes, the club went left!) once over a ledge heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge! Arnie was able to extract it from a rasberry bush that thankfully stopped the MacGregor Persimmon from going back home before it’s time…

Putting through small streams and puddles meant having to gauge the hydroplaning effect of the ball pinwheeling water across the greens. We played a couple holes slightly out of order as to avoid the only other group on the golf course that was crazy enough to be out there… leaving us three 3 pars in row coming in #12 #16 #17 before breaking into the 18th toward the clubhouse to complete the 18 holes.

#12 (our 15th hole) plays about 220 yards on a normal day being straight uphill… then followed by two more par threes requiring the same club… both playing about the same distance. Usually on #16 and #17 I have to rocket a 1 or 2 iron to get home. It was all woods this go around. Played three nice shots, two finding the green, and the other just off.

By the time we teed off the 18th, the only light we had was the distant lights of the clubhouse, as it was dark both from the sun being gone, the thickening fog, and the tall overhanging pines. We all blindly found the fairway with our drives.
I found my ball down the left center, then simply aimed a six iron at the clubhouse lights, made what felt like a good swing, but couldn’t couldn’t see the ball take off. Arnie found it right of the green just past pin high. Dark and raining, I could just make out the flag from the clubhouse lights to my right, and took out my 1952 Spaulding wedge and gave it a bump down the hill about 50 feet… I could just make it out as it pinwheeled toward the pin, and it looked like it had just rolled past the hole… but as I approached the ball, it seemed to have vanished in the rain and fog… until I realized it had been sitting on top of the cup that was completely filled with water, and as I approached the flag, I could see it had submerged into the bottom of the cup for a final hole birdie to cap off a a round of 66.

It really was a strange “In the Zone” experience to say the least… I was almost expecting Rod Serling to meet us in the parking lot and point the three of us towards the sign post.

wow, i had a nice lunch with my wife, but a 66 in yesterday’s conditions? i’m kicking myself for missing you, Mac and Arnie on the course.


Great great stuff… someone call Bagger Vance (or perhaps he was there!).


What a great day, despite or maybe even because of the weather. It was like the perfect storm. Macs brought the temperature, I brought the rain and Lag brought the game. Its funny because a friend of mine lent me a book called Follow the Wind a few months back which is like a golfing Field of Dreams. Its written by the wonderfully named Bo Links. It starts off at the same Lincoln Park where a young man playing the course alone stumbles into another parallel world inhabited only by the golfing greats of history after fog descends on the 13th fairway…

Whether or not there was something other worldly ocurring or just early stage hypothermia I can’t say. But it was certainly wonderful to watch all Lags principles in live action and to share the great company of both he and Macs both during and after the game. A treat I won’t forget for quite some considerable time…

Actually the guy in the pro shop could have passed for Rod Serling… :wink:

Cheers, Arnie

Great stuff. I will be looking for that book Arnie, sounds like my sort of readings.


Great story and great playing, Lag!
Couldn’t help but think of this…

Great stuff - that was pretty much what it was like! Apart from the ending… :laughing:

:laughing: A classic!

hehe, I was just typing in the other thread that I was looking forward to a report, can’t believe I got it so quickly!

Very good, any other games planned?

Hi Styles,

I will be joining Lag to pay homage at the Mare today - looks drier but there might be some fog so who knows what or who will be appearing out of the mist… :astonished:

Have my camera but won’t be able to upload until I am back in the UK mid week.

Cheers, Arnie

excellent, by the way, how did you get mrs arnie to sign off on this trip?!!! :laughing:

I just said I was popping out to the shops for some bread and milk…she won’t mind. Actually it was a trip for work which I managed to double up with meeting Lag. Any accusation that the the latter was the initiating factor will be met with a slightly awkward silence… :blush: :wink: :laughing:

Cheers, Arnie

P.S On the ferry just pulling into Vallejo now - some sunshine - at last :smiley:

Whilst not a huge Kevin Costner movie fan,(except Mr. Brooks!!!) he does get full marks for going full bore into many sports movies portraying struggling sportsmen or sports minded people.
This is one of my favourite segments of just about any sports movie…It was quick and fast and early on in this movie “For The Love Of The Game” but an excellent example of the ZONE and tuning out outside influences when it is your turn to hit (or pitch in this segment), being a baseball movie

There is also an excellent piece similar to this in “The Legend of Bagger Vance” which I will post at a later date…I just thought this baseball one was very appealing because of all the outside noise and activity surrounding Costner (Chapel) as he was coming in and preparing for his first pitch of the game and the process he took to zone in.

You only had to look in Tiger Woods eyes when he was on top of the world of golf and never losing on Sunday afternoons when near the lead…I am sure his method of thinking of tuning any outside influences out of his peripheral was based on a similar logic… as most world class champions of many different fields are able to do.


Man do I like that clip Bradley!!! That is some very strong imagery and I’m guessing is very very close to what happens with athletes that focus the best.

Thanks for posting… I needed that!


Robbo and others,

This following clip is my absolute favorite relating to the zone from any sports movies ever made.

The Legend of Bagger Vance…it is truly fantastic words of wisdom and imagery and the process to tune out all surrounding obstacles.