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Hacker's Slow Play Spoils Golf Game
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Hacker's Slow Play Spoils Golf Game

by Ace Toscano

Here's a letter from the old mailbag:

Dear Ace,
Seeing as you are one of the world's leading authorities on matters of psychology and sports, I was wondering if you could help me with this problem I have.

Well, the problem's not mine, exactly. It's not Doc's or Lefty's either. It's the sole property of another member of our foursome, my brother-in-law Pete, or as we call him behind his back, re-Pete. We call him that because of the zillion annoying and time-consuming motions he goes through each and every time he steps up to a golf ball.

First thing he does after club selection, an agonizing process in and of itself, is set his grip. Defying description is the unique way he wraps his stubby fingers around the shaft, squeezes, then twists them inward, inward, inward, about 27 times.

Lefty calls this maneuver "screwin' the cue," because it resembles the way a pool player would screw a two-piece cue together. I call it "screwin' your friends," because of the effect it has on our playing. Eventually, after 95 to 100 seconds, Pete will shoot us a smile, meaning he's satisfied with his hold.

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We don't get excited, though, not about phase one of the gripping ceremony. That's what I said-phase one. Phase two comes later, after he steps up to the ball, adjusts his feet, flexes his knees, one-two-three, and fixes the target with a long, hard stare. Then, after 11 to 13 seconds goes by, he starts shaking his head "no." How we dread that moment knowing, next, he'll step back from the ball, let his grip unravel, and start screwing the cue all over again. Never fails!

Ace, no lie, I'm not the fastest guy off the blocks, but I can usually get a shot off in 15 to 20 seconds. By the time Pete drops the lid on phase two gripping, three minutes have crawled by.

Lefty calls Pete's next move "the tap waggle wiggle." That hardly describes it! With those gnarly, sweaty little hands finally locked in place, Pete again steps up to the ball and, with the head of his club, taps the ground behind it three times, tap, tap, tap, then in front, tap, tap, tap, then in back, again. Next, he waves his club, slowly and unrhythmically, over the ball - waggle, waggle, wag. Then he shifts his hips, left-right-left, takes a long, deep breath, and checks his alignment. We dare not speak, sneeze, or pass wind at this juncture for fear of disrupting Pete's concentration. That would force him back to phase one cue screwing.

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap; waggle waggle wag, waggle waggle wag; wiggle wiggle wig, wiggle wig. He re-Petes that little ditty no less than 23 nerve-wracking times, adjusting his aim a little left, a little right, between verses, until he finally feels everything is just right. Then, and only then, will he take one of his rickety swipes at the ball. Elapsed time: seven minutes.

Frankly, Ace, golf has ceased to be a joy for me, Doc, and Lefty. Fact is, it's pure torture. On a good day, it takes us seven hours to play nine holes. Tell us, please, what can we do?

Desperately Yours,
On the Green, and Blue

Dear Blue,
It appears to me that Re-Pete's ritualistic behavior is symptomatic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), known also as Hand Washing Syndrome. Unfortunately, every time Pete strikes the ball, he reinforces each of the "zillion" undesirable behaviors that preceded it, thereby assuring that he will repeat the sequence, ad infinitum. Consequently, if you really want to put the fun back in your game, and at the same time perform a service for golfers everywhere, I suggest you break his arms and legs.

(Note to Blue: It was recently brought to my attention by an irate emailer that OCD is a serious and devastating illness. After what it's done to your Saturday mornings, I don't think I have to tell you that. He also pointed out that it can be treated by antidepressants. The six drugs that have been shown to be effective include: fluvoxamine (Luvox), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa*), and clomipramine (Anafranil). Anafranil has been around the longest and is the best studied throughout the world, but there is growing evidence that the other drugs are as effective. Of course, before you slip any of these drugs into Pete's coffee, you should consult a professional.)



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