How a Pipe Cleaner Saved My Career

It had been nearly a year since I picked up a club, and things were as rusty as they’d ever been. Luckily, handicaps are more difficult to raise than they are to lower. I wasn’t upset. I’d spent the last 8 months at home working in the F&B industry after a less than desirable performance during my first semester at the College of Charleston. It wasn’t anybody’s doing but my own. I enjoyed my work, but deep down I knew it wasn’t my path.

My pro, Ted Sheftic, (who was recently inducted into the Philadelphia PGA Section Hall of Fame!) wrote a letter to the admissions department at N.C. State that must have struck a soft chord with someone. And in August of 2009, I left Charm City for the City of Oaks. I was ready for a new phase and new chapter.

I landed in Raleigh not knowing a soul. I missed the housing deadline, so I lived solo in an off-campus apartment for my first semester. I was nervous, but excited. My game was starting to get back into shape. I actually started thinking about giving the dream of playing professional golf another shot.

Everyone always told me how good of a ball striker I was. I played in some events and won a few of them. My confidence was starting to rise, but with that newfound assurance came a demon I wished I had learned to confront and suppress much earlier on. That demon was expectation.

I tried EVERYTHING. I listened to Rotella, to Stockton, to Utley. I read every book and article I could get my hands on. I met with some of the game’s greatest teachers and picked their brains. I called Ted. I switched clubs, changed grips, tried new shoes, and even practiced barefoot and blind-folded. I listened more and forced less. I focused on the process and not the result.

One time, after losing a match-play event that I could have put away 5 or 6 times on the back-nine, I spent 14 hours on the putting green. It was one of those “I don’t know what else to do” moments. I was ready to sell everything, move back home and give up the game for good.

I had the yips. And it was so bad, I was missing from 2 ft.

^ That’s not an easy thing to admit. But neither is hitting 17 GIR’s and shooting 75. That was the norm, and considering my dreams, it brought me to a really dark place.  Something that was once my favorite activity became what I dreaded — it turned my stomach over every time I walked onto the putting surface. It embarrassed me. It ridiculed me.  Every chance I had at putting up a good number, it was there waiting for me. It haunted me for a long time. 

Friends told me to go see this guy, or that guy. “He’ll work it out, he’s the best in the business.”

I didn’t need a lesson. I needed a shrink. But I was a broke college student. And that just wasn’t happening. 

Dirty – I don’t think I’ve ever publicly thanked you for saving my career.  I hope you run across this and it brings you some joy.

-DN