A Sense of Huber: How good is good?

John Smoltz
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John Smoltz is a +2 handicap and legendary competitor on the baseball diamond. But neither of these traits helped much at his Nationwide Tour debut.
Jim Huber

Series: A Sense of Huber

Published: Tuesday, May 03, 2011 | 10:44 p.m.

It is always a fleeting thought, no matter how solid the reality underneath.

It might not come watching Tiger Woods shoot 63. It might not even come watching Jack Nicklaus shoot 73. But surely it does come.

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Heck, I think even I could do that.

Shoot, I could do that.

Watching Kevin Na taking a 16 on one hole and Rory McIlroy fiddling his way through the Augusta pines during the Masters, cements the thought.

My handicap has hiccupped between a shaky 5 and a solid 12 over the last few years but no matter: Man, I could do at least that good.

Down deep, and especially after having the devastating reality of watching my swing on video, I know I can't. Not when it counts. Not when the pressure is on. You know where I'm going with this, don't you?

Hank Haney has become the world's busiest Twitter golf coach. He estimates he takes as many as 4,000 Tweets a week, folks asking everything from how to solve a shank to why divots fly left. But perhaps the most consistent question/thought he entertains is "I'm a solid 3 handicapper and ready to turn pro. Any thoughts?"

And his thoughts don't need the obligatory 140 characters.

"Give it your best shot, friend."

And come see me when you've discovered what it really takes.

I love John Smoltz. He's a class act and as solid a country-club golfer as they come. Hits it a mile, has a great short game, putts smooth.

But faced with the reality of the Nationwide Tour-not the PGA tour, mind you, but the minor leagues-last weekend, he shot 84-87, 27 over par, 36 off the lead, seven miles short of making the cut. Dead last of those who played 36.

After the first round, which was stretched an extra day because of weather, he smiled and shook his head.

"It really wasn't as bad as the score indicated. I really played better than 84. Didn't expect my irons to be my problem. I'll go work on things, and come back tomorrow and post a good score."

And so the next day, he posted one three shots worse.

He was like the rest of us. Heck, I can do that. I can play better than that. Shoot, let me at 'em.

At Hawks Ridge with the boys on Thursday morning, sure 'nuf.

"This," Haney tweeted me, "oughta shut up the five-handicappers who think they're a year away from the tour."

It is sobering, quite frankly. I remember during my days playing tennis, I sincerely thought I played like Bjorn Borg until I saw video of someone who looked more like Bjorn Yesterday. And the same became true with golf. Jack Nicholson instead of you-know-who.

Good thing I can write a bit. Good thing Smoltzy could pitch.

Those guys, even the next step down, are good.

But sincerely, I do think I could've taken at least a 15 on that hole last week. Really.

We had a bit of a chat on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend on this subject. Remember, you can catch me on both.

Dave Andrews wrote: at the length that the pros play from, it's an entirely different game than we mortals play.

Dave, length is one thing, certainly. Even the senior tour guys admit they can't handle the 7,500-yard layouts their younger compatriots must. But length isn't a problem for Smoltz. The difference between men of his golfing caliber and the pros might be simply scoring. The pros have an innate abililty to get the ball in the hole, Kevin Na momentarily excepted. Their short games are, for the most part, astonishing. And we must still remember that, as good as the Nationwide guys are, they are still a slim notch below the regular tour players. It's a fine line for them, a much larger and more inexplicable line for us.

I wondered on Facebook how the Nationwide guys might look at how Smoltz fared, whether they were secretly pleased or commiserated with him. After all, his plight cast a very bright light on their abilities.

Pete Kinney responded: They need all the publicity they can get so I would guess the stunt worked in their favor.

I invite your thoughts and questions, no matter the subject, on askjimhuber@turner.com, at the PGA.com Facebook page and on Twitter @jamesrhuber. I will get to as many as possible every week here.

For those of you thinking about turning pro, um, @hankdhaney is your best site.  



Great column... heck even a hacker like me can beat a 16.... sometimes..