Every intrepid explorer has a James Stockdale moment, stopping to ask, as the VP candidate did during a debate in 1992, "Who am I? What am I doing here?"
In my case, as I try to whittle my handicap from 6 to scratch, the question has become more like, "Do I really have the time to be great? At anything? I mean, without everything else going to pieces?"
It's a cliche but it's true: Behind every great accomplishment is great agony in some form, usually many forms, over more than one generation.
If I'm not careful, "6 to Scratch" will turn into VH1's "Behind the Music."
"The Morfit family never sounded better after a California vacation went platinum. But the family would soon be torn apart by addiction; to swing analysis, range balls and, ultimately, alcohol."
Still, I want to get to scratch. I've signed up to play in the Boise Amateur (a.k.a. golf's fifth major) this weekend to see what my new swing feels like under pressure. And I haven't stopped working on my swing. While in Atlanta for the Tour Championship two weeks ago, I made a detour to RiverPines Golf Club in Alpharetta to see Top 100 teacher Mike Perpich.
I've sought a lot of instruction lately, starting with Kip Puterbaugh in Carlsbad, Calif., moving on to Jeff Thomsen in Boise, Idaho, and finally to Perpich. I'm trying to make up for lost time; I've always just played the game with the thought that if everything felt alright my game wouldn't be too bad.
So much for that idea. I've heard it said that if you could trust feel no one would ever need golf instruction, and it's true. My fundamentals, mostly grip and posture at address, were flawed. Perpich reinforced Puterbaugh's instruction to strengthen my left hand, and to really work on my takeaway, making the path less inside and more straight back.
I'm hitting fewer nasty hooks, and I've been pleased with many shots over the last two weeks. A playing partner pointed out that I was setting up too closed. I opened my stance and it's helping, I think.
Like nearly everyone else, Perpich continues to be encouraging.
"Keep after it," he wrote in an e-mail. "You will get it."
Scott Masingill, who played on the Champions tour last year and lives nearby, is also optimistic. We played last week at Osprey Meadows, the excellent new Robert Trent Jones Jr. track at the Tamarack Resort in Idaho.
"You have a good swing and will get to scratch," Scott wrote in an e-mail, even though he'd easily beaten me in a match.
This weekend I'll knock the rust off; it's been five years since I played in a tournament. Low expectations are a golfer's friend.