LARRY R. …. Pembroke Country Day College Prep's 2nd Most Famous Golfer
Larry retired to Tucson from Houston, Texas in 1999. His golf journey has been an interesting one to say the least with more than a few twists and turns. But his dogged determination helped him achieve a lifelong goal in the summer of 2014. Read to the end to find out why Larry is stuck being the 2nd most famous, not most famous golfer, to graduate from what is known as Pem-Day College Prep in Kansas City, Kansas.
INTERVIEW BY MARK POLICH
Welcome to the Studio, Larry. Can you start by talking about your youth and how you got started in golf.
Thanks Mark. I grew up as a teenager in the 50's in Kansas City, Missouri which was a period when neighborhood kids got together after school to play games. I loved playing sports even though I was always the last one chosen (think runt of the litter). I decided that because of my size, I should probably focus on individual sports. So I started to spend my time bowling and playing golf. Guess I was about 12-13 then. Golf won out because I liked being outdoors. I started to get serious about golf when I could shoot the same score in golf that I could in bowling.
Did you start playing golf in school then?
No. In junior high, I played football, baseball, and tennis. As a freshman in high school, I played linebacker in football but was just too small. I was constantly getting run over by the bigger players. The problem was there was no golf team at the high school.
Does that mean you never got to play competitive golf in school?
During my freshman year, the tennis coach agreed to become the coach and start a high school golf program.
What can you tell us about your high school golf career.
It was very ordinary. I could not break 40 for nine holes until my senior year.
Did you continue to play golf after high school?
Yes, I went to Purdue University and played intramural golf and would occasionally break 80. Actually my golfing highlight while at Purdue was getting to watch Jack Nickalus play. It was awesome!
What about after college? Did you continue to golf.
As you can know, work gets in the way of many things we like to do and I did not play golf for 10 to 12 years. We then moved to Houston and I joined Westwood Country Club. At this time, I could not break 100. So I began taking golf lessons from the teaching professional
Once I graduated from college I worked in Houston, Texas and continued to play golf. At that time my handicap was in the 12 to 13 range.
Did you golf performance stay at that level?
Well, I retired in 1999 and we moved to Tucson, Arizona. I started playing golf 4 to 5 times per week and worked hard at improving. And it paid off, I got my handicap down to 4.
And then tradegy struck.
Yes. I got a detached retina in 2005. As I recoverd, I struggled with split vision and had to adjust to new glasses. I did not play golf for 6 to 9 months. Once I began playing again, my handicap soared to 16. It was a real challange trying to compensate for my vision changes, especially with putting. I literally had to retrain my brain how to use my eyes.
But you kept playing golf.
Yes. I joined with a great group of guys that were mid single to low teen handicapers. I got my handicap down to 11 or 12. But I decided then that I had to either improve or find another group of guys to play with.
What happened next?
Well, I came to see you in 2009. As we worked to restore my fundamentals, my handicap started to drop and I began to post scores in the low to mid 80's with an occasional round in the 70's. I started to improve immediately. My handicap dropped from 36+ to 24 in the first summer. Then things got tougher. I had to work through frustration and getting worse. It was hard.
You started seriously with golf lessons in December 2009. Tell me about the process.
I started to improve immediately. My handicap dropped from 36+ to 24 in the first summer. Then things got tougher. I had to work through frustration and getting worse. It was hard.
Let’s fast forward a few years to March 11, 2014. Why is that day special for you?
Well, my handicap had dropped from 36+ to 17. And this is the day I broke 80 for the first time. I was playing Del Urich with some players who were better than me. Everything seemed easy. I was keeping the ball in play off the tee and my chipping/putting was solid. When I went to post my score, the handicap system displayed the message: “Are you sure”.
And how did you feel about this record setting round?
I do not keep track of my score during my rounds (even this day) so although I did not know how close I was to breaking 80, I knew I was playing well. When I added up the final score, I remained calm on the outside but on the inside I WAS JUMPING UP AND DOWN! One of my first thoughts was, great, now let’s see if I can do it again.
And at that moment, did you think you could break 80 again?
Nope. Well, I thought it was a one-time fluke. But then, I also thought that I can be better. I just needed to figure out what I had to do different to get better.
OK, let’s fast forward again, but this time just two months later, May 23, 2014. You were playing Fred Enke, a very difficult desert course. What happened on this day?
That was an even more fun day. Course was quite a bit harder. Par 72 compared to par 70 at Del Urich. Drives were going where I aimed. Approach shots were either on the green or close. And my chipping and putting was great. My playing partners never said a word about my score. I got a par on the difficult 17th hole and then closed with a birdie on the par five 18th hole. I was playing might be called “being in the present”. I just felt so good at the time. I was interested in the score, of course. But I was also just as interested in playing well.
Sounds like an incredible experience, but you forgot to mention your final score.
WOW! Congratulations. What did the other members of your golf league have to say about your round?
They were all very excited for me. It was great.
In 2009, your handicap was 36+ and if you had been allowed to join your women’s golf league, you would have been at the bottom of the 50 golfers in your league. On June 15, 2014, the Handicap Index Report shows you as having a Handicap Index of 11.5 (3rd lowest handicap of all players in your league.) Thoughts?
I was frightened and thought, OMG, I am one of the big girls now.
According the USGA Women’s Handicap Index Statistics, when your handicap index was 36, your scores were higher than 86.5% of all women golfers. Now that you have a handicap index of 11.5, your scores are lower than 93.5% of all women golfers. You have moved from the bottom to the top of the list. How did this happen?
I went to someone smarter than me for help. I practiced consistently what we learned. I practiced more than anyone I know. Nearly every day that I wasn’t playing golf, I practiced. The fact that I knew what to practice and how to practice it was also very important.
What role has buying the latest equipment had in your improvement?
(Laughing again). You have seen my clubs. I have never really bought into that whole “get better by buying new equipment phenomenon”. What good is fancy new equipment when my swing can’t produce a repeatable result? I would rather spend the money on lessons. But that’s just me.
How about fitness, what role did that play?
I have always been one to go the gym to work out. I tried Pilates thinking that improving my core strength would improve my golf game, but it didn’t really help me. My cardio suffered with this workout routine so I returned to my old routine at the gym.
Is this “off the charts” improvement something that has happened to you before in other areas of your life?
I have achieved some success in other areas of my life. But maybe not because of the typical reasons. I am not really that smart. I am, however by nature, very analytical and very persistent. I have always embraced the concept of work hard, but work smart.
When you start playing, when in the round to you know it is not going to be a good day.
I never give up. Just recently I had a crappy front 9, and then birdied 10.
Can you have a good time on the course if you are not playing well?
Now that I have higher expectations, enjoying a day on the course when I am not playing well is more difficult. It helps if I am playing well: I have more fun. For me, a big part of the fun is working on it. I enjoy practice. I enjoy improving.
How many times have you now broken 80?
A total of 4 times and I have saved every one of the scorecards.
How often do you take golf lessons?
It’s not so much days on the calendar. I try to incorporate everything I learned during a golf lesson before I return for another session. Sometimes, however, I just can’t get it we go over the same material again and I usually always get it by the second time around.
Why haven’t you stopped taking lessons?
I don’t know what to focus on that needs to be fixed. If you don’t know what is broken, how can you fix it? It’s hard to find someone who you can work with.
Do you have new goals and would you care to share them?
Continue to play better and get to be a single digit player. Able and willing to play with all levels of players. But I want to be able to do other things in my life as well. Balance is important. (my definition of balance).
What advice do you have for women who are thinking of starting to play golf?
Take lessons. Don’t use your boyfriend!!
How about advice for those players who have been playing for some time and just can’t seem to improve?
Take lessons and practice. I think it is important for people to understand that improvement takes time (time as in effort as well as time as in months and years).
What have I forgotten to ask you about that you would like to share?
I have never understood why when a golfer takes a lesson from a professional and the instructor says to do something and the student says it doesn’t work and goes back to old swing.
Thanks Rose. Congratulations on your success. Best wishes for many more great days on the golf course.
Thanks for talking and thank you for all of your help.
THIS IS THE ONLY TIME I HAVE EVER SEEN ROSE BUMMED ABOUT HER GOLF GAME.
I have a chart here showing the average change in handicap for women and men from 2008 to 2012. Have you ever seen this? Any thoughts?
No, I have never seen it, but I find it interesting. My guess is that most folks that are not getting better aren’t putting the time in. They would all like to get better if it required little or no work at all. Maybe, getting better is just not that important to most golfers. But we also have to remember, golf is a very, very hard game.
LARRY R. (added 2014)
at age 74, shot his age for the first time