The Duffer's Guide: taking the first steps to 85

Marc Lalonde
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New coach, attitude take to course in Riviere-Beaudette

The Duffer's Guide resident teaching pro Ken Gasseau shows how to line up your ball and the putter to determine your putting line.

In the interests of getting my average score down under 85 – or simply just breaking it once, actually – I enlisted some help this summer in the form of Ile Bizard resident Ken Gasseau, a teaching pro who runs the Sport-Etudes golf-training programs at John Rennie High School, Ecole Secondaire des Sources and Jonathan-Wilson elementary schools. Gasseau, an affable, genial teaching pro who has been instructing the game for more than a decade, and I set out a road map for getting my score down to the number I’ve set out.

We decided to start where golf scores are either made or broken; in my case, it’s more like smashed into smithereens:  on the green.

You know, drive for show, putt for dough?

Truer words were never spoken. And when we set out at Riviere-Beaudette, a nine-hole course straddling the Quebec-Ontario border just off Highway 20, Ken and I were determined to improve my putting stroke, eye and nerves.

On the first hole, a short, 326-yard par-four, I landed my second shot just off the green and set up a short chip shot over a bunker – where Ken’s first piece of advice came into play.

“Play your current shot and plan your next shot at the same time,” he told me, using a case where a green slanted away from the hole and how it would be better to miss in front of the hole rather than long.

Ken also taught me a trick that comes with your putter and discovering its sweet spot. The putter’s sweet spot will make the ball come off true and straight, while missing the sweet spot will send your ball careening right or left, and if you line that up with the arrows painted on the side of most golf balls, your ball will keep the line better.

That advice paid off beautifully, and along the way, Ken would get me to try certain things when I shot, and made me mindful of keeping my irons’ heads out and away from my body – and making sure to hit down to get the ball up, which, logically, makes no sense to me, but is one of those golf things that absolutely works in practice. We played the nine holes, and my 45 for those nine holes (with three par-fives thrown in there) represents progress, because I did have some wasted shots in there that accomplished very little – three or four at least.

But those wasted shots were quickly forgotten amidst Riviere-Beaudette’s natural beauty, which also struck both of us.

The hot (31C) day and humidity played havoc with our hydration levels, but  physical conditioning has more to do with a golfers’ performance at that temperature than some of us would like to admit.

Ken’s got some thoughts of his own on the matter, and we’ll being you something from Ken every week, because he can tell it far better than I can.

“Is golf a sport or recreational activity? When I recently saw Sergio Garcia miss a five-foot putt to force a playoff against Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, I was surprised. This great activity is a test of nerve control and is really demanding physically. To be able to go for four days in a row and perform your best, you have to be in golf shape. Most of us need to get into a habit of doing a minimum of 15 minutes of stretching prior to the golf game and that can not include hitting golf balls! Stretching for 20 minutes prior to bedtime will allow the bigger muscle groups to benefit greatly. Hamstrings, trunk rotator, quadriceps, latissimus dorsi, pectorals and rotator cuff are among the most important muscles involved in your golf game. Stretch liberally for 20 minutes every night and your game will get better.”

Riviere-Beaudette Golf Club is located at 1350 Ste. Claire Rd.in Riviere-Beaudette. Vist them online at www. www.golfst-zotique.qc.ca or call them at 514-875-6666.

Organizations: Riviere-Beaudette Golf Club, Sport-Etudes, John Rennie High School

Geographic location: Ile Bizard, Quebec-Ontario, Ireland

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