Joined The Augusta Chronicle as a sports columnist in February 2001. Previously covered a myriad of sports including golf, NFL, NHL and college basketball in five years for the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C. Served as a sports designer and editor at the Winston-Salem Journal, Newport News Daily Press and Charlottesville Daily Progress. Started professional career as a small college and minor-league baseball writer for the News & Daily Advance in Lynchburg, Va., in 1989.
Posted May 23, 2012 11:42 am - Updated May 23, 2012 11:47 am

Swing hope

I was warned within five minutes of sitting down at the dinner table.


Earlier this month I was given an 11th hour invite to crash a longstanding tournament at Yeaman's Hall Club. Having heard countless testimonials about the Seth Raynor classic near Charleston, S.C., it was a no brainer to rearrange my schedule to fit in a few days with a bunch of strangers.


The Bogies -- a group of golfers of varying degree from my hometown of Richmond, Va., -- have been making annual pilgrimages to Yeaman's Hall for 43 years. It might take me that long to figure out how to hit out of the deep hard-pan bunkers that were perfectly placed everywhere I hit my golf ball.


Arriving just in time for dinner after everyone else had already had a chance to refamiliarize themselves with the course in a practice round, I was already at a grave disadvantage. But one of the guys at the table I sat down at made me believe I had at least a fighting chance to beat someone.


Brock Livick is a gregarious man with a self-deprecating sense of humor. I'd be playing with him the next morning, and he quickly warned me that I've never seen a swing like his before.


"Don't look at him," was the general consensus from everyone else.


On the tee box the next morning, it was impossible to take your eyes off it. Livick crouches low into his setup with a rapid series of waggles. He rocks back and forth from heel to toe as he leans closer to the ball, dropping his right foot behind to offer the illusion of stability. Then he lashes at the ball in some sort of full-body convulsion that leaves him falling backward after contact.


It should be noted that Livick rarely stops talking during any of this routine.


Despite all that, the ball flies out there relatively straight.  My own best drives could clear his ball by 100 yards, but he was always in play.


In no way did Livick's game seem threatening. Even after he stuck his approach on the first hole we played (No. 8) inside 4 feet, his pitiful attempt at the birdie putt seemed to perfectly illustrate why he carries a 14 handicap.


But damn he was entertaining. After he slapped around a few shots on the grueling 14th hole, Livick danced a shuffle when he drained a 20-footer for bogey.


"I told you I'd take a 5 every time on that hole," he chirped with glee.


Through eight holes, Livick had already missed three putts inside 4 feet -- one of them couldn't have been more than 2 feet.


"What am I doing?" he asked of his yippy stroke.


That's when Rod Smith told Livick to stop looking at the hole and just listen for his ball to drop. And so he tested out the theory with an entirely new putting stroke standing over a 3-foot par putt on the next hole. Instead of looking at the hole, Livick jerked his head in the opposite direction right at contact. Despite the flinch, the putt dropped.


Over the remaining seven holes, the damndest thing happened. Livick kept flinching the opposite direction and the putts kept dropping. Birdies and pars all the way.


By the time we were done, Livick had turned in an implausible 75. The 14-handicap could have given my 12 a stroke a hole and we would have tied. It's not a reach to say Livick's score should have been a 72 with the three almost gimme missed putts he missed before altering his stroke to something that had no business working.


The whole time, I couldn't take my eyes off his swing. And what I learned from the experience is there is hope for all of us hackers with our out flawed games. If Brock Livick can spasm his way to a 75 on a tough golf course like Yeamans Hall, that great round is waiting out there for all of us to be unearthed.


All it takes is a swing you can live with and the right attitude. Tomorrow I plan to dance and talk my way around the course and stop looking at the hole.


It's gotta work, right?