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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Drive to 300 Yards: Taking on a Drive, Chip and Putt champion

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The unexpected golf shutdown in Ontario due to COVID-19 public safety measures in April and May really impacted the progress in my game.

Stop me if I sound like a broken record, but I had to get creative with my practice game. I had a brand-new set of golf clubs and no ability to use them.

My coach Stew Bannatyne from Modern Golf advised me to get some distance control practice balls, which supposedly fly 30 per cent of the distance of a regular ball. That’s what it says on the packaging.

I ended up losing a bunch because I was somehow hitting 85-yard 7-irons into long grass which would equate to a 250-yard regular iron.

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Obviously, that’s not possible, so it would seem the distance control balls travel more like 40-45 per cent the distance of a regular ball. Also, they are impossible to find in long grass. I started with 22 of the practice balls and I’m down to seven.

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I’ve been out a few times and I could really tell the work I’ve put in with my irons and the practice balls really paid off.

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I’ve never felt comfortable hitting irons before, but my confidence with those clubs has never been higher. I’m still not consistent, but I at least know how to hit them now.

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The problem is my driver. I never got a chance to try it with the practice balls, so I was a little lost with that one on the golf course.

That’s why I met Stew at Copetown Woods Golf Club an hour before challenging the 2021 Drive, Chip and Putt national champion Alexis Card, 10, and her brother, Brayden, 12, to a competition.

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10-year-old Cambridge golfer wins Masters event – Apr 8, 2021 I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the Cards, so Stew helped to smooth out a few issues I was having. My driver swing didn’t feel athletic at all, until Stew had me fix my address position: opening the clubface at address, shortening my stance, squeezing my elbows together, having a slower takeaway and creating a right angle with my right elbow at the top of the swing.

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During the competition, the consistency that Alexis showed with her driver is something to which I aspire. Every drive she hit was within 10 yards of each other.

I was much more inconsistent but was able to knock a driver out 281 yards — it’s the first time I’ve ever hit a ball into the 280s.

It was nice to pick Alexis’ and Brayden’s brains about their games and I tried to pick up a few tips along the way as well during the chipping and putting competitions.

I fared better in the competition than I thought. I didn’t embarrass myself which was my goal going in. And I feel well suited to really improve my game on course throughout the month of June.

I hope in next month’s post I will be able to talk about breaking 100 on a 6,000-yard course and hitting a driver over 290 yards.

Mike Arsenault is a Digital Broadcast Journalist and a host of Global News Weekend.

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