May 26, 2011 - Ralph Cissne
I have not met the wizard of Rancho Park, but there is probably a wizard on most putting greens, silver haired and willing to wager, as the day’s shadows grow long. Rancho Park is one of America’s busiest courses and a cultural crossroads of urban golf. It’s a surreal place that would attract a wizard or two.
On the ninth green in a recent skins game two Rancho regulars watched and gave odds whether we’d make our birdie putts. The Kid, a twenty-something gamer, recommended we ignore them as the odds were against us. The Kid missed his putt and I made mine. No side money changed hands.
While we waited on the next tee, the Kid recounted when the wizard challenged him to a $20-a-hole putting game. After six holes the Kid was four down and lost the seventh. “Five down, pay up,” the wizard demanded. The Kid forked over $100 and asked, “How do you do that?” The wizard chuckled, “If you want to learn, it will cost you.” They went another round. The Kid made some putts and they came to the ninth hole all square. He left the 45-footer short. The wizard calmly surveyed the putt then drained it. “So, what’s the secret?” the Kid asked. And the wizard replied, “You tried to make that putt. I knew I would make it.”
After a moment of reflection I advised the Kid, “The wizard putts by sense of smell. He’s like Yoda. That’s the only explanation.” As Stormy Williams told me, “If you can’t line it up you got no chance.” Alignment is fundamental to the art of putting, but self-confidence is essential. Bobby Hinds, my putting and short game coach, has worked to open my stance, set my eyes over the ball and watch the hole on my practice stroke. Priceless tips he received from Ken Venturi.I’ve always been a feel putter and adopting these techniques made a huge difference in my scoring game. Recently I had a round with 9 one-putt greens, unfortunately, not all of them were for birdies. When you clank your irons confident putting will save your day. If you want to putt like a wizard, engage your mental clutch, shift your mind into neutral and trust your stroke. Visualize the ball rolling into the cup then let it be. WOG