Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chico native writes on mastering golf's inner game


The Oakmont course was tough. Angel Cabrera seemed to falter last Sunday on holes 16 and 17 in the U.S. Open, but on 18, according to Sports Illustrated's Gary Van Sickle, "he hit the gutsiest tee shot of his life & and made the most important par of his life. He earned the trophy."

In Chico not long ago, 102-year-old Elsie McLean hit a pretty gutsy hole in one, becoming, according to National Public Radio, "the oldest golfer ever to score an ace on a regulation course." What's the secret? Former Chicoan Darrin Gee says successful golfers know how to play the inner game as well as the outer one.

Though now living on the Big Island of Hawaii with his wife, novelist Darien Hsu Gee, and their two children, Darrin wrote me that he grew up in Chico, attended Sierra View Elementary and Bidwell Junior High and graduated from Pleasant Valley High School. He added that "my parents, Arthur and Betty Gee, are longtime Chico residents and active in the community (Chico State University professor emeritus for 30 years and Enloe hospital volunteer). & I did a guest clinic at Bidwell Golf Course a few of years ago for the members and other Chico residents."

Bothered by his own lack of progress in the game, he realized he was "trying too hard." Meditation and yoga helped him let go, and in 2000 he established Darrin Gee's Spirit of Golf Academy in Hawaii. From his experiences has come "The Seven Principles of Golf: Mastering the Mental Game On and Off the Golf Course" ($16.95 in hardcover from Stewart, Tabori & Chang). The book is beautifully illustrated with line drawings of simple golf exercises.

He begins the book with a question. How long does it take to play a round of golf? Four hours is average but, since each actual shot takes just a few seconds, maybe only three minutes are really devoted to swinging the club. It follows that "a golfer only needs to concentrate for a few seconds at a time & one shot at a time." Gee calls this the "inner game" "as it implies more than just mental mastery; sometimes the best thing you can do for your game is to get out of your head and trust your body."

So "get grounded" by finding the body's balance as you prepare the swing. "Feel the shot," "visualize it," and "find your natural swing." Develop a modest "pre-shot ritual" and "play one shot at a time."

Realize "golf is a journey" -- and so is life.

Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.
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