Have you ever watched a competitive golfer and thought, I can make that putt?
Have you felt like, I could hit a better drive, my chip would be closer to the pin?
In my latest challenge series column I got a chance to test my golf skills against one of the area’s best high school golfers as I took on Tioga junior Sam Taylor, a three-time state qualifier.
The challenge was a series of chips, putts and drives. And, there was one chip, and one putt, where I felt like maybe I can play this sport. One chip an done putt where I felt like I could hit shots, and where I actually got closest to the pin.
The problem is, there were a lot more than one chip and one putt in the challenge. And, what became very clear is good golfers are consistent. Meanwhile I’d hit one great chip, and my next one would fly over the top of the green.
“To be good, there is no other option than be consistent,” Taylor said. “That’s every golfer’s dream. You want to hit it, but when you miss it, you want to know it’s going to go here, it’s going to go there, you don’t want to be guessing where it’s going to go and consistency plays a big part of that.”
And, Taylor is consistent.
For me there would be one chip close, one chip past the green, one short, one to the right, one to the left. There would be a solid putt, followed by one that left me wondering what I was doing.
With Taylor it was different.
Even the shots that missed, they all were close. If he missed a putt, if he missed a chip, he was set up in a position to leave himself a short putt remaining.
“The only way to get consistent is reps and reps and reps and practice and practice and practice,” Taylor said. “You are going to get out of it what you put in. If you don’t put in the time you aren’t going to be consistent. I have weeks I have plans and come out to play on the weekend and I’m not very good. I have other weeks I practice hard and I play unbelievable in a tournament or on the weekend.”
For Taylor, the work he puts in is way more than most, and that’s part of what makes him great.
“I normally play about six days a week,” Taylor said. “I try and hit balls and just chip and putt three of those days just to get those reps. You can hit 100 balls on the range in an hour and then go do something, or you can come out here and only hit 10 balls and then play nine holes.
“I’m normally down here six, I’m trying to be here every day, but life gets in the way, and just playing and playing and playing and practicing and practicing and practicing and just trusting what you do and what you are out there to do is the key.”
For Taylor, golf has always been a part of his life.
This drive to work this hard, this drive to practice this much started at a young age.
Taylor’s dad is the superintendent at The Club at Shepherd Hills and before that he was the long time superintendent at Tioga Country Club.
“I have always grown up on a golf course,” Taylor said. “My dad has always been a golf course superintendent. I think I had plastic clubs in my hands when I was about three and then real competitive golf probably started when I was about 8-9 with my mom taking me to junior tournaments around the area and then I just started to get into it and have loved it ever since.”
Having his dad working at golf courses has been a big help for Taylor over the years. It’s meant having an opportunity to play consistently.
“It’s everything,” Taylor said. “Most kids are asking parents to take them to the golf course on the weekends, or maybe one day during the week and I could, for the first 16 years of my life, I walked right out my back door and had 18 holes right in my backyard. Being able to practice out there all the time and having dad out there helping me 24x7, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Taylor learned a lot from his dad, and he learned the right way to play golf at a young age.
“My dad was a very good amateur, and just never had the time to pursue anything,” Taylor said. “He was good, and he’s still a good player today. As soon as he got into golf course superintendent he found all his time goes into the golf course, and not playing golf.
“Every scenario I go dad can you help me with this and he has an answer within five seconds. He always has the right answer, he always can help with the swing and he’s a great mentor. Learning the game is hard, but learning at a young age, when you are able to adapt, it becomes so easy and just learning it and being able to develop and develop and develop for so long is key.”
Getting to Taylor’s level, he knows that it’s a group effort. He knows that he couldn’t do any of this without his family.
“My dad always being down here, giving me a ride,” Taylor said. “Now that I have my license, I can drive, but dad for the first 16 years always picking me up and always taking me places I needed to be. Even 30 minutes, you can find something on the range in 30 minutes and you can play good for three months in a row.
“It’s not a one-man effort. All the family helps. Grandmas, grandpas, mom and dad, cousins and aunts and uncles, they have all contributed to my golf success in some way, shape or form and I cannot thank them enough.”
Taylor has had the support in his life.
He has put in the work and the time.
I could hit one good chip. I can hit one good putt, but a player like Taylor can do the same thing over and over and over again.
You can watch top golfers and think I can make that putt, I can hit that shot. But, the question is can you do it over and over and over again?
The question is, can you be consistent like Sam Taylor.
Sports Editor Brian Fees will be taking on challenges from coaches and athletes throughout the summer and writing about them. If you have a challenge e-mail email@example.com