Kira’s mind was abuzz. She had fixed a flag on the course with her gaze and was directing a silent monologue at it, “Have you ever been on the inside of a golf tournament? Behind the order and the fluttering flags and those neatly made up quote panels you see, there is a world of inner turbulence. Golfing minds are beset with the inherent imperfection of the game. No matter how competent and skilled a player is, the winds and the turf make for fickle friends. The ball has a mind of its own. Mistakes are inevitable and outcomes unpredictable.
“I must not lose myself in the woods or the pits today!” Kira’s mental chatter got acuter. Matches against strangers gave her the cold sweats, particularly when she played as a defending champion. She tried to distract her nasty self-talk by calling out to her caddie, “Nassir! Have you cleaned my bag and marked all the balls? Keep track of the score card alright; there was also some mix up last time with the yardage calculation and yes, we will use my pink ball on the greens.” She thus extended her anxious shroud as she fought the onslaught of other people’s natty golf clothes, branded kits, their formidable handicaps, tales of the hundreds of balls they hit in practice and their impressive tournament experience. “Dear sweet God, let me not make a fool of myself today!” went her silent prayer as the others stretched, hydrated and practice swung their drivers in the air around her.
Asked, Kira would be hard put to answer why she was there in the first place. Initiated into the sport by her parents, she liked it well enough; it was the patronizing magnanimity shown her gender and the lack of quality training that chafed. Of the only other woman she knew to be a champion, she had heard the gentlemen say, “But she plays off the ladies tees!”
“I hope I don’t mess up my fairway woods today. My drive has toobig a slice. If I end up missing any of those stupid two foot putts, I’m done!” Kira’s fidgety fingers flew over her T-shirt, patting her shoulder blades and the back, “Oh thank god! I am wearing my sports bra. My tatas get in the way of the swing, can do without all that bouncing and jouncing.”
Neil, her husband, was approaching her from the practice bay, “Just enjoy the game Kira. You look tense, decompress a bit. One shot at a time, remember. There is no making up in golf!” She nodded absently, almost dismissing the counsel, “Will you be following me?” She wanted to tell him that his body beamed the quality of her shots and that amplified her fear and frustration.
Something was amiss today. Kira’s emotions were stealing up, almost taking over. She walked towards the washrooms, conscious of jittery limbs and a humming pinball in the stomach. “It is only a game,” she whispered to herself, “nerves are good, they are priming, I am ready to go.” Fielding myriad thoughts, she stepped into the shaded confines of the Golf Cottage. She was reaching out for the towel when a stabbing pain lit up her chest. Her throat closed and she hunkered down slowly, breathless and shivering. Dabbing at the sweat welling on her face and neck, she pulled out her phone and dialled Neil’s number.
Having materialized besides her in a jiffy, Neil took complete charge. Soon enough she could hear her sports doctor on the phone loudspeaker, he was responding to Neil’s description of her symptoms, “You are looking at a full blown panic attack. Don’t worry; she is healthy and quite safe. Her perfectionist attitude and competitive spirit have precipitated this crisis. She must have stood there, reviewing her worst moments of play. Bad strategy! Give her fifteen minutes.”
Kira lay down on the couch, taking deep breaths. “I want to WD!”
“Withdraw?!” the doctor cheeped. “Now listen to me. You have the cognitive wherewithal you need right now. Remember the two seconds rule, no more than that on bad shots then turn to your mental pre-shot routine.”
Kira pulled together her floundering muscles and straightened up at the memory of her coach’s words, “There is no other way. You play through misfortunes. That is the essence of golf!”