Can a 47-year-old underachieving mid-handicapper find long-sought golfing glory by turning things around and learning to play left-handed? The world is about to find out.


Thanks for visiting my Scratch in the Mirror website. I recently posted drafts of the Introduction and first five chapters of the book -- you'll find them below. I'm at the point where I can use all the feedback I can get. So ... if you're so inclined, please read any or all of the chapters and weigh in the comments section (or send an e-mail to Please be honest -- and harsh, if necessary. 

I'm particularly interested in rooting out the long-winded and/or boring parts. So please don't hesitate to tell me where those are. Thank you!


Introduction: A Sinister Proposition

David Letterman: Fifty percent of the most recent winners 
have been left-handed, is that true, at Augusta?
Bubba Watson: Yeah. Fifty percent are right-handed, too.

– “Late Night with David Letterman,” April 10, 2012

No, Bubba, no!! Not yet, not now – can’t you wait until next year!?
            I was genuinely torn. I love Bubba Watson, and he was making a charge on the Back Nine on Sunday (yes, that’s a proper noun – or should be) and threatening to win the 2012 Masters. Should he pull it off, it would be a big day for loveable self-proclaimed rednecks, guys who hit the ball halfway to Pluto with quirky, home-grown swings, and left-handed golfers around the world.
On that last point, it would be a little too big. At least in my estimation.
And the weird thing is, I seemed to be the only one who knew it.
You see, when Gerry “Bubba” Watson hit that crazy gap-wedge hook out of the trees on the 10th at Augusta during the playoff with Louis Oosthuizen (don’t worry, I’ve read that there are actually three different ways to pronounce it correctly), he was about to become the first true left-handed golfer to win a major professional tournament.
What’s that you say? What about Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir, left-handers who both won the Masters – in Phil’s case, three times – just within the last decade? And Bob Charles – who left-handers around the world venerate as the man who originally broke the major dexterity barrier by winning the 1963 British Open?
Sorry, try again. I said true left-handed golfer. Because believe it or not, all three of those fine golfing gentlemen are, in fact, natural right-handers who just happen to play golf left-handed.
Really? That’s amazing!
I know, right!? And what’s even more amazing is, even though this fact is firmly established, nobody besides me seemed to know it. Not once in the aftermath of Bubba’s historic victory did I hear it mentioned or written about.
But I knew it because Bubba was about to blow up the premise of the book I’d been working on for the past year-and-a-half. The one you’re reading right now. And that, at the time, felt like a big problem.
• • •

Chapter 1: A Golfing Memoir

“You tried your best and you failed miserably.
 The lesson is, ‘Never try.’”
– Homer Simpson

It’s quite a trick to get kicked out of band at age 9. But there I was, on the verge of tears, face to face with Mr. Picker: “If you’re not going to practice,” he said matter-of-factly, “you may as well not come back next week.”
Practice. Ugh. The very word sent shivers of disgust through my body. I mean, why practice when you could play? This was my attitude throughout most of my young life (and to a lesser extent, today). It’s not that I didn’t want to be good at things – whether it was baseball, piano, football, tennis, trombone, or golf. I enjoyed doing them all. I just didn’t want to practice. Not in the traditional sense, anyway.
Take my trombone. Please.

Chapter 2: Small Ball

“There is no similarity between golf and putting;
 they are two different games, one played in the air,
and the other on the ground.”
– Ben Hogan

For my money, Ben Hogan is the greatest golfer of all time – if you measure the man at the peak of his prowess: 1948; 1950-’53 (I give Hogan a medical exemption in 1949; more about that later). During that stretch, Hogan won eight of the 12 major championships he played in, never once finishing outside the top 10. Which is pretty remarkable when you consider the man hated putting. So much so he considered it another game entirely. “Putting is not golf,” was his attitude.
            Yet, if Hogan had devoted any effort at all to “that other game” – even a tenth of what he devoted to ball-striking – it’s almost unfathomable to think about all the tournaments he might have won. Could anyone ever have beaten him?
            Hogan’s answer to his inadequate putting was to simply hit the ball closer to the hole. According to legend (and as reported in James Dodson’s amazing Ben Hogan: An American Life), this suggestion came from his wife:

            On one occasion about this time, after coming close but faltering yet again and bitterly wondering aloud to his bride, “Why the hell can’t I make more birdies, Val?” …
“Why, Ben,” she supposedly replied calmly, “why don’t you just hit it closer to the hole?”

Chapter 3: A Guiding Hand

“Hmm … let’s fix that grip.”
Anonymous PGA Professional

Poor Arnold Palmer. The mid-1960s weren’t working out for him quite the way he’d hoped. Sure, he continued to be the world’s most famous, wealthiest, and most-beloved golfer. But he just couldn’t seem to get the better of Jack Nicklaus. Not in the big ones, anyway.
            In 1962, Arnold won the Masters in April, finished second in the U.S. Open in June, and won the British Open in July – while claiming six other PGA Tour victories throughout the year (not the mention the Canada Cup, paired with Sam Snead). By any standard, it was a phenomenal year. Palmer had clearly established himself as the “King.”
            But that narrow U.S. Open loss was tough to take. It was also a harbinger of things to come. Held practically in Arnie’s own backyard, at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, in front of a vast “Army” of adoring fans, Palmer lost the title in an 18-hole playoff to a 22-year-old Nicklaus. It was the Tour rookie’s first professional victory, a big upset, and a huge disappointment to Arnie’s fans.

Chapter 4: Major Breakthrough

“It is better to hit the ball from the wrong side and hit it right
 than to hit it from the right side and hit it wrong.”
– Bob Charles

An eight-stroke victory – in a major professional golf championship. The British Open (or Open Championship, if you prefer), no less: the oldest major championship in the world. Very Tiger Woods-like, right? Or how about Young Tom Morris-ish, in honor of Old Tom’s precocious son winning the title by a whopping 12 strokes in 1870. (Just 19 years old at the time, it was already his third straight Open title.)
            Granted, Bob Charles didn’t beat the field by eight, just his single opponent in a 36-hole playoff. But still … you might think that’s what people would remember about Charles’s 1963 British Open triumph at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s. Or why it’s so historic.
            But no, Bob’s triumph that day still resonates for a different reason, something he doesn’t really have any control over. It’s remembered because it was the first time a left-handed golfer ever won a “major” golf tournament – professional or amateur. If you’ve been paying attention, you know by now that Mr. Charles is not really left-handed. Which is why I so badly wanted to speak with him.
For a man of his stature and accomplishment, the man now known as Sir Bob Charles was surprisingly easy to reach. And surprisingly willing to spend some time on the phone with an unknown and unpublished aspiring writer. Perhaps it should not be surprising, however, seeing as Sir Bob was always known as one of the true gentlemen of the game. A man as famous for how he carried himself as for how he played.

Chapter 5: Ready or Not

“[I]t really cuts me up to watch some golfer sweating over his shots on the practice tee, throwing away his energy to no constructive purpose, nine times out of 10 doing the same thing wrong he did years and years back when he first took up golf.
– Ben Hogan (in Five Lessons)

It probably didn’t help matters that I was a little beat up right from the start. For one thing, I was still recovering from a soccer coaching accident. Yes, that’s right. I hurt myself coaching soccer. More precisely, I hurt myself learning to coach soccer, at a clinic.
From an early age, Jack seemed to take quite a liking to the game those crazy Europeans call “football” for some reason. We practiced in the backyard quite a bit, and signed up for the local micro-soccer program as soon as he was old enough. After we finally got around to signing him up for a real team at age 7 (we were at least a year late -- they start so young these days!), we got an e-mail from the league saying that if they couldn’t find one more coach, the league would have to contract – so I reluctantly volunteered.