Robert Garrigus to amateurs: 'Have fun, go chase it, find it and hit it again'

Robert Garrigus hits off the second tee during Robert Garrigus hits off the second tee during round three of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. (Aug. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since ...

We try too hard.

Amateur golfers or weekend golfers or whatever you want to call us, swing with too much force, or wear ourselves out with too many practice swings or overthink shots, only to overreact when they go into the woods.

So say PGA Tour pros on Long Island this week for the Barclays, which starts Thursday. They all played in a pro-am Wednesday, as they do just about every week. The pros know that pro-ams are the backbone of their tour and that amateurs are the soul of golf. So the pros would like us to relax and just enjoy the game.

"I would say it's more of a rhythm thing than anything," said Zach Johnson, a former Masters champion who will play in the marquee group with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. "Overswinging is what I see, rather than just letting the club drop and hitting the ball."

Robert Garrigus, who won a tour event in 2010 and has tied for second three times this year, had an instant answer when he was asked where rank-and-file players go wrong. "They think too much," he said.

"Golf is really a fun game, and it drives people crazy, including us. You don't have to think about much. Just try to hit it, have fun, go chase it, find it and hit it again. It's us that really need to be getting mad if we're hitting bad shots, not you guys. When amateurs get mad, it just kind of makes me giggle.

Garrigus makes friends of his pro-am partners and gives them this advice: "Just have a good time. If you hit a ball in the trees, who cares? You can chip it out. It's not going to cost you $100,000 like it's going to cost us."

Rickie Fowler, a winner on tour this year who gave a clinic at Huntington Crescent Club on Monday, offered a more common diagnosis: "One of the biggest things is chipping and putting. A lot of amateurs or casual golfers struggle from 100 to 150 yards in, while you see guys on tour getting it up and down, hitting good bunker shots, making putts. I feel that is where a lot of people can make up the most ground, from being a 15 handicap to a 10."

But the pros' consensus looks at the bigger picture, as former Barclays champion Heath Slocum did when he said we're probably better than we think we are. He says amateurs take too many practice swings and psych (and tire) themselves out. "You don't do that on the range," he said. "You know what you're doing. Just get up there and try to put that effort into the first swing. Get up, see it and hit it. You're going to hit some good ones and you're going to hit some bad ones, just like all of us."

Local club pros believe that recreational golfers can learn by watching if they go to the Barclays. And not technical stuff. John Schob, head pro at Huntington Crescent, said he always benefited when he was a kid by going to watch pros on the range at the Westchester Classic. "What I got most from it was the tempo and rhythm they had," he said. "To me, it was instrumental in understanding that their tempo was more important to them than hitting it long."

Or then again, a golf enthusiast might not want to work so hard at watching either. Just look and enjoy.

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