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Equipment often a casualty of 'golf rage'

August 14, 1999|By ERIN HEATH

They call it golf rage, the force that can drive even the most serene of golfers to break or throw clubs in a fit of frustration over a bad shot.

Dean Hamburg has seen the results of golf rage, finding at least 50 lost or broken clubs each of the seven summers he worked at Black Rock Golf Course as a member of the grounds crew.

Hamburg, an elementary school teacher who is working in Black Rock's pro shop this summer, said famous golfers make the sport look deceptively easy. In reality, he said, golf can be one of the most frustrating sports around.

"I've played football, baseball, basketball, and there is no harder sport than golf," he said. "It is so hard to be consistent in this game."

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Hamburg said he lost a club to golf rage once when he threw his putter into a tree and couldn't get it down. One club is a modest number, he said.

"I saw a guy one day who got so mad at the shot he made that he broke his club, then he ripped off his watch and broke that, too," he said. "By the end of the day he had broken three clubs and he started kicking his bag around the parking lot - there were clubs everywhere. This is supposed to be a sport of relaxation."

Hagerstown golfer Jim Young said he has shattered only one club, after missing a 2-foot putt that would have won him $400. Now, he said, he regrets the action because the club was an old Ping putter.

"If I had that club today, it would be worth $3,500," he said.

Black Rock's golf professional, Darrell Whittington, said that each year he repairs 100 clubs or more that were broken out of anger, some worth as much as $500. He said he's fixed up to 20 clubs for just one player.

Golf rage can come out of nowhere and can happen to the most levelheaded player, he said.

"I know people who, when they get on the golf course, it's like Jekyll and Hyde. They change," he said.

Whittington himself has succumbed. He snapped a lob wedge across his knee at a tournament in Ocean City, Md., two years ago.

"I broke one club out of anger, and I needed it on the next hole," he said. "That's what added insult to injury. I learned my lesson."

Whittington's wife, Kathy, said other golfers used to call her "Thumper" because she would thump her clubs on the ground after a poor shot. After one too many thumps, she accidentally snapped the shaft of her 3-wood.

"That's all it took for me. I no longer do that," she said.

Greg McNaney, manager of Golf Trading Post in Hagerstown, said each year he repairs from 50 to 100 clubs broken out of frustration. He chalked it up to golfers' competitiveness.

Hamburg said the way to avoid golf rage is to remember that the club didn't cause a bad shot.

"It's not the club," he said. "It's you."

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