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Theory is one thing, practice is another

Back in the day when Ben Hogan was busy becoming a god, one of his tour pals, Jimmy Demaret, found him hitting practice balls as night approached.

Demaret asked, “What are you trying to do, Ben? You made 10 birdies today and shot 63.”

Hogan responded, “Jimmy, there’s no reason a man can’t birdie every hole.”

That might have been a reasonable notion for him, but in the day-to-day real world of duck hooks, chili dips and three-putts, it’s pie in the sky.

Most of us are grateful if we happen upon a birdie every couple of rounds. But it’s not for lack of trying.

There’s no guessing how many practice balls America hits in a year. At Pinehurst alone, a club official estimates that 3.4 million balls are hit each year at the club’s practice facility, which is appropriately known as “Maniac Hill,” and which, by the way, is believed to have been the first dedicated practice range in the United States.

A cynic might say that all this practicing we do isn’t working too well, given an industry report that 1.5 billion balls are lost each year.

A cynic might be right. That’s a lot of bad swings.

The guy who said practice makes perfect obviously never saw a golf range.

Stand on a practice tee sometime and observe. There’s a fellow who staggers backward after hitting a shot to avoid falling down. To paraphrase a country song, I don’t think Hogan done it thataway.

There’s a devotee who takes a divot out of the grass that would make a nice toupee.

There’s a woman who can’t get the ball airborne but keeps looking at her club to see what’s wrong with it.

All kinds out there.

Hogan said the answer to golf can be found in the dirt. For most of us, it’s still there when we get through practicing.

Speaking of Hogan, he once told of a dream in which he birdied the first 17 holes but woke up mad because he only parred the 18th.

There’s just no pleasing some people.