Go ahead and laugh, but if this golf lesson doesn’t improve your game, it will at least improve how you feel about it.
I didn’t know what was ahead of me when I pulled into the empty parking lot at King Kamehameha Golf Club early on the morning of the second of my five Maui golf rounds. Then Shayna Miyajima came driving up, smiling and telling me she loved my outfit. (Thank you, EP Pro.)
I hopped in next to her — so much for Mom’s warning about taking rides from strangers — and admired her beautiful combination of Sprite-like hues. “Are we playing together?” I asked. Yes, we were. General manager Scott Carroll and membership director Rick Castillo said they’d see us at lunch. Enjoy yourselves, they said.
We followed orders.
HOW TO HAVE A GOOD TIME ON THE GOLF COURSE
As we warmed up, Shayna told me a bit about her background. She had come to King Kamehameha as an assistant pro only five months earlier after a few years at Kapalua and six years before that on the women’s mini-tour, now known as Symetra. She had gone to San Diego State on a full golf scholarship and thought she might have a shot at the LPGA.
But she did not win a tournament or earn any playing privileges on the big circuit. Her last two years, she said, she gave it her all. “I was completely selfish,” she said. That enabled her to walk away feeling satisfied and fulfilled, knowing she had done her best.
Lately, she told me, she hadn’t been playing or practicing. I told her I’d been happily de-lessoned a day earlier with Renee Lee, and just wanted to enjoy the beautiful golf course, one of Maui’s wonderful little secrets I’d learn, for the day. So we agreed to have a good time on the course and not worry about our scores. She even decided to play the forward tees with me.
On the first hole, a 465-yard par-5 that ventures out to a point overlooking the island, Shayna nearly reached the green in two and then laughed merrily as her chip roll-roll-rolled across the green into the cup for an eagle.
“Now we’ll have to keep score,” I said.
I wish instead of keeping score I had tracked how many times Shayna one-putted to save par after rescuing her golf ball from unpleasantness. Every time, she threw back her head and laughed.
WHY THE BEST PLAYERS MAKE PUTTS AND WE MISS
Shayna told me that she always ranked above average in putting stats on the tour. I noticed that there was nothing defensive or meek about the way she stroked the ball. In fact, if it didn’t do its usual thing and go in, it most likely rolled 6 to 8 feet past the hole. Then she would easily make that come-backer.
That assertive stroke, she said, was the difference between those of us who play for fun and the players who play for paychecks. When it becomes so important to sink those putts, she said, you learn to believe they will go in and you stroke them as if they will.
She asked me why I didn’t take a practice stroke when I was putting. Well, GottaGoGolfers know I hate long rounds of golf and prefer to set a speedy example. A day earlier, Renee Lee had timed my putting routine at 7 seconds. Imagine Jordan Spieth setting down his ball and putting in 7 seconds.
Watching Shayna, who doesn’t dilly dally either, I decided I could take a few more seconds. She told me that one of her coaches pointed out that one of the differences in the brains of men and women allows women to multi-task but also keeps us from mindlessly single-tasking. “We just need to be confident for 10 seconds,” she said. “Go ahead and think about the grain, the speed, your stroke. But for that 10 seconds when you set up, just believe you can make the putt.”
Shayna had two birdies to go with her eagle on Tuesday, but a few wayward shots on the KK’s tough back nine brought some bogeys her way and left her at 2-over 74. I asked Castillo what the women’s course record is, and he didn’t know. But none of the club champions had broken 80 to put their names on the beautiful koa trophy.
When Shayna breaks par, I hope King Kamehameha Golf Club will recognize her achievement and start tracking women’s low scores. The course itself is so women-friendly, 25 percent of the members are female — and we’re not talking wives of members but member members. There aren’t forced carries, conditions are immaculate, the vegetation is lush and colorful, and the Frank Lloyd Wright clubhouse presents a spectacular respite when the wind kicks up and the course is at its most demanding. It’s one of Maui’s golf secrets that non-members can come out and be members of King Kamehameha Golf Club for a day with just a phone call and some flexibility on tee times.
As for the members, they’re lucky enough to have Shayna Miyajima on the premises looking for ways to help them enjoy golf. So often the best players see the game as a challenge, sometimes even drudgery. She clearly finds it a joy. And maybe that’s the best lesson of all.