By Mike Stevens, USGTF contributing writer

I’m going to bare my soul here. I mean push the door wide open. It might be one of the toughest decisions to make, especially if you are competitive in nature. That is recognizing when your skills are no longer adequate to compete at a high level. I find myself in such a situation. I guess I can blame it on age; after all, I am 68. Or that I play with 100-year-old clubs. Even with them, I was still playing at a high level. Started noticing little things over the past couple of years. My driving distance declined by 10% and I might be fudging that. Reaching par-four holes required more low irons and often a fairway wood. Par-fives, two good woods and I was still 150 or so out. My handicap slowing inched upward. Yet I refused to believe I couldn’t compete with my fellow pros.

At the last World Golf Teachers Cup in 2017, I put one decent round together. The rest was a struggle. I played in Italy this past May as a member of the U.S. hickory team against Europe and could not reach several par fours in regulation. Fortunately, my short game was on and was able to win a couple of matches. But even the short shots are beginning to give me fits, especially when getting it in the hole really counts. At the World Hickory Open just completed, I had a chance to finish in the top 10, tooling along at even par and then went three-putt, three-putt, three-putt, one for double bogey, and I turned a 72 into a 79. It has been happening far to often. So reluctantly and painfully, I realize that it may be time to retire from the competitive part of the game. It is said that life is a journey, not a destination. Yet it is the destination and the exhilaration that makes you want to make more journeys. But when you find that you can’t complete the journey any longer, admitting it to yourself and accepting it is gut wrenching.
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