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A Lesson from "The Don"

When I use the term "The Don," I am not talking about Vito Corleone from The Godfather.  I am speaking of a man, who, in the world of St. Louis and Missouri golf, receives just about as much respect as Vito Corleone.  His name is Don Dupske.  

If you don't know or know of Don, he is a 76 year old man that is a 4 handicap (recently moved from a 2 to a 4 after some health issues have curbed his game just a bit this summer) that still hits a ball a good 240 yards off the tee and has a silky smooth swing that a 30 year old man would kill for.  Not only is Don just a superb golfer at the age of 76, but from what I know, he has been a pretty incredible golfer for a long time winning many, many amateur events in the St. Louis area and throughout Missouri.  I don't have many specifics on what he has won, but I know it's a lot.  Most recently he walked away with the St. Louis District Super Senior title by shooting back to back 73's at GreenBriar CC.

I had the pleasure of playing with Don this past Thursday at his club, the Country Club of the Legends, along with his Son Craig (who is a friend of mine and is the manager of the facility which I train out of) and our buddy from the gym, Dennis Cardwell.

We had all been trying to get a round of golf together for a long time, but it was difficult with our busy schedules.  Finally we settled on playing in a team event with Don at the Legends.  Dennis, Craig and I were pretty excited, because we figured in a scramble, we could just let Don carry us the whole way and hope that one of us could put a monster drive out there every now and then or sink a random 30 footer (which if you've ever seen Craig or Dennis, you could see why we'd expect some long drives, let's just say they practice what they preach in the gym).

Well, just before heading to the first tee box, I heard the pro explaining the rules and I looked at Dennis, asking, "Dennnis, did he just say best ball?  I think we're all playing our own ball."  And with that, our grand plan went right down the drain. Although we couldn't just rely on playing Don's shot everytime now, we at least had the advantage of having Don on our squad, which is definitely a bonus.  

We definitely had some ups and downs in the round, but I have to say that watching Don play was pretty special in itself.  Don is not a big guy by any means, is very mild mannered, very genuine and fun loving, but on the golf course, he is a quiet assassin.  I'm telling you, this guy just doesn't miss shots.  Everything he hits goes just where he wants it (I bet if Don is reading this he wouldn't agree, but as an outsider, it's pretty fun to watch).  Not to mention that his putter was on fire that day, sinking everything from about 12 feet in.

Watching the way he plays with such ease, never trying to kill a ball and never trying to make a shot that is too crazy, but still being aggressive where he knows he can be was inspiring to watch first hand. I think it had a big impact on my round, which was definitely one of the better ones that I have ever played.  In fact, there was one situation on the eighteenth hole, and had a bit of a tricky 2nd shot into the green from about 210 out.  I had a couple bunkers staring me in the face with not much landing room, and remember, I'm no single digit handicap (yet, that is!) so just hitting a green is usually my goal, much less a small section of it.  

I looked at Don, and said, "what would you do in this situation if you were hitting this ball?" Without batting an eye, he said "It's about 170 yards to lay up."  That was it.  It wasn't even a question, which is exactly what I knew he would say, but I guess I just had to hear it.  I looked at Craig, who was just chuckling and thought the same thing that I usually do when my wife makes a suggestion at home "Stupid voice of reason!"   Which basically means that is not what I wanted to hear, but I know it's obviously the right answer.

Long story short, that was the right decision and I parred the hole.  It's amazing how much more difficult we can make the game on ourselves.  That's why a guy like Don is so successful.  Not only does he have the skill to beat up on guys 1/3 his age, but he has the smarts to play the game in a more simple fashion that plays to his strengths.  (By the way, Don won the low gross score prize for the tournament and he out-drove me several times that day, as much as that pains me to say).  

So thank you, Don, not just for inviting me and the boys out but for the playing lesson that you gave me and probably didn't even realize you were giving!

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