Eight Isnt Enough

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This column is for the eights.
 
You can be a perfect 10. You can be dressed to the nines. You can be lucky number seven. You can be deep-sixed. You can be five and alive. You can be four on the floor. You can be three on a match. You can be two for one. And you can be one of a kind.
 
But this one is for the eights. Crazy eights.
 
As in, eight handicap. As in, playing off eight.
 
Eight, I am here to tell you, is the hardest handicap in golf to carry.
Anybody who has ever been an eight knows what I'm talking about.
 
It starts with the simple mathematical fact that 80 minus 72 is eight. And 80 is the score that eight handicaps are supposed to shoot since the 18-hole par for most courses is 72.
 
Right away this is trouble. For starters, the system used by the USGA to determine handicaps takes the 10 best of your last 20 scores and computes the average. Which means most eights are going to shoot 80 less often than not. Yet that is what their handicap tells the world they are supposed to card at the end of the day.
 
Worse, 80 is not 79. Seems like a simple difference of one shot. But the size of the difference between 80 and 79 in golf for mid to high single digit handicappers is bigger than Australia.
 
I would rather shoot 84 than 80. I would rather shoot 88 than 80. Give me four scores in the 70s over a 10-round span and I will gladly take the other six scores in the 90s. What I don't want is 10 80s.
 
Shooting 80 for the eight-handicapper usually means the player gagged at some point during the round. And rather than shooting 80 and taking satisfaction that he lived up to his or her handicap, the eight will almost invariably think about the shot or shots during the round that kept his score out of the 70s.
 
You want pressure: Ask an eight what it's like to stand on the tee box of a long, par-4 18th needing a par for 79. You want depression: Ask an eight what it feels like to double bogey the 18th hole to shoot 80. You want free drinks: Hang with an eight at the 19th hole on a day in which he has birdied the 18th to shoot 79.
 
Should we feel sorry for the eights of the world? Absolutely not.
 
Having a handicap in the single digits means the player has achieved a level of proficiency in a game where the overwhelming majority of players almost never break 90.
 
But here's the rub: Most eights aren't good enough to keep the train on the tracks on those days when nothing is going right. They don't have enough skills or tools to keep, say, an 81 from turning into a 94. The two or the three handicapper usually has enough game to finish in the 70s on those same bad days.
 
So the eight tees it up and does his level best over the course of the round to keep that '80' barrier out of the front of his mind's eye.
 
The eight's best friend? Courses where par is 71. The eight can finish eight over par there and still shoot 79.
 
But for the most part, it ain't easy being eight.
 
The only thing worse? Being an eight who has recently turned in several good scores and watched his handicap dip to, say, six. Eights know who they are despite what the GHIN system says.
 
You can't fool an eight. Or their friends who are trying to take their money.
 
An eight with a six handicap, therefore, becomes in betting parlance a 'limo six.' Which means those friends will gladly send a limo to pick him up when he has to play off six.
 
It ain't easy being eight.
 
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