WESLEY CHAPEL — Even with all the laughing, he took it very seriously.
Steve LaFalce, local golf professional who teaches at The Dunes Golf Club at Seville in Brooksville and owner of the Indoor Golf Center in Hudson, was kind enough to get up early and meet me on the links.
The virtual links.
On the make-believe world of Wii Golf, with its nine holes, each progressively more challenging, I actually had a little wager for him.
Who's going to have the best score: me or him?
See, the Wii — the very popular Nintendo gaming systems that detects players' movements with a wireless remote — has a golf game that comes with the system.
You can play baseball, box, play a game of tennis, as well as bowl a game. Golf, however, can arguably be the most difficult to grasp, even for the more experienced professionals.
Take Steve, for example. He's been golfer since he was 8, yet, he felt there might be a gap getting the hang of the Wii.
"You're lucky my computer at home is hooked up the right way," he quipped before we played.
Fair enough. I'll admit I'm of the video gaming generation, logging more hours than a student at barber college. I'll also admit that Steve is a way better golfer. He teaches for a living, so he'd better be. I struggle to keep my score out of the triple digits on some days. So with that in mind, I figured I might have home-field advantage, not only at my place, but with my roughly two years of Wii practice.
The system judges the game by a point system that can go into the thousands. I, as I brag, have 1,063 points, meaning, by Wii standards, am listed as a pro. Steve, seeing this, joked that he was "a W-ookie" because we were playing on the Wii.
Funny stuff. No wonder he kept laughing.
Actually, he kept laughing because of some the shots he kept making. Not because they were anything good, but because the game is not exactly worried about realism. Sure, you wind up and swing, worry about how hard you swing, adjust for wind and uphill or downhill lies — most things a golfer will take into account on a real course. However, certain shots won't bite when you want them to, or they'll bounce in a way a golf ball was never meant to on a fairway.
Like any experienced golfer, Steve took a minimum of four practice swings per shot, easily taking longer than Sergio Garcia takes on a Sunday afternoon. Though his learning curve was sharper than a dogleg-right, par five hole.
Steve started off well, keeping up with my advanced gaming skills. He bogied the first two, while I just bogied the second. The he went spiraling.
He shot 16 over par on holes 3-5, including a ridiculous 13 on the par five, No. 5 hole. He called that embarrassing, and I ribbed him about it, especially when it took him stroke after stroke, like he was going to have a stroke, just to get the ball on the green.
Though he adjusted, and stormed back — sort of. On holes 6-8, he bogied each, finishing out at a nice even 22 over par. I didn't have my best round either, having a triple bogie on a the par four, No. 7.
I ended up turning in a very disappointing eight over par.
Neither of us was having one of our finer moments, though he probably laughed so much his cheeks hurt later.
Steve even tried out his best imitation of Johnny Miller, who is well known former professional golfer who now is lead golf analyst for NBC Sports' golf events.
Steve, who lists his second profession as stand-up comedian, raised the Wiimote up to his mouth like a microphone and added his own commentary.
Hilarious, but it doesn't work that way, guy.
After playing in the Wii Golf universe, he was impressed. Steve may not run out and buy a Wii, which, as of this month, would be harder to find than snow, but as a golf instructor, he says it wouldn't be a bad learning tool.
"You still have to use the hands in a proper rotation," Steve said. "You can't just go back and swing go, but I think it can still be a learning tool and obviously the more you play this, the more you're going to get used to the idiosyncrasies of the game, the rough, the impact of your swing."
Steve felt he "played reasonable golf on this for it being my first time," and he did. I remember when I first played, I didn't even make it through three holes, becoming so frustrated on some of its unrealistic aspects.
"I think the better the athlete in hand-eye coordination, the better potential someone has at playing this game well," Steve added.
Ah, the video-game nerds, right? Those techno-geeks whose only friends are a screen name from some other country? Not quite, but first time golfers, Steve says, will learn more factors that "are going to come into play, and this (game) tries to teach you some of those things — at least to first time golfers."
That make you laugh?
Actually, when a golf pro is beaten by 14 strokes, it's hard to argue with that.
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 544-1771.