Monday, February 25, 2013

The Haney Project: Ray Romano

“Golf is the only sport where the most feared opponent is you.”-Anonymous

Ray Romano is Hank Haney’s Season 2 challenge for “The Haney Project.”  Romano has never broken 80, and he a self-described Sisyphus. Sisyphus is the deceitful king in Greek mythology whose fate in the afterlife is to push a rock uphill only to have it roll down again. Haney is up for the challenge because, as Haney says, Romano doesn’t really know what he is doing. Haney knows where he is starting from with Romano, and he confidently predicts Romano will break 80 when Haney is done with him. Romano needs to shave six strokes off his game. Haney begins to work with Romano regularly stressing that the elimination of three-putts will get him there.

When Haney is given the opportunity to teach at a charity golf outing with Andy Garcia, Joel Gretsch, and Kevin James, Haney changes the grip of Brian Baumgartner of “The Office” fame. Despite Baumgartner’s 15 years of golf experience, Haney’s grip change leads to a terrible round. However, Baumgartner trusts Haney and will continue to use the new grip. Haney is inspired by players who want to improve, and like all successful people, he continues to learn from his experiences. He even remarks that he could have improved his coaching of Charles Barkley.

Haney quickly diagnosed Romano as a mental player, and recognizes the need to alter his mindset in order to improve his game. Haney determines that when he swings, Romano tilts his shoulders more than he turns on his axis. This is a common mistake made by amateur golfers. Romano is practicing hard and improving, even though he may think negatively about his game too much (even if it does make us laugh). Meanwhile, Romano’s wife, Anna, is secretly taking golf lessons to surprise Romano. She is starting to enjoy the sport, which leads her to understand why he plays.

As he continues to practice, Romano starts to feel what he is doing wrong in his golf swings. Meanwhile, he impresses audiences with his knowledge of African trivia on Cash Cart, hosted by Ben Bailey. Bailey brings a light mood to the otherwise grueling lessons and supports Romano’s goal of breaking 80.  After much improvement, Romano’s biggest challenge continues to be consistency and putting. He still needs to eliminate the three-putt to get his game under 80.

Haney joins Brad Garrett, Kevin Nealon, and Romano for a boys’ night of poker. Haney proves that he has never played poker before. Garrett loves to playfully take shots at Romano, and he bets a $10,000 donation to a charity of Haney’s choice if Romano breaks 80. However, Romano gets discouraged after a day of a few bad shots. His frustration illustrates how golf is a game about attitude as much as it is technical skills.   

Towards the end of the season, Anna Romano finally reveals that she has been taking golf lessons. Romano is surprised to find his "uncoordinated" wife there to play a round with him, and they actually end in a tie. Unlike Ray Romano, Anna has a swing that does not require correction because she was a blank slate.

In the final episode, Romano returns to where he first shot an 80 to see if six months under Haney’s tutelage could help him reach his goal. Haney is Romano’s caddy for the celebrity tournament at Morgan Run Resort and Club. There is a mishap with Romano’s ball, and he hits the wrong one. This negatively impacts Romano’s game, and his confidence deflates after missing several shots. Even though Romano did not accomplish his goal during the final episodes, he continues his quest to improve. 

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