Memories For A Cold Winter’s Day

I sit here this morning, trying to get my appendages working again after another commute through the bitterly-cold January morn. I have always been a fan of the deep freeze of winter, but as the years pass it gets progressively tougher to appreciate the bonechilling gusts as they pierce my heavy jacket.

It’s these mornings that seem the farthest from the luscious green fairways of spring. And yet, if you take a moment to jog your memory, you’re right there.

Aside from family, golf is one of the few things that brings temperature back to a mind frozen over by the shortest, coldest days of the year.

Just the other day, I was explaining to a coworker about the makeshift pitch-and-putt course my father installed in the backyard when I was only about 8 or 9 years old. One of my favorite memories of that course was wading through the snow in boots, a knit cap, a heavy coat…and shorts. I’d have out the orange Maxfli’s. Some would be easily apparent from the glow, others would wait to be found until after the thaw.

I was lucky – my parents owned a decent chunk of land in rural America. Many kids don’t have the chance to master a flop shot from their Dad’s hayfield, or hit a 100 yd iron shot across a spring run to a pin only a couple paces from the edge.  I could do that daily, if I so chose. And I did.

Of course if you read my last post, you would see that I don’t get to play much anymore. But getting back to being a regular golfer will happen for me.  That’s the beauty of golf, and why you should try like heck to introduce your kids to the sport. It’s a game they can experience throughout their life, on a limitless number of great courses around this world.

And that’s what I’m left with this morning – thinking about the future, as well as the past. Looking back on the great times I’ve had on the golf course, and expecting a future time when I can afford to make a trip with my brother or a group of friends to a warmer destination.

That’s what life’s about, and that’s what golf is about. Memories, good times.

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Long Time, No Post – Golf Always Taking A Backseat

Starting blogs is easy. It’s the keeping at them that’s the tough thing.

I can honestly say that about most of the blogs I’ve begun in the last several years. From politics to religion to sports to golf, it’s easy to have inspiration for a topic, but not always easy to find the time or words to encapsulate the expression.

I decided to fire up WordPress and saw that I hadn’t posted on this blog since last year’s Pebble Beach tournament. In other words, it’s been nearly a year. Have I forgotten about golf? Of course not. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Golf is the sport of rich men. Go grab a copy of Golf Digest (to which I recently subscribed for the first time in 20 years), and nowadays they list the prices for every article of clothing worn by the touring pros and instructors. The resorts described are almost always posh, marketed to retirees and the privileged.

Suffice it to say I’m not a rich man. It’s a sport I love but also one whose cost prohibits me from playing much at all. I’m pretty sure that will change one of these days, but until then golf takes a backseat.

Perhaps the golf economy mirrors the real world economy, though. Last year I went to a local par 3 course to hit some range balls in preparation of a scramble a couple of weeks later. The course offers a much more affordable membership plan than, say, the local country club (maybe 1/3 of the cost). You might consider it one of the “Walmarts” of the golfing economy.

I grew up on an affordable course. It was a regulation 18-holer, but it was (and still is) very affordable mostly due to a depressed small-town economy. But it was pretty much the only real option for everyone in the surrounding towns, so everyone golfed there – from the CEO’s of the local factories to the guys milking the cows twice a day. Being a substitute in a Thursday night men’s league might pit you against one of the town’s wealthier individuals.

Fast forward 20 years and a move south to a more robust economic region. I am not sure I can say for sure that things are the same or different here than they were 20 years ago. One observation I can make is that the most affordable courses are dwindling in number. There are a few, but the ones that survive most are state-run (i.e. backed by a large body that can absorb losses).

There are also fewer corporate owned courses here. That was a place where many different classes of worker would get together. I even belonged to one early in my career, but soon found that monetary challenges prevented more than a summer of membership.

So now there are the a) ultra-exclusive private clubs (i.e. expensive), b) semi-private “resort” style courses which offers moderately-expensive memberships and good conditions, and c) the dusty affordable tracks that see way too much traffic and offer few perks at all.

What it has done is give me a great appreciation for the people who curated my home course. It wasn’t luxurious, but they kept it in good shape throughout even the driest of Augusts.

I hope to get this blog going again, but as with any of my blogs it can be a touch-and-go thing. Here’s hoping to more inspiration – and time – to write about the small ball.

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Nearly 2 Collapses For The Price Of 1 At AT&T

The last couple of weeks of the PGA Tour could be characterized as wars of attrition rather than shootouts. Last week Bubba Watson frittered away a lead in the last three holes. It looked it it would happen at Pebble Beach today.

Well, actually it did. But not in the professional event.

The 8th at Pebble Beach

The 8th at Pebble Beach

In the team event, it looked like Rory Sabbatini and partner Blake Mycoskie appeared to be well out in front. Yet they were caught by Jim Renner and John Harkey, Jr. on the famed 18th. Harkey, Jr holed a putt for a net eagle to tie the lead at -31, while Sabbatini and Mycoskie were having to finish their final two holes on the tough 8th and 9th holes (having started on the back nine).

With Sabbatini missing the cut, Mycoskie had done most of the work to get the pair to the top. But on 8, he found Stillwater Cove with his approach. Sabbatini could have still scrambled for par, but failed to do so.

On the Professional side of the tournament, Jimmy Walker also had a large lead to start the day. At one point he restored his original lead of 6 shots at -14. But by the time he bogeyed the 17th, the lead over Renner and Dustin Johnson had shrunk to 1.

Walker made the picturesque 18th adventurous – teeing off with an iron to the rough, advancing with another iron into the first cut, then leaving a long downhill birdie putt.

The putt went by 5 feet, leaving another nervy putt for par. But Walker snuck that putt into the left side of the hole, allowing him to take his third title of the inverted 2013-14 season.

Maybe the biggest story at Pebble Beach, though, was the disappointing play of Phil Mickelson. It looked like America’s favorite lefty was in a position to make a run at the lead from behind, as he did several years ago on the Monterrey Peninsula.

Instead he struggled to make any putts of significance, and finished tied for 19th at -3.

The FedExCup Standings continue to go Walker’s way. He extends his lead with this victory, and it will be fun to see how he stacks up as the Masters approaches.

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This Week on the Tours – Pebble

If you were to ask me, outside of the 4 Majors, my favorite tournament on the PGA Tour is the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. In fact, it might rival the PGA Championship to an extent.

The treacherous 18th Hole at Pebble

The treacherous 18th Hole at Pebble

What makes it so special?

  • The celebrities. Yes there are other Pro-Ams, but this has always been the creme de la creme of Pro-Ams. The old days saw Bing Crosby and Jack Lemmon. With elder statesman Bill Murray pulling out, this won’t be quite as memorable. But you still have the Ray Romano’s and Wayne Gretzky’s to add to the flair.
  • Course familiarity. If you’ve played any of the EA Sports golf offerings of the last 20 years, you’ve played the Pebble Beach Golf Links. For many years it was the antithesis of Augusta National, a course which only within the last few years has allowed its awesomeness to be recreated in a video game. Pebble was almost always an included course, allowing fans to get to know the course in and out.
  • Classic holes. From the extremely short 7th, to the coastal masterpiece finishing hole, many of the holes at Pebble Beach are remarkable.
  • A regular event on a Major course. There are few courses on the PGA Tour that routinely appear in Major Championships. Congressional Country Club is one. Pebble Beach is the other. It’s already in line again for the U.S. Open in 5 years.

There is frivolity from the amateurs, but this is also a serious test.

Rounds 1 & 2 – The Golf Channel, 3:00 PM EST
Rounds 3 & 4 – CBS, 3:00 PM EST (early action on TGC at 1 PM)


European Tour
Joburg Open
Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, Johannesburg, RSA – TGC, 5:30 AM EST


Champions Tour
Allianz Championship
The Old Course at Broken Sound Club – TGC, 3 PM EST (all rounds)

Web.Com Tour
Off (Starts Next Week)

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Kevin Stadler breaks through in Phoenix

Some guys are just easy to relate with. Kevin Stadler and his shaky putter fit that bill for me.

Overweight – check. Swings for the hills – check. Putts like he’s using a spaghetti noodle for a shaft – check.

Kevin Stadler, WM Open Winner

Kevin Stadler, WM Open Winner

But at the end of the day at the TPC of Scottsdale, Stadler was the lone man standing. His score of 268 (-16) defeated lefty Bubba Watson and Canadian Graham DeLaet by a shot in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

It was that Stadler lit up the course though. The tournament looked like Watson’s to lose, and that’s exactly what he did. Bogeys on 16 and 18 doomed the former Masters winner. The former hole saw him put his ball in the front bunker; the latter resulted from a drive in the right rough followed by an airmailed approach. He nearly got up-and-down on 18 to force the playoff, but his 6 foot putt turned left away from the hole leaving the trophy to Stadler.

Of course, anyone who has followed golf knows the Stadler name. His father Craig is a legend of the sport. “The Walrus” won a Masters title in the early 80’s, and has always been a guy the average fan could love. His son, after 12 years as a professional, now has his first victory at 33.

But Kevin’s short game is an issue, and it’s tough to see him breaking out and winning multiple titles unless he gets his putting down.

As for Watson, much has been made about his winless drought since Augusta two years ago. He played well for three days in Arizona, and was in position if not for some misguided shots. Watson even found water on the par-5 15th, a reachable long hole. Bubba has a style that is fun to watch, but hasn’t been consistent enough to find the winner’s circle.

Stadler had his share of trouble as well. He found water with his 2nd shot on the 15th, and also incurred a penalty stroke on the 11th in picking up a double bogey. The big guy had taken the lead at that point, but his tee shot went right and impelled itself on cactus needles. Stadler left the ball hanging above the sand as an enduring part of the plant, choosing to take his medicine and drop.

Stadler’s result gives us a treat come April – he will join his father in the Masters field, the first time a father and son will have played in the same Masters tournament. Here’s hoping that Craig tees off after Kevin, so that he can cherish the sight of his son teeing off in the ultimate test.

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My take on golf lessons

I was going to make my first “real” post about the PGA tournament from the weekend, but something better came along.

It seems like just about every year, I find another family member who likes golf. This year I got the chance to see a few of them at a benefit tournament in my hometown. We’ve connected on Facebook and such, and when I showed this blog to one of them, they asked a question:

“Have you ever had golf lessons?”

4793460589_87b459aba8The short answer is, “Yes.” They were an awesome investment my dad made one year for my birthday. I received a half-dozen lessons with the local golf pro named Kevin Howe – plus a round of golf (9 holes at my home course back then) every lesson day.

I was 13 back then. The lessons were pretty elementary, but they got me thinking about more than just trying to hit the ball. Chipping, putting, and the lot.

Did they make me a better golfer in the long run? Sure. I was hooked after the lessons. They made me pursue the sport with unbridled exhilaration. I can’t remember Kevin’s instructions at the time, or if he really did anything to improve my swing. But he did help bring about my desire to excel at the sport, a fire that raged on for a good 10 years (until graduation from college initiated me into the world of responsibility and taxes).

If you’re older, I doubt lessons will bring about that kind of transformation from once a month duffer at the local Par 3 to a hardcore round-a-day nut. For you it might be a simple tweak that straightens out that nasty slice. Or a drill or two that helps you find that killer stroke on the putting surface.


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Golf? Why blog about golf?

I appreciate you visiting my new page here, and I would suspect it’s something a little off the normal path of a blog.

Golf is still a popular, well-supported pastime in the US of A. There are plenty of major news outlets out there that cover golf in a “blog” format, but from my quick searching there aren’t many independent blogs about golf – whether about the professional tours, personal golf stories, travel, or other miscellany.

So that’s what I’m going to do here. This isn’t a pro blog. I am a guy who has played golf on and off for 25 years now, and could once hold his own at it. Sometimes I find that reading an independent mind about a topic is better than getting the mainstream line.

Of course I yearn to regularly dig up sod on my local tract, alternating between hitting great shots and mediocre ones. As it is, I play about 5 times a year.


In a bunker in my golfing life…

But it’s going to be awhile before my playing time increases much. I find the image at right appropriate to this. Sometimes we hit a bunker in our lives, or our careers, or our studies. Bunkers aren’t huge problems, but they lead to frustration. They are the desert of a golf course, sometimes deep, and usually off track from your desired path to the target.

I’m in a bunker in my golfing life. Getting out won’t be easy. Once I do, it will be a glorious time.

Until then, I’ve decided that I will quench my golf thirst by renewing my enjoyment for things like the PGA Tour, and other topics related to the small ball as time progresses.

That’s why golf. It’s a passion I’ve long since buried as a ghost of my past.

No more.

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