December 31, 2009

I Resolve in the 2010 To....

New Year's Eve is the last day of the decade, and tomorrow begins a new one. Instead of looking back, however, I am going to look forward, and as many of us do, I am going to make the usual resolutions. Unlike many of us, however, I am going to make them happen, mainly because I plan to make them reasonable and attainable goals.

I won't bore you with the tedious personal ones, yes, I want to get into better shape, eat right and all of that. We all do and we all work at it constantly (if we are smart.) So instead, I will share you the short list of my golf goals for the year:

  • Mainly, I resolve to have fun playing golf and to not let the ups and downs of this crazy, wonderfully stupid game get inside my head

  • I resolve to finally stick to the pre-swing routine that sets me up to hit a good shot.

  • I resolve to practice six foot putts over and over and over so that from there in, they become nearly automatic.

  • I resolve to practice shots from the rough, from sand, from sidehill, downhill and uphill lies so that I can hit them with more confidence. I don't practice them enough.

  • I resolve to use the driver I have (a Taylor Made R9) and not be seduced into believing I will be a better player if I try to buy my game. (personal note to my wife: you're welcome)

  • I resolve to play Pine Needles from the US Women's Open tee markers and Pinehurst #2 in the spring. And if the numbers start adding up towards triple digits (and they probably will) I will quit scoring and just enjoy the day.

  • I resolve to take my 72 year-old Dad out to "caddy" for me when I go, because he would enjoy it. He can ride in the cart and make jokes about my game and we'll both laugh.

  • I resolve to only give golf advice to my wife when she asks. I rarely butt in anyway, but the worst teacher for a novice woman golfer is her husband.

  • I resolve to not put any stars beside any wins any player on the PGA Tour has while Tiger Woods hides from his troubles and refuses to pay the piper for his sins. He did that to himself and no one else should carry his burden.

  • Finally, I resolve to thank my lucky stars for each and every day I get, and for all of my friends. Never take those things for granted, ever. So, Spank-o-saurus, you might beat me from time to time on the back 9 here at Eagle Ridge, but you can bet next time it might not happen. And we'll have fun trying to out-do each other. That's all that matters at the end of the round anyway.

December 30, 2009

Stupidity From The National Review Online

In today's political scene of dangerous polemicism centered more on power than pragmatism, intelligent thought often flies out of the window quickly.  We see it from all sides of the political spectrum, as no one has any patent or solid claim on good sense.  Today's idiocy comes from the National Review Online, the dubious shadow of a once-thoughtful and thought-provoking conservative journal originally started by William F. Buckley.  Writer Michelle Cottle displays a breathtaking lack of any common sense or reason when she says that
[G]olf is a dubious pastime for any decent, sane person
To which she then attempts to tie to our current president
Why would a leader vowing to shake up Washington--to alter the very nature of politics--sell his soul to a leisure activity that screams stodgy, hyperconventional Old Guard?
While I do not agree with every decision Barack Obama makes (as I have yet to have a president in my lifetime I've been 100% agreement with) I do completely agree with his taking respite from the demands of his duties from time to time on the golf course.  Any regular player knows the rejuvenation one gets from playing 18 holes and concentrating not on the problems of the day but instead on the white ball's path down towards the hole.  It clears the mind, and if there is any place a clear mind is needed, it is in Washington DC.

Finally, Cottle summarizes her specious argument with this:
And if we really want to get harsh about it: Golf is a dying game--on the skids for nearly a decade, according to a 2008 report by the National Golf Foundation. The number of Americans who golf has fallen by some four million, while the number who golf frequently (25-plus rounds a year) has plummeted by a third. One observed problem: evolving family dynamics. Men once free to spend all weekend on the links are now expected to help shuttle the kids to soccer, walk the dog, and generally pull their weight on the home front. The first lady may be understanding about her man’s special recreational needs. But does President Obama really want to be associated with a game so antithetical to modern life?
Generalize much, Michelle?  A decline in golf rounds nationally could not possibly be linked to the fact that when economic times get tough, the first belt-tightening move is to reduce the discretionary spending budget to focus on core items like home, food and transportation, right?  Or perhaps another explanation that also fits into the overall picture is that there was an explosion in new players that coincided with the rise of Tiger Woods on television, and after a number of these new players discovered that they would never be as good as Tiger in their own right, they gave up the game.  Yes, there are increasing home demands, but to paint that as the sole reason for any decline in the game is manipulating the facts to fit the story she writes, not the other way around.

To me, the bottom line with this article is that once again we have a writer with such a strong lean politically that she will simply alter or omit facts to make a point, knowing full well that she is writing to an audience that is inclined to agree with what she says without applying any critical thinking to her prose.

That's why I generally avoid the likes of Huffington Post and NRO.  Truth often does not matter there.  And it is truth that is sorely needed yet is in critically short supply in this great country of ours.

I Am Back At It, Sort Of...

Thirteen days after Carpal Tunnel Remediation surgery, I am finally able to "type" with both hands.  When I say type, I am forced to use one finger in a  hunting-and-pecking motion as though I were just learning to use a keyboard.  It's frustrating, because I normally type somewhere near 100 words per minute, a skill well-honed from 35 years of computer usage.  (Yeah, I am that old.)

Anyway, thanks to all for your good wishes and glad tidings for the holiday season.  They cheered me up through the days of an aching wrist and the fog of painkillers, and I can't thank you enough for your thoughfulness.

Enough about me, though, the European Tour season is already underway and the PGA Tour starts its Hawai'ian Swing in a mere week or so.  Hard to believe, but 2010 is almost upon us and before we know it, The Masters will be around the corner!

December 17, 2009

Surgery For Me, See You In Two Weeks

I'm heading to Duke Hospital in a few minutes for a Carpal Tunnel Release surgery, after which I won't be allowed to type for a few least with my left hand.

That in mind, I am going to have to take a brief hiatus not only from writing, but from swinging a golf club too. I've been told I can putt in a couple of weeks but cannot even chip for another four.

That's the bad news. The good news is that I should be able to get some lost grip strength back and once healed, I should be better than ever. That's good, an aching hand is no way to go through life, son.

So all of that said, Happy Holidays, Festas felizes, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, et Bonne Année pour vous!

December 15, 2009

Stiff Competition

Armitage Golf Club, located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania isn't planning to go down easily to big-box retailer Dick's Sporting Goods.

I know what you're thinking.  I got a pretty good laugh from this very creative sign.

December 10, 2009

Ballet Is Like...Golf - According to Star of 'The Nutcracker'

Ballet is one of the fine things in life that I can personally appreciate, even if I don't ever enjoy going to performances of it.  Like figure skating it requires an athleticism and agility that are beyond my imagination, and I can certainly respect the dedication, practice and performance pressure ballet stars go through in order to pull off a successful run. In other words, it takes a lot of hard work to make it look easy.

Sounds a lot like golf, doesn't it?  Show me a well-oiled smooth swing and I will show you someone who has spent a very long time perfecting their craft.  No doubt it is the same for a principle in a ballet.

And if you think it through, is the golf swing not a carefully choreographed dance step that we all spend a lifetime trying to master?

From Texas comes a story of a seemingly rare convergence of the two: Texas Ballet Star Compares His Art To...Golf

This may be a first, but Eddy Tovar (pictured at left), the gifted Cuban dancer starring for Texas Ballet Theater, compares the art form at which he excels to golf.

That’s right, golf.

"You get frustrated. Very frustrated," he said, before a recent rehearsal. "It can be hard, very hard, but it can also be . . . amazing."

Like a golfer who finally reaches a breakthrough on the fairway or green, "you suddenly find in yourself something you never did before. And once you know your body, your movements, how you dance, ballet can finally become . . . easier. But it’s always challenging. It never stops being challenging. You know, like golf."

Those who see Tovar, 27, in The Nutcracker, which begins its Bass Hall run Friday, would undoubtedly commend his gift of making it look as easy as sinking a 30-foot putt. His athleticism is evident as he masters one of the key roles in Tchaikovsky’s ballet, the Prince.
 Tovar sounds to me like a thoughtful and intelligent man, the kind of fellow that would be fun to get to know as a friend.  While I may prefer a root canal to another night at a ballet (yes, I've been to more than a few, but that's another story) it seems to me that Tovar is less a prima donna than a decent guy whose life work is incredibly difficult, and one whose hobby is equally challenging.  That sort of person is invariably interesting.

Best of luck to you on-stage this weekend, Eddy.

December 9, 2009

A Zen-like Moment Earns Tour Card for McLardy

“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” 

Much is made about golf being like life, or perhaps the other way around, life is like golf.  Hit a shot, and whatever the result, you have to live with it and move on.  In real golf, there are no mulligans, and where-ever the ball lay, it must be played from there.  So it goes for life too, there are decisive moments in everyone's life - a fork in the road, if you will - and what happens from there changes everything that happens next. Once in a while the two converge into one place: a ball laying in a tough spot in an important moment -- one that requires focus and skill, not only for the golfing result, but for life too.

Greensboro, North Carolina's Andrew McClardy was in exactly such a place Monday at the PGA Tour Q-School, in a place where he had to forget his past failures and not worry about what might be.  Ed Hardin, the highly respected sports columnist at the Greensboro (NC) News-Record, picks it up from here:
McLardy played well [in this year's Q-School], stayed on the leaderboard and threatened to win the thing outright. For five days.

"It's such a long week," he said by phone Tuesday morning, back home with a 2-year-old screaming in the background. "The week drags on. There are practice rounds, and then weather came in and delayed the starts. The days started at 5 a.m. It made it all so tiring."

And still, through six holes Monday, all seemed to be going according to plan.

"And then one bad hole," he said. "I assumed it was over. I didn't look at numbers all week. I thought I was three strokes off the number."

And so, strangely, he felt no pressure. While players around him crumbled and broke down under the weight of dashed dreams, he simply played one shot after another. While as many as 14 players withdrew without reason during the final round, as players such as Duval and Micheel and Pernice failed to win their card, as players took breaks to throw up and cry on their caddie's shoulder, McLardy played on.

"Your mind starts racing," he said. "I played so well for five days. It would've been terrible ... "

His voice dropped off. He'd been there before when the number moved after he'd finished, someone else making a birdie at the final hole to eliminate him and send him back to Europe or the Nationwide Tour. His mind wandered, but didn't snap.

"It's important," he said. "But you have to keep it in perspective. It's not life and death. It's not worth crying about."
McLardy had found his Zen-like moment. From there, he soldiered on, and won his PGA Tour keeping his head in the present and on the real prize at hand: an excellent shot that kept him contention.  Now he will have an entire season to prove his worth with the big boys on the world's pre-eminent golf circuit.

December 8, 2009

Paradise Lost: Anguillan Golf Resort Broke and Out of Money

Temenos, an uber-luxury resort on the Caribbean island of Anguilla, has run out of money and now may never be built, according to the Wall Street Journal. A Greg Norman signature golf course, the island's first, was built as a centerpiece for the project, and opened in 2007.  It was to be surrounded by homes owned by the likes of Dan Brown (of 'Da Vinci Code' fame) and American Idol" creator Simon Fuller, among other notable celebrities, but now it is unclear as to the fate of their investments as well as the long-term viability of the golf course.

(Shoal Bay Beach photo by Charles Boyer, (c) 2008)

Anguilla is a flat, low-lying island of coral and limestone in the Lesser Antilles islands, and is immediately adjacent to the more-widely visited and well-known Saint Martin.  A protectorate of the British Government, Anguilla is a place that eschews cruise ships and mass tourism in favor of a quieter high-end resorts and villas.  It's also home to perhaps the most beautiful beach in all of North and South America, Shoal Bay Beach -- a regular fixture in lists of the World's Top 10 Beaches.  It's also the quiet playground of stars -- it's not all that rare to see a famous celebrity enjoying quite time from the spotlight.

December 7, 2009

Grow Up, Ron Galloway (Updated)

Huffington Post author Ron Galloway is making his rounds around the golf blogosphere the past few days. First here, then over to Heather Jones' "Real Women Golf." He's also showing the maturity one would expect of a ten year old boy.

When you write and put your thoughts in the bazaar of ideas for all to see, it is inevitable that someone disagrees with you. It's how it works, and that's actually how it should work: show me someone who's always right and I will show you the True Messiah. We haven't had one of those around here for quite a number of centuries, last time I checked anyway.

So this evening, after watching Jim Furyk win the Chevron post-season tournament, I find this criticism of a column I wrote back in April in my Facebook inbox. I had to read it twice, to be sure I was seeing what I thought I was reading. I found it fairly hilarious, given the immaturity of its scatological reference. If that's mature debate, I'm Abraham Lincoln.

Apparently, Mr. Galloway didn't like my taking him to task for his thesis in his Huffington-Post column that because Tiger Woods displays his temper from time to time on the golf course he is "bad" for children. I think that argument is bunk, and so do a number of parents of junior golfers. The column even quotes one who said "I do not believe Mr. Woods or any other golfer is responsible for [my son's] behavior." She then added that she and her husband are the ones who give their children proper guidelines, surely signs of good, responsible parenting.

Now he wants me to believe that because Woods doesn't know how to behave in his marriage that his argument that Woods' behavior on the golf course is bad for children is somehow now correct. Using his own words, he was right and because I think his estimation of Woods on-course behavior is wrong, well, you can read the rest. Straw man argument atop straw man argument, that.

Um, ok, whatever. Thanks for taking the time to write. Your April column is still bunk, even if Tiger Woods is a cad.


Mr. Galloway deigned send me, a mere "nobody" (to use his own words) another message on Facebook today:

Excuse me if the message offends your sensibilities, but I do think it is important to point out the complete lack of professionalism and tact that this writer -- who ostensibly has a national platform -- uses when someone disagrees with him.

It can't look good for Huffington Post, and I am quite surprised that Galloway's editors would allow this to go on. Actually, I don't think they know about it. Perhaps it is time to make that happen.

December 6, 2009

Thanks to George Franklin Grant, You Don't Have To Pound Sand

One Hundred and Ten Years Ago This Month, The Golf Tee Was Invented By a Boston Dentist.

Sometimes, we take the little things in life as though they were for granted, as if they had always been there. Such is the case of the lowly golf tee, a part of our golf bags that most of us hardly ever think twice about -- they've been around forever, so they must have been invented at the same time as the game, right?

No, actually, golfers used to plop their ball onto a cone of wet sand before Dr. George Franklin Grant invented the wooden tee.

Dr. Grant was a man memorable for many things. The son of former slaves, the Oswego, N.Y. native somehow found work for his hometown dentist as a youngster. He began as many prosperous and successful men do, at the bottom. His first job for the dentist was running errands and eventually he became an an assistant in the dentist's laboratory. When he was 19, Grant moved to Boston, where he worked as a dental assistant. Two years later he enrolled in the then-new Harvard Dental School. In 1870, Grant graduated with honors, becoming just the second African-American graduate of the Dental School.

After receiving his diploma, Dr. Grant worked for the Dental School, where he worked with patients who had deformations and maladies in the roof of their mouth. Grant excelled, becoming a noted forerunner in the nascent field. He was well-regarded in the dental community internationally and eventually left Harvard to open a private practice.

Grant had a passion for golf, and even built his own course aside his home in Arlington Heights area outside Boston. Eventually, he and his family moved to the more toney area of Beacon Hill, but Grant would often return to Arlington Heights to play his beloved game of golf.

Already a patented inventor, Grant eventually grew dissatisfied with the mess and bother of the wet sand tees that were used at that time. In order to tee up a golf ball on the teebox, one had to use a cone to fashion a pile of sand, atop which the ball would be placed and then struck. These sand tees were often inconsistent and fragile, and creating one was hasslesome at best. To fix that, Dr. Grant invented a wooden peg with a gutta-percha crown -- more or less the modern tee. For his invention, he received U.S. patent No. 638,920, (click to read patent) on December 12, 1899.

Grant was not much of a businessman, and he never properly marketed his device. He died in 1910, and the wooden tee largely forgotten outside of his family until another dentist William Lowell of New Jersey, "rediscovered" Grant's invention 1921 and manufactured the 'reddy tee,' which was painted red. To market his product, Lowell gave them to popular golfers of the day, most notably Walter Hagen to play them. Hagen and others reportedly received four figure "incentives" to play with them.

Interestingly, it was Hagen's use of the Reddy Tee that led to another innovation still widely used in tournament golf today -- the gallery ropes. At an exhibition at the Shennecossett Club in Groton, Conn., Hagen teed off with Reddy Tees and fans would stampede the tee box in order to grab up the broken wooden peg Hagen left behind as a souvenir. In order to control the unruly mob, the club circled the playing area with ropes, and the gallery rope was born into modern American golf.

Today, there is probably no piece of equipment in a golfer's bag used more often than the wooden tee. As legendary pro Sam Snead once said that tees should be used even on par 3 holes because of the perfect lie that they provide. "If they let you put it on a peg," Snead said, "put it on a peg, nobody is that good!"

Thanks to Dr. George Franklin Grant, we can all do just that.

December 1, 2009

My Golfer of the Year: Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson may not have won the most tournaments, he didn't win a major, and he wasn't the PGA's Player of the Year, but in my mind, he's my Golfer of the Year.

Here's why:

His 2009 started with two solid victories, first at at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open, then at the WGC/CA Championship at the tough Doral Golf Resort.

Then, the bottom fell out in his personal life. His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then, to make matters worse, so was his mother. That's quite a load to carry, and it's one that no amount of money or fame can make lighter. Sure, Amy and his mother Mary were afforded the best medical treatment that money can buy. Thing is, even that does not bring complete certainty.

Cancer is a wily, hateful enemy, and if you have never had to experience caring for a loved one going through the throes of treatment for the dreaded disease, let's just say that if you were my worst enemy I still would not wish it on you. Phil not only had to do that for his wife, which is one of the hardest things a man can do in a marriage, he also had to do so with his mother before Amy had completely finished her own treatments. That's like having to face Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson in a boxing ring at the same time.

Somehow, Phil carried on, and despite the pressures of being the World's #2 golfer and the expectations that comes with it, he managed to find respite on the golf course. He took some much-needed family time away from the game, and shortly after his return, he was a factor in the U.S. Open.

Despite falling to Lucas Glover, Phil's Herculean effort in New York at Bethpage should not be overlooked. Like I said above, cancer is a hateful enemy, and if a loved one has it, their cancer invades your psyche and never completely goes away. Its symptoms are sudden metallic tastes of fear, and those are followed by cold shudders when thoughts of the worst coming to pass cross your mind. In that U.S. Open, Phil gave us all a wonderful example of what it means to be a man -- someone who can manage his emotions and still do a great job in his work. In my view, that is a victory unto itself that's far, far larger than the trophy that Glover lifted that rainy weekend.

In the middle of it all, Phil was still Phil, which meant that he still had time to say hello to his fans, to sign a kid's autograph, and to still be one of the greatest philanthropists the modern game has seen. Mickelson does not get enough credit for those things, especially in a time when uber-rich players seem to walk to and from a course as though they were bottled up in a Thermos, seemingly miles away from the fans that paid their good money in the depths of The Great Recession to see them play. Phil is often compared to Arnold Palmer in that regard, and fairly so: The King is still revered by golf fans everywhere for being one of the friendliest people to trod between the ropes. Phil is a lot like him, and it seems like he always has time to say hi to an adoring ten year old, or high five a little girl excited to see him as he strides towards the next tee. The game needs more Phils and it certainly needs fewer Ice Princesses who act as though they couldn't be bothered.

Phil wasn't done with his 2009 after the US Open, however. He wasn't satisifed with his game, and to fix it, he worked with putting guru Dave Stockton. A few mechanical and mental changes later, fix it Phil did, and he came roaring out like a man possessed. Seemingly every stroke he took with his flat-stick sent the ball to the bottom, and with that came confidence on the greens that Phil said he hadn't had since he was a kid. Suddenly with his new-found putting prowess, the rest of Phil's game blossomed and his swashbuckling style from tee-to-green allowed him to play offense on the golf course rather than trying to defensively get each and every approach shot within spitting distance of the cup.

Folks, changing your game that drastically for the better is not an easy thing, not even for one of the best golfers playing the game today. It takes a bit of humility, a lot of hunger and a truckload of practice and preserverance to make it work. Phil Mickelson did it, and it paid in spades. He upstaged FedEx Cup winner Tiger Woods by dominating the field over the weekend for an easy Tour Championship win. At the President's Cup in San Francisco, Phil was lights out. And to end his 2009, Phil won again, this time in Shanghai at HSBC Champions/WGC tournament again featuring most all of the top-ranked players in the game today.

In toto, that means that Phil Mickelson started 2009 well, somehow not only managed to help his family when it need it most, and still nearly won his country's championship. Then, he made a smart move and made himself a better player, one that NBC's Johnny Miller says is the best in the world today, with all due respect to Tiger Woods. The whole way, he never lost himself and never forgot who he was and why he is adored by so many of his fans.

Taken as a whole, that's why Phil Mickelson is the Old Man Par Player of the Year in a runaway victory.

November 30, 2009

Mea Culpa: Old Man Par Was Wrong

Once in a while, you do something that you hate, and that's exactly what I did yesterday: I added to the speculation running circles around Tiger Woods and his marriage when I called on Tiger to issue an apology.

I was wrong and out of line.

Fact: I have no idea what Tiger Woods does in his personal life.  Neither do you, either.

For that matter, neither does or any of the other web sites and TV shows that make a living by stalking celebrities and playing "gotcha."  Keep in mind that their real reason to exist is to sell advertising and to profit from it.  They need as many eyeballs and ears as they can possibly get to do that, and often, truth, fairness and journalistic integrity fall by the wayside.

What we do know is that Tiger Woods is the best golfer of his generation, and that watching him compete is a pleasure, whether or not you are a fan of his game.  That's because is talented and accomplished enough to be mentioned in the same sentence as Nicklaus, Hogan, Jones and others.

The world should remember that watching Tiger play golf does not mean that we have any right to know what he does in his personal life.  Whether or not he had an affair is really none of our business.  Whether or not his wife argued with him is none of our business.  Whether or not Tiger had eggs or pancakes for breakfast is none of our business either.  You may think you have a right to know about these things, but the truth is, you don't.

Ask yourself, do you think the rest of the world has the right to know what you and your spouse talked about last night, or last year?  I bet you don't think that we do.  So please, fame and fortune aside, why is Tiger Woods any different?

So, yesterday, when I called for Tiger to admit his wrongdoings to the world, I was wrong.  Truth is, we really don't know if Tiger has anything to admit to, and even if he did, isn't it a little presumptuous for us to think that we have a right to an apology?  After sleeping on it, I think it is.  The only ones that Tiger Woods might have to apologize to if he did something untoward is his wife and his family.  Not us.

That's because quite frankly, it's none of our business.

This website is here to talk about golf - you know, that sport where people hit white balls down green fairways.  We're not about writing lurid details of people's private lives.  That said, this is the last time I plan to discuss Tiger Woods accident, marriage, purported affairs or any of that.  If you want that sort of thing, you probably already know where to look: everywhere.  But not here.

Note: I am leaving the previous entry that I disavowed whole and intact.  That's because I personally don't run from my mistakes and don't try to pretend they never happened.

November 29, 2009

If You Are Man Enough To Do It, Be Man Enough To Say You Did It

Let's assume for a moment that Tiger is indeed playing another woman's back nine. If that's so, he needs to man up, call a press conference and take complete ownership of his deeds.

Woods needs to say what he did, what he intends to do about it and he also needs to apologize - profusely - to his wife and his family. He owes them that much, if he's any kind of man at all.

I can say that with complete confidence. While I know nothing about the pressures and requirements of tournament golf at its highest level, I certainly do have a complete grasp of what it means to be a man, and what marriage actually means. In that, Tiger Woods and I are complete equals. Like him, I stood up in front of God, in front of family, in front of friends and in front of society and the law and made a simple promise to a woman: "to forsake all others."

Yes, no one is perfect. No man walks on water, and no one is born without sin. What makes us different from each other, however is how we handle our inevitable transgressions.

When I was a young boy, I got some wonderful advice from my grandfather: "if you are man enough to do it, be man enough to say you did it." That's a wonderfully simple yet wonderfully deep statement. It says to be honest, be forthright and be clear, but it also implies not to do anything you wouldn't want to admit to. He was a smart guy, my grandfather.

And that's what Tiger Woods needs to do: if he cheated on Elin, he needs to admit it and he needs to apologize to her for the world to hear. If he didn't he needs to defend his - and his family's - honor. But he does need to say something.

Golf is a game of honor. In it, you are expected to call penalties on yourself if you break the rules. It's also said that golf is like life, and that life is like golf. If that's true, and Tiger, if you went out of bounds, you need to admit, take your penalty and move on.

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

It's Thanksgiving Day here in America, a day for feasting, family and football. Later tonight, there's some golf on TV too, but that's not the point of the day: it's a day we set aside to give our thanks for the good things in our lives. For even those who are having tough times, if they think about it, they can find things that they're grateful for, and for those of us for whom life is in a better place, we shouldn't have to think long before we find positive things in our own situations.

From a golfing standpoint, I'd like to give thanks that I'm lucky enough to play a game that's interesting, fun, and also gives me a chance to measure myself against friends and strangers in a friendly way.

I'm thankful that the same game helps me get some much-needed exercise and time away from my desk and the stresses of the day-to-day rat race.

I'm thankful for the fresh air, the sunshine and seeing wildlife out on various courses. Golf helps remind me of the wonders of our planet, something we all too often take for granted. I've seen the fastest animal on the earth - a Peregrine falcon - looking for a capturing his dinner. I've shared a green with a huge whitetail deer. I've seen several Pileated woodpeckers - the big red-headed ones - in all their glory. I've even seen a snapping turtle that was easily two feet across sunning greenside. They are wondrous things, and don't pass them by.

I've met some of the best people I know playing golf. My friend Leo, who lives on the other side of my neighborhood, is one of the most solid people I know. He's always good for a laugh, and he's always fun to play a round of golf with. Leo is currently $1 up in our never-ending Nassau, and I plan to win that buck back from him this weekend. He no doubt plans to add more to his riches. No wallets are harmed, really, it's just something to joust about as we play. Leo and I met playing golf, and now our wives are friends as are we.

I've met some of the best folks on the Internet after I decided to start blathering about the game I love here. Court, Vince, Patricia, Heather, Ryan and others - you are one of the best parts of my day. I'm thankful you're there, and hopefully one day we can tee it up and chase the white ball down to the rabbit hole.

And for those of you who read this blog but rarely or never comment, I am thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your day!

November 24, 2009

Obama Is a Poor Golfer, But He Follows The Rules

While he running for the presidency he now holds, Barack Obama was known as a mean baller -- that is, he had a stellar basketball game for a man his age. Now in office, he plays golf, a game that he finds as difficult as herding the cats that roam the halls of the US Congress.

During his campaign, he visited the UNC Tar Heels, would go on to win the NCAA Tournament. There, a few of the talented Heels were impressed with his game when Obama visited the squad and played in a pickup game with the team. "At one point Coach Williams pulled me aside and said, 'You know, you have a presidential candidate on your team; you may want to pass him the ball,' " UNC Marcus Ginyard said in the Raleigh News and Observer after the event. "After that, I made sure I got it to him the next five or six times." Obama downed a 3-pointer and, for a man his age and skill level, played pretty well according to those who were present.

Since his swearing in, however, Obama has chosen another game to recharge, golf. In an article in today's Wall Street Journal, Obama is not as good on the links as he was on the basketball floor, and apparently the President shares many of the frustrations as other part-time hackers.

Obama has a golf handicap in the mid-20s, considered weak to average, and a cramped swing that's not so pretty.
A recent anonymous posting on comes from a golfer who claims to have caught some of the action: "I had the misfortune of being stuck in a group on the same course as the Prez and his buddies and watching them play one hole in the time it took our foursome to play 3 was painful. The only thing stopping us from telling them to pick it up was the incredibly large security detail he had with him."
Rank does have its privileges, I suppose, but what's really interesting here is that the Secret Service even allowed normal citizens to be anywhere near the President's entourage while they were playing.

Of course, picking up would have been the right thing to do, but apparently, Mr. Obama plays by the rules, something that Bill Clinton was known to circumvent with impunity.
"Mr. Obama's aides say the president, known for his discipline, doesn't take mulligans and adheres to every rule on the course."
That's worthy of some respect, and it means that even though the President may not be a talented player, at least you can trust the scores on his card, unlike most other golfers.

November 23, 2009

Mark Your Ball Uniquely

It's rapidly becoming passe' to mark your golf ball with a dot or your initials, instead, more and more players are boldly identifying their eggs with something unique and, well, fun.

At left, you can see how I mark my own ball -- I came up with the Angry Ball (tm) "design" when I started off a Match Play tournament round by dropping the first three holes carelessly. I was a little ticked at myself, to say the least, and while I waited to tee off, I drew Mr. Unhappy on the dimples of my Pro V1. Long story short, I won the match, and by the time I closed out my opponent on the 18th green for a 1-up win, I had literally wiped Mr. Unhappy's face off of my ball through the normal wear that happens in play. Ever since, he's a bit of a good luck charm.

For those less "artistically inclined" than me, a company called "Tin Cup" is selling relatively inexpensive stencils for several pre-made designs, or if you like, one of your own. You lay the Tin Cup stencil over the ball and mark as normal with a Sharpie pen.

$17 may seem like a lot for a little gadget like this, but if you want to share your flair on your golf ball, this might be the way to go. That and it might make a good stocking stuffer for the golfer on your gift list this year.

Now then, if I can get Mr. Unhappy with "If Found Please Return to Charles Boyer" in small print below his grimacing face, I will have the perfect ball marker.

Black Friday Golf Deals

After eating too much and watching boring football games comes the so-called holiday within a holiday, Black Friday: the day that retailers ostensibly reach the point of being profitable for the year (hence the name "black" Friday.) There will be more than a few deals for golfers out there too, and I thought I would pass a few of them along if you happen to have someone of your gift list in need of something new.

sales data from Michael Jamison at

Dick’s Sporting Goods
$10 off All Regular & Clearance Golf Shoes $59.99 or More;
25% off Entire Stock of Nike and Adidas Apparel;
Etonic Women's Lites Plus Golf Shoes - $29.99;
TaylorMade r7 Quad Driver - $299.99;
TaylorMade Rescue Mid Club - $99.99;
Walter Hagen WH22 Hybrid Club - $99.99;
$10 off All Golf Bags, Carts & Covers $59 or More;
$20 off All Golf Bags, Carts & Covers $109 or More;
Callaway Big Bertha Driver - $99.99;
TaylorMade R580 Driver or Fairway Wood - $149.99 w/ Free Golf Balls.

EBags.Com – 20 percent off Various TaylorMade-adidas Golf bags, backpacks, etc.

$25 gift card with purchase of $99 or more – code: EPS947GGC

48-Pack Golf Balls - $14.99;
Buys' Junior Dunlop Golf Set - $49.99;
Fathom Golf Set - $77.77;
Girls' Junior Golf Set - $39.99
30 percent off all merchandise – recycled golf balls, shoes, gps, head covers and more. -

Sports Authority
Callaway FTi Golf Driver - $119.99;
Juniors RAM G-Force 7-Piece Golf Set - $59.99;
Nike and Adidas Golf Apparel - 25% off;
Tommy Armour 855 Hybrid Iron Set - $149.99;
Tommy Armour Golf Apparel - 50% off;
RAM Memorial 14-Piece Golf Club Set - $99.99;
Men's RAM Laser 18-Piece Golf Club Set - $199.99;
Nike SuMo 5000 Golf Driver - $99.99;
Take $100 off Any Iron Set $425 or More;
Take $25 off Any Golf Driver $165 or More;
TaylorMade Itsy Bitsy Spider Putter - $89.99;
Titleist Pro V1 or Pro V1x 12-Pack Golf Balls - $39.99

Spend wisely. Me, I wouldn't hit the mall this Friday for anything. Nope, you will be able to find me on the golf course and then sitting in front of my brewing equipment knocking out a batch of Belgian Blonde Ale.

Slow Play Is Not Just Irritating, It Actually Hurts The Game

My last word on slow play for a while:

All too often, it takes almost six hours to play a round of golf on a public course -- and that's only from the first tee to the 18th green. Add in travel time to and from the course, warmup time, time putting on the practice green and of course waiting to tee off behind a line of other golfers, one might spend seven or more hours "golfing."

I tweeted about it last week, while waiting on my course behind some guys who had no business playing Eagle Ridge. Their games just didn't qualify them to play a 133 slope course...but there they were, hitting seven, eight or nine shots (before penalty strokes) to get to the green, and once there, each of them had to line up their two or three putts as if they were a Tour player with something serious on the line. Meanwhile, we got to know the foursome behind us, and even the foursome behind them. That's because we were bunched up on too many tee boxes, all waiting our turn to hit.

Why the rangers didn't police these players is beyond me. The fellow on duty that afternoon is a friendly guy, an older gentleman undoubtedly looking to make a little extra cash on the side -- or perhaps earn some free rounds himself. Thing is, whatever his reasons, he had a job to do, and he wasn't doing it. Instead, he was chatting on his cellphone, wondering if the Carolina Panthers had held a late lead against Atlanta in a pivotal game for...well, nothing much. This I know, because he was beside our teebox chattering while we were attempting to finally hit our shots after waiting fifteen minutes.

We finished that round using our cellphones as flashlights. While we were putting out, someone sailed a ball onto the green and nearly hit one of us.

That round wasn't fun, it was a marathon. More accurately, it was a slog, actually, and several times I came close to calling it a day and walking back to my house. I'm a member there, and fortunately, when I usually play, it's either when other members are the bulk of players out there, or when the course is not as busy as it gets on the weekend. Were I to only have Saturdays or Sundays to play, I'm not sure I would keep at it...almost a whole weekend day for 18 holes would not be something I would want, nor would it be popular at home, either.

I wish I could say that this is an isolated problem relative only to one or two courses, but the truth is, my story could be repeated in slightly varied forms on most public golf courses in the US.

I am increasingly convinced that rounds like that are one of the mains reason golf has either plateaued or perhaps even declining all across the country. Yes, the Great Recession figures into it prominently. Money is tight and the first thing to go are discretionary expenses like greens fees and the like. But the decline actually began before the recession, and it has worsened during it. That tells me that money is one thing, but that other reasons are in play as well. I'm not alone in that assessment. Yesterday on Twitter, one of the guys I follow had this to say:
SLOW PLAY is killing muni golf...I'm in 5th group off teebox yesterday in front of us was 3 holes behind by 4th hole
Who needs that?

No one.

Funny thing is, in the UK, a five hour round is unheard of. They are done with 18 hours in three and a half hours. Any longer, and you will hear it from the Club Captain, and more than likely if you do it twice, you're not going to be playing their course much longer. Public, private, in between, it doesn't matter. To a man and woman, they get to their golf ball, and once they are clear to hit, they swing and move along. No exaggerated antics, no ridiculous waits over the ball. "Find ball, hit ball, move along" is the order of the day. When everyone does it, the time flies, because the golf ball is constantly flying.

So why do we have such slow play in America?

November 16, 2009

Twittering During An Eternal Round

During a five-and-a-half hour round yesterday, I found the time to Twitter my opinion a few times out on the course. Needless to say, I was a little less than pleased by the glacial pace of some folks that would probably have done better out on the range working on their swings.

Then, to top it off, our weekly Nassau was getting interesting, and when I was on the tee lining up for a shot to a par-3, the ranger was taking a phone call and chatting up a friend about the day's football scores. Nice guy, but he should have known better.

November 13, 2009

Jim Nantz's New Gal Has Champagne Tastes

Jim Nantz certainly hasn't wasted much time -- getting onto the celebrity gossip pages after his divorce that is.

Here's the latest from the New York Post:

The new woman in Jim Nantz's life is Courtney Richards, 29, a vice president at IMG, which represents the CBS sportscaster. Nantz, 50, met her on a book tour last summer -- after his 26-year marriage to Lorrie Nantz had hit the rocks.

While Lorrie will get $1 million a year from Jim, Courtney was being subsidized $500 a month by her father five years ago, when she told the Wall Street Journal, "I have champagne taste on a beer budget . . . I love what I do, but the bottom line is that I'm not making enough to pay for myself." Nantz makes $7 million a year.

That Wall Street Journal article also noted dryly that Courtney had to endure some painful cutbacks while she was financially struggling in the article 'Independent At Whose Cost?'
Ms. Richards says she has made some lifestyle changes at her father's request. "For a while, she had the best-painted nails in Cleveland," George Richards says dryly. "Now she gets her nails done less often."
Oh, the things we have to do without when money is tight.

But at least now Courtney can afford to have "fingernails for the ages."

Suspended Player Doug Barron Taking The Tour To Court

Doug Barron, the first player suspended by the PGA Tour for violation of its Performance Enhancing Drug policy, has decided to go to court in an attempt to be reinstated prior to his former slot in Q-School.

Alex Miceli of Golfweek reports:

Barron, banned from the Tour for one year, filed a complaint Nov. 12 in state court in Memphis, Tenn., where he lives. Barron is seeking unspecified monetary damages and injunctive relief so that he can play in the second stage of the Tour’s Qualifying School next week. A hearing was set for Nov. 13.

According to Barron’s complaint, the Tour suspended him on Nov. 2 for using the beta blocker Propranolol and exogenous testosterone. Both drugs, according to the complaint, were prescribed by a physician. They also are deemed to be prohibited substances on the Tour’s anti-doping list.

The plot thickens from here - apparently, Barron's grievance is deeper than him merely using a drug on the banned list - which he admits doing, but under the care and guidance of a physician. Barron, according to the lawsuit, sought a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the medication that he was legally prescribed by his doctor. According to the papers filed in court, the Tour refused him the TUE:

In October 2008, Barron was refused a TUE for Propranolol and was instructed by the PGA Tour to wean himself off the drug, the complaint alleges. In January 2009, Barron was denied a TUE for exogenous testosterone and instructed to immediately stop taking the drug.
On the other hand, Barron had exogenous testosterone in his system. That's a huge no-no, and red flags don't get much bigger than that. Tour de France winner Floyd Landis was stripped of his win for exogenous testosterone, which he appealed and ultimately lost to the World Anti-Doping Agency and the governing bodies of his sport. Landis is now widely considered a cheat in his sport, and served a suspension for failing his tests. To say the least, it will be interesting to see the results for a similar test on Barron's part tried in the court system.

It should be noted here that the exogenous testosterone in Barron's tests may be the result of therapy, or perhaps through the use of steroids. Even though Barron admits taking a drug that created exogenous testosterone, those drugs can and have served as masking agents - which is likely as not the rationale for him being refused a TUE. The problem here is precedence and apparently, the Tour wanted to set a high bar, higher than they felt Barron's case merited.

Back to the Landis case, writer Tom Sarazac has an interesting take on his suspension and the reliability of the testing surrounding his case. It serves as a good primer for those who may be following Barron's case, and want to know more about the testing that goes on behind the scenes:

Let me get straight to the point: it's impossible to tell for sure that anyone has taken synthetic testosterone.

Unfortunately, the way Floyd Landis' exogenous testosterone test has been portrayed in the media is as if it were a perfectly definitive test. Like pink for pregnant and white for not (not really a good example, since that isn't so accurate). Such tests do exist: tests with a binary outcome, yes or no, and an extremely low false positive or false negative rate. This is simply not one of them.

There is no difference between synthetic testosterone and naturally produced testosterone - they're one and the same chemical. Same atoms, in the same configuration, forming the exact same molecule, with identical chemcial properties. At least at the atomic level. Once you mix natural and synthetic testosterone, you can't separate them again, any more than you could separate Evian from Poland Springs bottled water after they'd been mixed. Actually that's a bad example. It would be more akin to separating two kinds of distilled water from each other. Even that would be easier than testosterone, since one would presume that distilled water sources don't change rapidly.

At any rate, natural and synthetic testosterone are usually different at the subatomic level.
Naturally, anti-doping officials and scientists vehemently disagree with Sarazac's take on this, and undoubtedly have contrary evidence of their own to fortify their beliefs. Sarazac is not a scientist or a physician by his own admission, and his opinions are just that, opinions. The thing is, Barron's trial won't be adjudicated by experts, instead, more than likely it will be decided by a jury of lay people with no more and probably a lot less technical knowledge than even Tom Sarazac.

To say the least, that means that this trial (and its ultimate appeals) will be extremely interesting, and its ramifications may reach far past professional golf. If the courts decide that Barron had good medical cause to therapeutically use a drug that introduced exogenous testosterone, that may change the drug policies in the mainstream sports to some degree. Whether that happens remains to be seen.

November 12, 2009

Mohammed Abdul's Heroic Battle To Save Kabul Golf Club

An interesting email landed in my inbox today from a friend deployed to Afghanistan, his third Middle Eastern tour. Besides the normal queries about life at home, frightening descriptions of what is going on in his life and lamentations that he wished it were all over and that he could set down his medical gear and not need to piece together soldiers and civilians, was an interesting note:

"I played golf today! It was the most incredible thing...and I even took a short lesson. Who would ever have believed that, just outside of Kabul?"

I won't share much more than that, as the letter was a personal correspondence. It did give my mood a lift, however, to know that one of my good buddies got a very well deserved break on Veteran's Day. Let me describe what he saw and experienced. I had drafted this entry back in the summer, but stuck it in the electronic file cabinet because Patricia Hannigan, the fine writer and blogger posted an entry about Kabul GC before I finished mine. Enjoy.

Even in the midst of a seemingly eternal war, Afghanistan's Mohammed Afzal Abdul's is still fighting to save the Kabul Golf Club. First, the Soviets invaded and parked their tanks on the 7th hole and turned the course into a military base. After that, the Taliban blew up the course's clubhouse and bar because they served alcohol. Later, when the extreme Islamists, the Taliban, were driven out of power there by the Americans, a guerrilla war broke out to shatter the peace. Kabul GC is unfortunately located in one of the more dangerous places in the outskirts of the city - dangerous being a relative term in a country where seemingly no place is safe from terrorist attack or gun battles between Taliban fighters and their American opposition.

Originally six holes, Kabul GC opened in 1967 , closed in 1978, and reopened in 2004. During these three decades it has undergone several changes. It relocated to its present site in 1973 after a coup d'état and completely closed following a 1978 communist coup. It lay dormant until reopening in 1993 but closed again in 1996 when the Taliban banned sports. Not even the defeat of the Taliban freed it totally: after the US invasion in 2001, the course was used as an area for training the military in the fine art of land mine removal.

Eventually, the course was allowed to re-open. In the process of restoration to its present state, three Soviet tanks and a multiple rocket launcher were removed by a nonprofit agency in order to free the fairways of "movable obstructions." Strange things are found on golf courses everywhere from time to time, but few courses have ever needed to extract derelict tanks in order to be playable.

Sara Sidner of CNN details Abdul's incredibly brave efforts to preserve The Olde Game in his country in a fantastic entry:
Why would anyone open a golf course in Afghanistan in the midst of war? One man in Afghanistan can answer that question with the kind of conviction that is hard to challenge.

"Why not?" Mohammed Afzal Abdul said. "I like very much golf."

Actually he loves it -- which could explain why Abdul has taken it upon himself to run the only golf course in the country. He is so passionate about it he has risked his life for the love of the game and the crumbling course. I'll get to that in a second.

First I've got to give you a good mental picture of the course. It is located on the outskirts of Kabul. To get there you have to drive along a road that is considered risky, especially for foreigners, because of the threat of being robbed or kidnapped.

If you are not careful you will drive right past the course. Besides a dilapidated sign, the only hint there is a golf course here are the red flags on the hole-pins waving in the wind.

It's an 18-hole course, if you use your imagination.

Kabul GC used to be a verdant place, filled with ardent golfers, but no more. Today, it is barren, with oil greens (oiled sand), and is hardly indistinguishable from the surrounding countryside. The "greens" are black and the fairways a sandy brown strewn with rocks and the detritus the war brings.

Mohammed Abdul worked here more than 30 years ago, when he was ten years old. Back then, he was a caddy. Today he's the head pro, and does practically everything that he can do to make the course a better place, which is to say keep it a golf course at all. That may not seem like much, but then again, consider his circumstances - that Kabul GC exists in any form in 2009 is a testament to his constant and unabiding love for the place and for the game that is played there. That golf balls flies here, even if it is over ground that hardly resembles what we expect to see when we play, is proof of his success. Best of all, his son, 10 years old himself, works with him and is learning the game the way his father did - by carrying bags.

Playing is obviously a challenge, all other conditions being ignored. The ground is hard. Shots from the fairway are like the land, and the state of the country itself: brutal and unforgiving. It's all rough, and it's all hazard. Perhaps that explains the rules, clearly stated inside the clubhouse:

"Attack the course! Play aggressively. There are no gimmes. This is golf with an attitude."

Indeed. As it happens so often, golf imitates life. In Afghanistan, there are no gimmes and one can never quit. Even if the only thing the players here are trying to do is to preserve an old tradition that gives a cloying semblance to life there as it once was. For a homesick American like my friend, it was a respite for a little while in a land of horror and misery. For a while, he got to chase a little white ball towards a stick in the distance, and no matter the opulence of a given course - or complete lack of it, in this case - the game remains the same. Put the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible. And have fun doing so.

For more on Kabul Golf Club, please visit The Golf Girl's entry on the course.

Is David Duval's Bubble About To Pop?

David Duval needs to have a limbo party and go way low tomorrow on the Disney-Magnolia course if he wants to play the weekend in the PGA Tour's final tournament of the season in Orlando. The former #1 player in the world shot a four over par 76 on the Disney-Palm course and is tied for 125th in the tournament. Only the lowest 70 and ties will advance, so it's clear that Duval needs to go limbo tomorrow.

Should he fail to retain his card, Duval made it sound like he may rely on sponsors' exemptions next season:
"A lot of what the PGA TOUR is about, what professional golf is about, is relationships and loyalties," Duval said. "And you know, I would think that, you know, they know I play in Los Angeles every year and they know I play at Pebble Beach every year. They know I play at, you know, you name it.

"There's certain events I always play, or eight or nine out of 10 times I'm eligible, you know, I'm at those events, supporting them and being there. And I think that goes somewhere."
Of course, all that is moot if Duval can heat up his putting and make a run in Florida on Friday.

November 11, 2009

Nice, Umm, Putt, Alice!

Here at Old Man Par, I don't touch much on golf fashions, instead, I leave it to the the experts at The Golf Girl and Real Women Golf. This time, however, I will make an exception. The holiday season is coming up quickly, and why not get a head start shopping for that perfect haute couture golf item for your beloved right now?

"Reiko Aoyama, who is lingerie maker Triumph’s image girl for 2010, holds the new Nice Cup in Bra, designed to appeal to Japan’s busy golfing women. The green corset-style garment can be removed and unrolled to create a 1.5-meter-long putting mat. When the user sinks a putt into one of the cups, a built-in speaker pumps out a congratulatory “Nice shot!” The bra also features pockets for extra golf balls and tees, and a detachable flag pin that serves as a score pencil. The bra set comes with a skirt with the words “Be Quiet” printed on the rear, which doubles up as a flag for use on the course."

I think that I won't even hint to Mrs. Old Man Par about her sizes or whether or not she wants one of these, I know it's just the perfect accessory for the lady golfer who has almost everything!

Apparently this is the latest iteration of the twice-yearly Triumph novelty bra that the company releases in Japan highlighting the latest social trends. The lingerie they create is designed to raise awareness for an issue, and Triumph says that the Nice Cup Bra is a paean to the growing popularity of golf among Japanese women.

I will admit to being a little curious as to what the company offers to the ladies to wear underneath all of this, after all, if they are going to take off their skirt to ask for quiet before they get take their next shot, they may end up drawing quite the gallery!

In Honor Of David Duval: "Less Big Golf"

David Duval is once again the talk of the PGA Tour this week as he tees off in the Children's Miracle Network Classic tomorrow as the PGA Tour's "Bubble Boy" - the man ranked 125th in money earnings. Duval needs a good showing at the Disney Magnolia and Palm Courses in Lake Buena Vista Florida in order to insure he keeps his fully exempt status on the PGA Tour.

Here, in 2005, ESPN's Kenny Mayne played a round with the former World's #1, albeit on a quite challenging "less big" golf course. This is hilariously tongue-in-cheek and proves Duval has a great sense of humor.

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

November 10, 2009

Mallory Code Passes On...

Mallory Code, the young former University of Florida golfer who battled Cystic Fibrosis, has passed on. Reports of her passing are sparse in the media, but news of this has been making the rounds on Twitter:

"Yesterday was a very sad day, the most amazing young woman I have ever known passed away. She touched so many lives and will be greatly missed," said Morgan Pressel.

Former Big Break contestant and professional Tina Miller said on her Twitter page that "
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Mallory Code. I can remember playing many junior tournaments with her & how she always made us laugh." Later, she added, "RIP Mallory. Hope that you are up in heaven making many birdies and dancing happily. You will be greatly missed.Prayers to the Code family...."

Code was a study in courage, and how one can maintain grace in the face of great obstacles. A winner of four junior titles, she later played for the University of Florida golf team, battling her condition all the while. A 2000 article in the Mobile Register described her situation:
"[Mallory Code] must take eight pills before every meal in an effort to replace the enzymes she has lost as a result of CF. She must also take insulin shots every day - anywhere from six to 12, according to conditions and activities - to battle diabetes. She carries an inhaler with her to deal with her sinus problems when needed.

Because she is susceptible to disease much moreso than others because of CF, because the disease forms a breeding ground for germs, Mallory must be aware of her surroundings and take great care to avoid colds or flu that could develop into something much more serious. The disease, said her father, Brian Code, must be treated aggressively with antibiotics and caution.

It would be easy for Mallory Code to sit at home and complain that life has not been fair to her. It would even be understandable. But to her, it would be wrong. To her, the interruption to the rhythm of each day with pills, inhalers and injections, the constant precautions, is normal. And if there is one thing for which she fights, it is to be as normal as her health will allow.

That's why fast, unforgiving greens don't bother her. That's why narrow fairways get a smile, not a groan. That's why even when it's hot, really, really hot, Mallory Code is really, really happy.

"When I was younger, my parents never made a big deal out of it," Mallory said of her health problems. "They never said, 'Poor Mallory.' To me, this is how it's always been. Plus, I'm not one to sit around."

For most, for healthy people, the most difficult part of playing golf is getting a tee time. For Mallory to play golf - and she plays at a national level, having won the Rolex Tournament of Champions this year as well as the American Junior Golf Association's Taylor Made-adidas Golf Texas Junior Classic - there is much to consider. She has to keep her inhaler handy and make sure she takes her insulin shots during the round, sometimes as many as eight. She must monitor her health at the same time she's trying to negotiate the golf course.

"I think people do take things for granted sometimes," Mallory said. "I do, too, with the things I have. ... The reason I play golf is because I love it. God has blessed me in so many other ways that being sick doesn't come close, not even close."
Please allow me to join in with Ms. Pressel and Ms. Miller and extend my condolences and best wishes to the Code family and to Mallory's many friends everywhere for their loss.

UPDATE: Tampa Bay Online has a story on Mallory

The Hole DOES Seem Bigger When You Are Putting Well

Play golf regularly for long and sooner or later, you are going to go through a streak or two. This is especially true with putting. On some days, getting the ball to fall into the cup may seem as though you are trying to find the apocryphal needle in a haystack, while on other days, it may feel so easy to putt that you may as well be standing on the end of a pier trying to tap the ball into a lake. For many of us, and this goes for pros and amateurs, it comes and it goes. That's the nature of the game.

On days when putting is going well, the hole may seem bigger to your mind's eye, and others, it seems a lot smaller than it really is. Of course, we all know that the size of a golf hole doesn't change from it's four-and-a-quarter inches. It's always the same size, but it really can seem to be larger or smaller based on the day's results. Research from Purdue University proves this:
"Golfers have said that when they play well the hole looks as big as a bucket or basketball hoop, and when they do not play well they've been quoted as saying the hole looks like a dime or the inside of a donut," said Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies perception in athletes. "What athletes say about how they see the hole and how well they play is true. We found golfers who play better judge the hole to be bigger than golfers who did not play as well."
To prove this, three experiments were conducted and a fairly large sample size of golfers were asked to estimate the size of a golf hole after their rounds using silhouettes of differing sized circles - some larger than the standard 4.25 inches, others smaller. Witt proved that the players who played better would pick the larger size while those who struggled perceived the hole to be smaller than it actually is. That correlated nicely with other research she has done, for example, successful batters in softball perceive the ball to be larger than they may if they are struggling at the plate.

November 9, 2009

Dave Stockton On Putting

The newest Golf Guru of The Stars is Dave Stockton, who has ten wins on the PGA Tour, and joined the Champions Tour in 1991, where he topped the money list in 1993 and 1994. He won fourteen senior titles including three of the Senior Majors. He was also the American captain for the infamous "War on the Shore" - the 1991 Ryder Cup.

Here, Stockton gives his thoughts on putting, and gives good advice that any amateur can take to the course and put to good use. The long and short of Stockton's advice? "Don't worry about making the putt," and "don't tarry over the ball." Stockton also relates his thoughts on grip pressure, which in my mind ties into taking too long over a given shot - any shot - because waiting a long time gives your mind time to put tension into your muscles. Anyone who plays a lot can tell you that tension in the body is a recipe for disaster. Yes, there is taking time and giving a shot the attention it deserves, but there is also waiting, waiting, waiting, allowing the hands and the rest of the body to stiffen up in fear.

After watching Stockton's video and thinking about it, that's the main thing I picked up -- don't play in fear. That's good advice for a golfer at any level - Stockton's, Mickelson's all the way down to mine. Fear is really fear of failure, and fear of failure all too often creates a self-fulfilling nightmare prophecy.

November 6, 2009

Dottie Pepper Leaving Golf Channel

GOLFWEEK's Jim McCabe is reporting golf analyst Dottie Pepper has "chosen to leave the Golf Channel and focus solely on her NBC job" in order to "cut back on her heavy workload."

What a lot of fans may not realize is that on-air time is the culmination of a lot of effort and not an inconsiderable amount of hassle: there is pre-production preparation, travel on commercial jets, a life out of a suitcase, coupled with moving in and out of hotel rooms on a weekly basis (if not more often) -- for starters. In short, when you live on the road, everything is a challenge. It's easy to see why - after some time - one would want to cut back on their schedule if it is at all possible.

Oddly, currently, there's no mention of this on the front Golf Channel's website. One would think that they would be first in line to congratulate Dottie for a job well done.

Ben Hogan On His Swing, Video 2

I posted an entry some time ago, where Ben Hogan explains his swing thoughts. Here's another perhaps more in-depth film where Hogan talks about his grip and swing. For serious golfers, this is a real treasure. I collect these videos on my personal computer, using the excellent site

November 5, 2009

Gary Player Globe-Trotting Now From Courses To Horses

Golf legend Gary Player was at the Breeder's Cup today, and not as a mere bystander watching from the grandstands, but as a breeder and owner watching his horses compete in the elite races held annually in California. In his post-competitive golfing life, Player has become quite a, well, player in horse racing. He's built a 20,000 acre breeding farm and stable in South Africa, and has undertaken learning race horse production and breeding.

In an article at, Player said
"The conclusion you come to after all the studying is that you know a heck of a lot about nothing," he said. "Horses are a lot like golf. They will both humble you. You have to have quality and you have to work hard."

Should You Be Golfing For Business? Absolutely.

Via the Commentaria of the excellent blog, I found a very interesting post by life-coach and author Keith Ferrazzi, who wrote "Never Eat Alone" and "Who's Got Your Back." On his own website, Ferrazzi asks the question "should you be golfing?" - in which he talks about business golf with former professional Merryl McElwain. McElwain offers some sound advice and points out that golf is the only sport one can play and conduct an extensive business-oriented conversation at the same time, and that it is not expected that a player be an expert at the game to not only play "business golf" but also enjoy doing it at the same time.

True, all of that. The most interesting part of Ferrazzi's entries are in the comments that follow his article. For example, Diane Gulyas writes:
"I started golfing 25 years ago to get closer to my husband and have found huge benefits in business relationships. Today, I am able to get quality time on the golf course with top leaders from major Asian corporations in Japan and Korea. As a woman leader, that is huge."
Indeed it is. This is an excellent example of why business golf is a great tool, and one that should not be lost on any executive or employee that deals with customers on a regular basis. Those folks should keep in mind that sometimes it is more important to meet with their clients and customers on a setting comfortable to them (the customer) and there, it is more likely to achieve a positive desired result than perhaps one might attain at a venue the customer is less than enthusiastic about. For example, if your customer is not a big fan of hockey, but loves golf, wouldn't it make more sense to take them to a golf course for a round as opposed to an NHL game?

I can attest to that in my own right. When I finished college, I went to work for the Sumitomo Electric Corporation's new fiber optic facility in Research Triangle Park, NC. When Sumitomo was establishing that facility, they brought dozens of Japanese executives, engineers and technicians to America from a sister plant in Yokohama in order to transfer expertise to the new American employees.

The Japanese folks were far from home, in a country where many of them were not experts in the language and in a place with a culture literally completely foreign to them. Many of these men were huge golf fans, and when they found out that I loved the game, instantly the talk at work turned to the best places to play. Almost to a man, none of them knew that they were less than an hour's drive from the famous courses at Pinehurst, and not only that, that it was possible for them to play on those courses. In Japan, a round of golf was extremely expensive and often incredibly exclusive, and playing on a great course was a semi-annual treat, especially for the lower level men.

Once I saw their enthusiasm, I knew exactly what to do: I made arrangements for some of the guys to play in Pinehurst the next weekend and I went along to make sure that the language barrier presented them with no problems. Naturally, I also took my own clubs. It was a spectacular late autumn afternoon with crisp blue skies atop verdant Pinehurst courses, and these fellows had the time of their lives. The language and cultural barriers disappeared, and for a few hours, we all spoke "golf" no matter what our native tongue.

And me? What did I "get" from this day? Well, let's say I was very popular with them for setting them up to do something they loved in a place they knew of but didn't realize was within easy reach. The best thing was that our senior managers noticed this and called me onto the thick carpet the next week for a chat. I wondered why the president of the American subsidiary wanted to talk to me, as our job functions were worlds apart. When I arrived in his office, he rose from his desk and smiled, bowed and offered his gratitude. He told me that I had done a great thing for the company by helping bring "all of us together." He said that was one of his major worries was meshing the two workforces - the Japanese and the Americans - and that the afternoon of golf had gone far to ease his mind.

Now, I'm no hero for arranging a tee time for a few men, but I accidentally did something that is huge in business: relationship building. I did this in difficult circumstances from management's point of view, but for me, it was nothing. It was just hanging out with my new co-workers, sharing something that we did have in common: a sport we loved.

Think of that the next time you consider a client meeting or one with a traveling employee: if that person is an avid golfer, there is no better place to forge a relationship not only personally, but professionally as well.