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 TMZ.com 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 Golf.com 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 Examiner.com

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.

Golfsmith – PRE-THANKSGIVING
$25 gift card with purchase of $99 or more – code: EPS947GGC

KMART
48-Pack Golf Balls - $14.99;
Buys' Junior Dunlop Golf Set - $49.99;
Fathom Golf Set - $77.77;
Girls' Junior Golf Set - $39.99

LostGolfBalls.com
30 percent off all merchandise – recycled golf balls, shoes, gps, head covers and more. - http://www.lostgolfballs.com/blackfriday

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:
CaddieSense2009:
SLOW PLAY is killing muni golf...I'm in 5th group off teebox yesterday morning.....group 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 CNN.com 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 Keepvid.com.

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 sfgate.com, 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 Niceballz.com 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.

November 4, 2009

Hammer, Nail, Head: "Golf Magazines Are Essentially Equipment Catalogs"

Sometimes a truth is so obvious that it is never mentioned. That's when it almost seems like a revelation when it's said out loud. The Monterey County Herald's opinion writers did just that yesterday when they said that golf magazines are essentially equipment catalogs and that many golfers are always looking for an easy fix to the woes that dog their games. That can be in the form of a new $500 driver, something this author is especially guilty of, or perhaps a new putter, a new sand wedge or a dozen new golf balls guaranteed to fly effortlessly into stationary orbit when struck on a tee box.

While they did point out a Big Truth, what they didn't say is equally obvious, and equally compelling:

One thing more than anything else makes a golfer better: practice. The second thing that makes a golfer better? More practice. And some more practice after that.

I know what you are thinking. It is probably something like "No kidding, say it ain't so. Really?"

I may as well have told you that it's dark at night or that young men generally consider Megan Fox to be an attractive woman. Don't slap your forehead. It is what it is.

Practice is not the whole story about improving your golf game, however, because practice needs purpose and that purpose is best given by an expert. You've probably met that expert - he's your local pro. I think of Robert Foxworth, the fellow who tries his best to teach me, as a coach. He tells me what's going on, what I need to do, and how to go about doing it. The rest is up to me, and over the past couple of years, we've seen some success but still have a ways to go. That's not Robert's fault, God Bless him, he's given me the same lessons over and over again for months. I just need to learn better.

All too often, players will go and take a lesson but never hone in what they have learned by hitting balls on the range until a bad old habit is broken and a good new one is formed. After all, practice is not that much fun, while playing 18 certainly is. Most of the time, anyway.

Here's what they said out on the left coast, and tell me it ain't the truth:

Golfers are always chasing that new and improved gear that they hope will straighten their slices, add yardage, increase backspin and otherwise reduce the damage when their games are in tailspin. Golf magazines are essentially equipment catalogs with tiny blurbs about quick fixes tossed in so the glossy ads don't stick together.

Lessons? Practice? Yes, they are mentioned in almost every edition, but the casual reader can be forgiven for being blinded by the giant headlines.

LEARN THE POWER SECRETS FROM THE GAME'S BIG HITTERS!

CHIP LIKE A PRO IN 3 EASY STEPS!

What the magazines don't tell you is that you will almost certainly never, ever be like a PGA Tour player, or an LPGA Tour player, or even as good as a Hooter's Tour player. Fact is, 98% of all golfers never sniff par for 18 holes, and that probably wouldn't even put you at the top of your own club, much less good enough to qualify for the Tour. You probably don't have the right physique and you almost certainly do not have the wiring inside your body to achieve that level of golf. Sorry if that is bad news you don't want to hear, but deep down, you already know it.

Consider the numbers: the average golfer has a handicap of around 17, according to the USGA. That would mean that the average player doesn't break 90 in a typical round. And what the USGA doesn't say is that the average player plays fast and loose with the rules, either through ignorance or simply by saying that "this rule isn't important" and ignoring it. Pros can't do that. Those that do don't last long at all in the game. Pro golf hates nothing more than a cheat, and the conduct of a typical golfer in a typical round would yield (in my opinion) as many rules violations as a typical pro would commit in his entire tournament career. Under those conditions, Mr. Average Golfer, you wouldn't have a candle's prayer outdoors in a tornado.

All of this said, there are really two games of golf: the one they play, and the one we play. Sure, you might hit a shot or make a putt as good as Tiger or Phil or Lorena ever could in a given round. The difference is that they do it time and time again, whereas we might hit one or two every times we loop our course. Big difference.

My final Perfectly Obvious for you this morning: Tiger and Phil and Lorena practice out on the range. A lot. Actually, a helluva lot. Probably more in a day than you do in a month, if not a whole golf season. They hit ball after ball after ball after ball until they have grooved the objective that they have for their swing. They hit balls until the improvement to their swing is subconscious and automatic. That's because when they go on the course, you can bet than they don't too think about swing mechanics, they think about course strategy. That's actually liberating, and while you may never have the physical skills they do, the one thing you can learn from them is to make your good swings a habit and then go and play golf instead of trying to learn it while you are with your Sunday Foursome.

In other words, you can be a better player and it won't come from the pages of a magazine or from whatever new gee-gaw the pro shop has that's caught your eye. Instead of dropping five or six Franklins on that shiny new driver, why not spend it on a lesson and then spend the next two weeks grinding what you learn into your brain until it becomes an automatic? Seems like a better investment to me. And it will make golf more fun, because one of the best feelings in golf is giving your buddies a good thrashing that they didn't see coming.

Golf Announcer Jim Nantz Finalizes Divorce

The final details of sports announcer Jim Nantz's divorce have been settled by a Connecticut court.

Nantz will pay his now ex-wife Lorrie nearly $1 million a year in alimony and child support, Superior Court Harold Owens judge ruled Monday. This will be in the form of $72,000 monthly in alimony until either his death or she remarries. Nantz will also pay $1,000 a week in child support for their 15-year-old daughter, Caroline, for the next two years. Nantz will also be responsible for paying his daughter's college expenses until she turns 23.

Finally, Nantz must also pay $70,000 toward the country club membership of his wife's choice. Gotta keep up the ex in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed, one would think, though $70,000 is not a lot when it comes to the initiation of a high end club. I bet Nantz hopes it is one with a lot of attractive, single and hopefully wealthy single men that catches his former wife's eyes and heart.

The Connecticut Post also says that
While Judge Howard Owens states in a nine-page decision that a large part of testimony before him by Nantz and his wife, Lorrie, related to faults for the breakdown of their 26-year-old marriage, he ruled the conduct of either party was far from "egregious." "While there was some testimony of the husband's interest in another woman in the few short months preceding the filing of this dissolution action, the breakdown occurred years before this relationship developed and the court finds this remote event in no way contributed to the breakdown of the marriage," the judge stated. "The court finds neither party at fault for the breakdown of the marriage," he added.
That's good news for Nantz, whose reputation is a prime asset given his job in the prime chair at CBS.

November 3, 2009

Don't Be Surprised At A Pro Golfer Using Steroids

Anabolic steroids. The very mention of that class of drugs instantly brings up images of comic-book hulks with bulging muscles who are full of rage. While that may be more than true in too many cases, it sometimes paints an inaccurate picture of a steroid abuser: they are not necessarily a caricature of Charles Atlas, and they are not always on a hair trigger. Like any drug abuser, in extreme cases, they may fit the stereotype perfectly, or sometimes, they may not fit it all: it might be the guy next door who looks and acts healthy, but is someone who shares a deep, dark secret he is loathe for the world to discover.

The Basics: What Steroids Are, And A Brief Description of Their Function

Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), are a class of steroid hormones related to the hormone testosterone, the so-called "male" hormone. Testosterone is one of a family of hormones called androgens. Best known for their "masculinizing" effects, androgens first kick into action during the embryonic stages of life and are produced naturally throughout our lifetimes. Even though testosterone is most commonly associated with masculinity, don't be fooled. Males and females produce exactly the same hormones but in differing amounts, something that leads to our secondary gender traits (plumbing being the first.) Men's bodies generate more than twenty times more testosterone than women, an average of seven milligrams per day, while women naturally produce much more estrogen, the so-called female hormone. We'll stick with testosterone for now, since it relates to AAS, but rest assured, everyone creates and uses testosterone in their bodies.

The long and short of how anabolic steroids work is that they increase protein production within cells, which in turn results in the buildup of cellular tissue - or anabolism - especially in the muscles.

That's very simplified, but basically that's how they work: anabolic steroids either supplement or create hormonal production, which in turn stimulates the body to create proteins and body mass.

The role of steroids were first discovered in the 193o's by European pharmaceutical companies and scientists, with natural steroids first being collected in 1931 and synthesized steroids being first created in 1934. In fact, Adolf Butenandt and Leopold Ruzicka, the two chemists who did this first work, were given the 1939 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Interestingly, it has been long conjectured that Nazi soldiers were given steroids, though specific proof has yet to satisfy the historical community.

Therapeutic Uses of Steroids

Many people tend to forget that anabolic steroids are legal for clinical use to this day, and there, under a doctor's supervision, they are a valuable tool that can be employed to battle a variety of conditions. Some of these are:
  • Osteoporosis
  • Endometriosis
  • Chronic Wasting Disease
  • Bone Marrow Stimulation, as part of cancer treatment
  • Pituitary disorders, including growth deficiencies
  • Testicular disorders, such as hormonal deficiencies resulting from cancer
  • Post-menopausal disorders in women
  • others
As with any powerful drug - natural or synthetic - the use of anabolic steroids requires the close care and attention of a physician, and as such, are currently listed as Schedule III controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act in the US. The first offense for simple possession of Schedule III substances without a prescription is a federal crime, and it is punishable by up to one year in prison. The unlawful distribution or possession with intent to distribute anabolic steroids punishable as a first offense by up to ten years in prison.

How Do Steroids Work, And Why Do People Abuse Them?

Those two questions may seem to be separate issues, but in fact, they are closely tied together.

As pointed out earlier, anabolic steroids are either a natural substance or a synthetic one that shares a similar composition to its natural counterpart. These chemicals work by stimulating muscle growth, which is obviously very beneficial for athletic purposes.

How?

In addition to stimulating protein synthesis and muscle growth, steroids reduce recovery time, which is a natural part of muscle building and also in athletic competition.

When one lifts weights in order to increase mass, they are basically overloading a muscle, creating micro-tears, and those micro-tears repair themselves with new muscle cells. By enhancing protein production, the basic building materials for new cells are created, and as a result of the process, more muscle cells are created to replace those lost. In short, it is a case of one step backward and five steps forward as opposed to one step backward and two steps forward, which is metaphorically the norm for someone relying on the steroids that their body creates naturally. Steroids also decrease catabolism of muscle mass -- in other words, they prevent the body from digesting muscle mass for energy.(1)

Bigger muscles means stronger, faster, better. That is the goal of many athletes, because it gives them a competitive edge. It also aids them with stamina as well. Like any machine, when a body has more power, it doesn't need to work as hard to obtain a desired result.

It is also notable and worth pointing out to say that as a person ages, their testosterone production decreases after its peak in their late teens or early twenties. This too is part of the equation where muscle mass maintenance and growth are concerned. In our thirties, when the first signs of aging become readily apparent, we slowly begin to lose the speed, the strength and the stamina we had not many years earlier. That's because our bodies are slowing their hormonal production, and with a decreased amounts, performance inevitably suffers. Anabolic steroids offset that.

The bottom line is that steroids are part and parcel of human biology, and our bodies create them and use them throughout our lifetimes in ever decreasing amounts past peak production when we are young. The abuser is simply enhancing and overloading a natural process through pharmaceuticals, and as such, are creating a synthetic competitive advantage for themselves.

The simple word for that is cheating.

Wait A Minute, Golfers Are Not Football Players, Why Would They Abuse Steroids?

Don;t be so sure that a golfer would not abuse steroids. Golf at its highest levels is increasingly a power game, one that is not unlike baseball's home run hitters. To be competitive, one needs to be able to keep up off of the tee, and there, speed and power with the driver make all of the difference. These days, swing speed is the thing - the faster the swing, the farther the ball goes. To do that requires strong and finely tuned muscles, and for those who can't develop them naturally through working out in a gym and other exercises regimens, they can be tempted to get some "help" through the use of steroids.

Rocco Mediate described the situation on the PGA Tour of today succinctly when he said, "it's a distance war on tour, and for me to stay in it I need to understand exactly what I'm doing with my swing, my equipment and my body. Basically, I have to absolutely max out." (Please note very clearly that I am not in any way suggesting that Mediate is doing anything untoward. I am simply using his quote to illustrate the state of golf on the Tour.)

It's not just distance off of the tee, either. A faster, stronger swing helps in the rough, helps in the fairway and helps everywhere but with the putter. That said, to play golf at the top levels of the sport, one has to be fit and they have to be strong if they want to succeed and win. For some, they are genetically gifted -- meaning they naturally fit in the profile of the successful player of today. Others, not so much. Still others are simply aging out and their bodies are not what they used to be. Those latter two groups may well be tempted by artificial means.

Those that give in to temptation are risking more than they may know. They are not only risking their reputations, they are risking the quality of their life, and it is very possible that they are risking life itself.

What Will Steroids Do Over Time To Abusers?

Dennis Hopper put it best in a Nike commercial aired in the Super Bowl a number of years ago: "Bad things, man, BAD things."

A steroid abuser is clearly upsetting their natural balance, and the body will react to it adversely sooner or later.

Mentally, depending on the length and severity of their abuse, an illicit steroid user increases the likelihood that they will experience (according to the Congress of Neurological Surgeons) "significant psychiatric symptoms including aggression and violence, mania, and less frequently psychosis and suicid[al tendencies.]"(5)

Physically, they can experience heart diseases, heart attacks (remember, the heart is a muscle too, and a very vital one at that) (2) (3), physiological changes to the brain and also to the pituitary and testes, hardening of the arteries, kidney problems and other potentially fatal or life-shortening physical problems. For starters.

For men, a condition where the body reacts to an overload of testosterone by turning it into the female hormone estrogen is relatively common in cases of high level abusers. This has sexual side effects such as impotence and shrinkage of the genitalia. (4)


Like Dennis Hopper said: "Bad things, man, bad things."

In summary, steroids are a good thing when used judiciously and wisely under the expert care of a physician. They are a horrible thing when abused, and while there may seem to be initial positive effects for the abuser, they are exacting a horrible toll on themselves and they will eventually pay with their health if not their life itself.

The famous football player Lyle Alzado did exactly that by abusing steroids: he died of what he believed to be steroid-caused brain tumor at 43. Alzado, a great and much beloved football player, had abused steroids (by his own admission) from 1969 until his retirement from football more than twenty years later. Before he died, Alzado wrote a gut-wrenching account in Sports Illustrated titled "I'm Sick and I'm Scared." Read his story if you would like an inside glimpse of where AAS abuse can lead. It's not pretty. Young athletes even considering momentarily using steroids certainly should read Alzado's story and learn from it. With one foot practically in his own casket, Alzado tells them why they should never, ever abuse these powerful drugs.

Even more sadly, many others have followed in Alzado's footsteps to the graveyard, and unfortunately too many others will continue down that path in the future.

The PGA Tour is entirely correct in suspending Doug Barron for using a performance enhancing drug, especially if it is an anabolic steroid. Even if he wasn't, and was using one of the incredibly long list of substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances, the Tour was correct in suspending him to provide a deterrent to anyone else who may be using or thinking about using. It sounds harsh, but if the Tour is unwavering in its stance of not accepting PEDs - AAS, or otherwise - it is protecting the sanctity of it competitions, but may well be protecting the lives of some of its members.

Still, one has to wonder - is only one year enough to provide a chilling deterrent for another player who is abusing steroids, or is contemplating it?

Perhaps not, given the risks.

--------------

Notes:

Partial footnotes for sources for this article:

(1) Crash dieters know about catabolism. When you don't eat, the first thing your body goes for is the muscle proteins. This gives one apparent weight loss - but with the same amount of body fat. That's why crash diets are bad for you.
(2) Grace F, Sculthorpe N, Baker J, Davies B (2003). "Blood pressure and rate pressure product response in males using high-dose anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS)". J Sci Med Sport 6 (3): 307–12
(3)
Barrett-Connor E (1995). "Testosterone and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in men". Diabete Metab 21 (3): 156–61.
(4)
Alén M, Reinilä M, Vihko R (1985). "Response of serum hormones to androgen administration in power athletes". Medicine and science in sports and exercise 17 (3): 354–9. Et. al

(5)
Trenton AJ, Currier GW (2005). "Behavioural manifestations of anabolic steroid use". CNS Drugs 19 (7): 571–95.


November 2, 2009

AT&T (Pebble Beach) Field Gets The Shrink Ray

One of the more popular early-season PGA events is reducing its field for 2010:

Monterey County Herald: AT&T Field At Pebble Beach To Be Reduced
The PGA TOUR and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation announced that the TOUR's Policy Board today approved the reduction of the professional field for the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from 180 to 156 players. The amateur field consequently will be reduced by the same number.

"Given its history and location on the scenic Monterey Peninsula, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am has always been one of the most popular events on the PGA TOUR," said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. "The change in field size will enhance the competition and the amateurs' experience, and help to ensure the continued growth and success of the event for years to come."

"This is a positive step in our continual quest to improve the event," states Ollie Nutt, president and CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. "With the return of Monterey Peninsula Country Club to the rotation and the celebration of AT&T's 25th year as title sponsor, this will further strengthen the experience for contestants and spectators alike."

The popular tournament is undergoing some changes, as Poppy Hills has been replaced on the rota of courses used in the tournament, and now the field has been reduced. The total number of players that won't make it in - 48, or 24 pros and 24 amateurs - will certainly make scheduling and logistics somewhat easier for the tournament organizers, and to be honest, many of the Tour players who don't make it in are not marquee names.