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Noonan!

Unlike in the movie Caddy Shack, where everything seemed to be fair game to try and cause Danny Noonan to miss that final putt, we in the real world rarely if ever appreciate the well-timed distraction of a yell, throat clearing, or orchestrated club slamming in the bag during a back swing.  The guy who yelled during Tiger’s birdie putt yesterday at Torrey Pines, ostensibly causing him to miss, paid a price from the crowd right away.  Had the event not been televised and in front of millions of people, I am not sure we would be able to find him today.

What, exactly, should happen to someone who does something like this on purpose?  It depends on when and where you are playing.  In Florida, for example, the soil tends to be too sandy and damp to actually bury a body and it stay undetected.  Luckily, most golf courses down there have plenty of predator wildlife available that one could dispose of the body by perhaps feeding it to the alligators.  If it happens to occur farther north during the Winter months, the ground can often be too frozen to dig a pit deep enough so, maybe carry an orange vest in your bag.  Do this so that when you have to eliminate the perpetrator post- flagrante delicto you can simply shoot him in the face (with the pistol you always carry in your bag), put the orange vest on him and dump him in the woods a few yards from the edge of the golf course.  That way it will look like an innocent hunting accident.

All kidding aside (am I really kidding?) – there is nothing so infuriating as going through months of practice, swing thoughts, reading, playing through yips, etc…only to be purposefully distracted at the moment of truth by a f*****g a*****e who can’t stand to lose a $2 bet!

Now, there are distractions and there are distractions.  I have played with people whom I believe don’t necessarily realize they are causing you grief during your moment of concentration.  Examples of these:

1.  The guy who hits from the senior tees who can’t wait to get there.  He hovers just in your eyesight and just as you begin your backswing he starts moving wuickly to his tee – all while you’re thinking about him instead of hitting the green on the 200 yard par 3.

2.  The guy who decides to be a good steward of the golf course and fill in divots with sand all behind you while you are trying to make your approach shot to the green from the fairway.

3.  The guys who whisper on the green within earshot, having a conversation that absolutely CANNOT wait until after you pull the trigger on your putt.

4.  The phone that rings at just the right (wrong) moment…need I say more.

These people can be talked to, and maybe….just maybe the behavior can be corrected.  But sometimes, people being who they are, they simply cannot change.  Time to move on and play with someone else.  This article isn’t really about these guys.  I am talking about the guy who knows exactly what he is doing.  Who jingles his change while you waggle.  Who coughs when you pull back your putter.  The guy who bangs sand from the bottom of his shoes as you stroke the 4 foot birdie putt.

Now, I can take gamesmanship.  Guys who talk about all the trouble in front of you after they have already hit.  You know what I mean.  That is fair game I suppose.  But, I will not abide the obvious purposeful distraction.

I know some of you will say that maybe I just have “rabbit ears.”  Guys who have “rabbit ears” are the kind of guys who blame the guy two fairways over who did something that made a little noise in his back swing.  He blames the bird for making bird noises.  No, I do not have rabbit ears.  Hell, after years of flying helicopters from the pitching decks of Navy ships I can barely hear a normal conversation.  I am speaking of intentional distractions like the one Tiger had to endure yesterday…the kind that in the seconds afterward one could justifiably choke the living s**t out of the guy.  You know.  It’s like pornography, hard to put a razor’s edge on the definition, but you know it when you see it.

Whover that guy was yesterday at Torrey, I hope he left with his life.  Because, even I, after a moment of reflection understand that life – no matter how low – is not less valuable than a stroke on a score card…usually.

 

What’s in a (Nick) Name?

Where’s the Beef?  The Beef as in Andrew Johnston, professional English golfer who became famous at The Open in 2016.  He was embraced by his home crowd due in large part to his dumpy looks, hairy face, and happy-go-lucky demeanor.  And he was given the nickname Beef because of all of that plus he just looks like a side of beef.  He’s since accepted and celebrated that moniker and now, whenever anyone talks of Beef during a conversation about professional golf, there is no doubt of whom they are speaking.

Nicknames are nothing new in golf.  There’s quite an extensive list that we have come to know many great golfers by.  There’s The Big Easy (Els), Boom Boom (Couples), The Squire (Sarazen), The Mechanic (Jiminez), and of course, The King (Palmer) to list a few.

What is the procedure for giving and gaining a nickname?  Certainly, it would (and should) be frowned upon to give one to your self, although Tiger may be the exception….but, then again, his father gave him that one when he was a kid I believe.  I venture it is the domain of players and sports writers to assign them in professional golf.  Nicknames are what you get when you are part of a club, part of the inside group.  It seems most tend to be derived from playing attributes – smooth swing, long ball hitter, etc…, some from physical attributes, and others from impact on the game.

In the Navy and Marine Corps, aviators are all given nicknames – or call signs – early in a career and these call signs follow them the rest of their time in service…and beyond.  Call signs are assigned, much like in golf, based on just about anything and at a “formal” gathering called a Kangaroo Court.  When determining a call sign, unless the pilot has already done something that begs for nickname, members of the squadron generally first take a look at his/her last name.  An example may be that if your last name is Hindman, your call sign will in all likelihood become Buster.  Let’s say your name is Cable….call sign Snappa.  Get it?  It may be that he’s done something unfortunate that he would really like to forget – this is prime grist for the call sign mill.  I recall a young Lieutenant Cobra pilot who, after landing his aircraft with his instructor pilot, got out of his cockpit seat to check fluids leaking (as is normal procedure) before the  instructor pilot shut down the helicopter.  This guy saw a fluid on the ground under the tail boom, tested it with his finger thinking it might be oil or hydraulic fluid, tasted it – as oil and hyd fluid taste different – only to find out later that he had actually sampled the urine of the plane captain who had taxied them to their parking spot.  Call sign – Samples.  I know 4 star generals now that I still call by their call signs – the nick names endure, as they should.

I like to play golf at my club because there is a great group of guys who compete.  There aren’t so many nick names in the group, but there are a few.  I like to think a nick name is a moniker of endearment, that said, you can really get tagged with an unfortunate one if you’re not careful.  Just consider Assman (due to his uncanny resemblance to Kramer from Seinfeld) or Boner (I’ve known two people with this call sign – both not really happy with it).  So, if you end up with a nick name like Chili (chili dipping) or Topper at your local club…don’t get downtrodden.  Take it as a sign you’re part of the club, the team, one of the guys.  Then, get even.

Short Game Frustrations

Long on desire, short on game…at least short game that is.  Anyone else having issues with chipping and short pitches?

I like to think I have pretty darn good hand / eye coordination.  I flew helicopters in the Marines for crap sake.  But, for some reason, I find myself flinching at the chips and short pitches.  Some days on the course I see more chili dip than a Super Bowl party.  Other days, its all about the blade.  What the hell?!

I have resolved to correct this issue this spring.  I believe these short shots are a combination of technique and confidence.  As confidence wanes, it seems, technique gets adjusted until it is all lost.  I have been searching for instruction to get me back to a basic primary approach to each – chipping and short pitches.  (We all agree that there is a distinct difference here right?)

I took a lesson in Florida this past December with a young pro.  Explained all this to him and he offered me the “ball off right toe, lean the shaft to the left thigh” approach to chipping.  Nothing new here, but to be fair because of my lack of confidence, I had begun to move excessively on these short shots as well.  He helped me with some of that.  It was a good start, but I need more. (OBTW he really helped my putting set up as well.)

Paul Runyan is a renowned short game artist from years WAY past and he has some videos on YouTube worthy of review.  He has a very distinctive approach to both chipping and pitching.  I am watching them and learning – he is very good at explaining his techniques and certainly demonstrates them to perfection.

I like to watch Adam Bazalgette (Scratch Golf Academy) on YouTube for tips, he gives some great 4-5 minute instruction on all aspects of the game.  He referred to a gent in one of his videos on chipping and pitching who I am watching now – James Sieckmann.

James is Director of Instruction, Shadowridge CC in Omaha, Nebraska and is on the Titleist staff.  He teaches many tour pros on the short game and has some things to say in his videos that are very encouraging.  One was particularly instructive for me – on a Golf Channel instructional episode (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ikSZqh0s5c) – he said some things that helped a light bulb come on for me.  First thing, I have been treating these finesse shots with too much of a mechanical mindset…that is…holding too tight, too stiff, my hands too far forward, etc… He says in the video that from the backswing to essentially “let the club make its way to the ball then turn your torso”…in so many words.  That is the kind of guidance I require!  It is from this mindset that you can manufacture shot trajectory and spin for many different variations. Most instructors say something like let your arms hang loosely and hold the club with an easy grip and leave it at that.  He takes it slightly farther in this video intimating to just let the clubhead release – not a wristy flicky thing – but as a natural result of the rotation.  Eureka!

Anyway, it has been exceedingly frustrating for me to hit a good drive and a decent approach only to screw up the hole with a pitiful attempt at a chip or pitch.  Chili dip a couple and all of a sudden your entire round seems to go down hill.  Lots of work to do around the green and so far, I’ll be practicing Mr. Sieckmann’s approaches to the short game.  Maybe, if you’re in the same boat I am, give him a try.

The Promise of the New Year – 2012

New Year 2012

It’s been a month or so since I posted.  Christmas is past us, we are in the new year…football is coming to and end, March madness is around the corner, and spring is coming soon!  It’s been a little frustrating watching the tour in Hawaii and California.  I just made a trip out west to Miramar, CA just north of Torrey Pines and was about 5 minutes from the Air Station golf course, but alas, I could only find time to visit the pro shop. 

Third Week of the Golfing Year

This week brings the 2012 debut of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, but in different tournaments.  Phil will play in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines (with Rickie and Bubba and Bill Haas and Keegan).  Also in the mix is JB Holmes!  This is his return to tournament golf since his brain surgery late last year.  He says he’s ready, I’ll cheer for his success with all the vigor I cheer for his (and my) favorite college basketball team – the UK Wildcats.  Tiger begins his season in Abu Dhabi, UAE at the HSBC Championship (with Luke, Lee, and Rory).  Some estimate that Tiger will receive $3 million just for showing up!  Let’s hope Tiger’s game of old also shows up and that his win late last year wasn’t an anomoly born from a short field and tired players.

Promise for the Rest of the Year

Ahhhh… so it begins with great wins in Hawaii and California for Steve Stricker, Johnson Wagner, and Mark Wilson.  Will Rickie finally win one at home?  There better be some wins this year for Watosh (me)!

Thanks Mr. Floyd – Man Behind the Putter

As an update to my recent putting post, I shot a 73 today and it was almost exclusively because of much improved putting.  Thanks to the changes I made described in the “Man Behind the Putter” posting AND a tip Raymond Floyd provided on television.

The Golf Channel’s recent 7 Nights at the Academy series aired this past week and featured tips and instruction by Sir Nick Faldo, Johnny Miller, and Raymond Floyd.  I watched some of the shows and they were very insightful and interesting.  A tip that resonated for me was a very simple one from Mr. Floyd in his putting segment.  He said to pick a very specific spot on the back of the ball when putting and stroke the putt.  How simple is that?!  I birdied the first hole, made 3 more birdies in the round and a bunch of “comeback putts” because of it.  The tip seems to focus your attention at what it should be on and keeps your head down throughout the stroke.

Sure,  I still had a couple of troublesome holes, but birdies sure help make up for some of those mistakes.  Thanks Mr. Floyd!

The Man Behind the Putter

I’ve been toying with my putter grip and changing out putters during the last couple of years. I owned only one putter for many years, a classic Wilson 8802 blade – it has a name, “The Great Santini” – I still have him. I was always an “it’s the man, not the putter” believer. I don’t know when exactly that changed, but now I own several putters (and a PING putter collection to boot) and have switched game putters out about 6 or 7 times in the last 4 years. What’s going on and why did I stray?

I have only started playing real tournament golf the last few years. Before that I basically stayed at my home course and played the same greens throughout a season. They tended to be of average speed, not fast but sometimes slow. It is easy to become accustomed to conditions and comfortable with putt speeds when you play the same course all of the time. As I graduated to tournament golf I found myself putting terribly because routinely I was playing greens much faster than I was used to. Putting stroke faults seem to really amplify on fast greens. I would blow putts by 4 or 5 feet or leave them alternatively well short. My feel for fast greens was not there, so naturally it couldn’t be me…it must be the putter!

I’ve used a PING iN half mallet for awhile, a PING Crazee (my wife calls it Mickey Mouse), a Rife two bar mallet, a Rife Martinique (Anser style), and now a Scotty Cameron Laguna. I have also moved to a course that has fast greens as the norm, and sometimes they are REALLY fast. I am working on my putting faults and I have committed to a single putter – the Rife Martinique. So, how do I fix my faults? Both speed (pace) and direction have been suffering – nice. I have been missing an inordinate number of 3 and 4 footers! It has not been uncommon for me to have 3 or 4 lip outs a round. Man!

I don’t have the yips, I feel comfortable over the ball, but my putting has not been working well. So, I did a little research about putting basics to include the putting grip. Seems there are as many opinions on the grip as there are putter styles. I keep finding that putting is an “individual thing” and that I should improve upon what feels comfortable to me. OK. Not so much help. Then I found an article by Joe Sullivan on GolfLink.com that resonated with me and I am trying it out, so far with pretty good results. The article (http://www.golflink.com/golf-tips/tips/sullivan018.aspx) suggested that one might consider Corey Pavin’s style of gripping the putter. It is simply and essentially to hold the putter in your hands with the palms facing out (away from you). This makes it impossible for your wrists to break down and creates a nice “Y” for you to use your shoulders to move the club head. Combining this with good fundamentals such as eyes over the ball, forearms in line with the putter, and more thoughtful green reading and it is getting better.

I have taken it out on the course a couple of times and find my distance control has improved dramatically. Direction is coming, but I am still making some subtle adjustments to the grip to get it “locked in.” First I had both thumbs down the center of the grip, but now I have my left thumb over my right hand middle fingers and my right thumb down the centerline. Also trying less right index finger trigger, seems to inadvertently steer at times. I need to eliminate that. And finally, for the first time, my putting grip has an interlocking grip.
I am at a stage now where repetition and practice must take over. I am excited about my improved distance control and improved 3-4 foot putt accuracy. My goal is to eliminate three putts – a round killer every time! I will probably not reach the 100% accuracy on 3 foot putts Luke Donald managed to execute the 2011 season, but I think I should make at least 8 or 9 out of 10 anyway.

Interestingly, in light of the long/belly putter these days, it’s not for me. I have toyed with them at golf shops and they never felt “right.” In addition, I am of the opinion that you should not be allowed to affix the putter against your body. Besides, if you believe the data derived by Marius Filmalter (great name) in his article in the Jan 2012 Golf Magazine, the results of a switch from short to long putter wouldn’t make much difference anyway. His “long-standing teaching philosophy” is that “every golfer has a signature stroke pattern that’s so hard-wired it’s impossible to change it with a simple putter switch.”

So, “thumbs up” to the Pavin grip. It is, in fact, the man not the putter. And, Santini, you may be back in the bag someday, but I’m not ready for you yet.

All-Marine Golf

I tried out for the All-Marine Golf Team and I did not make the cut.  But, that’s OK.

Service Sports Teams

Many don’t realize that there are world class atheletes in our military.  These servicemen and women answer the call for service to our country and many still have a burning desire to compete at a high level.  They have opportunities within each service to compete at the service level, the inter-service level, and even the international level.  Sports teams and individual events include most sporting activities to include, of course, golf.  It is a big deal to make a service team or compete for your service on an individual level.  There have been, in past, service members who have actually qualified for and participated in Olympic competition.  It is a big deal.

Tournament Play

I am a real 2 handicap.  I can play just about any course and score in the mid 70’s the first time I play it.  But that is not tournament golf we are talking about.  If it rains too hard in casual play, you stop or you quit and get a rain check.  Unless lightening is in the area or the greens have standing water in tournament play, you keep going.  There are also pressures that exist in tournament golf that don’t in your weekend game.  I like to think it doesn’t affect me, I’ve been shot at many times for goodness sake, how can golf make me nervous?  It isn’t about the nerves, it’s about the pressure you put on yourself to perform – related but slightly different from the nervous tension.  I am a real 2 handicap, but I played like a 10 or 12 this past week at the tryouts.  It was somewhat embarrassing, but I was not the only one.  Another player mentioned to me that when he told his wife his scores she said, “what’s wrong with you?  You always play better than that!”  I heard the same kind of thing when I called home.  Not in a negative way, but in a truly quizzical not understanding way.

The Legends

The team try-out consisted of 2 days of practice on the course and 4 days of tournament play.   My problem wasn’t the golf course in terms of pre-weather condition.  The Legends Golf Course at Parris Island, SC  (yes – the famed Marine Corps Recruit Depot) is a fantastic course with fast and challenging greens and a great pro and staff.  The course is marvelous.   Andy Hinson and his team were terrific hosts and put on a truly professionally run event.  Have you ever teed off after being announced to the crowd?  It was run like a professional event.  Each day on the course brought its own new challenges.  One day there were lightening delays (three), another 15-20 minute heavy rain showers off and on throughout the day, and yet another a soggy drenched golf course.  This is a walking event and slogging along an almost 7000 yard course in your wet shoes and socks begins to wear on you after a couple of days…especially if you’re 51 years old.

All Services Tournament

Ok, I have deftly plugged in my many excuses in the text above.  But, there really are no excuses as we all played the same course under the same challenging conditions brought by weather.  While no one played under par, a few played right at par or just over.  There will be 6 quality players out of the 35 who tried out going to the All Service tournament at Fort Jackson, SC this week.  These players are of all ranks, from young NCOs to officers of varying ages and ranks (one Marine is a Drill Instructor there at Parris Island playing between duties!).  I hope they do well this week…at least beat the Air Force.  In the years since the inception of All Services Golf (1977) the Marine Corps has managed only 4 second place finishes and has never won the  All Services tournament.  There are probably lots of reasons for this not the least of which is the oft mentioned manner in which the Air Force builds and maintains bases.  It is said that they get the property, build the Officer’s Club and the Golf Course, then when they are out of money lobby congress for more funds so they can build the runways.  Judging from their record at the All Services golf tournaments through the years, there may be a little truth to that legend.

Marines

There was a special additional benefit to playing at Parris Island this week.  I got to be around Marines and recruits.  Driving onto the base and through it to the golf course before daylight each day, I passed scores of recruits already out in formations marching, running, and being “molded” into Marines by the most able and dedicated Drill Instructors in the world.  These shaved head youths volunteered to serve and to have the chance to be Marines.  Not all of them will make the Marine Corps team, but the Marine Corps is the most elite service in the world.  Those who try and don’t make it can be proud that they tried, and those who do make it will talk about becoming Marines the rest of their lives.

I tried to make the golf team and didn’t make the cut, but I am happy and proud I tried.  Those who did make the team, like the graduating recruits who became brand new Marines this past Friday, will also talk about it the rest of their lives.

 

Tournament Experience

Golf is a Game of Opposites

I have stated this in the past, golf is a game of opposites and counterintuitive realities.  You want the golf ball to go up, hit down on it.  You want the golf ball to go where you aim, relax and let the swing happen (don’t try and control it).  It is difficult to remember this sometimes on the golf course and intuitively correct thoughts and actions (but, incorrect thoughts and actions) begin to take control during a round.  I found myself in that quandary last week during a Virginia Amateur qualifying tournament.  I did terribly.

Golf is Unforgiving

Princess Anne Country Club is one where apparently (to me anyway) the golf course was put in around and through the surrounding community.  Every fairway was lined with out of bounds (OB) markers and many of the tee boxes were set so that the tee shot was hit out over a road.  The fairways seemed generous enough, but the ever present thought of OB lurking on every hole somehow overcame my usual let it go attitude.  I shot a 90 on the first of two rounds last week and an 88 on the second – I am a 4 handicap.  I actually birdied 4 par 3’s in the first round.  I became victim of the issues I described in the beginning of this post.  The club gradually slid deeper and deeper into my palms without my knowing it because of my unconscious desire to control the shots.  With each errant shot came more desired control – I hit probably 6 or 8 shots that were 1 foot out of bounds.  In the end, I began hitting shots that I had no idea I could still hit (in a bad way).  Confidence went to hell.  Finally, during the last 9 of the 36 of the day my “give a crap” factor was pegged and I began letting go again.  I actually played much better and more consistently.  Interesting.

Golf can be a Forgiving Mistress

I played an emergency round late this past Wednesday afternoon at my home course.  I needed to because the next morning I had knee surgery and would be out for a couple of weeks at least.  Midway through the first 9 I remembered that I forgot to keep the club in my fingers and all became good with the world.  After a few birdies to make up for a couple of early bad holes, I rolled into the last hole needing a birdie for a 73 and I made it.

Yet Another Golf Lesson

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What happened?  The pressure of a qualifier?  Playing on a strange golf course?  Maybe some of that…but, I had no illusions of qualifying, I simply entered to gain experience for the All-Marine Golf Trials this fall.  Nerves are not really an issue for me.  I get excited, but after doing the things I have done over the course of 28 years in the Marine Corps, golf doesn’t really make me nervous.  I guess I just let the moment get the best of me at Princess Anne and didn’t stay within myself.  Also, maybe I should take another read of Ben Hogan’s FIVE LESSONS.  Variables like the grip shouldn’t fall apart so easily…a golf lesson well learned, again.

Myrtle Beach 2011

Last weekend I participated in my first “Myrtle Beach” guys’ golf weekend – ever. I have had many opportunities in the past to participate with groups, especially this group of guys, but could never find the time between work and personal schedule conflicts. This year I made the time and I am glad I did!

As in most years over the course of the last 6 or 8, I received an email from Steve asking me if I would like to join the group for their annual golf excursion. I was in Fort Worth, TX at the time on a business trip and I happened to have taken my wife with me – so we discussed the possibilities. I did have a conflict during the week in question, but this year I figured I could miss the business trip in May and finally participate. Katie could take some time also, so she planned to travel with me en route to Charleston, SC to visit a close friend.

Steve is a retired Marine Huey pilot and one of many golfers I used to play with on Saturday mornings when I lived in Quantico, Virginia on the Marine Corps base.

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Welcome to McDonald's Steve - Please Change Your Socks

Some in the group on this trip were a part of the Quantico Saturday morning gang, so I really wanted to join them on the trip and catch up. There were others in our group of 28 who came from all over the country. It was great seeing my old friends and also making new ones. To a man, everyone I hadn’t already known before was also very friendly – it made for a great experience. I was not the only first timer, there were a couple of others. Perhaps they were only as friendly to me as they were because I was new to them and they were being polite. Maybe next year the “digs” and “jabs” will be more pointed, I hope so. I will come armed and ready now that I know them…

The group was established over 20 years ago, I think I heard a figure of maybe 25 years ago, but no matter, suffice it to say it has been going on quite some time. The organizer – or “Committee” – is Dave, a retired Marine pilot also. He, with his brother Tom (the Volcano), did the leg work and rules making for the group (Ryder Cup format and skins). This year Steve happened to be the Marine Corps team captain and, of course, the Navy team had a captain as well – Gary (retired Navy). The committee established email communications with all, crafted and promulgated a Letter of Instruction (LOI) for the trip (fashioned from USMC administrative processes), and arranged for accommodations and play. The days would be filled with golf and evenings with dinner. This was not a younger man’s trip with carousing, strip bars, and drinking to all hours. After 36 holes and warm chow in my belly I was ready to hit “the rack” (Marine for bed). That said, there was a distinct difference in how the teams approached preparation. Apparently, for the Navy guys, preparation did include drinking to all hours – at least for a key core number of them. In golf, it’s always nice to have a routine, and they had one.

The trip was not really to Myrtle Beach proper, but to the most southeastern part of North Carolina just above the state line and North Myrtle Beach. We stayed in some condos very near Calabash, NC and played all but one round at the Big Cats Courses – Lion’s Paw, Tiger’s Eye, and Panther’s Run. On Sunday we played the final round at The Thistle, just up the road. I must note that the service at the Big Cats and The Thistle were outstanding. The course conditions were fair at the Cats (Panther’s Run had young greens and overly watered fairways), but the Thistle’s was great.

The format for the outing was Ryder Cup style with teams consisting of 14 Marines & 1 other (a FBI man) and 14 Navy & others (a Montana rancher, some government civilians, etc…). We played 4 Ball, 2 Man Scramble, and Singles matches. Each day where it made sense, we also had skins which were tabulated and paid out each evening following dinner. The Volcano (Dave’s brother) was in charge of skins. On the first night after finding out one of his skins was cut he asked, “who’s the son-of-a-bitch who cut me?” I raised my hand and he then said, “sorry Chris, your new, nice hole…” Next year, I’m sure I will be a full-fledged “son-of-a-bitch.”

There are some funny things about a trip like this that struck me as I lived it. The first is bringing a bunch of middle aged men together to sleep in the same spaces together. The condos were two bedroom affairs with two beds in each room. It’s funny to think about stories that come out of guys bunking in the same room who may not have known each other at all prior to meeting at the door. Airplane lottery came to my mind as I began meeting the guys…that is, you know, when you have your seat on the plane and people are boarding and you’re silently hoping you don’t get the mom and baby or the huge seatbelt extending dude with body odor to sit next to you. My roomies were great. Apparently a couple of years prior, Steve had a roomie that was an insomniac. It can be disconcerting to wake up at 2 AM and see your roomie standing in his black banana hammock (underwear) scratching his balls and staring at you. I still laugh when I think of it. Personalities can make for some funny situations. Like, Ed complaining out loud about being put on the ground floor again next to the pond because “those damned frogs” keep him awake at night. Here’s a guy who retired as a Marine Colonel with 30 years in the Corps complaining about frogs. I am chuckling as I write this.

I am sorry I waited so long to make time to do this. I will do it again.

Review: Golf’s Sacred Journey

I was at the movie theater a couple of weeks ago and learned about a movie coming out soon based on Dr. David L. Cook’s book, Golf’s Sacred Journey – Seven Days at the Links of Utopia. I normally love to watch the previews at the movies, but this time my wife and I finished the “Tub O’ Corn” before the previews were done and I wanted some more. (I know – it’s a pitiful thing…) About the time I was leaving, the preview for the movie Golf’s Sacred Journey was coming on. All I saw as I left was that it was a golf movie and Robert Duvall was in it (I really wanted that popcorn). Afterwards at home, my wife googled the movie and we learned it was based on the book I described above. I immediately ordered the book from Amazon.com. I knew I would see the movie and I wanted to read the book beforehand. I am glad I did.

In one day during a two-leg flight from Norfolk, Virginia to Pensacola, Florida I read the book cover to cover. There is a foreword written by Tom Lehman, acknowledgements, an introduction, the text, and finally an epilogue. As I began reading the text I was thinking, OK, here we go again with another “golf is like life” parable. But, as I moved deeper into it all the while keeping an open mind there were some clear messages that spoke to me. I had some “aha moments” that kept me thinking and the story line itself was interesting and compelling enough to keep me entertained. The messages in the book were really thought provoking for me. I reflected a great deal on them. I will read it again.

Without getting into any details, I will provide some insight into the book provided by the author himself on the cover.

“You never really know when you might meet someone who will change your life. More importantly, you never know when your influence might change another life. This book is about influence. The story is based on thousands of athletes David Cook has counseled, and the great mentors and teachers from whom he has learned, told through the lives of two characters – a rancher with a passion for teaching truth and a young golf professional at the end of his rope.”

As the book’s cover says, it is about influence. Why do we do things? What is important? A notion not from the book, but one I derived in reflecting on the book, is that oftentimes when we want to do something or cause something to happen it is the opposite of that which we initially think of as a solution that is a key in actually making it happen. Like in golf when you want to hit the high shot, you must hit down on the ball. When you want the swing to be correct, you don’t “control it,” you actually have to let it go (a very Hogan-esque idea).

Utopia is a real place. I think the two major characters are real also, only they are a compilation of individuals from the author’s life and work. Oh by the way, since I knew Robert Duvall was going to be in the movie, as I read, it dawned on me how perfect he is for the part. Think of a wiser, tamer Gus from Lonesome Dove.

Interestingly, Tom Lehman won the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek in Alabama this past weekend. It is a Champions Tour major and his third win this year. He believes in what Dr. Cook writes in this story. In his foreword he states, “Only you know your character, the person you see when you look in the mirror. Your reputation is who people think you are. Don’t confuse the two. Dr. David Cook is a man of character. I have learned from him. You will too.”

I took the messages from the book to heart and to the course last Sunday. In first application on the golf course I think I did okay shooting 74 at my home course. I found myself straying from what is really important a couple of times and the score on these holes reflected it. More importantly, I am also incorporating the messages into my life. I have made some major changes in my life in recent years and this is important I think.

The book: is it a story of golf with parallels to life or is it a story of life using golf as its form? It is all of the above. I highly recommend it. The movie: I’ll let you know.

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