Tag Archives: golf

You’re So Cold

Yesterday was the Third Annual Thanksgiving Golf Classic.  My title defense did not go well.

For starters, it was cold.  So cold.  So, so very cold.  I am one of those golfers who takes his glove off to putt, and have also recently toyed around with the idea of wearing two gloves to improve my grip (or at the very least fool myself into being more confident with my grip).  Well, yesterday I had on a pair of those thin gloves you can wear while still using a touchscreen, as well as a pair of golf gloves, and left them on all day.

I was also wearing two pairs of pants (khakis on top, because this is a classy event), a long-sleeved shirt under another long-sleeved shirt, a windbreaker, a cap, and one of those ear-covering thingies that goes over a cap.  Suffice to say, I came prepared.

And it showed, as I hung around in contention while the other guys complained about the cold.  Conditions were obviously tough, and while the wind wasn’t too much of a factor, the greens were like glass tables.  You could just give the ball a tap and watch it roll clear across the green.  Of course, I still managed to leave a few putts short, which blew my mind, but I blamed my lack of touch on the fact that I was wearing four more gloves than usual.

Battling through all of that, I managed to hit a good number of fairways, and my charge really began when I made par on our ninth hole (we started on hole 16) to get to within three points of the lead.

Unfortunately, that’s where it ended.  Over the last nine holes, our new champion, Jose, turned that three-point lead into an 18-point victory.  He actually clinched the trophy with two holes to go, but then tacked onto the lead just for kicks.

We were playing a different course than usual, which made things a little different, but also fun.  However, more than any course, trophy, or good/bad performance, the key to the day was and will always be the people we played with.  It’s a good group, and having created a silly little tradition that means way more to us than it should is the best part about it.  The fact that we’ve actually kept up with it, even if it’s only been three years, is also impressive.

For the record, I was third, avoiding a last-place finish by a single point.  While not the result I was looking for, I guess it’s the result I deserved.

Until next year, when I get my hands back on that trophy.  Or not.  So long as I get to spend part of my holiday with the same three idiots I always do.

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You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

The high temperature tomorrow is barely supposed to crack the freezing mark.  The wind will be blustery.  It will be sunny, but all told, it’s a good thing it’s Thanksgiving morning, because nobody has to go anywhere until later in the day.

Which is why I’ll be up at 7:30 to check in with the golf course to make sure it’s still open.

That’s right, tomorrow is the third annual Thanksgiving Golf Classic.  And lest you think this is just for fun and isn’t serious business, we even have a trophy.

A couple years back, one of my buddies (we’ll call him Chuck – all names will be changed to protect the hideous golfers being mentioned) commented in mid-September that it looked like his golf season was over.  He works every day, and usually gets out around 2:30 or 3:00 on the weekend, so during the summer we have plenty of time to make it to the local golf course and get in 18 holes before it’s too dark.  But by the end of summer, the days are just a little bit too short for him to get home and make it to the course in time to finish the round.

Anyway, since he didn’t have any days off, he said “unless we play on Thanksgiving, when the store is closed, I guess I’m done for the year.”  About two-tenths of a second later I replied, “so let’s play on Thanksgiving then!”

I pitched the idea to a couple of our usual playing partners; the response was immediate.  And thus, the TGC was born.

We use a modified Stableford scoring system, and it is modified in a way that really exemplifies just how bad we are.  In a Stableford system, birdies and eagles earn positive points while bogeys and worse earn negative points.  We usually play with double bogeys or worse being -3; this year, triple bogeys or worse get you a big honking -5 on the card.  We made this change to reduce the chance of a tie, which has been an issue in the first two TGCs.

In 2011, “Donny” led for most of the day, but I made a late charge.  On the par-3 17th, I missed a par putt that would have tied the score.  This was critical because our agreed-upon tiebreaker was that whoever had the best Stableford score on the 18th hole would win; if that was a tie, then we’d work back in reverse until we had a winner.  Essentially, whoever caught the leader would get the win.

On 18, Donny had made his double or triple bogey or whatever, and I had a bogey putt that would have closed the two-point gap, tied the score, and given me the trophy.  I missed it, and Donny was the champion.

I was crestfallen, but resolved to win it the next year.  And I did just that…kind of.

See, we found ourselves on the same course and in the same predicament; Donney led by two points after 16 holes.  This time, however, I made the bogey putt on 18, he went high, and I took home the trophy on a tiebreaker.

In sum: I am the defending Thanksgiving Golf Classic champion, even though I didn’t actually win, per se.

Tomorrow’s event is at a different course, albeit one that I’ve played.  Donny beat me that day by making par on 18 while I shot closer to 12 than four.  I guess it was my turn to blow a lead to him, huh?

Obviously, I will be disappointed if I don’t win, but with a tougher course, in what are sure to be difficult, uncomfortable conditions, I really don’t know what to expect.  Anyone can win, and that’s part of the beauty of the thing.

A week and a half ago, when I went out for my “return” round, it was chilly.  I wore shorts, as I almost always do when playing golf, but I had longsleeves and a jacket.  I still felt the chill, especially when the breeze was blowing, but I was too happy to be out on the course for it to matter.  Donny, on the other hand, had on golf pants and a “performance” fleece or whatever, but afterwards noted that while the weather was nice, it was just a little too cold for him.

Oh, man.  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, kid.

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

I just got in from my first round of golf in nearly three months, and I actually feel pretty good.

I mean, I am still a terrible golfer – some things may never change – but the fact that I went out, played 18 holes, spent over an hour in the car round trip, and am not feeling any ill effects, is certainly noteworthy.

Oh, and I beat the guy I was playing with, too.

When my back first started acting up in July, it got progressively better over the course of a week.  About 10 days after it first started to hurt, I played a round of golf, and the little bit of pain I had went away completely.  Unfortunately, when everything flared up again in late August, I never felt good enough to give it a shot.  Swinging a club just felt like a dangerous proposition; all it would take is one bad swing – or maybe even one good swing – and I might not even be able to walk back to the cart.  And with the annual Thanksgiving Golf Classic coming up, not defending my trophy is not an option.

(I’ll write more about that in about a week and a half.)

Fortunately, ever since the really bad episode I had three weeks ago, things have gotten progressively better, to the point that within a week, I wasn’t feeling any pain whatsoever.  I have no idea why that happened, or when/if I’ll have another crippling attack of pain, but I make sure to stretch my back out a little throughout the day, and hopefully the worst is behind me, no pun intended.

Earlier in the year, a couple friends and I bought discounted vouchers from www.groupgolfer.com.  If you play at all, I highly recommend you check it out; it’s like Groupon for golf.  Unfortunately, the vouchers expire December 31, and when you take out a three-month chunk of time, you have to squeeze rounds in when you can.  That means a chilly morning round, and when you’re coming off a back problem, that’s a good recipe for trouble.

The only trouble, however, was with my game.  I couldn’t make a putt to save my life.  The problem at first was the speed of the greens; the grass seemed long, and the ground was wet from rain earlier in the morning, but because it has been cold in the area for a while, the ground was hard and the ball was bouncing and rolling all over the course.  I’m usually good for one medium-to-long putt per round, but I don’t think I sank anything longer than four feet all day.  As we moved along, though, the misses got closer, so I’m chalking it up to rust.

This post has gone on longer than I intended, and probably longer than anyone reading would like, so I will wrap it up by saying that it felt really good to get back out on the course.  When something you enjoy doing (even if you can’t do it very well) gets taken away, even for a short time, when you get it back, it’s a good feeling.

Of course, this is golf, so the good feeling lasts until you slice that first tee shot out of bounds.  But hey, for two holes, I was on cloud nine.

Stop Snitchin’

I think I wrote about this before, but it’s come up again recently, and I’m still in charge around here, so there.

As someone who likes to play golf, it would follow that I know the rules.  And I do.  Kind of.  Sort of.  The USGA’s official Rules of Golf 2012-15 is over 200 pages long, and while I originally sought to read the whole thing, the print is small and there’s a lot of stuff in there and…::sigh::

Anyway, Tiger Woods once again found himself under scrutiny for a potential rules violation at last weekend’s BMW Championship.  I won’t get into the details of it, because most of you don’t care (and really, neither do I).  My problem isn’t with whether or not Woods broke the rules; it’s with how the rules get enforced.

Golf has a history of television viewers calling in violations that they spot on television.  It famously cost Dustin Johnson a spot in a playoff at the PGA Championship a few years back, and it cost Woods a couple strokes at The Masters this year.  Even if I spotted a violation, I wouldn’t make a call.  It’s not my place.  I also wouldn’t even know who to call.

This weekend, Woods’ violation was caught by the cameras of a crew affiliated with the PGA Tour, not a television viewer.  Woods was informed before he signed his scorecard, so he was simply penalized, not disqualified.  But in this story I read this afternoon, Woods and Tour commissioner Tim Finchem championed the idea of a time limit being placed on call-ins.

I have an idea: ZERO MINUTES.  STOP CALLING.

Failing that, here’s a second idea: IGNORE THE CALLS.  That’s actually a serious one, and it’s for the same reason that I don’t like the replay challenge proposals for baseball: the extra scrutiny isn’t evenly applied to every player.

In the column, Woods asks the following question: “Is every player going to be mandated to have a camera follow them around everywhere they go — all 156 players (in a regular tour event) for every shot?”

That’s unlikely.  And that’s the problem.  When I was at the U.S. Open, I saw every group hit at least one shot.  I also spent 11 hours at the golf course.  Those of you watching at home were only able to see play that occurred after noon.  So while my group’s adopted favorite, Simon Khan, could have been violating rules all over the place, nobody could call in and narc on him because his round wasn’t being shown.

Of course, the reason Khan and the other morning guys didn’t make the telecast is because they started the day something like 20-over-par and way out of contention.  What’s a couple extra strokes when it doesn’t matter to the final result?  But what about a Thursday or Friday broadcast, when players are playing at various different times regardless of where they are on the leaderboard?  You’re still not seeing Simon Khan on television on a Thursday afternoon unless he’s on pace to break 60, so if he accidentally moves his ball near a tree and doesn’t replace it on his second shot on the fourth hole, nobody can call in and report it.  But if Woods or Phil Mickelson or another top-ranked player ends up in the trees, we’re cutting to them right away to see how they get out of trouble.  And if something happens, millions of people can see it simply because of who’s about to hit the ball.  That’s not right.

I believe that if instant replay is going to be used in baseball, every single play should be reviewed in-house, and any errors fixed right away.  It’s not that hard; just put an extra umpire in the press box, or in a Barcalounger in the umpire’s room, and give him a television.  Boom, done.

Unless you really are going to record every single shot hit by every single player in every single tournament, you can’t allow replay.  It’s just not fair to the players that people actually want to watch, and the players who play well over the first couple days of a tournament, that they are subject to potential penalties that lesser-known players aren’t simply by virtue of their elevated status.

So do the right thing, PGA Tour.  Next time someone calls to rat someone out, answer the phone, and politely tell the caller to go outside, take a deep breath, and proceed to get a life.

Kicks Just Keep Getting Harder to Find

I was never a notably tall kid, per se; there have always been people taller than me in all of my classes, and I’ve never been the tallest person in any group of friends I’ve had, either.  That being said, I come in right around six feet tall, which is a decent bit above average.  I guess I’m kind of “sneaky tall.”

For whatever reason, I always wanted to be tall.  Not freakishly so, but ideally, something like six-two would have been perfect.  My grandfather was around that tall, and looking at the rest of my family, I clearly got my height from him.  I am head and shoulders (and in a couple cases practically elbows) above my parents, my sister, and my other grandparents.

Another thing I got from my grandfather is gigantic feet.  Like, mutant-sized.  I don’t remember being one of those kids who outgrew his shoes every six months, but every time I needed new sneakers, I always had to get the next size up, and soon moved onto wide sizes when I could.

I can think of maybe one or two people that I have ever been related to or friendly with, other than my grandfather, who even got to size 11.  I settled in at 14.  Sometimes, shoes run bigger than their size, so a 13-wide will do.

This makes shopping for shoes difficult.  Not because “whoa is me, it’s so hard to get a size-14 shoe on your foot,” but because it’s just really hard to find size-14 shoes in a store.  Up until this summer, flip flops were flat-out impossible.  That sends me to the internet, which means I can’t try them on until they arrive, and…well, let’s just say I’m a fan of places with free return shipping.

Oddly enough, bowling shoes have never been a problem. Well, at least finding them hasn’t; my shoes are so heavy that when I went to the national tournament last summer, they helped pushed my bag over the weight limit for the plane and I had to pay an extra fee. As for golf, I bought a pair of shoes – 13-wide – six years ago.

The good thing about golf shoes is that they often come with replaceable spikes, so after a year of use all I have to do is buy new spikes instead of all new shoes.  Unfortunately, after four or five years or so, the part of the shoe that holds my foot started to separate from the part of the shoe that has the cleats attached.  Crazy glue works wonders, but once you get to that point, stepping in a puddle on the third hole can ruin the next four hours.  It’s time to suck it up and get a new pair.

I started looking around and about three weeks ago I decided on a pair.  I was at a golf superstore that reminded me of, like, a universe of golf stuff, and of course they had only had one pair of shoes that was even close to being big enough.  I tried on the 13-medium and couldn’t get them all the way on my feet.  Disappointed, I went home and placed an order on their website.

(The next day, I got an email with a promotional code for 10% off a single item.  Thanks.)

A few days later, my 13-wides arrived, and…nope.

This is no big deal in the grand scheme of life.  People try on shoes that don’t fit them every single day.  But for me, it’s actually gotten kind of depressing.  I find myself limited in what I can choose, looks-wise, because shoe companies simply don’t make all of their models in my size.  I’m sure it sounds stupid, but when I can only wrench my foot halfway into a shoe that I like, my shoulders sag and I get a little depressed for a few seconds.  It’s frustrating!

I tried to look it as a good sign, however.  The truth was that I wanted a different design of the same shoe; instead of plain black, I wanted white and black, but the website didn’t have those in my size.  Turns out they actually didn’t have the plain black ones in my size either, but whatever.

I finally got around to driving out there after work today to return them instead of mailing them back.  I was hoping to exchange them in the store, or if not, get my refund and drive right to another store.  I had visited the second store’s website and discovered that not only did they sell the model I wanted, they sold the design I wanted in a size that might fit me.

After getting a refund, I drove to the other sporting goods store.  I think the owner’s name is Richard.  They have a nice golf section, and I actually bought my first pair of shoes at one of their other branches.  However, there were only a few shelves of shoes, and they didn’t have the model I was looking for on any of them.  I asked the guy in charge of the section if what was on the shelves was all they had, and he said it was.  I told him I had seen the pair online and thought I’d take a look since it was hard to find my size in the store.  Of course, he asked what size, and when I told him, his response was a simple, “Oh.  Yeah.  Yeah we don’t usually have many of those.”

Thanks, pal.

So here I am, logging onto their website to order another pair.  Now, while they were processing my refund at the golf store, I went to the shoe section just to take a look.  I found two pairs of size-14 shoes; one medium, one wide.  The wide was really comfortable, and the medium fit just fine as well.  I got really excited for a second; I wanted the other ones, but if I could walk out with a new pair, I might make the sacrifice.

I looked at the price tag.  I like playing golf.  Way too much, probably.  And I know it can be an expensive hobby.  But I’m not paying $159.99 for a pair of shoes.

Anyway, there is a drop-down menu for sizes.  It goes up to 14-medium.  ::gulp::

I’m going to buy them.  They’ll be here in a few days, and with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning – or a guy opening a new pair of golf shoes – I’ll tear open the box and try them on.

Of course, I won’t actually tear the box open.  I’ll cut the tape and keep the box in good condition, because if experience has taught me anything, it’s that I unfortunately might need it again very soon.

Swing, Swing

I’ve already written about how bad a golfer I am.  I’ve also written about how it doesn’t stop me from playing.  I went out with a couple buddies today and shot the best round of my life.

I mean, it wasn’t a good score, but it was the lowest score I’ve ever carded.  My previous best was 106, which was almost exactly three years ago.

I played better than I can ever remember playing.  I tend to slice the ball (send it veering to the right) off the tee, but today, I was able to hit the ball reasonably straight, and while I only hit three fairways, six of my other tee shots landed within a club’s length of the fairway.  And trust me, I have experience hitting out of the rough, so that was no big deal.  I also had a lot of touch around the greens, getting the ball up in the air with my wedges and putting it down in the vicinity of where the hole was.

(Say you break the green up into three sections; front, middle, back.  I usually put the ball on the front or the back portion, regardless of the pin location, based on the manner in which I mishit my shot.  Today, wherever the pin was, I was generally able to get the ball in that section.  i cannot tell you how much that helps; if you shave six shots off your score simply by reducing your 35-foot first putt to a 15-foot first putt, you’re well on your way to scoring better in general.)

I thought I might have a chance at breaking one hundred after I played the first two holes at 1-over par.  I promptly triple-bogeyed the third hole, thanks to my first “worm-burner” of the day (a shot that skids along the ground, theoretically setting fire to any unsuspecting wildlife that may happen to squirm by).  After my tee shot left me just off the fairway, I had to hit a ball laying a bit above my feet, and I overthought it.

Even though I’m not very good, I still try to hit the “correct” shot.  I imagine what an actual golfer would want to do (aim here, avoid this tree, hit there so the bunker isn’t in play on my next shot, etc.), and then I try to do something close to that.  So, with the ball above my feet, and wanting to make sure I hit down on the ball, I tried to move it back in my stance and aim to the right.  Instead, it went straight…through the grass and into the creek 50 yards away.

I scuffled a bit, notching four sevens in five holes, but recovered for a par on the par-3 eighth.  I hit my tee shot on the ninth down the middle, knocked my approach onto the green, missed my birdie putt short by two feet, and then sent my par attempt off the lip of the cup.  The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all in one hole.

I played the front nine in 50 strokes while losing four balls.  My best nine-hole score is 48, so I was behind that pace by a hair.  I started the back nine with four more sevens in the first five holes, but one of those was a pretty long par-5, so I’ll take that.

I began to heat up, relatively speaking, on 15.  I missed right off the tee, hit a passable low line drive back onto the fairway, and then came up just short on my approach.  I hit a really nice chip, however, and followed with a six-footer to save bogey.  I then parred the next two holes, just missing a birdie on the par-3 17th after my tee shot landed eight feet from the hole.

Things went haywire on 18.  After the rough start to the back nine, I decided not to count my score until the round was over.  The elusive 100 was gone, but I could still shoot a pretty decent score and be happy with how I played.  Plus, I was 20 shots ahead of my two buddies (seriously, this was a “Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in the 2000 U.S. Open”-level runaway), so the satisfaction of playing well and finally beating them again, which I used to do all the time, would make the round a success.

My tee shot was one of those like you see on television as the leader gets to the 72nd hole of a major championship.  It wasn’t dead straight, but the hole is pretty open to the right of the fairway, and it was only leaking a little bit.  I don’t use a driver, because I can’t hit it anywhere close to straight or far, but for a 3-wood, I hit it probably as far as I was going to hit it.  The severe downhill slope didn’t hurt.

It’s a blind tee shot on the 18th hole, and when I went to find my ball…it was gone.  We looked for a few minutes, but it was to no avail.  I lose balls on that hole all the time, even though it’s open, because by the time we finish it’s usually getting dark.  Today, though, we finished in plenty of daylight.  My guess is that the group ahead of us, who was already done on 17 before we got there, must have had trouble on 18.  We assumed we were clear because they hadn’t been within range of us since the fifth hole, but they were on the green when we got to the top of the ridge, so they probably saw my ball come down, got mad, and picked it up.

I obviously didn’t mean to hit into anyone; like I said, it wasn’t even a possibility for the previous three hours.  And I doubt I did hit them, but golfers get really ticked when a ball comes into their vicinity.  I know we’ve been down there when people who have been behind us all day, and therefore know that we’re there, just wail away and send balls rolling towards us.  We get mad, so I can see how they would too.  But if that’s what happened, don’t be a dick and pick someone’s ball up.  It was a first offense, so just finish the hole and go home.

So here I was having to take a drop after hitting a pretty decent tee shot.  I had been using that ball since the sixth hole, and avoiding penalties was a big reason why I was playing so well.  I was pretty frustrated, but I dropped a new ball and took aim for the green.

It might have been my anger, or maybe the thicker grass prevented my club from coming through properly, but I hit a low line drive that picked up a pretty severe slice.  It bounded past a tree (the one time I manage to miss a tree, of course), skidded through the grass, rolled across the street, and came to rest on the grass near the clubhouse.

So after playing one ball for 12 holes, I was now on my third in three shots.  My fifth stroke was a nice chip that left me about 10 feet to the hole.  I thought, “well, hey, at least you can end on a positive; that was a good chip, now let’s make a good putt.”

I didn’t, and I sent it far enough by that it rolled down the hill a little farther than I’d have liked.  I made sure to give this one enough oomph to get to the hole, and it did.  In fact it started going into the hole before deciding that no, I hadn’t hit quite enough shots today, and I was going to need to hit one more.

I tapped in for an eight.

I added my score up in the parking lot, and as I got to the last few holes my shoulders sagged.  A 54 on the back nine meant 104.  A new personal best, but…I mean, I’m not saying I’d have made a birdie, or even par, but still, to card a snowman in that manner, with a milestone within reach, was almost sickening.  If I’d lost just one fewer ball…if I’d made a couple of the half-dozen putts I missed just right or left of the hole by a few inches…if, if, if.

I’m sure I’ll get there someday, especially if I can bottle up some of the things I did today and keep improving.  But it stings, you know?  So close, and yet…no, not that far at all.

They say you should get back on the horse, so I’ll be out on the links tomorrow afternoon.  It’s a different course, one I’ve never played before, so I’m not expecting big things.  But you can bet I’ll have a better eye on my overall score.

You know, just in case.

I Want to Win So Aaron Baddeley

The golf season’s final major, the PGA Championship, begins on Thursday.  While there’s still time before it starts, I thought I would share a fun fantasy game that I play with some friends that you can feel free to co-opt yourself.

We started it before the U.S. Open, since a number of us would be attending.  We had fun, so we decided to do one for the Open Championship as well.  I also won, so that made it easy to run another one; I promptly finished dead last next time out.

It’s pretty easy to run one of your own.  First, recruit between four and seven other players to join you, and make sure you have people who are able to respond to emails reasonably quickly; otherwise, you risk your draft taking way too long.  We have seven players and run a snake-style draft; last pick in the first round has first pick in the second round, etc.  We do four rounds, so each player has four golfers on their roster.

After the tournament is over, each person gets credit for the money earned by the players on their roster.  Most golf tournaments give much larger prizes to players at the top of the leaderboard than those further down, so drafting the winner and three guys who finish in the 30s will probably beat someone who has four guys who finished between 10th and 20th.

(This is how I won the U.S. Open; Justin Rose was my second round pick.)

Every player who makes the 36-hole cut (usually the top 60 or 70 players, plus ties) earns a paycheck, but if one of your golfers misses the cut,  you don’t simply get a zero: you also suffer a penalty.  If one golfer on your roster misses the cut, you lose 10% of your earnings.  If two miss the cut, the penalty is 25%, and if three of your golfers miss the cut, you get docked 50%.  Obviously, if none of your golfers make the cut, you end up with no money, but that could never happen, right?

(This is how I finished last at the Open Championship; all four of my golfers missed the cut.)

It’s that simple.  It gives you a rooting interest where maybe you didn’t have one, and it gives you a chance to beat your friends at something.

Because we can’t help ourselves – okay, I can’t help myself – we added a couple wrinkles before our second tournament.  First, we decided the draft order for the Open by reversing the standings from the U.S. Open.  Then we decided to add the popular fantasy staple of keepers to our little “league.”  Any golfer on your team in the previous major (our “season” consists of just those four tournaments) who made the cut is eligible to be kept, and he will be drafted to your team in the same round that he was drafted last time.

(For example, Rose was my second round pick for the U.S. Open.  I kept him, meaning he became my second round pick for the Open Championship.  He proceeded to miss the cut, so I was not able to keep him – or anyone else for that matter – for the PGA Championship.)

After the PGA Championship is over, we’ll add everyone’s totals for each tournament together and declare a season winner.  There’s nothing on the line, but we do enough pick ’ems and prediction contests that calling yourself a champion really matters.  To us, at least.

Next season, we’ll kick off the year in April with The Masters.  I’m sure I’ll tweak something between now and then because, like I said, I can’t help myself.  But it’s a simple contest, with simple rules, and it’s fun.

And sometimes, that’s all you need, you know?