Crazy luck: A true story of last chance skins game
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 By Ron Romanik
My craziest golf story is the day I won a
fistful of cash when I barely played well enough not to embarrass myself. But
sometimes one shot is all you need.
Every October in Lancaster County, Hawk Valley GC
and Foxchase GC coordinated a weekend of four rounds of better-ball, flighted
competition. Both courses were filled to near capacity (Hawk Valley on
Saturday; Foxchase on Sunday).
I've only played in the Hawk Valley event,
which was exceptionally well run, but I imagine the Foxchase event was
similarly structured. For instance, the flighting was done in such a way that
sandbagging was almost completely taken out of the equation. Of course, often
in these events, a skins pool is a habitual side bit of fun that you don’t give
much thought to. At $10 for each round, with over 100 golfers participating,
however, the potential upside was pretty high on this one.
Anyway, my partner and I were not particularly
"on" in any fashion the day in question. I can't remember if we made
any birdies in the morning round, but we were definitely floundering in the
afternoon round, partly because of the steady breeze that had picked up. We
rarely had a putt for birdie.
Convinced we were out of contention for any of
the paid spots in our flight, I dropped all pretenses and joked repeatedly to
my partner as we were nearing the end of our round: "Just go for
birdies." I thought it was funny; maybe my partner did as well. I'll never
know. Maybe he was smiling through his tears.
Our final hole for the shotgun event was Hawk
Valley's first hole. The subtle genius of the Hawk Valley layout, designed by
father-son team of William and David Gordon, is that the holes look benign from
the tee and fairway, but if you're not in the right position for the approach
shot, inexperience will goad you into an overly aggressive shot with
substantial risk. The Gordons also designed one of the all-time classic courses
in the region, the Grace Course at Saucon Valley CC.
The pin placement on the par 4, dogleg right
first hole that day was not characteristically subtle. The pin was cut very
close to the right front of the green, just over a deep bunker. I don't know if
I've ever seen that placement before or since. And as I mentioned earlier, a brisk
breeze had been stiffening all afternoon.
As I came close to my drive in the right side
of the fairway, I realized that the wind was quartering into me from the left
at the optimal angle to help an approach shot hold up against the steady breeze
and land softly just over the bunker. I thought for a moment: "This might
be a great skin hole with that pin placement."
I went for broke, with nothing to lose,
starting my fade shot a few feet left of the left edge of the green. The ball
rose higher than I expected, but started bending nicely, hung for a moment for
dramatic effect, then angled toward the left side of the bunker. I stuck it
right over the bunker. I had a ten-foot uphill putt for birdie and my only
chance of a skin for the day.
My partner didn't make it easy for me when he
confirmed my suspicion that a birdie on this hole would have a great chance for
a skin. I'm not the clutchest of putters, by any means, but I felt a growing
sensation that I was going to "will" this one into the hole. It was
an unusual feeling for me.
A ten-foot uphill, right-edge putt is not the
most difficult putt to execute, but I felt serious pressure that my and my
partner's suspicions were correct--a big skin might be at stake. The putt had
plenty speed to get there, entering the hole right-center. What a relief.
The waiting game at the scoreboard was fun, yet
excruciating. I didn't do the math before, but most of the 120 or so
participants drop $20 for skins -- $10 for the morning round and $10 for the
afternoon round. Each round had a pot of over $1,000. One by one the holes were
canceled with multiple birdies or eagles. Long story shortened abruptly -- I
won the whole $1,000-plus pot.
That's my craziest golf story -- and one of my
best shots in the heat of "competition," as it was. Now let me help you share
your amazing story by emailing a brief summary to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The question of whether long
putters should be banned or not is a curious case of when push eventually comes
to shove. The funny thing about it is that for the subject to warrant serious
debate, a long putter had to be involved in a Major victory.
I can understand this,
because history shows that many unrighteous acts can be ignored for a long time
just because they are marginalized by the majority. Even I believed that it
would be an abomination if someone won a Major with a long putter. But until
that happened, most could tolerate the growing presence of long putters as a
mere nuisance, but not an assault on the traditions of the game.
In fact, because it took so
long for a long putter to win a Major was a sort of justification for the
marginalization. As in: "A long putter can't help that much, or be a true
threat, if it doesn't hold up to the highest competitive demands of a Major
Well, now the cat's out of
the bag. With Keegan Bradley's win at the PGA Championship, Adam Scott's strong
resurgence, and Matt Kuchar's win at the Players
Championship, the topic is causing heated debates by the water cooler.
Buying a long putter has
crossed my mind, but I think now that will never happen. Even though I've never
been a good enough putter to even tell if I got the yips (yes, you can be an
awful putter and have the yips, I now believe), I have to say I don't think
I'll ever succumb to the temptation. My sporadically spasmodic back was a handy
excuse I had in my back pocket for when the day might come for me to give in,
but even that now seems morally expedient.
The reason for my renewed
resolve might be traced to Tiger's decision to be the front man for the issue that no one else really wanted to touch. As AP Golf
Writer Doug Ferguson reported in February, Tiger revealed that he had spoken
about the subject of banning long putters with the chief of the Royal &
Ancient over the past few years then spoke bluntly yet diplomatically about it
at Pebble Beach this past winter.
The argument isn't
necessarily one of "traditionalism," but rather a consistency in the
act of golfing that no part of the club be anchored to the golfer's torso in
any way. Maybe Ernie Els revealed the most telling
sentiment when he temporarily tested the long wand, one I'm sure shared by many
professionals and amateurs alike: "As long as it's legal, I'll keep
cheating like the rest of them." Conscience can be a useful guide
sometimes. If it feels like cheating, it probably is.
It's long past due to retire
a few of professional golf TV commentator cliches
that are annoyingly inaccurate: "This is a makeable chip."
Guess what, PGA pros think
they can make every chip and bunker shot.
"He's taking the pin out on
this chip. That means he thinks he can make it."
What this actually means is
that either: A) The pin might prevent the ball from entering the hole from the
angle of attack (caused by slope or wind); or, more often, B) There is little
risk of running the shot far by, therefore the added benefit of stopping a
fast-running shot by hitting the pin is not worth the possible negative of the
pin deflecting the ball out of the hole. So, the more accurate thing to say
would be: "He’s not worried about this chip getting away from him."
"This final twosome has
turned into match play."
No, match play is match
play. Stroke play is stroke play. They’re different.
"That was a misread."
If a TV announcer can tell
unequivocally when a player makes the perfect putting stroke, with putter blade
in the perfect position, at the intended tempo for the precise putt they are
trying to make, then they have Superman-like vision, mind-reading abilities,
and are wasting their enormous talents commenting on golf.
"What a courageous shot!"
Not at all. Wrong word.
There is no personal risk to body or soul when executing any golf shot. Well,
maybe if the player were trying to "play it as it lies" inside the open mouth
of an alligator.
"Never up, never in.
I'll let the legendary Bobby
Jones chime in on this one (tongue-in-cheek): "While it is true that most balls
that fall short of reaching the hole do not go in, it is certain that every
ball that rolls past does not."
Or, more directly: The only
thing you can say for sure about a putt that went past the hole is that it did notgo in.
I keep looking for something not to like about
Bubba Watson, but I can't find anything. It can be exhausting, so I think I'll
hang it up and get back to my day job.
But...I have to admit that I find it kind of
frustrating. There must be something
that gets under my skin. If you're really trying not to like someone, it's
usually not this hard. (I'm trying not out of spite, mind you, but for sport,
as a counterbalance to the excessive Bubba Love sweeping the nation.)
His overly casual, lanky gait. His humility.
The top button unnecessarily buttoned on his polo shirt. The pink driver. His
overuse of the word "awesome." These all could be potential deal-breakers.
But with Bubba, they all seem, well, sort of genuine. There really isn't much
pretense. What you see is what you get.
He wants to sign autographs. He want his fans
to like him. Is he trying too hard? He was born in an ungodly place named
Bagdad. Is he Muslim? Can he produce a long-form birth certificate? (Yes, there
is a town called Bagdad in Florida’s Panhandle.)
Then there's that big tuft of hair escaping his
golf hat. But it always looks exactly the same. Like Ricky Fowler, the casual
unkempt look needs to be meticulously maintained, so it seems. At least Bubba
is an order of magnitude more kempt than one other pro golf champion crowned on
that same Masters Sunday, first-time Nationwide
Tour winner Andres Gonzales.
On second thought, humility can be such a
turn-off. And that buttoned top button on the shirt is a little mock-formal.
And what kind of nickname is Bubba, anyway? (He's had it since birth, actually,
so it's hard to blame him for that one. Oh well. Struck out again.)
Okay, I found something not to like, seriously:
How dare he be that good -- and play a style of golf so uniquely and splendidly
his own -- without lessons! That's
the kind of thing a polite person would keep secret.
All kidding aside, Bubba is a guy that's just
plain hard not to like. And it's even harder to argue that the fresh attitude,
creative shot-making, and self-described "awesome" style are not a
welcome addition to a sport in need of more intriguing -- or at least more colorful
The graphic shows a
sampling of the outpouring of Bubba Love:
"Congrats. Fantastic creativity. Now how creative will the champions
dinner be next year?"
Bubba is a prolific Tweeter
(40,000 Tweets). Follow him: @BubbaWatson
Tiger advising the Masters Champion on what to serve at next yearís Champions dinner. Thatís ironic.
Play it as it lies!
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 By Ron Romanik
The golf community of
Philadelphia is probably one of the top five active and interactive golf
communities in the world. I’m excited to increase my participation here in
cooperation with my good friend Joe Logan. Not that it needs my help, but I
hope to add to the community’s health and well-being with frequent blog posts
about recent events, storied lore, and contentious debates.
The number of quality golf
courses in southeastern Pennsylvania is impressive, with a variety of
attractive options in any budget range. I was lucky enough to sample many of
them during my stint as Editor-in-Chief of Pennsylvania
Golfer. I try to see the best features in the courses I play, but I have a
particular fond spot in my heart for the Golden Age of Design—the 1920s
and 1930s. And if I had to pick one golf course designer that embodies the
finest realization of the game, I’d have to pick William Flynn.
Then there’s the community of
golfers itself. The GAP Team Matches, for instance, have no equal that I know
of, run by the Golf Association of Philadelphia. On three Sundays each April
and May, nearly 4,000 golfers are engaged in spirited interclub matches. And
there are also a plethora of public leagues, tours, and charity events.
In this Imperfect Lies Blog, I look forward to writing about a wide range
of topics, intending to be a mix of informative, thought-provoking, and
slightly irreverent discussions. I consider the greatest moment in sports
history—in any sport—was when Jack Nicklaus conceded the putt of
Tony Jacklin to end the Ryder Cup of 1969. I will revisit that moment in
history later this year in a blog post.
You can look forward to other
future column topics that will include "The $1,000 Skin on a $10 Stake,"
"Tips on How to Play Private Clubs for Free," "My Short-Lived, Semi-Official
Course Record," and a "Somewhere, Out There, Is a Golf Course" moment on the
northern shores of Ireland.
Just as a counter-position, I
consider the lowest moment in all of golf history the moment when Boo Weekley
decided to ride his driver like a horse. That was bad enough. Showing the world
that he was wearing white socks added insult to injury. I will not be
revisiting that moment in history ever again—here or anywhere else.
So, please feel free to tell
us your golf stories, heartfelt opinions, or pet peeves... I’m at email@example.com.
68 teams are set to tip off what is arguably the greatest 3 weeks in
Owls and 67 other teams are set to tip off what is arguably the greatest
threeweeks in sport.No player thinks that his team can’t
win.The coaches?Well, they, too, have the same
belief.Coaches will work every
minute they have leading up to every game.No tape will go unwatched and no coach’s hair will go unpulled.
final team to cut the nets down on April 2 will have had an unparalleled
combination of great guard play, inside scoring and toughness and tremendous
coaching.This has been a
consistent theme for many March Maddnesses and will continue for years to
how can you replicate the winning team when it comes time for you to start your
golf season in the next few weeks?Let me ask you this important question first:What would you think if you saw one of
the 68 teams take the court without a coach?Wouldn’t look right, would it?Golf is no different and battling it out
on the links without a coach in your corner would look just as odd
if you ask me.
many years now golf instructors – me included
-- have been focusing too much on making the swing look as pretty as a Ray
Allen jumper.Pretty is good if you
are like Luke Donald, and can lead two Tours in money during the same calendar
year.But for those of you who
can’t, you need a coach to map out a detailed practice schedule and to teach
you how to practice.
a recent Philly PGA Section teaching seminar, Dave Phillips, PGA (Titleist TPI
Instructor), most known for appearing on the Golf Channel’s Fitness Academy,
stressed the importance of challenging students with results-oriented
practice.He suggested coaching
golfers through scoring games with short wedges and putters, dropping balls
within 100 yards and playing each ball out, and making students hit draws and
fades; low and high shots; knockdowns and lobs.
would never expect a player to improve by just hitting ball after ball on the
range.Random practice needs to be
a part of your practice routine each and every time out.Random practice means hitting a 9-iron
high and soft.Put the 9 away and
grab a rescue and hit a draw.Pick
up your gap wedge and play a low knock down type shot.Finally, grab your driver and hit a soft
fade.If you feel your game isn’t
to a level where you can hit a draw or a soft fade, then hit one to a right
flag on the range and hit one to a flag to the left.Be creative when you practice and try to
see the shots on the range that you hit most on the course.
you haven’t met with your coach yet for the upcoming season, get together
now.Your coach will help you with
what you need to know.For me, I
will learn to be more specific this year with what I want.I will detail clearlyhow I want
my students to practice when I am not there.For example, for a student looking to
improve his or her short game, I will prescribe a certain number of putts from
five, 10 and 15 feet.I will ask
students to hole out from several different bunker lies and keep score.I will make sure they are using each of
their wedges by playing par 3 games, with all shots starting from less than 100
yards.Each one of my students
during 2012 is a member of my team-- a team
that will work toward lower scores and more enjoyable rounds of golf.
results and results--no matter
how ugly a team wins in the NCAA tournament, a win is a win. And no matter how
ugly your swing is, the only thing that matters is the number you record on
your scorecard.If you are
coachable and practice like you are part of a team, you just might be cutting
the nets down at the conclusion of your club championship this year.Well, maybe not the nets, but at least
unscrewing the flag from the top of the stick!
Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford
CC. His full bio is here.
If you have been watching The Golf Channel, maybe you have caught the
excitement from the start of a new PGA Tour season
If you have been watching
Golf Channel, maybe you are caught up in the excitement of the start of a new
PGA Tour season.Besides the first
full week in April with that tournament that unofficially gets everyone excited
about golf, watching golf from Maui, Oahu, San Diego and Scottsdale, while I’m
sitting in semi-cold Philly in January gets me excited for a new season.
Watching these early-season
tournaments does two things for me.First, it gives me a chance to see how the players have taken care of their
golf games over the off-season (some would argue that golf has no off-season).
There is the winner of the
first event of the year, Steve Stricker.After having played through most of November, Stricker retires back to
Wisconsin for his off-season of practice.During his post-round interviews, Stricker said he was excited to just
play holes.Obviously the chance to
play holes in Wisconsin during December does not happen.He works on hitting balls indoors and
some rehabilitation for his neck and back, plus some putting and chipping, I am
sure.Sticker also stopped in
Arizona on the way to Maui and played several rounds of golf to gear up for the
Being able to hit a 6 iron
on the range perfectly is much easier than trying to pull off the shot during a
competitive or even fun round of golf.You can only hit so many balls during the off-season, or hit from heated
bays or hit balls into a net.This
may keep the golf muscles loose, but it will do little for your confidence out
on the course.
A practice range does not
need to be perfect?How many
perfect lies do you get on the golf course?Fine, I agree, make one part of the
range tee flat and even to warm up before you head to the first tee, but let’s
try to challenge golfers with the second tee or second half of the range
tee.Build some contour.Have some side hill, down/up hill,
moguls, various levels of rough and other imperfect lies on the range tee.I get bored hitting from a flat tee -- not
bored because I am such a good ball striker, but bored because I want to
practice the shots I get on the course.
Stricker said that he wants
to hit shots that he will hit under tournament pressure.He would probably agree that the best
way to get ready for an event is to actually play.Play so you get comfortable hitting all
sorts of shots.
Secondly, watching these early
tournaments, I can see whose games are better designed for certain
courses.There might not be a
greater difference between two courses back-to-back on the schedule than what
you have in Hawaii.The Plantation
Course at Kapalua is wide open.Hit
is hard and far.Waialae, home of the Sony Open, is an old Donald Ross course with tight, palm tree-lined
fairways with small greens.Hit it
straight!Even short is ok on this
course sits Oceanside just east of Diamond Head.
How does this translate to
your own games?Before you play a
round of golf, understand how the course fits your game.If you like to hit it long and far,
maybe you will struggle on a tight, but short course.If you are a short, but an accurate
player, understand that you might pull more long irons, hybrids or fairway
woods from your bag during your round.
There is a course out there
for everyone.Once you realize
which courses suit your game better than others, you can adjust your expectations
for each round.This is the same principle
that explains why Annika picked Colonial in Texas, a short, tight course, to
try her hand at the PGA Tour. Would
she have gone out to play a course similar to Aronimink and had the same
Watch golf with a purpose
early in the year. This is a great
time to see how the pros managed their games early on in the season.You can learn much from their preparations
as you wait for March and April in Philadelphia.
Ryan Gingrow is PGA teaching professional at Whitford
CC. His full bio is here.