upon a time, before he was famous, I knew Beano
Cook and used to spend hours with him on the phone.It was 30-plus years ago, when I was a
reporter at the Minneapolis StarTribune, writing, among other things, a weekly
column on sports media.
in those days, Beano was the PR guy
for ABC Sports in New York, when Monday
Night Football was in its heyday and Keith
Jackson was dominant voice of college football.Beano
and I would talk at least once a week and oftentimes, two or three times a
I remember most about those conversations is that we’d quickly discuss the
business at hand – i.e., whatever or whoever ABC was promoting –
then we’d spend 30 minutes gabbing and gossiping about everything from the
sports departments at the other networks, to what athletes or sportscasters
were jerks, to movies, to politics, to comedy.
Beano was so funny and so acerbic, with a New York sense of everything, and
it was like getting a one-man performance from Don Rickles.He knew everything about college football.I used to say, "Beano, why don’t they put you on TV?"
to that point, Beano was a voice on
the other end of the phone.I got
my answer when I finally saw a photo him.As smart, quick-witted and lovable as Beano was, he was not the network’s idea of hunky sports
talent.He looked like a
middle-aged, balding man and a paunch, who likely took the subway to work.
course, ESPN eventually became part
of the ABC/Disneyempire
and somebody in power there realized that Beano’s
mug be damned, he was a real talent.They put him on TV and he had a great, long run.Meanwhile, every time his mug popped up
on my TV screen, I’d think back to our wonderful phone conversations.
A guy came up to me at a wedding reception last
weekend and said, "You’re a golf guy, do you think Tiger will break Jack
"No," I replied without hesitation and,
frankly, without a doubt.
Remember when Tiger Woods was winning a major
every year, sometimes two a year? (Once, three in a year).Back then, it was a foregone conclusion
that Tiger would not just break Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors but most likely
shatter it in spectacular fashion.I can remember conversations where we kicked around the possibility of
Tiger winning 25 or 26 majors before he was done.
In 2006, when the U.S. Golf Association
announced that Merion GC would host the 2013, I can even remember realizing
that Tiger could very well break there record in our back yard, making the East
Course the setting for yet one more historic moment in the game.
Now, like golf fans everywhere, I watch Tiger
and shake my head in dismay over what once was.I know, I know, Tiger won three times
this year, and he has climbed back to No, 2 in the World Golf Rankings.But he hasn’t won a major since the U.S.
Open in 2008, and he didn’t exactly grow his legend with that performance in
the recent Ryder Cup.
I never thought I would write or utter these
words but suddenly, the man can’t putt.Four- and five-footers, which used to be his stock-in-trade, now bedevil
him.It used to be, the more
crucial the putt, the more sure you were that he would bury it.He was ice.Not any more. Really, would you be
surprised to see him show up at a tournament with a belly putter, or maybe going
to the "claw."
I read something somewhere not long ago that
suggested that Tiger can’t handle the pressure any more.It’s like his gears have been
shredded.He wants to win majors
and Ryder Cups too much now, to show the world that he has indeed fought back
to reclaim his rightful place atop the game.Sounds plausible to me.
All I know is, I have finally begun to believe
that Tiger will be lucky to win one more major, never mind the four he needs to
tie Nicklaus and the five he needs to eclipse him.I don’t see it happening.
Joe, Hope your hip is coming along. I agree with you. There was also a time when Tigerís worst round at a tournament would be anywhere from one under to one over at the very worst. Now, it seems like he canít put four decent rounds together. How many times this year did we see him get into contention on Thursday or Friday, then shoot a very un-Tiger like score of Saturday or Sunday and go tumbling down the leaderboard. That just didnít happen before.
I’ve been a great fan and admirer of Jack Nicklaus for most of my life.It certainly doesn’t surprise me that he
is a Republican or that he supports Romney
in the presidential race.But I
must admit, it bothers me that he felt compelled to go so public with his
Why? Because to me, Jack Nicklaus is all about golf.Okay, he’s also known as a family man, a
successful course designer and doer of good deeds for various causes and charities.But mostly, Jack Nicklaus’ public life has always been about having earned the
distinction of being the greatest golfer of all time.
Now, suddenly, he’s just another celebrity who
has inserted himself into the national food fight of politics.I hate that, because golf is one of my
few escapes from the ugliness of modern politics and many other harsh realities
of life, especially the realities that divide us as a nation.
Would I feel the same if it had been President Barack Obama he was
endorsing?Yes, Iwould.About the only thing I want to see
Jack Nicklaus endorse is the next
PGA of America initiative to grow the game.
I try to stay away from plugs for charity
events because there are so many good charities for good causes doing great
things.But from some reason, I’ve
always had a soft spot in my heart for The Jerry Segal Classic.
Segal Classic is this Friday the 21st, at the ACE Club and Green Valley CC, both in Lafayette Hill.Over the past years, The Segal Classic has raised more
than $10 million to benefit patients at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital,
which takes on some of the toughest cases around.
They’ve still got a few spots left in this year’s
link to the event website.To
play, register here.
The Jerry SegalClassic is an all-day thing: breakfast,
golf at two of the finer courses in the area and a banquet in the evening.It is, in fact, the largest
one-day charity golf event in Philadelphia.
If you are not familiar with Jerry Segal’s story, he
was a prominent local attorney whose spinal cord was injured during
surgery.Jerry was sent to Magee
and, weeks later, against all odds, he walked out.
Segal made a vow then and there to
give back to the hospital as much as it had given back to him.It’s a promise he has never forgotten.
My life on the couch, I am happy to report, is over.I’m very close to being back in the
On Wednesday – six weeks and day since my
hip replacement surgery – I paid an office visit to my surgeon.He studied a set of fresh x-rays, poked
and prodded me on his examining table, then pronounced me pretty much good to
"Everything looks good," he said, clearly
pleased with my progress and his handiwork.
My left hip, which is now a foot-long titanium
thingy that on the x-rays looks like some kind ofMedieval weapon, is healing nicely.My right hip, which wasn’t replaced but
was sort of cleaned of dead and dying bone tissue, is regenerating, just as the
doctor hoped it would.
Can I finally lose the crutches, I asked my
doctor?Yep.The cane?Not unless I need it for balance until I
get my strength back, he told me.
"Now the big question," I said."When can I play golf?"
"Any time, now," said my doctor, much to my
surprise."But you might to go with
an easy swing for a while."
He smiled.I smiled.
When I got home, first thing I did was take my
crutches and my cane down to the deepest, darkest recesses of my the
basement.With any luck, I’ll never
need them again.Then I went for a
walk around my neighborhood.I was a
little weak and a little wobbly, but I’ve gotta say, it
felt good – and no pain.Seven weeks ago, before the surgery, the 50-foot walk to the mailbox
felt like somebody was stabbing me with an icepick on every step.
Tomorrow morning, my plan is to hit a bucket of
balls, two or three buckets, if I can muster the stamina.I won’t push it, though; I’m still a
little afraid of the twisting and turning involved in pulling off a golf
swing.If it turns out all I can manage
is chippingand a few pitch shots, I’ll
take it and be happy.
On Monday, I start the serious three-times-a-week
rehab work to rebuild my strength.Six weeks of doing almost nothing has left my lower body weaker than I could
have imagined.For now, I am taking
three or four walks around my neighborhood every day.I can feel I am getting stronger.It feels good.
I did hit a bucket of balls, from wedges to driver. My hip felt a little tender, and I was definitely pooped afterward. But it felt good to be outdoors hitting golf balls. My plan was to play a round this week.
On Monday, when I went to my first rehab appointment, the physical therapist told me Iím not ready yet for a full round of golf. He said it was okay to chip and putt, maybe hit a few pitch shots, but that my hip was not ready to take the pressure and torque of a full swing. He wants me to hold off for a couple of weeks while he puts me through a series of strengthening exercises, both in his office and at home.
So thatís what Iím doing. Much as I hate to wait, I think he is right. I donít want to damage my hip in my rush to return.
The Muni Golfer
[9/19/2012 10:59:17 AM]
Glad to here things are going well Joe. I do echo Steve, take it easy with the swing until the strength is fully back.
[9/14/2012 6:00:49 PM]
Donít overdo it. Swing easy and youíll be surprised.
It is four weeks since I had hip replacement
surgery and I’m doing much better, thanks.I’m getting around on crutches, and I’ve been able to cut way back on
the painkillers, meaning my head is clear – at least clear by my
This past week I even began to putt on the
living room carpet.I cannot tell
you how good that felt.It’s the
simple pleasure in life.In another
couple of weeks, I’ll start out-patient rehab to build up the muscles in my
legs and hip.My return to golf,
however, is still four to six weeks away.
Limited as I am, I’m afraid I’ve spent way too
much time stretched out on the couch, watching TV.The result is, I have come to hate
TV.I’ve got the deluxe cable
package that cost about as much as a car payment-- a gazillion channels, premium movie
channels galore, On Demand – and I still can’t find a damn thing I want
I cannot abide reality shows – any and
all of them."American Idol," I hate
it."Big Brother," I hate it even
worse."Dancing with the Stars?"
No, thank you, I’d rather not.
I have come to loathe and avoid local TV news
in ways I never did before.Every
day, all day, from morning til midnight, it is nothing
but a unending assault of the worst humanity has to offer: punks killing punks
over drugs, in neighborhoods I wouldn’t go into on a bet; crooked politicians; perverts;
thieves; innocent children getting caught in crossfires, fires that are almost
always arson.It’s horrible and
depressing and no way to spend a day.
The only thing worse is flipping around the
cable news channels, like Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.They are as predictable as they are hyper-partisan.And just when I think it the network
hosts are the most insufferable, unbearable people on earth, they prove me
wrong by showing the talking-head idiots and buffoons who are the Congress of
the United States, which is the scariest thing of all.These people are in charge? God help us all.
To get away from it all, I have found myself
reading more.Books have become my
refuge.I finished the Steve Jobs
biography I had started weeks ago, then quickly polished off Frank DeFord’s breezy memoir, "Over Time: My Life as a
Needing my golf fix in some fashion, I made my
way to the wall-to-wall bookcase of golf books that dominate my home office.I’ve got hundreds of golf books, most of
them sent to me by publishers, ranging from instructional manuals to travel
books, novels to biographies, collections of stories and essays to 20-pound
coffee table picture tomes – great stuff and trash that should have never
Right away, I dove into John Updike’s literate collection
of essays, "Golf Dreams," for what must be the 10th
time.I took another run at "Golf in the Kingdom," the
cult classic that I have never understood, appreciated or been able to finish,
for that matter; once again, I got bogged down pretty quickly.
I started rereading another of my favorites, "The Fine Green Line," the
account by Wall Street Journal golf scribe John Paul Newport on his year-long
effort to make it to the PGA Tour.If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.Newport, a Texan with a Harvard degree, is
such a wonderful writer the book is impossible to put down.
I read a few chunks of "My Usual Game," the
delightful collection of essays by David Owen, who writes for Golf Digest and
The New Yorker.Owen has such a
light touch I am jealous.I’m also
spending time with a book Owen co-edited, "Lure of the Links: Great Golf Stories," with everything from formal treatises by Bernard Darwin to
modern-day stories by Jaime Diaz, Dan Jenkins and Rick Reilly.
One book in particular caught my eye, Michael
Bamberger’s memoir, "This Golfing Life." Bamberger, of course, is the senior
writer for Sports Illustrated who lives in Philadelphia.He also happens to be a friend of mine,
dating back to our days together at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
I don’t recall "This Golfing Life" getting much publicity or fanfare when it came
out in 2005.That is a shame,
because it deserved better.I am
enjoying it again, page by page.Bamberger is one of the best golf writers of his generation, and his
knowledge of the game, the golfing scene and the people who inhabit it is second
Bamberger knows everybody and he’s been
everywhere.He wrote two books
about his time caddying, for crying out loud: "The Green Road Home," about
the PGA Tour, shortly after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania; and "To the Linksland," about his time on the European Tour, which he wrote with his
then-bride, Christine, in tow.
Truth be told, I figure into one chapter of
"This Golfing Life."It’s the
chapter about his years at the Inquirer, which he joined shortly after the
publication of "The Green Road Home."I wasn’t the golfer writer at the time but I was known around the office
to be a golfer, so they gave me the book review.
As Bamberger tells the story, my review was
very close torip-job, and it was
published just as he was interviewing at the Inquirer.He worried that my review might cost him
a job offer, which it did not.Later, after he had joined the Inquirer
and we had become friends, he called me out on the review.
"You ripped me," he complained.
"Ah didn’t rap ya,"
he recalls me saying, mocking my Southern drawl."Ah, lukewarmedya."
Even if that anecdote wasn’t in the book. "This
Golfing Life" would still be worth the price of admission.
No matter how fast I read, the stack of golf
books next to be reading chair seems to grow.Next up is "America’s Gift to Golf," a
collection of golf writing by the peerless Herbert Warren Wind.
I also intend to reread John Feinstein’s
memorable account of a year on the PGA Tour, "A Good Walk Spoiled." Next time you’re in a bookstore and see
that book, check out the blurb on the jacket cover: If you plan to buy only one golf book this season, A Good Walk Spoiled
is the one – The Philadelphia Inquirer.
I wrote that sentence as part of a review of
about a half-dozen golf books that all landed about the same time one
year.They’ve run that blurb on the
cover of "A Good Walk Spoiled" ever since.For years, whenever I would bump into Feinstein at a golf tournament, he
would thank me and say, "The check is in the mail."Yeah, sur.So far, no check.
you look today, Augusta National and
chairman Billy Payne are being
heralded for finally inviting two women to join the vaunted host club of the Masters.
is all fine and good.I’m sure
former Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice and South Carolina financier Darla
Moore will be wonderful additions to the club.They are certainly everything Augusta National was looking for in a
couple of, well, dames: accomplished in their careers, very proper, very rich,
comfortable in world of the Old Boys’ Club, and the kind of golfers who know to
pick up their ball when they lie 8 in the fairway.
if you ask me, this all comes just a little bit too late.I think the damage to Augusta National’s reputation is
unfortunate thing is, Augusta National
has worked so hard in so many respects over the years to be a good and proud
corporate citizen.They conduct the
Masters with the kind of precision and
eye for detail that is unmatched by the USGA, the R&A or the PGA of
the TV viewer, they keep TV commercials to a minimum.For patrons at the tournament, they keep
the tickets, the sandwiches and the beer artificially cheap.For the players, they keep the field
small and uncluttered and the perks unbelievable.For the good of charity, Augusta National gives millions and
millions of dollars to worthy organizations that need the money.
from a selfish standpoint, for the media, they give you the finest media center
in the business and they give you run of the clubhouse.I cannot overstate the guilty pleasure
of lingering over lunch on the balcony of the Augusta National clubhouse, enjoying a simple turkey club, sweet
tea and the peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream
the irony and shame of this whole membership dust-up.Members of Augusta National, as you can imagine, tend to be men of wealth, influence,
intelligence, conscience and pride in their sense of civic duty.Look no further than two members:
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and
Comcast chairman Brian Roberts.
is precisely because these men are who they are that I have found it so
confounding for the past 10 years that they so steadfastly refused open the
membership to women as a matter of principle.
kidding whom?They did it because
they could.They did it to demonstrate
that nobody but nobody was going to push them around -- nobody was going to
strong-arm or shame them into opening their doors to anybody they didn’t want.
the point of bayonet" is how former club chairman Hootie Johnson put it back in 2002, when he was resisting pressure from Marta Burk to embarrass Augusta National into inducting a
Hootie and Augusta
National made their point back then, but that what cost?Well, at the cost of painting themselves
into a corner.By waiting so long,
by showing everybody who’s the boss, they’ve managed to damage their brand in
year a the Masters, Augusta National wanted to talk about
their considerable and noble efforts to grow the game among poor kids and in
impoverished counties around the world, which was fine. But they got snippy and
irritated when the media started asking questions about elephant in the room. It
was almost surreal, and it surely wasn’t the kind of demonstration of PR crisis
management you expect from guys at the helm of America industry.
Billy Payne and Augusta National is moment in the sun.But face it, when the eyes of the world
were on them – eyes that included their own daughters, granddaughters and
young people looking for some wisdom, -- they handled it clumsily.