When I got the call a couple of days ago from
his daughter-in-law that Jim Sykes had died, I couldn’t help but think back
over the 16 years I’d known him.
I liked Jim.He was a no BS guy.He’d tell you what he thought, whether
you wanted to hear it or not.He
and I spent more than a few hours together, hanging around GAP events, walking
golf courses, on the phone.He even
took me to Pine Valley, where he was a long-time member, a couple of
times.What’s not to like about
Up until the time he moved into a retirement
home, Jim and I lived in adjoining suburbs and we’d bump into each other at the
shopping center from time to time.Those meetings took on new meaning after he retired as Executive
Director of the GAP in 2000.We’d
catch up, gossip about GAP and about golf, and he would describe his new life
as a retiree.He missed being in
That’s because Jim Sykes was the ultimate
pro.Years ago, when I was trying
to figure out the proper balance for covering the national golf scene (i.e.
Tiger, Phil, et al) and the local golf scene (GAP, WGAP, Publinks),
I would often seek out fellow my golf writers at other big-city metro papers to
ask how they did it.
I’d go on for a few minutes about all the GAP
did and the time and space that the Inquirer devoted to their events.More often than not, I’d be met with a
blank stare from my fellow scribes.They’d shake their head and say, "It’s not really an issue for me
because we’ve got nothing like the way you describe GAP."
GAP is a very special organization, pretty much
in a league of its own among local and regional golf associations.For that, Jim Sykes deserves and
enormous amount of credit.That, to
me, is his proud legacy.
The last time I spoke to Jim was two or three
months ago.I was writing a column
for the Global Golf Post about the GAP Team Matches and I wanted to mention the
one year GAP was forced to cancel the Team Matches because of the late snow,
1994.I figured he would remember everything.
I reached him in his retirement village in
Audubon, where he and Sue had moved not too long before.He complained a little about his
health, but his mood was good and his mind was sharp.Sure enough, Jim had instant recall of
every detail I needed. I wasn’t surprised.I also wasn’t surprised when we gossiped
for another 20 minutes.
Jim Sykes has earned his place in Philadelphia
I can’t wipe the grin off my
face this morning. Yesterday, 11
weeks and a day since undergoing left hip replacement surgery on July 31, I
played my first full 18-hole round.Ah, the marvels of modern medicine.
My score (87) was
irrelevant.What matters is that I
felt great, I had no pain and I could make a decent pass at the ball, including
the necessary but worrisome rotation of the hips.
On top of all that,it was an perfect fall day and the
company was excellent:Jeff
Silverman, golf writer and a veteran of double- hip-replacement himself 11
years ago, who advised and counseled me throughout my own hip odyssey.
Until now, I had only played
two nine-hole rounds and hit balls a few times.I went to the range on the eight-week
anniversary of the surgery, but after a a bucket, I
realized I was pushing it.I waited
another week and tried again.It
was a little better, but I still feared asking my new titanium hip to do more
than it was ready for.This healing
business takes time.
Two weeks ago, 10 weeks
after going under the knife, I went out for my first nine holes with one of my
regular golf buddies, Tim Black.It
went well, and my swing felt good, but I was pooped after nine and ready to
call it a day.
I played my second nine one
day last week, when I looked up my computer and realized it was another clear,
crisp fall afternoon.I jumped up
and headed to the course.That also
went well, but again, nine holes was all I was ready for.
Yesterday, I was determined
to go the full 18, and I’m glad I did.I got tired toward the end and I limped a little the last few holes, but
that was okay.Another 18-hole
round is in my near future.
I write this to share my own
progress, obviously, but I also write to encourage anyone else who might be
hobbling around on a bad hip or knee, potentially facing the same decision Jeff
and I faced.
Joint replacement surgery
and the weeks of recovery are no joy ride, that’s for sure. But the alternative
is living in constant pain, and living a very restricted life.I’m glad I did.Faced with the same circumstance, I’d do
it again.Slowly but surely, I’m
getting my life back.
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.