PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS
Ron Romanik 
The new rule Tiger really needs
Thursday, April 18, 2013
By Ron Romanik

All this Masters talk about Tiger’s illegal drop was about the wrong rule change. I propose a new rule: The expansion of the "interference" clause of Rule 435-3.3.6e.t (decision 242-6, sub 4.2). Don’t look for it in your copy of the rules. It’s not there.

 

Yet I ask: Why should Tiger be penalized for being too good, too accurate? The flag and the pin are the problem!

 

Of course, at Augusta National, it’s advisable to aim away from the pins more than on any other golf course on the planet. But that’s a divergent point to the thesis here.

 

In many other sports, "interference" by an unnatural force is often remedied with a "do-over." A piece of trash whipped by the wind interrupts a pitcher’s move to the plate, a power outage occurs right before the snap of the football, a loud noise distracts tennis players during a point. The referees in all of these situations might call "time," and give the players the option of a do-over, or even mandate a do-over, for fairness.

 

Let’s be honest, the flag and pin are unnatural elements of a game that promises a communal return to carefully cultivated nature. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that any good fortune be removed along with the bad fortune of hitting a pin. Let’s just be grateful for the occasional good luck while we eliminate an extremely rare, but potentially devastating negative influence, on the competition. If you hit the pin, you get the option of a do-over. It’s your choice.

 

Believe me, I am under no delusion that this rule would make it very far with the R&A or USGA.

 

Let’s try another tack

 

An even better solution doesn’t require a rules change, only a change in tournament policy, if you’ll stay with me. It’s still debatable, I’ll remind you, whether it’s best to leave the pin in on a chip around the green. To me, it’s not whether you think you can make it when you take out the pin. It’s more that you feel the shot will be under control and you won’t need help from an off-chance, runaway "backstop."

 

Nevertheless, over the years, some have argued that there is a reason Ben Hogan didn’t have as many holes-in-one or eagles from the fairway. He wasn’t aiming at the hole. The argument is that he was so accurate that he was actually hitting the ball to a spot where he would have the easiest putt for birdie. On average, that would usually be an uphill or flat putt, short or to one side of the pin. Ben even admitted that on one hole at a U.S. Open, he purposely left the ball short of the green so that he’d have an uphill approach putt/chip.

 

Similarly, there have been reports that sometimes Steve Williams was purposely deceptive with Tiger. Steve claims he "adjusted" the yardages to pins in order to give Tiger the best chance to get it close. Even at the height of his powers, Tiger’s marginal lack of distance control led him to over-shoot a few pins. Who knows, Williams might have even reduced the yardage on a short-iron approach so that Tiger would have less chance to hit the pin and get into trouble on the ricochet.

 

There’s another story I recall from the inter-webs some years ago that backs this up, but I can’t seem to locate it today for the life of me. (Please, if anyone can find it, email me at ron@romanik.com, and I’ll insert the link into this article.)

 

The story went something like this (details sketchy): Tiger’s warm-up session at the 2005 Open Championship at St. Andrews was particularly sharp for the final round. Steve Williams even thought of mentioning it as a potential liability on the course, as he watched Tiger target, and hit, the second "0" on the 100-yard marker repeatedly. When Tiger did, in fact, hit a pin on the outward nine and suffered a frustrating ricochet, Steve mentioned his pre-round thoughts. Tiger (understandably?) was a little peeved at Steve.

 

An easy way out

 

The best solution then, I posit here, is for Tiger to have his caddie run up ahead to the green and remove the pin on all shots inside 100 yards. But would that be enough? Or maybe 150 yards. Or maybe 200 yards. Or... oh, never mind.

 

In the interest of time, I don’t see why a dedicated marshal at each green couldn’t be the "designated pin remover," signaled with a hand or arm signal from the fairway when any player (not just Tiger) wants to play his shot ricochet-risk-free. Problem solved!

           

Sad to say, this propensity for pin ricochets is yet another reason that the U.S. Open at Merion GC will be an especially hard place for Tiger to win. I’ve already explained Tiger’s difficulty with par-70 courses. But the pin thing may be even a bigger obstacle to overcome. Not only might the wicker-basket-topped pins at Merion prove to be a ricochet obstacle, but the pins themselves are also thicker, more rigid poles than common pins. Not only will they be easier to hit for Tiger, the ricochets will be much more pronounced. Or maybe by then he’ll decide to aim away from pins the way Hogan did, or take a few yards off the number like he did on his second approach to No. 15 at Augusta.

 

Twitter: Follow me @RonMyPhillyGolf. Looking forward to updating followers frequently at the #usopen at #merion.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand, packaging and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.

 


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Ron Romanik 
Wall Street Journal claims golf didnít miss Tiger. Wha?
Thursday, April 11, 2013
By Ron Romanik

I read an odd article in the Wall Street Journal this week. Well, that statement in itself is not a shocker. Maybe I should say... a humorous article, instead. Unintentionally humorous, and those are the best kind.

 

What was surprising was that it was about the business end of the PGA Tour, and the headline was: "Tiger Woods Is No. 1 Again, But Golf Hardly Missed Him."

 

It seems the writer, one Matthew Futterman, was given the task of arguing that the PGA Tour did quite well, thank you, while Tiger recovered from injuries physical, emotional, spiritual, etc., etc. Ratings have been rising, revenue has been rising, all without Tiger. That’s interesting, but funny as well.

 

And, furthermore, you might want to know, the reason the PGA Tour did so well without Tiger was the confluence of the sage wisdom of PGA Tour senior executives, the savvy of the Austin-based GSD&M advertising firm, and the luck of having the right bright new stars win at the right time. Huzzahs all around!

 

There are so many points patently off-mark in this article that I won’t bore you with all of them here. The funniest part of the article, though, is that the writer uses stats, facts, and charts that make one argument quite compellingly—that would be the opposite argument.

 

And this might make you chuckle: "Defying predictions, the post-Tiger collapse never happened..." You might even belly laugh when you notice that the chart they provide shows average CBS final round viewership went down over 30% from 2009 to 2010, when Tiger was pretty much out of commission.

 

Okay, so there wasn’t a revenue "collapse," per se, but total revenue growth was almost flat from 2007 through 2010 after a nearly 10% increase from 2006 to 2007. But who can say what the growth might have been in an alternate universe?

 

In addition, the writer seems to be under the impression that Tiger just came back to competitive form a few weeks ago at Bay Hill. The article remarks at how final round viewing was up pretty dramatically in 2012 over 2011. News flash: Last year Tiger had nine top tens and three wins, and two of the wins were on CBS, whose data they reference.

 

The recovery from the down year of 2010 could, in fact, be just as easily traced to the gradual reemergence of Tiger on weekends. But the article posits that an ad campaign begun in 2010 called "Vs." saved the tour with stars-to-be Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, and Dustin Johnson. And, somehow, Keegan Bradley’s PGA Championship win in 2011 was pivotal.

 

"Golf had found a new story to tell," the article goes on, "and with the economy recovering, sponsors and television partners were ready to listen." It was a nice story, amusing even, but one ready for its own collapse had not Tiger reemerged.

 

And to finish off on a completely self-contradictory note, the writer first claims that Tiger probably isn’t making as much money these days (which is sad, what with those lost sponsors and all), but then closes with a quote from Woods’ agent saying he is getting a lot more endorsement calls these days. Stick to one storyline, please!

 

Ah, the media... trying to create angles that just aren’t there using numbers quite selectively. In my snooping around on the inter-webs, I found another funny claim, this one made in the June 9, 2011, issue of The Economist, in an article entitled "Beyond Tiger."

 

The article claimed the Tour was "thriving" in 2011 without Tiger because (prepare yourself!) "The average prize money for a PGA Tour event nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, from $3.3m to $6m." Haha, as they say mockingly in the texts these days. Now, I wonder, what was responsible for that increase?

 

Twitter: Follow me @RonMyPhillyGolf. Looking forward to updating followers frequently at the #usopen at #merion and sharing incredibly insightful (?) comments tuning into the #Masters.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand, packaging and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.


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Ron Romanik 
Tigerís problem at Merion
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
By Ron Romanik

 

I’m not the first to point this out, but it bears repeating. Tiger’s advantage over mere mortals is lessened on par-70 golf courses, especially in the majors. This is why I don’t predict a win for Tiger this June at Merion.

 

Let it be duly noted: This is the first time I’ve ever underestimated Tiger’s ability in any realm, situation or scenario. It will probably be the last. Not because he’ll win, but because once-in-a-lifetime is all the risk I can take betting against Tiger.

 

Nevertheless, the facts back up the argument. Tiger’s biggest separation from the field comes from medium to long par-fives. Eliminate two of those par-fives, and you’ve taken away some of his advantage.

 

More accurately, it’s the number of par-fives, not the total par for the course, that makes the difference. It’s a fine distinction that is often moot, because most par-70 courses have four par-threes and two par-fives; par-71s usually have three par-fives; and par-72s usually have four par-fives. There are, of course, anomalies. The Carnoustie Golf Links, for instance, has three par-threes and only two par-fives to make 71—for the Open Championships, at least.

 

Ken Venturi may have said it best a few years back: "If every course was made up of 18 par-fives of 580 yards, Tiger would win every tournament."

 

Of course, that advantage has been on the decline, on average. But when Tiger has his "A game," there’s no denying his dominance of the par-fives. According to the Golf Channel, from 1997 to 2003, Tiger led every year in the birdie-or-better percentage on par-fives. In 2000, he shot birdie or better on 62% of the par-fives he played. He’s now averaging about 50% in that stat.

 

Length with accuracy is surely the primary factor, but so is Tiger’s exceptional short game. Even at 600-yards or over, Tiger can get it on the green or close, and then his short game takes over.

 

Remember how pivotal the par-five 12th at Doral was in the overly ballyhooed Tiger/Phil duel in 2005? Tiger was consistently around the green through the week, and on Sunday, Tiger was the only player in the field to hit the green on the 603-yard hole. With a 295-yard 3-wood to the back of the green. And he made an easy birdie. Easy from that point!

 

The best way to neutralize Tiger, truth be told, would be a course setup that would force Tiger to hit approach clubs similar to the field into all the greens. He would still have a statistical advantage, but players with hot putters would be more of a threat.

 

In the hypothetical, and in the logical opposite to Venturi’s hypothesis, that would mean 18 holes of 150-yard par-threes. In more practical reality, a Tiger-neutralizing setup should have only two par-fives of medium length, four short- to medium-length par-threes, and as many sharp doglegged par-fours as possible, as long as there is no way to cut off the corner.

 

The most effective Tiger-proofing to date was probably The Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2007. The setup "pinched in" the rough on fairways at the landing area of the longer hitters. This made using driver a poor risk/reward equation for them on those holes, and they often chose 3-woods—and less—even on long par fours.

 

Plus Carnoustie, as mentioned, had only two par-fives in its par of 71. Tiger finished five shots back, in a tie for 12th, even though he was 50% on birdie-or-better on the eight par-fives that week—and five-under with three birdies and an eagle.

 

More evidence of the par-72 advantage is the courses where Tiger has won seven times. Yes, they’re all 72s—Firestone, Doral, Bay Hill, and Torrey Pines. (For those about to object: Yes, Torrey Pines North and South both play to par 72 when it’s not a U.S. Open venue.)

 

Which brings us to Bay Hill. Through the first six par-fives in rounds No.1 and No. 2, he was 7-under. He was back on his rate of 67 percent on par-five birdie-or-betters. After a poor par-five performance the Friday back nine, he closed out the tournament by going eight-under on the eight weekend par-fives. Nothing to it. For 2013, he’s at 64.3 percent on birdie or better on par-fives.

 

But it’s okay if he doesn’t win at Merion. He’ll have his fifth green jacket from the par-72 Augusta National Golf Club by then. Bet on it.

 

Twitter: Follow me @RonMyPhillyGolf. Looking forward to updating followers frequently at the #usopen at #merion.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand, packaging and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. His full bio is here.

 

 

 


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Ron Romanik 
Hereís hoping Stacy Lewis has a long run at No. 1
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
By Ron Romanik

Here’s one person that hopes the reign of Stacy Lewis at No. 1 on the Rolex Rankings is a long one. She’s fun to watch and fun to listen to. Even during hardship. Her caddie Travis Wilson cost her a two-stroke penalty on the 16th hole on Saturday, but Stacy took it all in stride.

 

"We’ll be fine," Lewis said twice Saturday night, assuring the pressroom that she wasn’t going to let the penalty affect her Sunday game.

 

 "I haven’t shot my low number this week." Saturday, after rounds of 68, 65, and 66 (without penalty). She shot 8-under 64 on Sunday.

 

 "I just say to the viewer that called in: Thanks for the motivation," she said greenside, after winning the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup on March 17, without any spite.

 

"I just wanted to play well for Travis today. This win is definitely for him." In the pressroom Sunday night, relieved that things went their way today.

 

"It’s got a nice ring to it," Lewis added, on being the new No. 1 on the Rolex Rankings.

 

As Stacy Lewis herself humbly admits, she’s an unlikely candidate for the No 1 Female Golfer in the World.  At age 11, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, and in high school, she underwent spinal fusion surgery that inserted a rod and five screws into her back.

 

Resilient as she is, Stacy fought hard on Sunday, which turned into a dogfight between Lewis and Ai Miyazato for the first 15 holes. One player would make birdie or two, and the other would respond. The biggest swing came, however, on the same hole that cost Lewis the two-stroke penalty on Saturday. Still behind by one going into the hole, she found a fairway bunker again, albeit this time on the opposite side of the fairway.

 

On Saturday, caddie Travis Wilson entered the bunker and appeared to test the depth and condition of the sand. Truth be told, I’m not the strictest rules hound around, but I saw his actions as a potential penalty right away. I’m not saying it was intentional, but intention only matters if you whiff a shot and you’re the only one that knows if you meant to hit the ball. For most other rules, intention is moot.

 

Rules officials brought the situation to Stacy’s and Travis’ attention in the scoring area, and they all reviewed the tape together. Stacy accepted the penalty without much protest. Quite the contrary; she used the incident to stoke her competitive fire for extra motivation.

 

So, on Sunday on the 16th, another dramatic turn of events came to pass. Stacy hits a remarkable shot out of the fairway bunker to birdie range. Ai, on the other hand, inexplicably yanks a wedge off a perfect lie in the fairway far left and ends up with a double-bogey. Lewis makes the birdie for a three-shot swing, and a two-shot lead with two to go extends to three up with another birdie at 17.

 

The only thing she didn't do on Sunday was finish with a birdie, but she gave it a nice run on a downhill slider. It would have been nice symmetry, to start down by four and win by four with a 63, but a 64 was more appropriate for another poetic justice reason. At the beginning of the week, Travis tried to up Stacy’s mojo with a new ball mark—a shiny silver vintage quarter. The year? ’64.

 

Free Drop

 

Well-known is the trend of Asian female golfers taking over the rankings on the LPGA Tour (37 of the top 100 are Korean), but the PGA Tour is telling a slightly different story. All 12 PGA Tour events in 2013 have been won by U.S. players. Last year, U.S. players won the first nine events on the PGA Tour. For whatever that’s worth. As they say: That and a silver quarter might get you a cup of coffee.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand, packaging, and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. Ron’s bio is here.

 

 


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Ron Romanik 
Timesaving tips for everyone
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
By Ron Romanik

 

I’m here to help. Being an expert on golf matters as you and I fancy ourselves to be, it’s often hard to be silent when you overhear someone discussing a golf topic without the proper context. A sentence that a friend or acquaintance says catches your ear, or you’re minding your own business eavesdropping at a department store, and your ears perk up. Even at the virtual water cooler of the Internet, or by an actual water cooler at work, you cringe at first. But then you feel obligated—nay, compelled—to try to enlighten the unenlightened.

 

You usually leave the experience feeling like you’ve helped—but have you really? You’re most likely wasting your time.

 

I was similarly enticed to action last Friday night when, half paying attention to the Nightly News, Brian Williams did a short segment on Rory McIlroy withdrawing from the Honda Classic. I was shocked, or amazed, that the managing editor at NBC News would think many citizens would care. Then I thought: "Well, it is Friday night, and they’re not above showing YouTube cat videos on a Wednesday, after all, so..."

 

Brian Williams alerting me to this Earth-shaking development was the first I’d heard of it, so I went online to check if there really was a "controversy." I was surprised, and amazed, to say the least. IMHO, there are a lot of important things in this world, but this was not one of them. Pro golfers WD quite frequently, truth be told. Okay, Rory could have explained himself better to his fellow competitors, but that’s about all I’ll concede.

 

On the interwebs, it seemed that there was a majority of golf experts and part-time dentists whose response to Rory’s toothache echoed the 1970s Cheech and Chong comedy bit: "Earache, My Eye!" On top of that, you know, Rory sold his soul to the devil—er, Nike.

 

Instead of getting into a discussion of character and a silly comparison to things Tiger has done (he’s done worse.), just say: "Meh, he’s young."

 

So, here are my timesaving tips for addressing golf topics that you might overhear in the coming weeks.

 

The enticement: That "Bear Trap" at the Honda Classic is like Nicklaus’ version of Amen Corner.

 

The response you feel compelled to make: That’s an interesting observation. To me, it seems a bit too contrived to mimic Augusta National’s Amen Corner, where dramatic turns of events happen all Sunday long at The Masters. At the Bear Trap (holes 15, 16, and 17), there are mostly bogeys on Sundays. And since this tournament moved to PGA National in 2007, the Bear Trap stretch hasn’t affected the outcome in any significant way on Sunday afternoon, even though the plaque (see picture) quotes Jack as saying: "It should be won or lost right here." And, furthermore, a moniker like that is one that others bestow on you, not one you tout yourself with a plaque (see picture) and an eight-foot-high statue.

 

The timesaving response #1: If there were actual bears—or alligators—guarding the greens, that might be dramatic.

 

The timesaving response #2: If it’s not in Wikipedia, it’s not a real thing—or dramatic.

 

The enticement: Donald Trump is going to blow up Doral.

 

The response you feel compelled to make: Well, not really. He says there are significant changes afoot, and that’s his prerogative. But it’s a shame that the PGA Tour’s idea of drama is to make most tour stops have water guarding the fairways and greens on the last four or five finishing holes. This may create drama for the casual TV viewer, whom the Tour wants to draw in, but not for true golf enthusiasts, who are somewhat put off by this trend. Some of the greatest golf courses in the world have no water hazards at all, like Oakmont and Winged Foot West. In the end, this is all you really need to know: Trump wants to turn the par-three 15th hole at Doral into an island green. I’m not completely sure he respects the traditions of the game.

 

The timesaving response: Trump’s a jerk.

 

The Enticement: Do you think the Tiger/Phil rivalry will be reignited at this year’s Masters?

 

The response you feel compelled to make: Well, you know, Tiger and Phil actually haven’t gone head-to-head very frequently. I doubt that either of them would characterize their relationship as a rivalry. The one time they did "rival," so to speak, was at Doral in 2005, and it produced some high drama. On Sunday, Phil would make a move with a birdie and Tiger, playing in the group behind him, would answer in turn. Tiger won that bout in four rounds.

 

The timesaving response: Trust me on this. Tiger does not waste any mental energy thinking about Phil.

 

The enticement: Chis Berman is always fun, even when he does golf.

 

The response you feel compelled to make: It seems that with the connections and seniority he has, Berman will be around for a long time. He’s a fan favorite for the enthusiasm he brings to his love of sports, and it’s infectious when he’s talking about football or baseball. Golf, however, requires a more measured enthusiasm to convey the subtleties of the game and the nuanced challenges that a professional golfer faces under tournament pressure. But, just like the Pope, apparently Berman can’t be forced to retire from golf announcing.

 

The timesaving response: Chris Berman is clever; but you are less so.

 

The enticement: Did you hear the TSA is going to allow golfers to carry two clubs onto planes? Which would you carry?

 

The response you want to make: Well, you know, many pros keep their favorite putter so close at hand that they are not above buying an extra plane ticket so the club has a seat of its own. It’s not so much which two clubs would be the best to play a round if you had to play with only two clubs. That’s a scenario that almost never happens. It’s more about which two clubs would be the most un-replaceable should they get damaged down below in cargo. The most likely response to the two-club question would be the putter and driver. For me: driver and ball retriever.

 

The timesaving response: Kim Kardashian really looks good pregnant.

 

The enticement: That picture of Hogan’s follow-through on the one-iron swing to win the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion on a bum leg is epic, isn’t it?

 

The response you feel compelled to make: That wasn’t... it didn’t... the year was... he had to play... the bus accident was... he didn’t make birdie... he didn’t have to... he was healed, but in pain... there was a three-way playoff... he had to wrap his legs... it might have actually been a 2-iron... you can see the golf ball... he hit a perfect fade to a back right pin...

 

The timesaving response: Yes, it is.

 

I must admit, a guilty pleasure of mine is reading the Comments sections below online news or feature articles. I’m amazed at how passionately people feel about the most unimportant things. But I guess the commenters are engaged in a sport of sorts, and a form of playground one-upmanship, though no one is keeping score, and no one ever wins.

 

Oh, and if someone still wants to press you on Rory’s withdrawal, ask them how they can estimate how much pain he was in and, for the record, how many times they themselves have cut a round of golf short prematurely.

 

You would probably fall over if that person said: "No Comment."

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand, packaging, and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. Ron’s bio is here.


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Dave[3/6/2013 12:37:10 PM]
Chris Berman always fun? I donít think so. Every time he comes on the screen, I reach for the remote.

Ron Romanik 
Is it time for a U.S. Shamateur?
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
By Ron Romanik

The "Hungover Caddie" column in Golf Digest is less than two years old, but it has elicited some strong reactions from the magazine’s readership. An Editor’s Blog by Bob Carney on the Golf Digest website provides a sampling of the responses.

 

In the blog, Carney admits that some attempts at humor are not for everyone, and that those who just don’t "get it" should choose to refrain from reading future columns. The column has a head shot picture but no byline, suggesting a bit of anonymity for the eponymous caddie. Carney notes, though, that Staff Writer Max Adler is "responsible" for the column each month, indicating more than a modicum of editorial oversight.

 

There are two reasons for bringing up the Hungover Caddie on this blog. First, the column is an ambitious attempt at mixing commentary and fiction, etiquette advice and humor, honesty and attitude that often leaves one pondering a formerly taken-for-granted belief or attitude. It is unapologetically frank, edgy, and funny.

 

Secondly, one recent column illustrates all the above points and makes a strong argument for a pretty radical policy change in USGA rules. In the January 2013 column, Hungover Caddie recounts the fictional story of two golfers trying to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Am. The story examines the fate of longtime amateur Dr. Scratchet, whom we are introduced to as he tries to drown his sorrow after just missing qualifying by choking on a two-footer to remain in the playoff for the last spot open for the Mid-Am. His nemesis, one Vinny Whacker, is a reinstated pro.

 

You can probably see where this is going. The Hungover Caddie states it plainly: "To give a pro his amateur status back is to throw a lion among the lambs." To the magazine’s credit, the Hungover Caddie takes time and column inches to air arguments on both sides of the debate.

 

But the point of the entire story hits home when the Hungover Caddie slaps you with a reality check: "In 2013, half the field at the U.S. Mid-Am will be guys who once played to cash checks." After conceding that it’s a complicated issue, he concludes by suggesting the USGA create a separate tournament, only for reinstated amateurs, called the US Shamateur.

 

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, one-sided blog rants are not my style, so I think there’s valid arguments on both sides here. Finding a compromise would certainly be a challenge.

 

One thing I can add is my own personal experience about a decade ago, when I was a semi-competitive amateur. A few times, standing around the leaderboard, I’d ask about the about-to-be-crowned winner: "Where did he come from?" When I got the "He’s a former pro" answer, the conversation would end there, somewhat abruptly. It was as if: "’Nuff said." Though I never witnessed any overt resentment to former pros, and my own feelings were mixed and not particularly strong, I’d imagine many fellow competitors had some unspoken reservations about a less-than-pure amateur taking the spotlight away from a 100% amateur. Of course, I suspect that I might have different feelings if, like the fictional Dr. Scratchet, I’d been edged out of some glory by a not-so-amateur player. I’ll let you know when that happens.

 

For whatever reason, only a few Hungover Caddie columns are available online, even for logged-in Golf Digest subscribers. Here are a few you might want to sample, however:

 

A cautionary tale about beginners playing St. Andrews.

An "educational piece" on caddie signals.

A fictional apology letter to a club’s board.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand, packaging, and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. Ron’s bio is here.

 


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Rpn Romanik 
Hereís a bar bet you can win
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
By Ron Romanik

Well, maybe there’s never been a safer bet than Alabama in the 2013 NCAA Football Championship Game. But this one comes close.

 

It’s the type of idle 19th Hole conversation that can turn ugly if someone doesn’t rein in their testosterone and realize their own physical limitations. A boast, then a challenge, then a bet ensues before calmer heads prevail. Don’t get caught on the wrong end of this one, though.

 

Every golfer has had this feeling. Frustrated on the tee of a 120-yard par-three, you drop a few extra balls and after five pitching wedge swings, you still can’t find the dance floor. You think: "I would do better just throwing the ball around the golf course." That may be true if your handicap could be confused with an IQ score, but stop yourself from the next thought progression: "I would certainly be straighter, and could reach a 120-yard par-three with one throw."

 

Ahem. No, you can’t. Probably not even close. If you hear someone claim this at the 19th Hole, chime in with the dollar amount you believe you can extract from that person.

 

This bet has a few other variations, such as: "I bet I could break 90 by just throwing and rolling the ball around the course." If the course is over 6, 400 yards and the fairways are not rock hard, you should jump at the other end of that bet, as well.

 

If you’re a nice guy, however, you might want to make sure that the fellow you’re betting has good health insurance, because his shoulder might never be the same after that round. It’s safer to throw a football as hard as you can, because at least the football has some mass to slow down the arm release.

 

One of my dear memories from playing golf in my youth was during a high school match at the Berkshire Country Club in Reading, PA. I was, most likely, losing my game as I trudged off the 18th tee and down the fairway in the fading light of a late autumn dusk. My spirits were brightened when a good friend on the opposing team, whose game had been completed, joined my on my trudge carrying a ball and a wedge.

 

His name was Rich Delucia, and he was a very talented athlete. As I recall, he was throwing one- and two-hitters left and right for Wyomissing High School as an underclassman, and he had a seemingly effortless ease with a number of other sports, golf included.

 

Rich always gave me a chuckle. He was soft-spoken and polite on the surface, but underneath simmered a mischievous, insubordinate streak. He knew he had talent, but he rarely drew attention to himself for its own sake.

 

The 18th at the Berkshire is a short, narrow, straightaway par-four. I was likely left with a 100-yard shot after a three-wood tee ball. As we passed the 150-yard plate in the fairway, Rich tapped the plate with the iron end of his club, tossed the ball lightly in his right hand, and said: "I bet you I can throw it on the green from here." I blurted out: "No way!!"

 

Having tried to throw a golf ball myself on a golf course once or twice before, I knew there were limitations. I don’t believe I ever made it to 100 yards. However, I also knew Rich had a golden arm. And I knew he probably wouldn’t have made the claim if he didn’t have a reasonable chance of backing it up. I think we settled on five bucks for the wager.

 

Now, you can’t see the surface of the 18th green from the fairway, but if you clear the shallow front bunker, you’re on. If it was 150 to the center, then it was probably 140 to clear the bunker.

 

By the time he started getting his step-and-a-half windup going, I figured I was probably going to be out five smackers, but I thought with a little hope: "When a professional MLB pitcher tries to throw his heater at his best 95 mph speed, sometimes it only pops at 90."

 

He glanced around to see that he didn’t have an audience. What was more astonishing than him winning the bet was the way his throw took off—and rose into the air—like an eight-iron. How the heck did he get that much spin on that little ball? The next thought I had was: "If his dad saw him do that, he’d probably wring his neck."

 

I secretly hoped Rich didn’t jeopardize his major league baseball career with stunts like that, but it was a fun trick nonetheless. And he didn’t after all. Rich pitched nine seasons in "The Bigs," going 12-13 in his first season as a starter before later transitioning into a middle reliever.

 

It’s truly humbling when you see real, raw talent like that up close.

And yes, some pro golfers are athletes. Paul Casey, tossed a ball on the green of a 132-yared par-three during the 2011 Telus Skins Game in Alberta, Canada. A Brit, Casey grew up playing cricket, so he know his capabilities. The real power in the throw—just like a golf swing—seems to come from the timing of the weight transfer to the left side.

 

Ron Romanik is principal of the brand and PR consultancy Romanik Communications (www.romanik.com), located in Elverson, PA. Ron’s bio is here.


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