My hopes and dreams of a
balmy December came to a screeching halt over the past 10 days, as we got hit
once, twice, three times with snow.It’s snowing as I write this.My 2013 golf season, I’m
afraid, is over.
That leaves me no
alternative but to fill some of my idle time by banging out a series of
end-of-the-year blogs about my Year in Golf.Today, I start with:
Favorite Round of 2013:Let’s face it, this was not a banner year for me in golf.Thanks to two surgeries (see previous
blog post), I only played about two dozen rounds, and three of those were
9-hole outings that I mostly hobbled through.
I did team with my longtime
friend and regular golf partner Jack McMahon, the well-known defense attorney,
in a couple of early-season club tournaments, shortly before the pain in my hip
became unbearable.We didn’t win
jack----, owing mostly to the fact that I limped and whimpered and generally
stunk up the joint.I was so bad
that Jack was embarrassed for me, which is saying something, if you ever saw
In April, I played a very
enjoyable round at Glen Mills with Jeff Silverman, a
golfer writer pal; Eric Stake, a mutual friend and gentle soul who is a
psychiatrist; and Gil Hanse, another pal and international superstar golf
course architect.Here is a
video I shot that day of Gil discussing the 2016 Olympics golf course in Brazil
that he is designing.
But for my favorite round of
the year in 2013, I’m going to go with the day I spent playing with my son
Travis, my daughter’s boyfriend Quinn, and Quinn’s dad, Mike.It was a lazy Sunday morning in
September.The weather was ideal,
and so was the company.Travis and
I were guests of Quinn’s at Philadelphia Cricket’s Militia Hill course.
Travis, who has never taken
golf as seriously as I do, was just back from a year-long deployment in Kuwait,
with the Pennsylvania National Guard.It was my first round with Quinn, who enjoys golf, but, like Travis, doesn’t
seem lose any sleep over a bad shot or a lousy round.Other than one dinner together, it was
the first chance I’d had to spend any time with Mike, a partner at a big Center
City law firm. Travis and I
rode in one cart; Quinn and Mike rode in the other.
None of us played all that
well, and none of us seemed to care.Travis was rusty; I was still recovering from hip replacement
surgery.I’m sure Quinn and Mike
would have plausible excuses, if I asked them.
Of course, the day wasn’t
really about golf; it was about spending time together, about getting to know
each other better and about appreciating the hands that life has dealt us.The older I get, the more those become the
reasons I enjoy golf so much.
I couldn’t tell you what I
shot that day.I had a birdie on a
par 5, and a handful of pars, but I also had an "x" or two on my card.Travis must’ve lost a half-dozen balls,
which is not easy to do on the wide-open Militia Hill course.Did he care?Not a bit.He’ll drop one and hit a mulligan in the
blink of an eye.If Travis, hits
three or four good shots during a round, he’s happy.Over in the other cart, Quinn and Mike
were having just as much fun.
After the round, we headed
to the clubhouse for a beer and to watch the tail end of the Eagles loss to the
Chargers.We must’ve talked for an
hour or more and I don’t think the round we had just played ever came up.Mike told us all about how he got drafted
out of law school and sent to Vietnam.Travis regaled us with tales from the front lines in Kuwait, where his
shift in a guard tower began at 4 a.m., but he did find time to win a ping pong
tournament. Quinn and I mostly
When it was time to part
ways, Mike was off to his home in Chestnut Hill.Quinn and Travis left together for
Center City, where they both live, and I headed home to Ambler.As I drove, I remember thinking, hey, that
was one great day of golf, even if I didn’t play well.
Before I could get home, my
cell phone rang.I was my daughter,
Kelly."Sooo?" she asked."How did it go?Did you have fun?"
I don’t know about you, but I am watching the
weather forecast very closely these days.Please, please, golfing gods,
grant unto us another day of decent golfing weather.Or two.Or three, at the risk of getting greedy.
Here in the Northeast, December is the month
that can go either way.We’ve all
seen Decembers that were extensions of late October and November – cool
and crisp, but also clear and completely golf-able.We’ve also seen Decembers that were
snow-covered and frozen and of no use whatsoever to any golfer with designs on sneaking
in a few more rounds.
I hate those Decembers, and I’m hoping this is
not going to be one of them.As of
this moment, I’ve got my eye on Thursday, Dec. 5, when for now the forecast says
it’s going to be cloudy, with a
high of 57.I can work with that.
I’m particularly antsy to get in another round or
two this December.I’ve got some
serious testing to do.Regular
readers of this blog know that I underwent my second hip replacement surgery in
June, making for a 2½-month layoff from golf.
With great fanfare – at least in my own
mind, if not in the minds of my golf buddies – I made my return to in
late September/early October.I
felt good and invigorated, even if my swing didn’t look good or invigorated.Thing is, I was healed, more or less,
but it’s hard to trust your swing when you know you’ve got titanium parts
clanking around inside you, even if they don’t make a sound.
The ugly reality was a slow-motion swing with a
hip turn that groaned like the raising and lowering of a drawbridge at a Medieval
castle.I didn’t so much turn on
the ball as I made some pathetic swaying motion, like a grandpa trying to dance
with the bride at her wedding.
"You’re all arms, you’re not turning," my golf
buddy Tim pointed out one day.
I sighed with resignation."I know."
The net result, of course, is that I couldn’t
hit the ball out of my shadow.I’d
bust a drive as well as I could bust it and I’d still be 40-50 yards behind
where my tee shots landed only a year ago.On approach shots, I was coming up at least a club short, sometimes two
clubs.Clearly, I’d lost swing
speed.The question was, would I
ever get it back?
That question was still hanging in the air when
a visit to my family doctor confirmed what I already suspected:I had a hernia.He sent me to a surgeon.
I was standing there in the surgeon’s examining
room, trying to maintain my dignity with my trousers down around my ankles, when
he announced his findings:
"You don’t have a hernia," he said. "You have a double hernia.Both
Fabulous!Two hips, now this!
My final round.Or was
I played what I figured was going to be my
final round of the year on Sunday, Nov. 3, the day before hernia surgery bright
and early the following morning.Despite the horrifying videos on YouTube that I never should have
watched, hernia surgery turned out to be a piece of cake compared to the
hips.There was almost no pain (a
nod here to something called a "pain pump" and to Vicodin)
and in little time at all, I was up off the couch and swaying around the house
like grandpa rockin’ out to a Barry White CD.
Still, any kind of serious exertion was out of
the question, so for my golf fix I had no choice but to gorge myself on Golf
Channel and take to the internet.It was during one of my marathon internet surfing sessions that I stumbled
across a set of irons I had fancied a year ago -- on sale, $400 off the originalprice.True, they were last year’s model but
then, so am I.
It was easy to rationalize the purchase.For one thing, even if I didn’t really
need a new set of irons, they were $400 off.I mean, c’mon. But the main reason, the real reason, is
I had decided it was time for me to downgrade from the stiff shafts I’ve played
for 45 years to regular shafts.Why deny the obvious?My
swing speed, like the newspaper industry I worked in for 35 years, simply ain’t coming back.
Four days later, I had a new set of irons that
I could admire and grip but couldn’t swing just yet without doing serious
damage to my nether regions.
A new day, a new December
But that was a lifetime ago, even if,
technically, it was only three weeks ago.Now I have clearance from my surgeon to make my triumphant return to
golf for second time in a single season.Again, with my pants down around my ankles, he announced his findings: Looks
good, very good.He meant the
I was cleared to resume normal physical
activity, including golf, so long as I wasn’t a dumbass about it.
"Go slowly," he counseled."Listen to your body."
Okay, my body is telling me I need to break in those
new irons.My body is telling me
that the golf season is not over.My body is telling me it is ready to sway like a grandpa until the bride
begs off to take a breather.
We’re talking about golf, people.We’re talking about life.Onward and upward.Just don’t be a dumbass about it.
I am one of those people who
is old enough to remember where they were and what they were doing 50 years ago
today, when President Kennedy was assassinated.I was 12, in the 7th
grade at Bridgers School in Tarboro, N.C.
We were in the middle of
class when the principal appeared at our classroom door and somberly told us
what had happened.He only offered
the barest details because that’s all he knew.We sat there dumbfounded, silent,
scared, the teacher included.Nobody
knew what to think.
Moments later the bell for
recess rang and we all filed out the door, headed for the playground.Instead of the usual organized
activities, we stood around, talking in small groups, wondering what it all
meant for us kids and for the country.The only other time in my life I have felt remotely like that day was on
Sept. 11, 2001.The look on my
daughter’s face when I picked her up from school was a reminder of the uncertainty
and fear I felt on Nov. 22, 1963.
In those days, there was no
CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Facebook, Twitter or internet, for that matter.The news and every possible spin on it wasn’t
in your face every moment of the day.Times were simpler.I don’t
think I even knew the difference between a Democrat and a Republican, a liberal
and a conservative. I just knew
that the president of the United States had been shot and killed and that the
entire nation was grieving.
I hope we never have to go
through anything like that again.
When MyPhillyGolf first launched in
July 2009, I used to nervously check the traffic stats every day, sometimes two
or three times a day.Were people
finding us?Were they coming
back?Were we growing?
It eventually became clear
that we were developing a loyal, if smallish, audience.We weren’t growing by leaps and bounds,
but we were growing steadily and surely.In 2011, I can remember wondering if we had a chance to reach the
benchmark of 500,000 page views,
then 750,000 page views.Last year, in 2012, we hit a new
all-time high for us, 1.2 million
I went into 2013 with my
fingers crossed that we’d reach 1.5
million page views, a respectable increase.By mid-summer, it became clear we would
surpass that, thanks to the bump in traffic around the U.S. Open at
Merion.In the past couple of
months, when post-Open traffic didn’t plummet, I began to hold out hope that
we’d reach 2 million page views by
the end of 2013.
We didn’t have to wait that
long.Last night, when I took one
of my occasional peeks at the traffic stats, MyPhillyGolf had logged 2,080,116 page views, 541,743 visits and 4.2 million hits – an all-time record for us, with six weeks
left before 2013 is in the books.
For a regional, niche
website, devoted to golf in and around Philadelphia, those are significant
numbers.I’m happy, proud and
grateful to the regular readers and advertisers of MyPhillyGolf.
If you have ever taken a photo tour of one of
the 175 golf courses (and counting) in the Bausch Collection, you
must have wondered how Joe Bausch manages to play a round of
golf and shoot upwards of 140 photos of
every hole, from every angle.
I’ve got your answer right here, in a video I
shot Saturday, when Joe and I played Trump
National – Philadelphia, along
with Bill and Renee Vostinak, from Allentown, who are
fellow course raters for Golfweek.Bill, an orthopedic surgeon, and Renee, rode in one cart.Joe and I rode in the other
– well, I mostly rode while Joe
shot photos from tee to tree.
There is a minute or so montage of Joe doing his thing, followed by a
four-minute interview at the end.
It’s good to see Sean O’Hair making some noise
again.In his first two tournaments
in the new wraparound 2014 season, O’Hair has made two cuts, finishing T-26th
($35,500) at the Fry.com Open and T-15th ($87,150) this past week at
the Shriners Hospital for Children Open.
Just a few weeks ago, it wasn’t at all clear
that O’Hair, who lives in West Chester with his wife and four kids, was even
going to be on the PGA Tour for the 2014 season – not after a dismal ’13
that left him 170th in the FedEx Cup standings, a tumble that potentially
could have cost him his PGA Tour card.O’Hair was so low, so lost, he told the Global Golf Post that he
wasn’t sure he wanted to continue playing the Tour.
To keep his card, O’Hair, the 2005 Rookie of
the Year and a four-time winner on Tour, was forced to play in the
four-tournament Web.com Tour playoff series that has replaced Q-School as the
ticket onto golf’s big stage.
O’Hair began that quest by asking his
father-in-law, Steve Lucas, to return as his caddie.It was Lucas who was on the bag when
O’Hair made it through Q-School in 2004.He stayed on for O’Hai’s stellar rookie and
beyond, before eventually returning home to run his small insurance
agency.Nobody knows O’Hair or his
game better than Lucas, who is a member of the Executive Committee of the Golf
Association of Philadelphia.
At the first tournament of the ’14 season, two
weeks ago the Fry.com Open, AP golf writer Doug Ferguson caught up with O’Hair,
He lost confidence in his swing. He suffered what he called an identity
crisis on the golf course.
''I forgot myself as a player, how I swung and how I played,''
O'Hair said. ''And then taking that on the golf course, I almost forgot how to
act and how to think. I really just got to a point where I just kind of was blank
out there and lost my fight. Anything you could possibly do wrong, I did wrong
this year. I just had to take a step back and had to first ask myself, 'Do I
really want to do this anymore?'''
So far, the results are promising with Lucas by
O’Hair’s side.At the
Fry.com, he shot 65 on Saturday.Last week at the Shriners, O’Hair shot 66 on Thursday and 63 on
Saturday.Equally important, there
were no blow-up rounds, which had become a problem for the past year.
At the Shriners, after his 63, O’Hair was asked
about having Lucas back on his bag:
Yeah, he just makes me real comfortable out
there. Every round of golf I play away from the PGA Tour, I play with
him. He knows my game better than anybody out there. It's just
comfortable. He talks to me when I'm playing bad, and he kind of gets me
pumped up and ready to do. When I'm playing really well, he keeps me
calm. That is what you need out here. I think a good caddie is more
of a psychologist than anything.He
has been a great help for me and I wouldn't‑‑ I
definitely wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be back on Tour, without him.
At a golf dinner a few
nights ago, I sat next to a guy who runs a daily fee golf course at the Jersey
Shore.We touched on a couple
of topics that I thought you might find interesting:
When a course has recently aerated its green and/or fairways, what obligation
does it have to give golfers a heads-up before a round.
dinner companion believes that it’s not necessary to post a warning, front and
center, on the course’s website, or at the cash register in the pro shop.But if somebody asks point-blank before
plunking down their credit card if the course has recently been punched, he
believes honestly is the best policy.
other words, no need to go out of your way, but don’t lie or mislead. Same thing applies when a course has,
say, lost a couple of greens is or undergoing a significant maintenance project
that might affect the enjoyment of a round.
I agree with everything he said, but I think courses ought to go one step
further.On the phone, or
in-person for walk-ups, tell them about aeration/maintenance projects, even if
they don’t think to ask.Just a
friendly oh-by-the-way mention is plenty.If a course has a monthly newsletter, let regular customers know that
me, the logic is obvious and simple:If a daily fee course fails to give golfers fair warning, they
absolutely have it coming if those golfers march into the pro shop after the
round and announce, "Don’t expect to see me back here anytime soon.And I’m telling my friends why."
private clubs, the same rules don’t quite apply.For one thing, the pro shop is more
likely to give members a heads-up in its regular emails. Members of a club also tend to be more
familiar with the rhythms of the annual course maintenance, plus they are less likely
to go play elsewhere during an aeration.
line: There is no such thing as too much information.
-- That same course operator was unsettled recently
when a golfer, hot under the collar, came into the pro shop after his round and
began to complain about the pace of play out on the course.
course operator apologized and even offered to give the guy a replay for a later
date.But that wasn’t enough for
the angry golfer and he began making demands that the course operator found
unreasonable.That’s when the
angry golfer began to threaten to go on the internet and trash his course on
he do that?" the course operator asked.
he can, rightly or wrongly -- at least he can on many websites.
internet has given us all the ability to weigh in an virtually every topic and
every issue in the world, but it has also created something of a lawless, Wild,
Wild West in certain corners of cyberspace.Unfair, unsubstantiated, revenge reviews
(and overly gushy ones) by readers have been around for a while on websites
that review restaurants, hotels and travel destinations; now they are coming to
the comparatively civilized world of golf websites.
the case of MyPhillyGolf, I’ve been lucky. When
somebody posts a comment or review, I get an automatic email alert. I can give it a quick read and if I
decide it is distasteful or profoundly unfair, I can nix it.I can count on the fingers of one hand
the number of times I’ve had to do that since we launched in July 2009.
problem is far worse on websites with millions of daily visitors, where reader reviews/comments
are coming in by the hundreds, even thousands.At dinner that night, a woman at the
table knew of an angry traveler who exacted revenge on a hotel by going on a
major travel website and accusing them of having bed bugs.
Lately, I’ve been reading that websites
such as Yelp, the giant of the restaurant industry, are stepping up their
policing of reader reviews/comments.Good, they need to.Personally,
when evaluating reviews/comments, my rule of thumb is to toss out the highest
highs and the lowest lows.Go for