Season two of In Play with
Jimmy Roberts on Golf Channel kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. with a look
at architect Gil Hanse and his
struggles to build the golf course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"It’s the opportunity of a
lifetime," says Hanse, who based in
As segment makes clear, the project
is also the headache of a lifetime.
Everything Hanse ever learned about designing and
building courses went right out the window in Rio, where he has fought all
manner of delays beyond his control, from environmental restrictions to local political
in-fighting to disputes over who owns the land.
At one point, the segment shows
a handful of workers clearing the land with chain saws and machetes
because...well, because you have to use what equipment is available.Last year, when his invoices were going unpaid
for months, Hanse had to threaten shut
down the project and go home, if the money didn’t start flowing.
Now, all 18 holes have been
laid out and shaped, but it’s still a race against the clock to get the course
grown in and ready to host a pre-Olympics event, as is required of all Olympics
venues, from ski slopes to volleyball courts.
There are also segments on
the history of golf in the Olympics, a sit-down interview with NASCAR’s Jimmie
Johnson on how golf has helped his racing career, and a look at burn victim
Michael LaBrie’s passion for golf.
I come before you today a recharged
and revitalized man.Or, as
they said about Richard Nixon in 1968, "tan, rested and ready."
That’s what a dead-of-winter
golf trip to a warm and sunny clime will do for you, and I have recently
returned from one:a weeklong sojourn
to the Dominican Republic, where I and three golf pals played seven rounds in
seven days.I did,
anyway.They played more.After our official pro-am round each
morning, they grabbed lunch, then played another nine or 18.I, on the other hand, called it a day
golf-wise after the morning round and retired to the pool for a dip & sip
– I’d cool off in the water, then rehydrate with a couple of rum-fueled thirst-quenchers
called a Casa de Campo.
At night, we would go out to
yet another open-air restaurant, where we’d review the day’s competitiion as my teammates ate steak and I gorged myself on
seafood until I could barely waddle out the door.When we weren’t reviewing or plotting
strategy for the next day, we’d be checking our iPhones for news and weather
That’s why I didn’t post a
word while I was down there.While
it’s freezing in Philadelphia, who wants to hear about the niceties of my golf
C’mon, when I read about
other people’s golf trips, or when they subject me to their golf-trip yammerings, I mostly want to punch them in the face.I want to hear about your golf trip like
I want to hear about your gastric bypass.
But I’m back home now,
wondering why I am back home now, bitching about how damn cold it is and how I
was throwing it in there tight on the 7th at Teeth of the Dog, against
the ocean mist, only a week or so ago.I was sweating, for crying out
I only mention all this as a
reminder of what a fabulous thing a winter golf trip to a hot place is, if you
can swing it.
Rosaforte getting a lifetime achievement award at this point
in his career is sort of like Phil Mickelson getting inducted into the World
Golf Hall of Fame – it’s well-deserved and everything but the guy is
still in the middle of his career. He’s got more achieving to do.
"Rosie," as his friends call
him, is the hardest working guy in golf media.When I first met him in 1996, he was
primarily a writer for Golf World, having earlier covered golf at the Palm
Beach Post.Rosie was beginning to
make his earliest forays into TV.You’d see him around all day, dressed like the rest of us golf scribes, then
poof, he’d be in a tie and sport
coat, heading over to the Golf Channel booth to do a little commentary.Rosie has had that Yul
Brenner look for as long as I’ve known him.
Nicest guy you’d want to
meet – just like he comes off on TV.Friendly, earnest, no-bull.The players like and respect him, and so do his colleagues in the media.
In the years since those
early TV appearances, Rosie has morphed into one of the most familiars face on
Golf Channel and, now, NBC, both owned by Comcast.
For a long-range project I
am working on, I have been spending some time recently with Gil Hanse, the Malvern-based golf course architect who is
designing the 2016 Olympics course in Rio de Janeiro.
When it comes to golf courses,
I know what I like but I don’t know diddly squat
about designing them or constructing them.It’s fun to listen to Gil describe the process.
He said two things the other
day that I had never thought about but they make perfectly good sense:
If the property allows for
it, Gil prefers to start each course he designs with a three-shot par 5.
"It gives the average golfer
a chance to miss a shot and still make par or bogey," he said."For the good player, if they are not
property warmed-up, they walk off the green with a 5, or, god forbid, a 6, and
they are kicking themselves. Architecturally, at that point, you’ve got them a
little bit.But conversely, if they
make eagle or birdie, they have jump-started their round."
What you don’t want is a
reachable two-shot par 5, which could result in golfers standing in the
fairway, waiting, on the first hole.Not the way to start a round.
Instead of a blog full of my
predictions for the coming year, how about what I’d like to see happen golf-wise
in 2014?Here goes...
-- Tiger Woods finally win
his 15th major, preferably the Masters.I’m tired of waiting; we’re all tired of
waiting.It’s time for Tiger to get
back to the business of threatening Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles
(and six green jackets).Besides, if he wins in Augusta, it could set the stage for an exciting
summer of majors.
-- Phil Mickelson win the U.S.
Open at Pinehurst.It’s the one
major he doesn’t have, and the one he needs to complete the career grand
slam.Phil would become only the
sixth player in history to win all four majors, joining Tiger, Nicklaus, Ben
Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.After all his near-misses in the Open, Phil
winning the Open would be the feel-good story of the year.
-- Vijay Singh come out the
loser in his lawsuit against the PGA Tour.Not because I have any great love for the PGA Tour, but because I always
thought Vijay was a grump to deal with.In his suit over deer antler spray, which seeks millions in damages, Vijay
has managed to throw a few peers under bus and reveal himself to be the
narcissist we always knew him to be.
-- Rush Limbaugh quit
golf.As a political moderate, I
find Rush and his radio show to be objectionable.Okay, odious.I’m also concerned that his well-known
addiction to golf hurts the image of the game.Every time I make the argument that golf
should not be stereotyped as an elitist, country club sport, up pops that image
in my mind of Rush chomping a giant, phallic cigar.
-- My own game improve
sufficiently to get my handicap back to a single digit.For years, my handicap hovered
from 3 to 5, thanks to copious amounts of golf due to my job description. I took pleasure and pride in playing the
hardest courses I could find, and from the back tees.Then it all went south.I hit my late 50s, then my early
60s.I lost distance, confidence
and, eventually, hope.Just when I thought
my game had hit rock bottom, I found out I needed a new titanium hip, then six
months later, another titanium hip on the other side.Now, my handicap is 12, and that’s from
two tees forward.I don’t like
it.I don’t want it.I’m embarrassed by it.I won’t be so greedy (or delusional) as
to think I can get my handicap back down to a 4 or 5, but is 9 asking too much?
-- Michelle Wie win her first major.Against all odds, Wie
has turned out to be a first-rate player on the LPGA Tour and a first-rate young
woman.When I was following her
around golf courses a decade ago, I had her pegged as a future can’t-miss burn-out
case, ruined by fame and pressure.She
has come through it all better than I expected, even earning a degree from
Stanford while she played the LPGA Tour. She is now grounded, well-adjusted and,
by all appearances, happier.I like
the Michelle Wie of today a lot more than the
Michelle Wie of then.
-- Another effort at
Philadelphia getting a regular PGA Tour stop.With the Open at Merion, the world got another
demonstration of what a great golf city this is.Granted, Merion isn’t interested in
becoming an annual tour stop, but there are plenty of other worthy clubs that would
be. Unfortunately, I’m not hearing
-- Sean O’Hair revive his
career.O’Hair, the West Chester
resident and 2005 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, has struggled for the past
couple of years, falling so far last season he had to re-qualify for the Tour
this year.O’Hair is too young, and
he has too much talent, to continue spinning his wheels forever.
-- The Cobbs
Creek restoration project come to fruition.For months now, the city, prodded
by the Friends
of Cobbs Creek, has been poised to announce that
the restoration (paid for by private money) is actually going to happen.The wheels of progress grind slowly, but
they do grind.
-- Something, or somebody,
infuse new life and new pizazz into the PGA Tour.This kid Jordan Spieth is fun to watch, even if he more white bread than
Wally Cleaver.But on too many
non-major weeks, Tour fields are filled with guys I couldn‘t pick out of a
police lineup.(See: Sony Open in
Hawaii).They are mostly blonde,
with taut bodies and tight clothes (I did spot a few schlubs
at the Sony), and have perfect swings and perfect teeth.
-- The U.S. pull out a victory
in the Ryder Cup.I’m probably
kidding myself here. As much as I
like the idea of Tom Watson as captain of the U.S. squad, the man cannot work
miracles.Forget what it
looks like "on paper."The problem
is what it looks like Sunday night "on the leaderbord."The Europeans are too good, they want it
more, and they will be defending the Cup on home turf.
-- The sun go down on the
golf course more often this year.To me, the absolute best time to play golf is in the late afternoon, when
you’re trying to get in that last hole before dark. This year, whenever possible, I
plan to shut my laptop, grab my sticks and walk a quick nine before dinner,
often solo.You cannot beat the
fresh air and exercise – and it does wonders to settle your mind.
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.