When the sun rose on me this
morning, I was in Scottsdale, where
I’ve come for a four-day Golfweek rater’s
If you rate golf courses for
the magazine, every two or three years you are required to attend one of these
gatherings – they stage several a year, in golf destinations all over the
country – where you meet other raters and discuss and debate what makes a
good golf course.At least I think
that’s what happens; I’ve been a rater for four or five years now, and this is my
I picked this week’s retreat
in Scottsdale because I like it out
here, and because I enjoy desert golf.Very different from the kind of courses we have in Philadelphia, or the kind of courses I grew playing in North Carolina.I’m good for about one week of sand and
cacti, however, before I develop a yearning to see green trees and green grass
somewhere other than on a golf course.
Most of yesterday was spent getting
here, using US Air miles to fly
first to Charlotte, connecting to Phoenix.Flying used to be fun.Now it is awful.Both flights were overbooked, nary a vacant seat.I had planned to do some work on the Charlotte-to-Phoenix leg, but that idea
went out the window as a soon as some guy who was about 6-foot-5 and weighed
maybe 290 squeezed himself into his seat and about half of mine.
I’m a little antsy about
today’s round.Of the 30 raters
here, more than half come from warm weather climates like Arizona, Southern California, Texas, Nevada and Florida.Those guys (there’s one woman on the list of raters)
are no doubt in mid-season form, whereas I am exactly one large bucket into my
So I will step onto the
first tee shortly after noon today with pasty-white legs and without the
foggiest clue of where my first tee shot is going.As I was zipping up my golf travel back, it occurred to me
to toss in an extra dozen golf balls.
Despite the potential for
shanks, skulls, worm-burners, chili-dips and outright whiffs, I am
excited.The dawning of a new golf
season is always a beautiful thing, made all the more beautiful this year by
this exotic locale.
A few weeks ago, I got an
email from Ryan
Gingrow, teaching pro at Whitford Country Clubin Exton.In addition to his PGA pro stripes, Ryan holds
a degree in journalism from Penn State, where he did a little sports writing during his student
That’s why he was contacting
me.He was interested in doing
some writing.We talked about him
writing up a few tips, but he has done that before and, frankly, he wanted to
stretch his writing muscles.I
proposed he write a series of columns, or essays, on life as a teaching
pro.He was game.
I just posted his debut
effort.Check it out.I think you’ll enjoy it.If you have comments or questions, let
him hear them.
Considering how much all of
us wanted to see Tiger Woods grant
his first interview, how come those two last night left me feeling so...empty?
Maybe the five minute limits
made it feel so rushed and incomplete.Maybe it was that the questions, being fairly predictable, made his
answers feel so rehearsed and predictable.Despite the best efforts of Kelly Tilghman on Golf Channel and Tom Rinaldi on ESPN, both interviews felt to me like Tiger was mouthing the words of some
statement he might have been posted on his website.
On a positive note, it was
nice to see Tiger back in golf
attire, appearing reasonably relaxed and comfortable, smiling at times.
Thing is, after watching
both interviews, I’m still not sure whether Tiger is sorry for what he did or just sorry he got caught.
Both interviews were so controlled. Does this mean he wonít take non-golf questions at the Masters? Thatís if he even does any interviews at the Masters.
[3/22/2010 7:43:11 AM]
It seems that both interviewers had a list of questions on various topics. The time limits restricted follow up questions. For example, I would have asked about the deal with Menís Health. How could Steinberg not know the details of why TWís contract with Golf Digest was broken? What about his long time friend and employee of his foundation, Byron Bell, arranging for travel to Australia for Rachel Uchitel? What about the investigation of his doctor who visited him after his knee surgery?
My golf season officially
began today.I hit my first bucket
I was out in the yard, clearing
away debris that had been under the snow, when it dawned on me that I was
wasting the first perfect Saturday afternoon of the year – not to mention
the first official day of spring – on a yard project that could wait.
I took off my work gloves,
grabbed my clubs and headed directly to the driving range, passing two courses
full of golfers along the way.The
range was packed.I got a large
bucket and found an open mat at the far end.
There is no getting around
the fact that I am getting older.While
was pretty good about
hitting the exercise bike the over the winter, I did almost no stretching.I paid the price this afternoon.
My muscles felt like old,
dry rubber bands.Trying to get
loose, I did that exercise where you hold a club straight out with both arms,
then twist back and forth like Chubby Checker. My body didn’t want to
twist.I tried to touch my toes
but I’m not sure if I cleared my knees.I did a couple of squats to stretch my legs and both knees popped like another
kind of large bucket with butter.Everything hurt.
After a few minutes, I
realized it wasn’t going to get any better and that I might as well hit a few
balls and see what happened.I
started with a few half-swing wedges.
The good news was, I didn’t
whiff, shank or top a single ball.The bad news was, my body felt like an old jalopy, where the guy is
turning the key and the car is going aaannnhhhaannnnhhhaaannnnhhh, but it won’t
As I worked my way through
the bag, from PW to 8-iron, to 6-iron, it felt a little better.But the first shot with 4-iron was thin
enough to send vibrations and a shooting pain up the shaft and up my arms.
Finally, the big dog had to
hunt. I unsheathed the
driver.There was a time in my
golf career when I could hit tee shots 285 yards or longer, when I caught
was a time...
Now, I tend to rejoice when tee
shots are airborne and reasonably straight.If they go semi-far, that’s a bonus.
As the bucket of balls
dwindled to the last few, I was quite pleased; but I’ve learned not to get too
optimistic about these false-positives.Over the years, I have discerned a pattern:My first few buckets, and my first few rounds, go very well,
causing me to foolishly raise my expectations. I begin to wonder: Could
this be my year?
No, it couldn’t.Without fail, several rounds into
the season, some swing flaw rears its ugly head. Sometimes it’s minor,
sometimes it’s major.Either way,
That’s okay.For all the bad things advancing age
may be doing to my body, it does wonders for my perspective about what truly
matters in life.
Are you trash talking, Cole? All I can say is, bring your A-game and your checkbook to our annual vacation showdown.
[3/24/2010 3:52:42 PM]
Maybe it means this year you will par #18 at The North River Club
[3/22/2010 7:47:19 PM]
Dad, Iíll go golfing with you only if I can drive the cart and make snow angels in the sand trap. Sound like a plan?
[3/22/2010 8:22:09 AM]
Brother dear, I only hope that you continue to play and enjoy the game into your mid 80ís as our dad did. How he played wasnít as important as being outside on the course with friends.
The Muni Golfer
[3/21/2010 8:25:52 PM]
I hit my first bucket of balls last Thursday evening. I too felt really tight from the winter, so I took it easy and didnít feel as bad as I thought I would. Never hit the Driver though. Think Iíll go to the range a few more times before I even think about stepping onto the course.
If you expect to see Tiger Woods turn up on Larry King or Oprah’s couch or even say much more about --well, you know – at the Masters, don’t count on it.
Judging from comments in Sports Illustrated this week from his
newly-hired PR crisis management advisor Ari Fleischer, former press secretary
for President George W. Bush, Tiger won’t be spilling his guts for a
"public cleansing" any time soon, maybe ever.
"Obviously what Tiger did was horrendous in his
personal life," Fleischer told Jon Wertheim for an item on Scorecard.
"But he's under no obligation to tell anyone the details about it. I
believe he should draw a line in the sand between his golf and private matters.
Being in public life doesn't mean you have to succumb to the overwhelming
curiosity factor that permeates everything in our society."
Can’t wait to see how this all
plays out at the Masters.
So it’s not just me who
thinks this talk of Tiger making his
big return at the Masters is crazy.
Nice guy Steve Stricker,
who is a friend of Tiger’s, says as
much here.And now comes a column
echoing that sentiment from Scott Michaux, straight out of the hometown Augusta Chronicle.
Michaux’s angle is that Tiger’s Return
would drown out and all other stories at the Masters.He’s right,
it would, and that is absolutely the last thing Augusta National Golf Club wants.
The Masters is unlike any other tournament on the circuit.It’s like going to visit at your creepy
old great aunt’s house, where everything is pretty and nice and has a place but
where you’re afraid to sit on the furniture or make too much noise or track mud
on the carpet.You’re glad when the
visit is over, but not nearly as glad as your creepy old great aunt.
The thing is, Tiger knows this.So does his agent, Mark
knows it better than Tiger’s chief
PR guy, Glenn
Greenspan, former longtime PR guy for Augusta National and the Masters,
until he hired was hired away by Tiger’s
company about two years ago.
Knowing full well that Augusta National does not want Tiger’s PR fiasco dumped in the middle
of their annual rite of spring, I’ve got to believe that there will be some
kind of "media opportunity" before the Masters.
Given the late date, we’re
down to the Tavistock Cup, the Arnold
Palmer Invitationalor maybe
some kind of sudden appearance on Oprah’s
couch.But I’m telling you, if
he Tiger rolls down Magnolia Lane without having diffused
the media heat a little, he will be the only four-time winner in the history of
the Masters who is about as welcome
as four days of rain.