It is intended to be an
occasional essay whose purpose is obvious from the title.Let me be the first to admit that I
totally appropriated the idea from Esquire
magazine, which years ago had a similar feature called, "Why I Live Where I
Live," featuring essays by some of my favorite writers.
To get "Why Play Where I
Play" started, I cast out a line to several well-traveled golfing friends.Steve
Shaffer, a semi-retired lawyer and hopeless golf addict, was the first to
take the bait.He dubbed himself The Vagabond Golfer.
There are many reasons to
favor a certain golf course or courses.Quality, conditioning, price, proximity, the status of the club or
course, difficulty (or ease) of the course, friendly staff and tasty hotdogs
are only a few.For some golfers, "Why
I Play Where I Play" no doubt boils down to force or habit or lack of curiosity
about what else is out there.You
might have different ideas of your own.
While I will seek out "Why I
Play Where I Play" columns from golfers I think you might enjoy reading about, the
feature will only reach its full potential if ordinary readers of MyPhillyGolf also get
into the spirit.Half the fun of
being a golfer is talking about golf and golf courses.
All it takes is 500 or so
words.If you can write,
terrific.If you’ve got a good
story to tell but you’re not so confident of your writing skills, I can help
you with a little editing and ghostwriting.
One of my biggest goals for MyPhillyGolf is to
help create sort of a virtual golf community in cyberspace."Why I Play Where I Play" can help.
The Haverford, of course, is mostly, if not all, all about the hard, cold cash.That’s the way Haverford
Trust founder and vice chairman George
Connell wanted it when he began the tournament 14 years ago, in 1997.
was to create a tournament in which, say, a young assistant pro could make more
money in one day playing golf than he could all year working in a pro shop.
Past winners include a Who’s Who of local club pros, including
George Forster, head pro at Radnor Valley CC,
in 2008; Dave Quinn, head pro at Links Golf Club, in
2001 and 2005; and Dave Roberts,
assistant pro at Cedarbrook
CC, in 2002.
Last year, Travis Deibert, an assistant pro at Commonwealth National
GC, won in a play-off against Brian
Kelly, head pro at Bucknell GC,
collecting $40,000.What made Deibert’s victory all the more compelling is that he was soon to be
For golf fans, the Haverford is spectator-friendly.You can walk the course and follow your
favorite pro, or you can do like most people and hang around at the 18th
green, watching guys come away with high hopes or busted dreams.
For as long as I have looked
at old photos and news reels from an earlier era of golf, I’ve wondered about
the difference between those old hickory-shafted clubs of yesteryear and the
high-tech armaments have enjoy today.Now I have a pretty good idea.
On Sunday, to commemorate
the centennial anniversary of the 1910 U.S. Open at the Philadelphia Cricket Club’sSt. Martin’s
course, the club invited members and a handful of guests to play nine holes using
authentic equipment from back in the day.
Nobody had to rummage
through attics or yard sales to come up with the equipment.It turns out there are companies
that rent out the stuff, like Play
Hickory in San Diego, which shipped
the Cricket Club two crates full of bags,
clubs and modern day versions of the old Bramble ball.
To make day feel even more
authentic, quite a few of the 50 or so members participating went to the
trouble to dress up in the garb of the day.
How did the old clubs
play?Not nearly as bad as I
My feather-light canvas bag
came with six clubs:a brassie, a small-headed fairway wood
with about 15 degrees of loft; a long
iron with the loft of a 2 or 3 iron; a mid-iron
with the loft of about a 6-iron; a mashie
niblick, which approximated an 8-iron; a niblick, which was sort of combination PW and SW; and a simple
None of the clubs had
anything like the heft of today’s equipment, and the grips were simple wraps of
leather.The ball, which had
convex dimples, felt like any harder rubber ball.
From my first swipe of a tee
shot with the brassie, it was obvious
this was going to take some getting used to.The hickory shaft had the whip of, say, today’s senior
shafts, only without the consistency.But the more noticeable difference was the torque.You could actually feel the club head
twisting during the downswing.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take
long to get a feel for the clubs and adapt my swing.The key was maintaining an even tempo.
On my first tee shot, I teed
the ball too low and hit a bit of a worm-burner foozle.On my next tee shot, I over-compensated
and hit a shallow pop-up.But by
three holes into the nine, the brassie
and I were on the same page -- I was nailing tee shots.
Of course, "nailing" is a
relative term.I don’t think my
best effort went more than 200 yards, even when the shot felt solid.
Come to think of it, the
short irons took more getting used to.No shot with the niblick
seemed to fly true or consistently, and I never quite got the feel for
I came away with two
double-bogeys, four bogeys and three pars.The highlight of the round was definitely the 30-footer I
snaked in from the fringe.I’d
definitely do it again.
Suddenly, the prospect of
him playing in the AT&T National
goes from questionable to likely.
At Monday’s press conference
at Aronimink, Woods promised to
defend his AT&T title, if he had
returned to action after the neck injury that forced him to pull out of the
final round of the Players
Championship last week.
Now, with a diagnosis that
requires only soft tissue massages, rest
and anti-inflammatory medications, Woods says he expects to tee it up in
the Memorial Tournament,
beginning June 3.
That’s almost a month before
the AT&T National the week of June 28-July 4.
During his press conference for AT&T National, Tiger Woods cleared up one rumored
factoid once and for all:He has
never played a round of golf in the Philadelphia area.
"I have not," Woods said,
when asked directly."No, I have
not.This is the first time."
"This" being the AT&T National (July 1-4), assuming
he is back to playing by then.Tiger
did not play a round of golf during Monday’s media day.
Having never played here is curious,
almost inexplicable, considering how well-traveled Tiger is and we have two of the Top 10 courses in the world in our
back yard, Merion GC in Ardmore and Pine Valley GC in Clementon, N.J.
Other great golfers have
made time for Merion and Pine Valley when they were in the
area.I remember a few years ago
at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship
at Bulle Rock, Annika Sorenstam mentioned that in the days following the tournament, she
intended to play both.She
couldn’t miss the opportunity while she was in the area. And she did play both of them, and she
What makes Tiger’s failure to make the time for Merion and Pine Valley all the more curious is his professed respect and love for
classic courses, which certainly describes both.And considering the history of Merion and the mystique of the cloistered Pine Valley, you’d think his curiosity would have gotten the best
And heís a golf course designer too. I guess playing the top rated course in the world and a perennial top 10 course couldnít be fit in to his busy schedule back in the day. Now, he has more time as his endoresement time committments are down.
If the whole Tiger Woods scandal left you disappointed,
dismayed and in disbelief, you are not alone.So was Bob Rotella, the sports shrink to many PGA Tour stars, as well as most of the players themselves.
"The guys on Tour were as shocked as the rest of
said recently. "I haven’t talked to anybody on Tour who had a clue."
Rotella, who was in town to speak to the annual fundraiser for Women Golfers Give Back at
Valley CC, feels bad for golf and the PGA
Tour.But he feels even worse
for the millions of youngsters who idolized Woods.
"Every time somebody comes
along that looks like they are going to be a great role model, too many of them
just end up being nothing like who we thought they were," said Rotella."It‘s heartbreaking. I mean, we need some people to be role
For Rotella, like many of us, the
revelations about Tiger’s
infidelities forever changed how he regards at the golfer.
"I have great respect for
how he plays golf," he said."But
I have totally changed my perception of him as a person, or at least as a
husband and father."
After finishing tied 4th
in his return to golf at the Masters,
Tiger missed the cut at his next
tournament, the Quail
Hollow Championship, where he shot 79 on Friday.But Rotella
doesn’t believe for a moment that Tiger won’t soon be back to his old winning
Even with all the upheaval
and distractions in Tiger’s life
these days, Rotella
wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls off major victory No. 15 this year.The big reason is Tiger’s amazing capacity for mental self-discipline and
self-control on the golf course, if not off the course.
"He has always been great at
separating what is going on on the golf course from
what it going on off it," said Rotella."It is
the one place in the world where he is totally comfortable.This has been his thing since he was
three years old."
Watching Tiger’s now-famous 13-minute apology
statement back in February didn’t clear up anything for Rotella.For starters, once he found out Team Tiger had hired a PR consultant to
help with the speech, Rotella
decided he wouldn’t believe a word coming out of the golfer’s mouth was
And then there was what he
couldn’t help but notice as Tiger
delivered the mea culpa.The whole
thing made Rotella
think back to his daughter’s wedding a few years ago, when he, a man who speaks
regularly to large gatherings, was left speechless by the emotion of the
moment, when he stood up to toast his daughter and her new husband.
Yet, there was Tiger, admitting to his humiliating transgressions
before the world and his sainted mother in the front row, and he was as cool as
a cucumber."There was no
emotion," said Rotella,
Rotella shook his head, reflecting on that moment and on
what we all thought we knew Tiger.
"All I know is I bought the
whole Tiger image hook, line and
sinker," he said."I bragged about
him and his family, about how it was just so wonderful that we have this role
model that we have.And I loved
what he was doing with the Tiger
Woods Foundation.To me, he
just ruined that."
How will Tiger’s career fare going forward?Rotellafully
expects he will win again, and win big, because he is that confident in himself
and his golfing ability.He came
to that conclusion watching the way Tiger
handled himself at the Masters,
especially his post-round interview on Sunday with CBS’sPeter Kostis, in which he registered disappointment in his
own performance, never congratulating Phil
"A lot of people had trouble
with Tiger’s interview, and I
understand that," said Rotella."But the other side is, he can’t
believe he wasn’t going to win that tournament.What it really tells you is that the absolutely believed he
was going to go there and shock the world and win that tournament.And he couldn’t believe that he didn’t.That probably means he hasn’t changed a
In the past hour I posted six
stories from a project I am calling the State
of Golf in Philadelphia.
There is a lot of stuff
there, and I hope it helps shed some light on where things stand right now.
I cannot write another
sentence without thanking the folks who lent their time and expertise thatt enabled me to pull this thing together:Mark
Peterson at GAP, Geoff Surrette
at the PGA Section, Donna Horvath at Honeybrook GC, Tony Gustaitis at Whitemarsh Valley CC and Dick Naumann
I went to Mark Peterson first with the concept.He liked it, and so we began to kick
around ideas for a format and who we might invite to participate.Geoff,
executive director of the
Section, was obvious.Tony has been a reliable and articulate
source for me for years when it comes to the maintenance side of the game.Dick
is a real pro at one of the top clubs in the country, let alone in
Philadelphia.And Mark and I almost simultaneously suggested
Donna because we know her to be
smart and forward thinking, plus she is one of the few women at or near the top
of a golf course or club.
Once we all convened around
the board room at Aronimink
(thank you very much), each member of the panel delivered exactly what I was
hoping for – their particular perspective on where the game stands going
into the 2010 season.
You’ll notice that in their
presentations, some were brief succinct, some were longer and more
detailed.That was fine by
me.All were good.