50 Things You May or May Not Know (or Care to Know) About Me

Tomorrow I turn 50. Wow. 50? Yup, 50. And because I’m milking this momentous occasion for all its worth, I thought I’d indulge in a fun, self-indulgent and self-centered exercise, letting you learn stuff about me, whether you’ve known me 5 minutes or 50 years. Nothing too deep, though, as I said “fun little….exercise.” So here goes!

  1. “What Work Is” by Philip Levine is my favorite poem
  2. I have a serious lead foot and I have the tickets to prove it
  3. I was a very mediocre student until reaching SJSU
  4. I love writing advertising/marketing but I wish I had been a meteorologist
  5. Scariest moment: Laying on a gurney at Swedish Hospital in the midst of a “minor” heart attack, wondering if I was going to live or die
  6. “Blazing Saddles” my favorite comedy movie will, thankfully, never, ever be re-made
  7. I love having milk with popcorn and pizza
  8. Happiest moment (tie): witnessing the births of Sam and Noah, and seeing my wife walk down the aisle
  9. Reading is everything
  10. I cried went the SF Giants won the World Series in 2010
  11. 9/11 was an ideological catalyst for me
  12. I birdied the 18th hole on The Old Course at St. Andrews and wept with joy about it
  13. I fucking swear a lot
  14. Every day is about making good choices, and I still struggle in making them
  15. Accepting God into my life was a really, really smart idea
  16. As a writer, I have no desire to write a novel; I enjoy poetry and short stories so much more
  17. I have more than 45 baseball caps—and I organize them by place and sports category
  18. For now, “Inglorious Basterds” is my favorite movie. Sorry, “Raging Bull.”
  19. R.E.M. is my favorite band
  20. Prince’s “Purple Rain Tour” is still my favorite concert
  21. Good advice I live by: Try to enter into any conversation with the notion that there’s a 50% chance you’re wrong
  22. Best vacation: Mauna Kea on The Big Island with the wife—sans children. Yup, even better than our honeymoon.
  23. Biggest dream come true (outside of love and kids): Going to Scotland on a 2-week golf pilgrimage in ’12
  24. People who do volunteer work than blather on about how good it makes them feel, miss the fucking point
  25. I wonder if you’re getting bored with this list yet
  26. Tequila and scotch are my poisons
  27. I believe in ghosts because I’ve seen them. And the hair rose on my skin when I wrote that
  28. I believe I have an un-diagnosed learning disability; I have great difficulty in retaining and recalling information (see #4)
  29. I’ve fallen in love three times
  30. I’m trying to figure out what, if anything, to do for a second career
  31. I didn’t think I’d live to see 50
  32. Saddest moment: Witnessing both parents pass away, my father in 1984, and my mom a little more than a year ago
  33. Everyday filled with life changing moments, but they’re smaller and harder to see than big ones so we miss them
  34. The Simpsons are my all-time favorite TV show, though I have watched in 15+ years
  35. It’s okay to sit around and do nothing
  36. I’ve never been to a strip club
  37. I harbor the desire to be and think I have the talent to be a professional poker player
  38. I shot even par (72) and had my only hole-in-one in the same round
  39. Mac & Jack’s African Amber is my favorite beer
  40. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath is my favorite fiction book (I’m a classics guy)
  41. People who name their children after characters in “To Kill a Mockingbird” annoy me
  42. I can’t pinpoint my favorite non-fiction book. There are too many. Sorry…
  43. Thomas Jefferson is my favorite POTUS
  44. Clearly I like lists
  45. The starting salary of my first job in advertising (receptionist/secretary) was $17,500 in 1991
  46. I have no use for people who play the victim card
  47. The number of stents in my heart: 6
  48. I consider myself a mediocre writer. And for some strange reason that makes me try harder…
  49. My favorite source for objective news is the Washington Post
  50. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it to 50 but I’m very, very happy that I have

 

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My All-Time Top 25 Courses—2015

47a4cf28b3127cce9854a404439c00000035103AZMm7ho4YqAs I said in last year’s post, I’ve been blessed in my golf life. I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to play some of the finest courses in the world (and some real goat tracks, too). In 2015, as promised–even while dealing severe tendinitis in my left wrist and still battling the shanks for half the season—my blessings only grew. With a much-anticipated and long overdue trip to Bandon, this list has deepened. In fact, i decided to expand it to 25.

For now, however, here is my list of favorite courses in the world.

  1. North Berwick (West Links) (East Lothian, Scotland) Is there a better back nine on the planet? Since I’ll never get to play Augusta, no. But Augusta doesn’t have stone walls to hit over or wonky split greens or the original “redan” hole or mounding that mimics Prestwick. If I ever win the lottery, I’m moving here.
  2. Cruden Bay (Cruden Bay, Scotland) Consider this a 1-B ranking as it plays second fiddle to no one on my list. Quirky and beautiful, CB is proof that a “short” course can capture the imagination and still be challenging. My buddy wants to retire here. If so, I hope he has a spare bedroom I can rent.
  3. Prestwick (Prestwick, Scotland) Home of the first Open. Delightfully quirky course design by Old Tom. Crazy mounding everywhere. Yet there were “modern” holes too. Shot 81 with a 9 on the famous 17th, “The Alps.” (Nick also took a 9 here and was in the mid 70s, unadjusted.) Miffed after 17, I drove the 18th—with a hybrid. If you’re not having fun here, you’re a golf grouch.
  4. Royal Dornoch (Dornoch, Scotland) May the The Open never be played here; the secret would get out and too many bad golfers would snatch up the tee times. Played 36 in a day here and it still wasn’t enough. Nice to see it crack Golf Digest’s Top 10 Courses in the World.

    IMG_1225

    Happiness is a GIR at Pacific Dunes.

  5. Pacific Dunes (Bandon, OR) (NEW). Like Scotland, only it’s 8 hours from home. Why did I not get here sooner? The golf, the scenery, just spellbinding. Played in a steady 20-25MPH wind so, minus rain, PD barred her teeth—biting me on her beautiful but treacherous par 3s. Oddly, I tamed the famed 4th and 14th par holes with pars. Only one problem with PD: I can’t get back fast enough.
  6. Muirfield (East Lothian, Scotland) Ernie Els dubbed it “the best bunkered course in the world.” I found why on just about every hole. Weather was fairly miserable. A “big boy” course if there was one. The stateliness and grandness of the course cannot be ignored, either. Title as the Augusta of Scotland is well earned
  7. Turnberry (Ayrshire, Scotland) Around the 5th or 6th hole my buddy Nick shouted, “Does it get any better than this!?” Of course that was the first day of a two-week Scotland golf pilgrimage and, yes, it got a lot better—not by much, though. History is everywhere. Back nine is better than the front.
  8. St. Andrews (The Old Course) (St. Andrews, Scotland). Remarkably unremarkable unless you’ve read Alister MacKenzie’s “The Spirit of St. Andrews,” then it’s a magical round through history. Along with the birth of my boys, marrying my wife, one of my most joyful memories was carting a birdie on the 18th. Literally brought me to tears. So did my caddie with his one-liners (on one of my putts: “I hit my grandmother harder.”) and jabs (on me electing NOT to chip over the Road Hole bunker and putt out to the side: “Aw, ya pussy.” Followed by a wink and a smile.)
  9. Spyglass (Carmel, California) Made a 10 on #1. Then went par-par-par-par. Shot 92 as a 16-year old who had only been playing three years up to that point. After that, I went from being hooked on golf to obsessed. Getting back here and the Monterey Peninsula is a must. Hoping to do so in ’17 when (and if) i make it to my work sabbatical.
  10. Chambers Bay (Tacoma, WA) Like somebody picked up Scotland and slammed it down on the edge of the Puget Sound. Difficult to walk (reportedly 8 mi.). Not a bad or unmemorable hole to be found. Having the US Open here will be very, very interesting. Price tag ($200 in summer) is too steep.
  11. Tobacco Road (Sanford, North Carolina) This course is wacky tabacky—and had to move up from its previous ranking! Quirky, wild ride on every hole. Massive mounds, sprawling waste areas and crazy undulating greens. At $69, well worth the 40-minute drive from Pinehurst. Played 35 and half holes—don’t ask. Going back for another 36 in April ’16.

    The trees and dunes beaten by the ocean winds give a crustiness to the #17 at Trails

    The trees and dunes beaten by the ocean winds give a crustiness to the #17 at Trails

  12. Bandon Trails (Bandon, OR) (NEW) Purists might bemoan that Trails belies its name by starting and ending in the dunes. This is an empty nit. The transition from windswept dunes to sturdy, storm-battered Monterey Pines is mirrored by the second and 17th holes, one signaling you’re entering stately wood-lined fairways you’re about the enter, the other signaling you’re about to leave them. I did NOT expect Trails to enrapture me so, but it did. I even loved the understated and cozy beach house feel of the clubhouse.
  13. Old MacDonald (Bandon, OR) (NEW) For only being a few years old, Old Mac has the crusty, even saltiness of a well-worn Scottish course. Even on a foggy, mild and day with just a light breeze, I could still feel that. Like The Old Course, the intermediate holes aren’t terribly memorable but it’s every bit a links course. The more I think about Old Mac, the less I remember it. That, I think, is a deceptive memory.
  14. The Dormie—(West End, North Carolina) A Coore & Crenshaw gem just 15 minutes from downtown Pinehurst. Wide open fairways. Speedy, subtly undulating greens. Crenshaw’s signature is all over the place. “Biggest” course I’ve played since Muirfield. Sadly, it isn’t getting much play. Hope it’s around in five years.
  15. Bandon Dunes (Bandon, OR) (NEW) I’ll go to golf purgatory for Bandon being this low, but I have my reasons. Yes, holes 4-6 are incredible, with#5 being one of my favorite. Then there are holes that just don’t make sense: 7, 8, 9, and 13. I think this may be a case of my expectations not being met. Maybe. For now, BD’s greatness escapes me.

    IMG_0554

    #3 at Mauna Kea. Words fail.

  16. Mauna Kea (Big Island, HI) (NEW) Resort courses aren’t supposed to be this good. Everyone knows the famous 3rd hole with the shot over the ocean, but the 11th…oh heck, see the pictures. And the other 16 holes more than hold their own, particularly the par 5s. Oh, and the first tee was 125 yards from the hotel entrance. Too bad my tendonitis was acting up, otherwise I would have played here more—and at Haulalai and Manu Lani, too.
  17. Wailea (Gold) (Wailea, HI) What a ride! Low expectations were greatly exceeded. Provides a nice and welcome break from other windy Maui courses. Fantastic views! Forgiving fairways, but big drives are required to score on many holes. Greens were a bit shabby from recent sanding and punching but that’s a nit.
  18. Pinehurst—#4 (Pinehurst, North Carolina). After being washed out on the 13th hole of #2 by a tropical storm, getting to play #4 twice in ‘13 turned out to be a surprising treat. #13–#15 is the 3-5-3 combo I’ve ever played. Pretty wide landing areas but the greens required accuracy and mirrored its big brother, #2, at times. I wouldn’t mind playing this again in ’16. We’ll see.
  19. Kapalua (Plantation) (Kapalua, HI) Makes the list almost purely on reputation. Greens are incredibly difficult to read and fast, particularly downwind. Hard not to have fun bombing it down holes 1, 7, 11, 17, 18. Holes into the wind are round wreckers. Ridiculous views Molokai! The price is equally ridiculous: $275. Far too much.
  20. Pine Needles (Pinehurst, North Carolina). Understated Southern charm set among stately pines, yet very grand feeling. The name is apropos. Quad-triple-birdie-par-par start is likely the strangest start I’ve ever had to a round—including my now infamous Pat Perez moment in a greenside bunker on #1. Very enjoyable course, however.
  21. Kaanapali (Royal) (Lahania, HI) This is the poor man’s Kapalua, but imminently more playable and fun—and much more affordable. A little touristy at times but for resort golf it’s pretty darn good. Recorded a 364-yard, downhill, wind-aided drive. See? Fun! Playing back into the wind, less record breaking.
  22. St. Andrews (The New Course) (St. Andrews, Scotland). Lacks the allure and history and memorable holes of the Old Course, but it was 100% links golf. Lacks in the memorability department, but so does the Old Course. Has a more dunes-y feel vs. the OC, too. Much tighter than the OC, too. I might have been the only one from the ’12 trip who enjoyed his round here.
  23. Gold Mountain (Olympic) (Bremerton, WA). $60 and change to play this course on the weekend? Are you kidding me? What a steal! I thought I played some good munis until I ran into this place. Last two holes are out of character with the rest of the course that makes for a slightly disappointing but forgivable finish.
  24. Pinehurst—#2. (Pinehurst, North Carolina). Thanks to Tropical Storm Andrea, I’ve never been so wet in my life. Could barely hold onto the club. As advertised, though—long with fairly generous landing areas and upside down teacup greens. Lacks memorability, which is why it’s low on the list. Like I said, I only got through 13 holes so another reason it’s low down. Going back in April ’16. I’d like another go. At $410 that may not be possible.
  25. Royal Oaks Country Club (Vancouver, WA) (NEW) No wonder the guys the Greenspan World team can putt! (Seemingly half the team belongs here.) There’s not a single flat lie on the lightning fast greens. Front 9 is delightful yet challenging, with holes 1, 4 and 7 being pesky beautiful short holes. Back 9 is a bit of a let down by comparison but holds its own. Played it on a wickedly hot, 100º day. Unusual

Honorable mentions: Colonial Country Club (Dallas, TX); Nairn (Nairn, Scotland); The Links at Bodega Bay (Bodega Bay, California); The Presidio (San Francisco, CA)

Strange omissions: Carnoustie (very meh), Castle Stuart (could be any course in California) and Royal Aberdeen (double meh).

Here’s The Story

Dear (insert company here):

Let’s get to the point. No, I don’t want to tell you my story at #clevermarketinghashtag. I have my children to entertain, dinner to make, a spouse to talk to, The Walking Dead and House of Cards to watch, etc. I have bigger distractions. You are the after thoughts of after thoughts. To call you a low priority is an understatement. I might even like your product, service or brand, and your commercial, but unless I’m stuck in a hospital bed, I’m going straight to MLB.com or play Words With Friends. So why are you wasting your time? (And money.) In the hopes you get click-thrus from desperate iGenerationers sitting in their parents’ basement and don’t have a nickel their name? That might have been a neat, unique idea in, say, 2010. But in 2015, we’re too busy protecting our passwords from eastern European hackers to bother going on a deep give into your website. (Unless of course you’re so wildly entertaining that i just can’t help myself. But the odds are low. Like winning the lottery low.)

So let the hashtag go back to being happily anonymous keys sitting just above the number three. Like us, it just wants to be left alone.

That’s my story. And it’s the last and only one you’ll get.

Sincerely,
People With Lives

P.S. Of course here I am on a blog telling you I don’t have time. No irony there, huh.

My All-Time Top 20 Courses

47a4cf28b3127cce9854a404439c00000035103AZMm7ho4YqI’ve been blessed in my golf life. I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to play some of the finest courses in the world (and some real goat tracks, too). With trips to Bandon in ’15 and to Ireland/Scotland in ’16 to play the likes of Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, Machrihanish, my blessings will only grow—and so will the list, obviously. For now, however, here is my list of favorite courses in the world.

  1. North Berwick (West Links) (East Lothian, Scotland) Is there a better back nine on the planet? Since I’ll never get to play Augusta, no. But Augusta doesn’t have stone walls to hit over or wonky split greens or the original “redan” hole or mounding that mimics Prestwick. If I ever win the lottery, I’m moving here.
  1. Cruden Bay (Cruden Bay, Scotland) Consider this a 1-B ranking as it plays second fiddle to no one on my list. Quirky and beautiful, CB is proof that a “short” course can capture the imagination and still be challenging.
  1. Prestwick (Prestwick, Scotland) Home of the first Open. Delightfully quirky course design by Old Tom. Crazy mounding everywhere. Yet there were “modern” holes too. Shot 81 with a 9 on the famous 17th, “The Alps.” (Nick also took a 9 here and was in the mid 70s, unadjusted.) Miffed after 17, I drove the 18th—with a hybrid. If you’re not having fun here, you’re a golf grouch.
  1. Royal Dornoch (Dornoch, Scotland) May the The Open never be played here; the secret would get out and too many bad golfers would snatch up the tee times. Played 36 in a day here and it still wasn’t enough. Nice to see it crack Golf Digest’s Top 10 Courses in the World.
  1. Muirfield (East Lothian, Scotland) Ernie Els dubbed it “the best bunkered course in the world.” I found why on just about every hole. Weather was fairly miserable. A “big boy” course if there was one. The stateliness and grandness of the course cannot be ignored, either. Title as the Augusta of Scotland is well earned.
  1. Turnberry (Ayrshire, Scotland) Around the 5th or 6th hole my buddy Nick shouted, “Does it get any better than this!?” Of course that was the first day of a two-week Scotland golf pilgrimage and, yes, it got a lot better—not by much, though. History is everywhere. Back nine is better than the front.
  1. St. Andrews (The Old Course) (St. Andrews, Scotland). Remarkably unremarkable unless you’ve read Alister MacKenzie’s “The Spirit of St. Andrews,” then it’s a magical round through history. Along with the birth of my boys, marrying my wife, one of my most joyful memories was carting a birdie on the 18th. Literally brought me to tears. So did my caddie with his one-liners (on one of my putts: “I hit my grandmother harder.”) and jabs (on me electing NOT to chip over the Road Hole bunker and putt out to the side: “Aw, ya pussy.” Followed by a wink and a smile.)
  1. Spyglass (Carmel, California) Made a 10 on #1. Then went par-par-par-par. Shot 92 as a 16-year old who had only been playing three years up to that point. After that, I went from being hooked on golf to obsessed. Getting back here and the Monterey Peninsula is a must. Hoping to do so in ’17 when (and if) i make it to my work sabbatical.
  1. Chambers Bay (Tacoma, WA) Like somebody picked up Scotland and slammed it down on the edge of the Puget Sound. Difficult to walk (reportedly 8 mi.). Not a bad or unmemorable hole to be found. Having the US Open here will be very, very interesting. Price tag ($200 in summer) is too steep.
  1. Wailea (Gold) (Wailea, HI) What a ride! Low expectations were greatly exceeded. Provides a nice and welcome break from windy Maui courses. Fantastic views! Forgiving fairways, but big drives are required to score on many holes. Greens were a bit shabby from recent sanding and punching but that’s a nit.
  1. Pinehurst—#4 (Pinehurst, North Carolina). After being washed out on the 13th hole of #2 by a tropical storm, getting to play #4 twice in ‘13 turned out to be a surprising treat. #13–#15 is the 3-5-3 combo I’ve ever played. Pretty wide landing areas but the greens required accuracy and mirrored its big brother, #2, at times.
  1. The Dormie—(West End, North Carolina) A Coore & Crenshaw gem just 15 minutes from downtown Pinehurst. Wide open fairways. Speedy, subtly undulating greens. Crenshaw’s signature is all over the place. “Biggest” course I’ve played since Muirfield. Sadly, it isn’t getting much play. Hope it’s around in five years.
  1. Kaanapali (Royal) (Lahania, HI) This is the poor man’s Kapalua, but imminently more playable and fun—and much more affordable. A little touristy at times but for resort golf it’s pretty darn good. Recorded a 364-yard, downhill, wind-aided drive. See? Fun! Playing back into the wind, less record breaking.
  1. Gold Mountain (Olympic) (Bremerton, WA). $60 and change to play this course on the weekend? Are you kidding me? What a steal! I thought I played some good munis until I ran into this place. Last two holes are out of character with the rest of the course that makes for a slightly disappointing but forgivable finish.
  1. Tobacco Road (Sanford, North Carolina) This course is wacky tabacky! Quirky, wild ride on every hole. Massive mounds, sprawling waste areas and crazy undulating greens. At $69, well worth the 40-minute drive from Pinehurst. Played 35 and half holes—don’t ask.
  1. Kapalua (Plantation) (Kapalua, HI) Makes the list almost purely on reputation. Greens are incredibly difficult to read and fast, particularly downwind. Hard not to have fun bombing it down holes 1, 7, 11, 17, 18. Holes into the wind are round wreckers. Jaw-dropping views of Molokai! The price is equally jaw-dropping: $275. Far too much.
  1. St. Andrews (The New Course) (St. Andrews, Scotland). Lacks the allure and history and memorable holes of the Old Course, but it was 100% links golf. I might have been the only one from the ’12 trip who enjoyed his round here.
  1. Pinehurst—#2. (Pinehurst, North Carolina). Thanks to Tropical Storm Andrea, I’ve never been so wet in my life. Could barely hold onto the club. As advertised, though—long with fairly generous landing areas and upside down teacup greens. Lacks memorability, which is why it’s low on the list.
  1. Pine Needles (Pinehurst, North Carolina). Understated Southern charm set among stately pines, yet very grand feeling. The name is apropos. Quad-triple-birdie-par-par start is likely the strangest start I’ve ever had to a round—including my now infamous Pat Perez moment in a greenside bunker on #1. Very enjoyable course, however.
  1. Pasatiempo. (Monterey, California.) Played it back in the late 1980s before it got restored to its original state recently, so it’s hard to remember holes. A very difficult but rewarding course that is a must-play on any trip to the Monterey Peninsula.

Honorable mentions: Colonial Country Club (Dallas, TX); Nairn (Nairn, Scotland); The Links at Bodega Bay (Bodega Bay, California); The Presidio (San Francisco, CA)

 

Dear Racist Football Watchers:

From this moment forward, it has been decreed that any and all football fans who refer to the professional football team from Washington DC as the “Redskins” shall be publicly shamed as racists—especially since you’ve been doing it for (insert your age here) or are a Hog. There will be no atonement. No redemption. You shall be saddled with eternal guilt and damnation befitting murderers and satanists.

Enjoy your E-ticket on the new politically correct ride to hell, you heartless, racist bastards.

Famous First-World Problems

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My first reaction to this is pity and sadness over Russ’s raw cynicism. What a sad way to look at friends and humanity.

The next is admiration for accepting and recognizing the reality of his celebrity in today’s almost-inhumane mega-media sports world. This will save him a ton of money in the long run by avoiding phonies and scammers.

Ultimately, this is a familiar and distasteful refrain coming from athletes, rock stars, actors, etc, who’ve made it big. I don’ t have an ounce of sympathy for it. Deep in their egocentric souls, this is why they throw a football, strum a guitar, preen on stage—for fame, glory and recognition. Yes, they do what they do for love, too. But deep down, they want people to notice and pay attention. (Don’t we all?) So their love for their sport or art and quest for fame is what drives them. So when they achieve their goals—winning the Super Bowl, getting a Grammy or Oscar—and then complain about fame’s trappings and shortcomings, it’s laughable and unsympathetic because it’s foreseeable paradox—and one that should not be entered into lightly or without forethought.

Sorry, Russ. I’m throwing a 15-yard penalty for excessive whining. If we all had your terrible problem.

My 2013 Golf Year in Review

Sheesh, a woman could produce a baby since the last time I wrote and published a piece on this here blog. Thank God it wasn’t me or my wife, we’re done in that department. So why discuss timely, noteworthy or important issues when we can about my year in golf! I’m sure the interest level will be high for at least a handful of people—though I may be getting ahead of myself there.

To be fair, after an epic journey in 2012 to the home of golf, Scotland, playing the most legendary courses the world has to offer—including The Old Course, Muirfield, Carnoustie, Royal Dornoch, Prestwick, to name just a few—poor 2013 was primed to be a letdown year. And like a 115-yard wedge shot that mysteriously falls short of the green, that’s the feeling I’m left with about 2013.

Maybe that’s a bit dramatic and negative as there were many highs and thrills to go along with the disappointment and frustration—and, for a spell, abject terror. Here they are in mostly short review, followed by goals for 2014.

Highs:
–Shot 76 gross, my best round of the year, in our Spring Field tournament. 14 pars, 4 bogeys, boring yet efficiently solid. Absolutely stoked as I walked off 18, fully expecting to be the clubhouse leader in Flight B (8-12 HCI), only to see a 73 (from a 11-handicapper) and 74 (from a 10) ahead of me. Shock. Dismay. Mutters of “f***ing sandbaggers. And a third place finish. What more could have I done? Nothing to be ashamed of here, for sure.

–Getting 3 sandies in 4 holes at Pinehurst #2 to help my playing partner Chris (3 HCI) pull even in a match after being 4 down. Oh, and all during a tropical storm, too.

–Played in my first-ever Greenspan Cup, where we play a Ryder Cup-style format, at Pinehurst. Just awesome!

–Playing the annual Heart Attack Anniversary round at Gold Mountain’s Olympic course with my buddy, Nick. Even though I lost to him (again), it’s a blast to play the game with a guy who loves every aspect of the game like I do.

–Three gutty performances during Greenspan. I easily could have lost 3 matches and gone 1-3-0. Instead I helped halve one (above), carried my partner for 17 holes on the other and battled hard to make my singles match come down to the last hole after being 4 down at the turn—all while battling a vomit-inducing case of the yips. Record: 1-1-2. The uneducated might not be proud of that record, but I played and fought my ass off when others would have thrown in the towel.

–Lots of course variety kept the game feeling fresh after Scotland: Pinehurst (#2, #4, #7), Kapalua, Wailea (Gold), Home Course, Gold Mountain (Olympic and Cascade), Sand Point (thanks, Nick!)

Disappointments and Frustrations:
–The handicap dropped, somewhat, from 7.7 to 7.1. Not at all what I expected after spending the winter and spring working diligently with Marty on swing fixes.

–Played exactly one round the entire month of July. A travesty considering the incredible Pacific Northwest weather.

–Inconsistent and terrible iron play—particularly on approaches. And despite that, my GIR actually went up compared to last year. So that must mean….

–Shooting 91 in the WSGC Fall Classic. The lowest low point I’ve had in the game in years. After taking an 8 on 16, I Nolan Ryan-ed my ball into the woods, spewed a string of profanities about the fairway, the green and the pin placement that would make a pimp blush—all of it in front of the VP of the men’s club. (Some of it he needed to hear, but that’s another story.) I wanted to walk off the course, and leave my clubs right behind the green. Instead I birdied 17.

–With my long irons, I have no clue of what I’m doing on my downswing. Everything’s flying right and short. Real clankers.

Abject Terror

–The putting yips. Not just a whiff or push or pull here there. We’re talking about doing unspeakable and indescribable actions with the putter that would make Dave Pelz quit his job. And Dave Stockton, too. It all started during Saturday’s rounds at Pinehurst. On Sunday at #4, I started flat-out missing putts inside 18″. Outside of 6-7 feet I was marginal, at best. Yet ask me to make a putt inside 3′? Forget it. The yips somewhat subsided on Maui, yet continued unabated into August, culminating in an embarrassing 5-putt in front of my Scotland buddies—from inside 5 feet.

Just to make sure that wasn’t a fluke, I managed the second 5-putt of my career just a couple of weeks later during the Fall Classic at WSGC’s 115-yard 3rd hole. I was on in one.

And that’s how the yips can ripple through the rest of your game. Every shot had to get close just to have a shot at par. Of course that didn’t happen; that’s way too much pressure for and to ask of one mid-level single-digit handicapper. Trying to be too perfect in golf is like drinking arsenic, nothing good comes of it.  And that’s where I am now.

The Goals

The Swing
Putter: First and foremost, eliminating the yips and the need to make a perfect stroke every time. So, where I used to have a routine where I’d make 3 practice strokes—one slow, one fast, one in between—then try to mimic the last, I’ve thrown that out. Since October, and using some tips from Marty and gleaning stuff from here and there, I’ve got a new, simpler routine that relies more on my first and initial read (a good thing), picking a spot a few inches in front of my ball on that line, taking one practice stroke, step up to the ball and stroke it right over that spot. On short ones, where I can see details in the cup, I follow the same routine, only now I pick a spot—literally a spot— inside the cup‚ focus on it and make the stroke. After a 2-3 rounds since October, it really seems to be taking.

The Full Swing
Marty’s had me working on one move all winter long, and it’s feeling better, and I’m compressing the ball more at impact, gaining distance and accuracy and a lower ball flight. Still not consistent, though, but that will come. Trouble is, I’m still getting lost on the downswing.

Tournaments
I played a total of 3 WSGC tournaments last year. That’s not enough to feed my desire to compete and test myself. So, even though we’re buying a house, the youngest is nearly 2 and entry fees are minimal, time to play as many events as possible–especially match play. I hesitate to set specific goals (example: “in ’14, I’m going to win the Spring Field event!) Well, duh, of course I want to win events and coin. Those are always my goals. What I want to do, is walk out onto the course and feel I have the knowledge and increased skills to make the shots.

That said, let me be a total hypocrite and state these goals: 1 win (somewhere); top 5 in all stroke play tourneys; top 25 in money; and make good, deep runs in match play.

Greenspan Tournament
No longer a rookie and not playing a legendary course this year will temper my nerves. Feeling very confident after my self-described gutty performances at Pinehurst. This is a team game. And if I go 1-4, and the one win comes on the last day during singles to help the 206 win, then that’s good. Again, I’d love to go 5-0, and I’m striving for that, naturally. But being in the high side of .500 is a goal.

Handicap
7.1 to start the season is way too low for where my current skill set. Love to get to around 5.5 or lower, and I think that’s possible, but I’ll need to shoot in the 70s more consistently.

So, 2013, you were frustrating, to say the least. I’m glad you’re gone for a number of reasons, especially outside of golf. 2014, it’s nice to meet you. Here’s to bigger shots and better, more consistent scores in the season ahead!

What Difference Does It Make?

When a Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Kayne West or Beyonce song gets stuck in your head, that’s a bad thing. When a song from the Stones, the Replacements, REM or—oh heck, pick your favorite band that plays actual instruments—gets stuck in your head, that’s a good thing. (Most of the time, anyway.)

But what happens when get a good song from a good band gets stuck in your head over a bad thing? That’s been my situation over the last couple of days since outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wailed before the Senate Relations Committee regarding the Benghazi attack, “What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”

So it’s obvious why I’ve had this Smiths song stuck in my head:

What to do with it?

Well, rather than dive into Hillary’s callously insipid reply and Oscar-worthy feigned outrage, I’ve decided to re-engineer Morrissey’s lyrics to address her indignation.

All apologies to the Mozzer. Cue Johnny Marr’s cool-ass, jangly opening riff….

All Admins have secrets, Benghazi is yours
So let it be known
For we have been through hell asking you
None of us can rely on you …
You start to recoil
Your heavy tears are so lightly thrown
Think Obama’d leap in front of flying bullet for you?

So, what difference does it make ?
So, what difference does it make ?
It makes tons
Coz now four are gone
And you’re coverin’ won’t keep you warm tonight

Oh the devil will find work for Rice’s idle hands to do
Went on 5 shows, misled, and why?
Coz Obama asked her to!
Now your wailing makes us feel so ashamed
and we’ve only asked two things
And yet the Left is still fond of you? oh-ho-oh!

So, what difference does it make ?
So, what difference does it make ?
It makes tons
Coz now four are gone
And you’re lyin’ won’t keep Bill warm tonight

Oh the devil will find work for Rice’s idle hands to do
Went on 5 shows, misled, and why?
Just coz Obama asked her to!
Now we’re not hearin’ the truth from you
We don’t want to see anymore
And yet the Left is still fond of you? oh-ho-oh!

But no more apologies
Hillary, no more apologies
Oh, we’re too tired
We’re all so sick and tired
And you’re coverin’ won’t keep you warm tonight
And yet the Left is still fond of you? oh-ho-oh!

Oh, my sacred one …

Not Today

While certainly the far lesser of the horrors that today has wrought, in news article comment sections and across the social network, I’m confounded by those who’ve chosen this moment of all moments to turn the conversation and direct their rage against gun laws. Beautiful, innocent children are dead, their lives stripped away by inexplicable madness. Parents are bearing unimaginable loss and pain. The suffering taking place is too hard to comprehend. Yet, here some are, talking about current gun laws.

In many ways, I appreciate the sentiments. I’m no big fan of guns or any kind of staunch Second Amendment defender, so perhaps holding a conversation about gun laws is their way of dealing with this abject evil, of trying to make sense of the senselessness. So they do. They cast blame at the NRA, gun collectors, video games, rap music and site statistics and charts and studies and so on. They want to direct their rage into action, their grief into change and strike while the iron and passions are hot in order to propagate that change—all well meaning, maybe even justified. Lord knows, I feel as helpless as anyone. I think of our two young boys and I want to get sick. My faith is shaken.

Yet where is the grace and compassion that this moment requires in having that conversation right now? The parents, the brothers and sisters of the murdered children are wandering in a sea of grief only few of us can begin to imagine. And yet, they get lost in this talk. Even in a small way, that is another shameful tragedy on this day of horrors.

So, how do we direct our rage and grief? I have no grand ideas or sage words of wisdom. Go to a church and light a candle. Read the Bible. Pray to your God for guidance and strength. Send a card or flowers to one of the families. Write about it. Hold your children tighter. Turn to someone and tell them you love them—and mean it. There are grace and hope and love in all those acts, and it is energy used wisely.

Yes, a conversation about gun laws has to happen—it needs to. This much is certain.

And when will be the right time to have that conversation? I don’t know. But not today, definitely not today. And tomorrow’s not looking real good either.