March 20, 2013

Check this awesome surf movie video out.

Because wet and wild also begin with a “w”. Enjoy!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 14:55 | Comments (0)
March 19, 2013

This story ought to scare the bejeezus out of everyone. If you don’t think a federal government with unlimited power would do anything – including seizing money out of people’s own bank accounts and 401Ks – to feed its ever-growing hunger for sustainability you’re dreaming. If it can happen in Europe, it can happen here. People oughta wake up, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Saw Kill Bill Vol. 1 on cable tonight. What a great flick! Now I’ve got to find a way to see Vol. 2.

It’s stuff like this that just reinforces my thinking that this country has completely lost its mind. This country is awash in debt, there’s economic disaster just around the corner, and we’re debating whether a character in a TV mini-series looks like the President. The inmates are loose in the asylum.

As a Republican and a conservative I have to admit I don’t get the whole gay marriage debate. People can do what they want at the state level as long as a given state’s voters approve. If Arizona voters, for example, wanted to legalize gay marriage, I wouldn’t vote for it, but the voters have the right to define civil marriage as they see fit. Just don’t expect the Catholic Church – or any church, for that matter – to allow them to marry under the sacrament of Holy Matrimony if that’s what the church believes – these are two very different and very distinct things.

The good thing about this approach is that, far away from the lobbyists and progressive elitists in Washington, in most states there is still a shred of common sense left (at least for now). The transgender lobby might be successful at eliminating men’s and women’s rooms in the occasional university, but states’ voters aren’t going to allow you to marry your motorcycle, or your cat, or – and this is where the progressive push really lies – to have the whole concept of marriage between two people wiped out completely. Progressives at their root have always set their basic goal as one to destroy society, but putting marriage in the hands of voters serves as a protctive shield against such extremist ideas.

A request: My friends at Tranquility Trail Animal Sanctuary are participating in the The Animal Rescue Site Shelter Challenge. There’s $100K in grants to be rewarded. If you would like to help out the bunnies – and I know you would! – please click on this link, choose the state of Arizona, and type in “Tranquility Trail Animal Sanctuary” and then click “Vote”. You can vote once a day if you’d like. Tranquility Trail and The Bunny Basics do a wonderful job taking in exotic animals of all kinds, they’d appreciate your help.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:19 | Comments (3)
March 18, 2013

From Yahoo! News, the story behind the movie “The Natural”. Interesting.

One of the true good guys on the PGA Tour gets his first win. Good for him.

How would you like to get traded to another ballclub for nothing. I mean, geez, that has to hurt…

Another snowstorm in the cards for all my Goodboys friends back east? You gotta be kidding me. You need some happy tropical music to keep you sane. Or, you could come out here and play golf with me this Friday at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear Creek. Guest bedroom’s available, fellas.

Tracey and I figured it out the other night. Here’s all the states and places I’ve been fortunate enough to play golf so far: Arizona, Bermuda, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, Vermont, Virginia. This year I think it’s time to add Connecticut and Rhode Island to the list, and the next time I visit New Orleans I think a round in Louisiana (and perhaps even Texas) is in order – I can’t believe all the times I’ve traveled to NO and never played golf there. Hey, I’m open for suggestions as to places to play.

I’ve heard a couple of tunes off of David Bowie’s “comeback” album, it’s not bad. Of course, nothing will ever beat (at least in my mind) China Girl. Love his vocal on that.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:11 | Comments (3)
March 17, 2013

Couldn’t express my thoughts a whole lot better than this. And Repair_Man_Jack isn’t even Catholic! Don’t just read his post, check out the comments afterwards. It’s all good.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:05 | Comments (0)
March 16, 2013

With apologies to Van Halen for the post title

“That’s a good looking swing, want to make it better?”

I had just smooshed a 3-hybrid straight as an arrow and split the imaginary fairway I was targeting at the my now-familiar stomping grounds of Superstition Springs Golf Club driving range. Never mind the fact that grass here seems non-existent, or, that rarely does the ratio of cattle grass to sand exceed 50/50. Nope, it doesn’t bother me at all, for I find myself enjoyong the recreational life of beating golf balls on Friday afternoons as (my Goodboys friends would never believe I’m saying this) a stress reducer and enjoyable “me” time. A couple dozen balls – no more than that – followed by an hour of chipping and putting around the practice green has become something to look forward to, a reward for surviving yet another hard and stressful week at work.

One of the faces I’d come to recognize at the range is Alex Black, the PGA professional there. As a lefty, I usually try to take the furthest left stall so I don’t bother any of the righties who are hitting and they don’t bother me. It just so happens that stall is next to Alex’s lesson area, so we’ve exchanged hellos and he’s even seen me hit a few balls from time to time. A few weeks ago, he was waiting for his lesson to show and I took a few swings for him. While complimenting my set-up and swing, he wasn’t afraid to suggest he could make my swing better. Our brief conversation was as much me asking Alex about his style as he asking about my goals and expectations. He was right up front about his style of working with the swing you have and not changing it to some alien, preordained style unnatural to you. I was up front about my own golf expectations: I wanted to play between bogey and bogey and a half golf (that’s shooting in the 90s). We agreed to a lesson.

We got together under a warm afternoon sun. Placing a guiding stick at my feet for direction, Alex videotaped my from his phone camera as I hit a few 7-irons (none of which were all that bad as far as I’m concerned). We retreated under the canopy where a table with a laptop and a flat-screen TV was set up for viewing. It was cool looking at my swing on tape, not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. Alex was very complimentary about my set-up and backswing, but noted some areas that needed immediate correction. An immediate small change was to pick my chin up slightly so my head was not so low. A larger issue was that my weight shift not being where it should be – I was hanging too far back on my back foot and not driving through the ball to finish strong on my right side. But overall, Alex felt these were problems easily resolved.

We went back out in the sun, and the first radical change was the ball position in my stance – we moved it forward a good six inches from where I was used to hitting it. Alex felt I had “alligator arms”, and I wasn’t giving myself enough room to swing. He also demonstrated the divot marks (The Great White Shank? Divot marks??) I would make as I increasingly drove my back leg (and therefore waist) towards and through the target. He had me hit a few 7-irons, and the difference both in the quality of contact, ball flight, and the sound of ball off the clubface was nothing short of incredible. I mean, I had had three – count ’em, three – lessons in my first seven years of golf, and no one had ever shown me this kind of stuff before. Back again under the shade of the canopy, we viewed the video of my modifications, and it was really something to see the comparison between before and after.

The second half of the lesson was devoted to hitting my 3-wood. Once again, we set up under the sun with the guiding sticks at my feet. While he videotaped, I smacked some really lovely shots down the same make-believe fairway I use as visualization whenever I’m hitting in my usual spot in the range stall just twelve feet away. It might be twelve feet, but today, I might as well have been miles away, for on this side of the range I was in a laboratory with a camera and no place to hide. I thought hit some nice shots, actually, but back under the canopy and reviewing the results, Alex was concerned with the yards I was giving up because my swing cirle wasn’t being extended as it could be, and I wasn’t “snapping” my wrists through the hitting zone. On top of that, my weight shift with the longer club still wasn’t where it needed to be.

Back out into the sun again. Alex had me take some swings without a ball and, after imaginitive impact, had me lift up my back foot off the ground to measure just how well I was coming through the ball on impact. During these swings he also had me check my right hand after coming through “the ball” to see if we could see a couple of my fingers: if I could, I was snapping my wrists through the hitting zone, if not, well, I wasn’t. We teed some balls up aiming for that same imaginative fairway. The first hit was thin, I was trying too hard. The second was a near-whiff (not something entirely alien to me), but Alex made no comment, no criticism – he just teed another ball up. The the third was a gorgeous power-draw (something I’ve seldom hit before) that made a sound off the clubface that was completely alien to me, splitting the “fairway” and running forever. I could almost hear my 3-wood say, “OK, who are you, and what have you done with The Great White Shank? A couple more followed that were nearly the same.

Time was up. Back under the canopy, and Alex is writing down the particulars of our forty-five minutes together:

Doug – Lesson Notes – 3-16-13

Set up
* Ball position move forward
* Reach back, club low to ground
* Chin up

Backswing – keep it up!

Downswing
* Left leg leads + drives
* “Go get it” w/ body
* Sanp + roll wrist
* Reach out on finish

Before our lesson, Alex had asked how many putts I made per round. I told him somewhere between 30-40. He tells me his goal is that his students never make more than thirty putts a round. Wow. I’m drooling with anticipation.

“Do you ever three-putt?”, he asks.

“Not that often”, I lie. Hell, I’m a three-putt threat whenever I’m being ragged by the Goodboys during a friendly match or during Goodboys Invitational weekend when one is constantly reminded that a three-putt means you’re wearing a Viking hat with horns or a naked chick top-hat on your head, or hanging some big rubber snake out of your pants while putting until some other unfortunate in your foursome does the same thing.

“Let’s plan a session around a couple of greens on the course when you’re ready. I know can help you there, too.”

I hand him sixty of the best dollars I’ve ever spent in my life and start walking back to the driving range as his next lesson makes his way towards the same canopy I was just under a minute ago. Finding an empty stall, I pause for a moment and see Alex at work. I miss the laboratory already – it was such a high and a hoot to have someone so supportive and so quick to identify those areas where you could make yourself crazy (as I have) trying to them out for yourself.

I grab my 9-iron out and hit the best 9-iron I’ve ever hit.

I take my 5-wood out and duff a couple before striping one deep and long.

I spend the next hour chipping and putting around the practice green, and I’ve got some great tempo working for myself. Golfed out, I take the first steps towards the parking lot and my car, but now I see a range ball sitting there all white and lonely on the grass. I look back at the range and see a few empty stalls. I pick it up, grab an 8-iron and walk back to the range. The closest stall available has no grass at all, it’s just dirt. Undaunted, I toss the ball on the ground and set it up forward in my stance just like Alex told me. I take a swing, and it’s pure right off the clubface. A little fade, it drops from the sky and runs just sort of the 125-yard marker.

A nice way to end off a great lesson and a great day at the Superstition Springs driving range.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:53 | Comments (3)
March 15, 2013

It’s a lazy Friday after a beyond wicked work week.

Let the record show yesterday was the first day of undoubtedly many days where we finally had to turn the AC on. We got to 90 for the first time – a little early for around here – but my pool guy says all the signs he’s seeing (not sure what they are) tells him we’re in for a hotter than normal summer. We’ll see.

Paula Creamer remians my favorite golfer to watch on the LPGA Tour, but second place no longer belongs to Azahara Munoz (who’s still adorable in both appearance and swing), but Pornanong Phatlum has become a real favorite of mine. Cute as a button, she’s taken to wearing really outlandish, almost go-go girl like skirts with a hot pink ball to match. She’s got a beautiful swing and a short game to die for. I really love watching her play – especially to see what she wears each time out.

Just wondering: what happened to the Great Depression the Obama White House promised would set in if the sequestor passed. You can tell how bad it is for the White House when even Roll Call dumps on them for cancelling the White House tours so Barack and Michelle can spend more time cozying up to the likes of Tiger Woods and Beyonce. What an embarrassment to this country.

Prediction: The New England Patriots are going to miss Wes Welker.

Prediction: The Boston Red Sox aren’t going to see a lot of David Ortiz this year. Methinks “Big Papi” is just about done. And I’d be really concerned about shortstop as well, where I don’t think we’re gonna see a lot of Stephen Drew this year. Concussions like he is suffering from have been known to end careers.

I don’t always agree with the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan – she’s often a little too elitist and high-falootin’ for my taste, but I think she absolutely nails it in her perception of the task before Pope Francis I and how he’s the right kind of man for the job and the times.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul never fails to say things I agree with. Of course, he’s talking about the likes of John McCain, John Boehner, and Lindsey Graham – all of which I’m tired of beyond words. I’m sick of Washington pols that go there to play the game. Paul refuses to do so, which is why he’s my main man.

Those Democrats in Washington who want to take away guns ought to think about this (my bolding):

They also said that “Lanza’s shooting spree lasted less than five minutes and that he fired 152 bullets while making his way through two classrooms in the elementary school.” This seems to contradict earlier reports that it took around 20 minutes for the police to arrive, which apparently precipitated Lanza’s suicide. In any event, it would be easy to fire 152 bullets in five minutes. If this latest version is correct, it confirms the adage that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Realistically, only an armed person who was already on the premises could have stopped Lanza’s rampage before numerous people were killed.

Prohibition and the war on drugs ought to have taught the politicians in Washington something. The more you try to outlaw things, the more things will end up in the hands of outlaws. It’s a fact of life. People who want to commit murder and mayhem will find a way to do so. I’d much rather spend the money on putting psychologically-troubled people back in hospitals or – yes – asylums – like they used to rather than assaulting people’s second amendment rights.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 09:19 | Comments (0)
March 14, 2013

I know my post from the other day about my so-called “breakthrough” round of golf at Toka Sticks sounds on its face a bit over-exuberant, but the fact is, I could have posted a historically low number for me, matching my lowest-ever 94 (at Sagamore Springs on Goodboys Friday two years ago) or even a stroke or two better without not so much as a few extra beads of sweat on my brow – after all, I was hitting the ball fairly well and making as good course management decisions as someone with my abilities (or lack thereof) possibly can.

How do I know that? My caddie Zach told me.

Now Zach wasn’t my official caddie, but he was my playing partner that day. As it turns out, while I was hitting one worm-burning iron, skulled hybrid, and banana-sliced 3-wood after another at the range before my round, it was Zach who was hitting in the stall next to me. As a lefty on the furthest left side of the range I couldn’t see Zach, but I could sure hear his swings and the results – long, towering blasts with his driver, on-the-screw iron hits, one after another – that made me turn to him and say, “youth is wasted on the young!” When it came time for us to tee off, the starter informed us that Zach would be joining me and the two elderly gents I was paired with. He was planning to walk, but halfway down the long par-4, his ball pulled far left, and the temperature already pushing 80, he gladly accepted my invitation to strap his bag on my cart and hop in.

I liked Zach from the start – he’s a typical fifteen year old, medium build and freckled with an easy smile and blond wavy hair, positively fearless and full of himself. The kind of boy you knew the girls at his school gossiped about during the day and dreamed about at night. As we drive over to his ball, he says he’s never not birdied this hole all dozen or so times he’s played, that his low round at “the Sticks” is a par 72 but he usually shoots between 74 and 78. He lives somewhere nearby, so as soon as he’s home from school he prepares for homework by banging balls at the range and putts for an hour or so. Every day. I ask him if he’s on his school’s golf team, he tells me he’s not good enough – yet. Can you imagine? Welcome to the golf in the post-Tiger Woods era.

“I’m Doug, but you can call me The Great White Shank” I say, offering my hand. Zach almost falls out of the cart in hysterics. “I’ve been playing with a group of guys called The Goodboys for the past 20+ years, and everyone has a nickname. Why, if you were a Goodboy, with the name of Zach your nickname would probably be ‘Johnson’ – you know, like the golfer? With a nickname like that, you’d sure be popular with the ladies.”

Zach was too young to get the joke. Good thing.

As we started chatting it became clear Zach was really enjoying our time together. We were both playing OK, and I earned his respect when I beat him on the par-5 fifth. His driver outdrove my 3-wood by some forty yards, but he had to be careful about the pond on our left, so after my absolutely crushed 3-hybrid and his 8-iron, we both sat less than 80 yards from the green. I hit first, my pitching wedge rolling up five feet from the pin, his gap wedge lands twenty feet past and spins back to twelve feet. He misses his birdie putt, I make mine. And from that moment on, we’re both trash-talking in the best Goodboys tradition and we’re caddying for each other – him with his downloaded GPS app advising me around a course I’d never played before, me offering words of advice the few times he actually asked.

Not many Goodboys can claim the privilege of having someone caddy for you, especially one with a higher opinion of your own abilities than you do, but it was a great experience. I mean, Tracey has caddied for me a couple of times, but she doesn’t play golf, and, most especially, she didn’t know the courses I’d be playing from a golfer’s perspective. In this case, I had a real stick who knew the course, could see what I did well and didn’t, and, most importantly, enjoyed yarding me and strategizing my next shot. Could I have still shot my 98 without Zach the caddie? Sure, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

Our defining caddie/player moment came on the 18th hole. A straight but long par 4, I had pushed my 3-wood left and then, my ball sitting above my feet on the only mound on the course, over-cooked a 9-iron far short and far right of the green. We drive over to my ball (Zach’s already sitting on the green in two and twenty feet away for brdie) and study my predicament. Instead of hearing what I expected Zach to say, something like, ‘I’m never over here, I’m usually putting for birdie’ or something to that effect, he now goes into his best caddy routine.

“You got this shot, Great White Shank. It’s the same one I probably should have told you to hit on 15 (a 174-yard par 3 where, debating between laying up left of a pond for an easy pitch and two-putt or going for it with a 4-hybrid, I chose the latter and duck-hooked it into the pond, nearly decapitating two ducks on a leisurely afternoon swim). I’ve got you at 118. Good set-up, easy swing, put it right on the slope in front of that trap like you know you can. Let’s take trouble out of the way, then a pitch and two putt for bogey. What have you got?”

“8-iron”, I reply, my eyes squinting into the late afternoon sun as I take a couple of practice swings into the cabbage upon which my orange Wilson 50 lay.

I sense a change in the feel of the moment. The whole world and all its troubles and commotion suddenly seem very far away. Instead, everything seems hushed, unhurried, uncomplicated. I don’t hear anything, think anything, or see anything else. It’s just me, Zach my caddie, the 8-iron in my hands, an orange ball at my feet, and an intended landing spot on a warm Arizona afternoon in front of me.

Zach offers one final word of encouragement: “good choice, now move on it, your swing”.

For a brief moment I feel like I’m playing Augusta on a Sunday afternoon.

I hit the 8 crisp enough, perhaps just a tad thin, but the ball takes a nice easy high flight, dropping to the ground right where we aimed, then rolling a yard or two past, but still on an angle where I can pitch onto the green.

“Now that’s a golf shot!”, says Zach. “Great way to finish up.”

After pitching up to six feet and leaving my par putt inches below the cup, we all shake hands and congratulate each other on an enjoyable round. By the time I get to the cart, Zach has already picked up his bag and is walking over to the putting green, talking on his cell phone. He ended up shooting a (for him) course-worst 80, but his putting is the least of his problems; he’s a great kid with a great golf swing and has the world as his oyster. As I head back to my car I wonder for a moment how Zach’s life will turn out after he grows up – something he’s doing rapidly (his young voice had cracked a couple of times during the day, so he’s growing up before everyone’s eyes).

Here’s hoping Zach the caddie has a great life ahead of him as Zach the human being. Our round of golf together was fun, but the we time spent together laughing, joking, and trash-talking was, at least for me, more than that. Sometimes being around young people can make you feel old, but not this time; after hanging around with Zach I felt a little younger and not a little privileged to have met such a fine young man. Here’s hoping for all the best the world and his future has to offer him.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 12:59 | Comments (0)
March 13, 2013

A very exciting day for Roman Catholics around the world as we have a new Holy Father, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis I. The first Jesuit ever to assume the Chair of Peter as Vicar of Christ in the Western Hemisphere, it truly is a joyful occasion, and I offer my prayers as do millions of other Roman Catholics for a reign where God’s Church on Earth prospers and stands as a light amidst the increasing darkness of liberalism, atheism, post-modernism, and radical Islam.

For those wondering what kind of Pope Francis I might be, Michael Potemra of National Review Online’s Corner blog has this:

The son of a working-class family, he has been the archbishop of Buenos Aires for 15 years. At 76, he can be expected to have not a long pontificate, but an eventful one — he is the outsider they have chosen to clean up the curial mess. An anonymous cardinal quoted in the Allen piece says that four years of Bergoglio would be enough to get the job done.

The choice of the name Francis is a wonderful gesture. Many people, in Italy, as elsewhere, love St. Francis of Assisi and Franciscan spirituality, and that was one reason for the boomlet for Sean Patrick Cardinal O’Malley in recent days. This Jesuit pope is sending a message: I want to be a pope in the line of St. Francis, a pope of whom Francis would approve.

Like Angelo Cardinal Scola, who was considered the front-runner going into this conclave, Bergoglio is affiliated with the powerful lay movement Communion and Liberation. A Jesuit, pro-Franciscan, pro-CL, he unites a lot of tendencies within the current church.

People who worry that, as a Jesuit, he might be too liberal, should relax: A very conservative Jesuit priest of my acquaintance, who is unhappy with the liberal direction of his order, has been telling me for weeks that he supports Bergoglio for pope. Bergoglio is a solid conservative on the hot-button social issues that agitate American laity, but that would have been true of just about any of the cardinals who might have been elected today. The story here is that he is an outsider who is the consensus choice to fix what’s wrong with the church administration, but all in a Franciscan spirit of love and humility, to wipe the face of the church so that its inner beauty can radiate. St. Francis was called to “rebuild the church” — Pope Francis will act in that spirit.

And NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez writes of what it was like to be in St. Peter’s Square today when Fr. Bergoglio’s ascension was announced. Truly uplifting and exciting – must have been something to be there!

The selection of a Pope is something most people in the mainstream media know nothing about, but since it’s still such a big deal they’re forced to cover a story they know or care little about, and it’s both amusing and infuriating to hear such ignorance and liberal bias of epic proportions on display. No one is trying to downplay the sex abuse scandals of the past decades, but no story about the Catholic Church can be written by these clowns without bringing up the sex abuse scandals and the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

* The thousands of parents across the country working hard to stash enough money away to send their children to Catholic schools to avoid the cesspool that are the public schools? Not a word.

* All the charitable work done by Catholic hospitals? Not a word (except criticism for speaking up when the Obama administration tries to force them to perform abortions on demand and provide for birth control in their healthcare coverage).

* The fact that the Roman Catholic Church is the only orthodox Christian faith in the US still adding membership while the uber-liberal Protestant churches hemorrhage membership? Not a word.

* All the heroic work done by priests and nuns in the inner cities? Not a word.

It’s all sex abuse scandals and the poor homosexuals whose behavior (not their orientation) that the Church considers sinful. And here I expect the Church to hold the line. You start allowing gays to marry and all you get is a punch of pissed off trangenders and freaks wondering why not them as well. Because you see, with liberalism it never ends: you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. They’re always something new to protest or be pissed off at. On this, Rush Limbaugh is absolutely right:

They think religion and the papacy is a joke in the first place, and so they’re over there, and in a way mocking this whole thing. Over half them don’t even have a rudimentary education and knowledge/understanding of what this is and why it takes place and why it is meaningful to people. It’s just the latest popularity contest, just the latest celebrity news. Of course to the people involved, it’s far more than that. There it is: “Smoke Expected This Hour.”

And Rush is right about this as well. Why is it always Christianity that has to bend to liberals on homosexuality? Why do you never hear the mainstream media ask Islam to bend its treatment of women and homosexuals? The Catholic Church may have its problems (like any other organization), not allow gays to marry, and consider homosexual behavior a sin, but we don’t stone adulterers and homosexuals to death, and we don’t force women to cover themselves in cloth everywhere. It just goes to show how full of ignorance and horse sh*t in vast proprtions the mainstream media is when it comes to religion – most specifically, the Catholic faith, which they hate and hold with the greatest of disdain.

But I could care less what the mainstream media thinks. This ought to be a joyful day for Christians (Catholic and non-Catholic) everywhere. May God’s blessings be upon Francis I for the courage and strength to speak and live the Faith in a way that expresses the Church’s teachings in a powerful and personal way, one that stands strong against the forces of darkness and gains converts from all over the world.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 18:25 | Comments (0)
March 12, 2013

I counted the steps – it was thirty-four from the driving range at Toka Sticks G.C., where I couldn’t have hit the ball worse if I tried, to the first tee, where I effortlessly striped a 3-wood dead center in the fairway. A pulled 5-iron, a fabulous flop shot with a sand wedge over a yawning bunker to two feet, and a single putt later, I’m marking my bogey five on the card and wondering how on earth this always seems to happen.

I dunno – there’s something about me and warming up before a round that puzzles me. I mean, I usually stink, but few times as bad as I was today. Ground balls with a pitching wedge, duffed 3-woods, skulled irons of every type. I could practically hear the guy behind me waiting to hit his practice balls saying to himself, “it’ll be my luck that I’m going to get stuck behind this clown.” But it didn’t bother me. After finishing up with a big banana sliced 3-wood, I grabbed my bag, smiled at him, and in my most confident voice said, “now, let’s take it to the course!”

Today was round #3 with my Callaway RAZR-X HLs, and it was a breakthrough day for me, for not only did I break 100 for the first time with them (46 + 52 = 98), I had my first birdie with them as well (on a par-5, no less!), and did it in a way I feel is very important as I begin preparations for this year’s Goodboys Invitational weekend. Not because I broke 100 – believe it or not, I’ve done that several times before (though certainly not as often as I would like). Not because I had a birdie (although for me they’re pretty rare; I can count the number of birdies I’ve had since starting golf on my two hands).

No, the reason today’s round was so important was that, for the first time, I took into it a mindset completely different than any I had ever tried since the first time I took up golf two decades ago. This mindset, simply put, came from a series of conversations recounted by Tom Coyne in his fine and enjoyable book Paper Tiger: An Obsessed Golfer’s Quest to Play with the Pros with Dr. Bob Winters, Sports Psychologist with the Leadbetter Golf Academy. Coyne had gone to see Winters about improving the mental aspect of his game, and these conversations really hit home with me, to the point where I made my own commitment to give them a try myself the next time I played.

Discussing the importance of learning how to play golf “in the moment”, Coyne writes:

Doc explains the phenomenon experienced by tour players who are going low, players in the zone who are reeling off eight, nine birdies in a round [Ed. note: like someone we saw last weekend]. If you ask them what they shot before they look at their card, nine times out of ten they would have no idea, or would drastically underestimate their score.

“That’s being in the moment,” he explains, “when you have absolutely no idea what you might be shooting. In that state of mind, you’re not thinking about birdie putts or bogey putts – there is no such thing as either. I want you to forget about birdies and bogeys altogether. That putt is worth one stroke, same as the one before, same as the one after. People say, ‘Wow, I gave one back there,’, or, ‘I made bogey, I have to get one back now.’ And you know what I say to them? I say they are fooling themseves. I don’t care if they eagle the next hole, they will never get a stroke back that has already been played. If you are focused on giving strokes up, getting strokes back, then you are certainly not playing golf in the moment. Don’t think about birdies. Think about giving full effort on each and every golf shot. If you can do that, when you get to the scorer’s table, the birdies will be waiting for you.”

Now Coyne was concerned about birdies and bogeys; at my level my concern has always been about pars and bogeys and avoiding that big number that ruins a round before it is even well underway. In this regard, Winters gave Coyne some additional advice I found especially sage:

Doc and I discuss a European golfer’s mentality vs. how we think about our golf here in America. Americans tend to more result-oriented – nice birdie, nice five, good par, always aware of the score, focused on the end result. You hear the broadcasters in the British Open talking about how a hole was well-played, or a putt was well-holed.

“We would do well to borrow a little of that attitude on the golf course, to get away from the fixation on outcome,” Dr. Winters explains. “If you are out there on the golf course thinking about a certain score, it is almost an absolute guarantee that you will not shoot it. If all you can think about over a golf shot is winning a tournament, then you might as well pack your bags, because it isn’t going to happen. But if you can get to the point where you do nothing but focus on executing one golf shot, then the winning often takes care of itself.”

I remember reading these words for the first time and saying to myself, “holy sh*t”, that’s me to a ‘T’. So in preparing myself for today’s round I made Dr. Winters’ words my pure focus. I didn’t worry about my score, and while I knew I was putting a good front nine together, I resisted the urge to look ahead and project what I might score if I could just bogey or par my way in. And you know what? It worked. Not only was the 46 as good a nine-hole score as I’ve had in the past, I found myself enjoying the challenge of attempting each shot free from the pressure I’ve always put on myself to make a particular number.

Of course, it didn’t work all the time – especially on the back nine there were lapses in focus and a couple of very poor shot selections (an ill-advised 4-hybrid over a pond to a sinful pin placement instead of taking trouble out of the way with a 6-iron layup was especially punitive), but the big thing was that I didn’t allow these to snowball into a string of mistakes. And, at least for me, that was a breakthrough of sorts.

Now let’s be realistic – at a Goodboys Invitational weekend, with your partner depending on you, the trash talk, the bets all over the pigeon sheet, and all the other usual distractions going on around you this kind of mindset, while advisable, is simply not possible 100% of the time. Yet, there’s still a great deal of wisdom in Winters’ words – it’s not only good advice, it leads to a greater level of enjoyment in playing the game, and it worked well for me today.

What I’m most proud of is that I played ten holes at bogey or better – something I doubt I’ve ever done before. for me. Unfortunately, after that blistering front nine, things got a little loosey-goosey on the back – especially off the tee – but I still was able to grind out a good recovery shot (or two) on each hole to keep the final score under 100. Better yet, there’s still plenty of room for improvement – after all, I only hit six fairways today, and while my total number of putts was still a little higher than I’d like (30), I one-putted four times and didn’t three-putt once. That’s definitely moving in the right direction.

The only thing that would have made the day more satisfying would have been a post-round whirlpool at the Wynn Las Vegas spa.

Now it’s onto Saturday and the first formal golf lesson I’ve ever looked forward to. Expect a full after-action report here at Goodboys Nation weblog.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 22:12 | Comments (2)
March 9, 2013

My post from the other day on some happily re-discovered songs by the legendary The Band brought back some powerful memories of thirty-five years ago that I cherish to this day. For it was in 1978 that I first saw Martin Scorcese’s film “The Last Waltz”, celebrating The Band’s last concert surrounded by many of their friends and musical influences. While both the film and the music contained therein was fabulous, it was a performance by Neil Diamond, of all people, that stands out in my memory more than any other. Let me explain:

It may seem strange or hard to believe that it would take someone twenty-three years to have a so-called “coming out year”, but that’s what 1978 was for me. You see, that was that year I discovered there was another world outside of the Tewksbury-based existence I was brought up in; it was a year of discoveries in all sorts of ways.

…Not that Tewksbury was bad by any stretch of the imagination: I remember fondly the town of my youth – a small town that disappeared a long time ago, a slice of small-town America comprised of Shawsheen River cabins, ’50s style ranch housed neighborhoods, and a Main Street that was really a main street that inevitably was a victim of its own success, now just another crowded, traffic-stifled bedroom community comprised of endless condos and strip malls covering every parcel of land possible. But I digress…

It’s always assumed that in a family it’s the older brother that serves in some acknowledged head or leadership or influential role, but the truth is that it was my brother Mark who I always aspired to be most like – a little wacky, a little reckless, more than a little restless – and it was his breaking away in the summer of 1977 by enlisting in the Army that ultimately paved the way for me finding my own way of spreading my wings the following year.

Once Mark left, I readily admit I floundered around for awhile trying to find a new center – my old high school friends and I had gone our separate ways, and our band Top Priority had split up. I was three years into a relationship with a girl whom I liked a lot but had no intention of marrying. I was close to finally completing four years of night school to get my A.S. from Northeastern University, but I had absolutely no clue as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. While I liked my Tewksbury surroundings, I was well aware it was time to see what else was out there. 1978 became that year.

It was a co-worker at Liberty Mutual where I was working as a programmer trainee at the time, my good friend Paul Mancuso, who served as the doorway to that new world. We laugh about it to this day, but Paul at that time was also trying to find himself. Born and raised in Waltham, he was just out of college and a couple of years older than me. We hit it off pretty well almost immediately. What I liked about Paul was the doorway he offered – a different background, different musical tastes, different kinds of friends and acquaintances. Whereas I was Merrimack Valley, he was metro-Boston. Whereas I had my own musical tastes like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, surf music, and Pink Floyd, his ran all the way from the Stones to Dylan to The Ramones anmd Blondie to Frank Zappa. It was a real eye-opener.

When I hear the music from The Last Waltz, I’m hearing the experience of Paul and me seeing the movie in Cambridge at the old Frank ‘n Steins restaurant/bar surrounded by college kids and coeds – a surrounding I could never have imagined myself experiencing just a year before. In addition to performances by The Band and the likes of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and others, there was another that provided a link between my previous Tewksbury life and the one I was now experiencing, so brand-new and exciting.

My brother Mark had always been a Neil Diamond fan. I’m not talking the dopey, lounge lizard singer he would become in the ’80s, but the soulful hit-maker of the early and mid-’70s. Whenever a new Neil song would come out on 45, Mark would inevitably add it to our collection, and there were some really good songs: “Sweet Caroline”, “Holly Holy”, Cracklin’ Rosie”, “Be”, etc. But what really jazzed both of us was his 1976 album, Beautiful Noise, produced by The Band’s Robbie Robertson. It’s still, in my mind, one of the all-time best recordings I’ve heard. There’s simply not a bad cut on it.

More importantly, that album served as the last one we would both gravitate to together. In those days we had it on 8-track, and we’d play it often as we’d drive around town, or up to the beach, or to the seawall in Nahant. Songs like Signs, Lady Oh, Dry Your Eyes, and, the hit from the album, If you Know What I Mean were more than just songs to us. Diamond’s lyrics about loneliness, alienation, and restlessless in an urban setting spoke to us, both consciously and subconsciously, about our own awareness of how we were growing up and gradually going our separate ways.

When, by 1978, Mark would come home on various leaves, it was readily apparent that he had changed greatly, but so had I. On that night in Cambridge with Paul watching The Last Waltz and seeing Neil Diamond come out on stage, seemingly out of place amidst the likes of Dylan, Mitchell, Young, Clapton, et al, yet holding his ground with a stirring rendition of “Dry Your Eyes”, I can still remember feeling the power of what that song represented: a bridge in time spanning the past and the present, Mark now in his new life, I in mine, one song a forever link to days spent together driving around in my 1969 Pontiac Tempest, days now irrevocably gone, perhaps forever.

The gap between us would grow ever larger as our lives continued in different directions, but that’s the moment that was back in 1978.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:25 | Comments (0)

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