June 30, 2013

Yesterday we got up as high as 115 here in Gilbert. It was pretty miserable, I have to say. There was one other advisory I forgot to mention the other day when it gets as hot as it is: outdoor pet advisories, where people are not just told to keep their pets inside, but dog owners are advised not to take their furry friends on “walkies”: during the hours of 2 PM to 8 PM unless they have little doggiekin socks for their feet because of the heat of the concrete. I’ve actually seen dogs wearing them, they’ve got all kinds of colors and styles at Petsmart. File that under “world gone mad” category.

If you’ve never heard Ennio Morricone’s “Jill’s Theme” from Sergio Leone’s classic Once Upon A Time In The West you’re missing an incredible piece of music – if it doesn’t move you then you’ve got no heart or spirit. What amazes me about this piece is that it’s been done so many times by others, and it isn’t an easy piece of music to sing. It was originally sung by Italian soprano Edda dell’Orso) But to show you it can be done, check this version out and this one as well. Both are top notch, but I give Patricia Janeckova’s version the nod for it’s pure autheticity as originally done. She’s wonderful – makes me wonder why Charlotte Church never tried it.

Here’s an example of the liberal mindset I so much admire: valuing the lives of bees over that of unborn babies.

This is a truly tragic story for the people in Egypt – a country that imports more than half its food and an economy dependent on tourism allowing radical Islam to destroy it from within. Me, I’ve always wanted to do a boat trip down the Nile to see the desert and the pyramids, but like a lot of folks with the same dream, I know that’s something scratched off my “bucket list” for good. Hard to believe Egypt used to be such a vibrant and cosmopolitan culture; now, like everything else radical Islam touches it’s all going to sh**. Just don’t expect the mainstream media to cover it from that angle.

As a believer in personal liberty, I don’t have a problem with the Supreme Court throwing out the Defense of Marriage Act – I’ve always believed that marriage should be whatever the states want it to be defined as, and Christian institutions ought to be able to decide to whom the sacrament of Holy Matrimony shall be given. And while I think the Court did a huge disservice by punting on the California Proposition 8 decision and not upholding what the voters in California legally decided at the ballot box, I get that lesson as well: if you don’t want a detached bunch of politicians at your state capital imposing legislation you don’t approve of, work to vote them out and put in folks that do. Democracy is not a spectator sport, if you want change you have to want to work for it, and hard.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:38 | Comment (1)
June 29, 2013

After weeks of speculation and rumors of infighting and internal dissention, an embattled yet defiant Goodboys 2013 Exec-Comm emerged from its secret bunker to release the final details on what promises to be one of the most intriguing and exciting Goodboys Invitational weekends in recent memory. In prepared statements read to a gathered national media over conference bridge, “2 Times” Proctor and “Possum” Shepter announced that this year’s Goodboys Invitational will be a three-day event to be played at The Ledges Golf Club in York, ME, Wentworth-By-The-Sea Country Club in Rye, NH, and Black Swan Country Club in Georgetown, MA.

While The Ledges has been part of the Goodboys rotation for the past few years, the selections of Wentworth-By-The-Sea and Black Swan caught more than a few veteran Goodboys observers by surprise. As Proctor mentioned in his statement, the choice of courses were not by accident. “For 22 years the Goodboys Invitational has demanded only the best from those privileged to have been a part of this sacred July tradition. Discipline, expertise, and derring-do have always been the hallmarks displayed by teams who have won the winner’s jackets and the hallowed Spielberg Memorial Trophy, and too much familiarity with a particular course or courses can lull one into a sense of… into a sense of…”

“Lullness”, interjected Shepter.

“Yes, lullness. The two new courses we have entered into the mix”, continued Proctor, “promise to challenge every Goodboy into being their best, and we believe they are the strongest and most diverse mix of courses ever chosen by any Exex-Comm – and yes, I am talking to all you prior Exec-Comms. This year’s slogan is ‘GET REAL’, and we are ‘getting real’ by introducing not only great courses, but a two-tiered system that will for the very first time in Goodboys history challenge not just our low handicappers, but our high handicappers to play their individual best.”

While choosing not to comment on the rumors of infighting, saying only that they were “overblown”, in his prepared remarks Shepter provided more detail on the two-tiered system being introduced for the benefit of both low-handicap and high-handicap Goodboys. “In past years, if the low handicappers wanted a good challenge, the higher handicap Goodboys had to suffer through a potentially disastrous and hard round of golf by playing from harder tees than they probably should have. This made for a miserable round for some, and occasional slow play. The opposite was also true: if all Goodboys played from tee boxes that were considered too easy for the high handicappers it led to disinterest and complaint. So this year, we’re going to use the handicap system the Goodboys have been using at MyScorecard.com to assign golfers to the proper tee box. This should keep the good golfers tested, the more challenged golfers sane, and the whole round moving a little bit better.”

The response from veteran Goodboys watchers was generally positive. Gaylord Pellrine, author of several papers on the Goodboys tradition, called the course selections “brilliant” and the proposed two-tiered system “audacious, and a long time in coming.” Three-time Goodboys champion Jay “Crusher” Spielberg, who retired from Goodboys play in 2010, called the two-tiered system “the most exciting thing I’ve seen since DelMonte started offering diced new potatoes in a can”, but wondered why it took the Goodboys so long to come up with such a practical and obvious solution of play. “Look, no one has ever accused the Goodboys of being nuclear physicists, but why it took 23 years for an Exec-Comm to come up with such a bold and innovative solution leaves one scratching one’s head, don’t you think?”

The response from those Goodboys who could be reached for comment was by and large positive. “Nice!” said “Cubby” Myerow. “Nice job.”, said “Killer” Kowalski. “The Funny Guy” Andrusaits issued the following statement: “Nice courses, nice job. Cubby and I (Team Ha-Ha) plan on going ha-ha on all you ha-has.” One Goodboy who requested anonymity, citing Exec-Comm’s “heavy-handed tactics” expressed cautious optimism, saying only, “A change in scenery is always good. As for the two-tiered system of play, “Of course it will all depend on where they draw the line; there are a lot of guys on the bubble between the blues and the whites.”

Perhaps the most unique response came from “Vegas” Clark, who telegraphed the following response from his Cape Cod home:

Just sitting here with the dog. STOP.
Staring into the rainy fog. STOP.
Glad I don’t jog. STOP.
Saw Chicago last night. STOP.
Those horns are still tight. STOP.
Classic love songs all right. STOP.
Mind wanders to the sea. STOP.
Hope I play the blue tee. STOP.
Goodboys is where I want to be. STOP.
Gotta go pee. STOP.

The 2013 Goodboys Invitational is scheduled for July 19-21, and will be broadcast on CBS Sports.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 13:26 | Comments (0)

Put me down as an unabashed Sarah Palin fan because she’s one of very few Republicans out there with the courage of her convictions to speak the truth, and she’s absolutely right about the GOP establishment’s mishandling of the issue and blowing a great opportunity to define what the Party really ought to be about: respect for the rule of law, reducing the size and scope of the federal government, lower and simpler taxation, and personal freedom. I think Hot Air’s Allahpundit nails it about the opportunity being lost by a Party so eager to take the easy way out instead of doing the hard work that would really help folks in a hurting economy that no one seems to want to talk about:

This amnesty charade is simply the GOP’s way of dressing a gaping economic wound that cuts across racial demographics by putting an identity-politics band-aid on it, as if legalizing more cheap labor to make things even harder on working-class Americans doesn’t make the problem worse. The real reason to despair and start thinking third-party isn’t the amnesty bill itself, it’s the fact that this is what the party feels compelled to resort to now in lieu of building a better economic agenda. If they can’t figure out how to talk to people who aren’t entrepreneurs about pocketbook issues, then why keep donating to them and organizing for them? They’ve flunked politics 101. We’re pumping a dry well here.

Related story: my landscaper Carmelo and I were surveying the back yard the other day and discussing some new palm trees we’d like to put in around the pool area to replace one of the queen palms that died and fill in a little empty space to make it more “tropical” when the subject of immigration reform came up. He thinks the support for legalizing the undocumented workers amongst Hispanics is overblown by the media – lots of them work low-end jobs and introducing more competition into what is already a competitive and challenging work environment doesn’t do them any good. Besides, he said, many undocumented workers actually prefer it that way because they’ve got the best of both worlds: access to lots of local services while still being able to work under the table and not have to pay taxes.

I think Carmelo’s right here – this whole “comprehensive immigration reform” effort is nothing more than yet another cause (just like gay rights and gay marriage) being pushed by the progressive wing of the Democrats and their partners in crime in the mainstream media to shame Republicans (not conservatives) into pushing their hot-button agenda items into the fabric of American law and life. Fact is, if the folks in Washington would only enforce the laws that were already on the books, the illegal immigration issue would dry up and die on the vine. But that’s not what liberals want – they despise the rule of law only when it suits their purposes of expanding their power and voter base, and that’s all this is about. The real shame is that Republicans seem to have forgotten all about what the Party used to stand for, and I can see a real split coming in the next few years that will assign the GOP to the dustbin of history.

I’m actually ashamed to call myself Republican and plan on changing my enrollment back to independent since I can no longer support a Party so detached from its base. Long live the Tea Party!

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:02 | Comments (0)
June 28, 2013

In just four days my clubs will be making their way east to join me for a week of preparation before this year’s Goodboys Invitational weekend. Today I made good use of a window during my workday morning to squeeze in one final two-hour practice session at the Superstition Springs driving range before the heat started to build towards its 110 high.

Arriving at the range it was obvious a bunch of other people had the same thought – seeing many of the same familiar faces I’ve shared hellos and conversations with over the past several months it felt like a homecoming after the last two visits when there was no one around. The big-hitting Asian guy blasting one monster drive after another smiled and gave a thumbs up when he saw me trudging towards the blocks. A guy named Joe who spends most of his time chipping and putting around the practice green said hello. The guy with the white mullet was wearing the same Metallica shirt he always does, and, as usual, was spending as much time talking into his Bluetooth as he was hitting balls. Another guy named Danny was working his way down the line, offering extra balls to anyone willing to take them.

Seeing all the familiar faces put me at ease as I found an empty spot between two other lefty golfers. I set up my clubs as usual, white towel (wet on one end as usual) draped over my clubs and limbered up with a few sand wedges and pitching wedges before working my way down through the rest of my irons. Each club got five balls each, their ball flight taking a similar slight right-to-left fade trajectory – the result of weakening my grip and changing my bottom hand thumb location like Alex Black showed me two days prior.

I stopped and downed half of my red Gatorade to see the lefty to my right hit a ball that bounced off the Alex Black Instruction sign ten feet in front and to the left of him. “Shank!” he yells, and we all have a laugh. Wouldn’t have been so funny five months ago when such a shot was something I would have done and feared doing. Nowadays, it’s just something to have an easy laugh over.

I move on to my hybrids and am pleased to see the same results today as I was getting with Alex the other day: big, high hits aimed at the right side of my imaginary fairway fading towards the middle or middle left side. I take a look at my 5-wood and say, “what the hell”, and remove it from its sock. First swing, skull. Second swing, blistered high and long with a slight fade to the middle of my imaginary fairway. Third swing, skull. Fourth swing, a low stinger that splits the fairway. Fifth swing, a thin hit that would do on the course just barely. Oh well, not ready for prime time.

For giggles I grab the 3-wood expecting much the same, but here my session takes on an entirely different feel. From the very first hit it’s clear the 3-wood wants to come out and play. Half a dozen nice hits, four high and long with a soft fade interspersed with two absolutely pure hits, “on the screws” as they say, pulverized dead center and with that unique sound that tells you it’s good without you even having to watch. I’m suddenly re-evaluating my tee game strategy and think there’s plenty of room for the 3-hybrid, 3-wood, and driver depending on the challenge each hole presents.

By now I’ve got a dozen balls left in my bucket and finish off with my driver – plenty of solid hits, not one ball even thinking about going right. It’s near 10:15, and time for some chipping and putting before calling it a day. Same drills as I’ve done countless times regardless of the conditions: four balls, pick out a pin, then putt them in from wherever they land. My tempo isn’t bad today, and neither is my putting. I never thought I’d get to the point where I could feel the difference between golf balls, but chipping and putting these Callaway Hex Diablos has an entirely different feel than my old Wilson 50 compressions. After a dozen or so sets, I’m finishing up and chip to a pin about fifty feet away, leaving putts for fourteen, twelve, four, and two feet away. I’m walking towards my balls when Joe stops me.

“When’s that tournament your playing?”, he asks.

“Three weeks from tomorrow.”

“I’ve seen you out here a lot and if you don’t mind me saying, you’ve improved a lot. Glad to see you got rid of ‘dem orange balls. You’re too good for that. But now I’m gonna put some pressure on you. I’m gonna stand right here and watch you putt those balls.”

“That’s OK”, I say smiling, “I eat pressure for lunch.” (Dr. Bob Winters would have been proud of that attitude being expressed!) Upon which, I drain the fourteen and twelve footers, miss the four-footer (OK, I babied that one), then tap in the two-footer.

“Looks like you’re ready.”, says Joe.

“I dunno. You don’t know the Goodboys, lots of personal history there. It’s not until Sunday afternoon rolls around that you know whether you were ready or not.”

We shake hands and I head back to where my bag and clubs are. Looks like Danny left me six balls. Pitching wedge duffed. Second pitching wedge drops like a parachute next to the 100-yard marker. A 3-hybrid take the same familiar track the earlier ones did, soft fade to left-center. A 3-wood is mashed, long and straight. (Talk about which club gets the game ball today!) The final two balls, in true Goodboys fashion, are left for the driver where you pretend you’re on the first tee at whatever course you’re about to play. In my imagination I’m standing on the first tee at Portsmouth Country Club, a dogleg-right par 4 that’s wide open straight ahead and left.

My first drive is solid, a high arc with that same soft fade I absolutely love. I tee up my final ball, the last one I will hit at Superstition Springs before my trip back east. I take a moment to drink in the atmosphere: the Asian guy is now on his third bucket, hitting high beautiful lob shots from his hitting area to the now-empty putting green. Danny and Joe are gone, as is the guy with the mullet in the Metallica shirt. There’s a stick hitting a few areas down – I know he’s stick not just because the shots he’s hitting both look and sound pure one after another, but because his Taylor Made bag has his name on it. Nice.

I pick out my target, place my club behind the ball, get my hands where they need to be, square up my shoulders, and let it rip. It’s my best driver of the day, a dead-straight blast that lands in the center of the fairway somewhere out there. It’s a great way to finish what has been a great learning experience and a lot of fun.

The heat’s really coming on now and I down a bottled water before making the walk back to my car. There’s no looking back – not just because there will be plenty of time for that over a cold Sam Summer later, but because I know all the work I need to do from here on out will take place on one more Arizona track next Monday morning – early! – and then back east.

Three weeks to go to Goodboys Invitational weekend. We still don’t know exactly where we’re playing (don’t get me started on that), but at least I know I’m where I need to be.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:24 | Comment (1)
June 27, 2013

When you talk to the locals who are used to the heat here in the Valley of the Sun, they’ll tell you they can pretty much handle anything Mother Nature throws at them until it hits the magic 112 mark – there’s some mysterious deliniation between the typical Arizona heat and the “OK, I’ve had enough!” kind of heat. Well, everyone here is bracing for some serious heat coming here starting on Friday and running through Monday. The heat advisories have been up for days, and there are all sorts of hints and reminders being passed around, like:

* If your car is parked outside leave your windows open a crack so they don’t explode from the inside
* Avoid any kind of outside exertion whatsoever after, say, 11 AM when the heat starts building very fast
* Avoid contact with any kind of dark surface whatsoever
* Keep yourself hydrated even if you’re inside just in case you do have to venture outside

Carmelo and the boys came by a couple of days early because, as tough as they are – and those guys are tough, even they know that starting on Friday they’ve got “snow days”. In temperatures like that you can get heat stroke very easily, and it’s nothing to fool with. And I don’t use the term “snow day” for no reason – when the heat is projected to be like it’s supposed to be, businesses will suffer just as New England businesses do when there’s a big snowstorm and no one ventures out. The only difference will be the green grass, the blue skies, and the bright shining sun.

I always thought that Sky Harbor Airport starts grounding planes when the temperature passes 118 but I guess that’s no longer the case. Even if it temps hit 120 as they could in Phoenix the planes will still keep flying.

Me? I’ll be planning on staying inside and using the outside heat as an excuse to clean the house. A week from Monday we’ll have people crawling all over this place like ants replacing our windows so everything gets a good cleaning. As good an excuse as any, I guess…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:43 | Comments (0)
June 26, 2013

“Whoa. I see it.”

There we were, my swing coach Alex Black and me on a shady corner of Alex’s instruction area just starboard of the 9th fairway at Superstition Springs Golf Club, my home away from home for the past four months. The heat being what it has been this week, when I dialed 911 requesting a session to try and resolve my tee game inconsistency he thought it best for an early start. My choice? 7 AM or 9 AM. After asking if he was serious, I gulped hard and went with the 9 AM slot.

That, my friends, is what dedication to your golf quest is all about.

Quick thought: There ought to be a law against any kind of golf activity before 10 AM – at least that way you have time for an eye-opener to take the edge off. Heck, the clubhouse restaurant isn’t even serving mimosas at 9 AM.

But I digress.

My first thought as we disembarked from Alex’s golf cart was that I didn’t recall ever seeing shade at this area of the range until I realized it was so damned early that the sun was still low enough for the spindly trees to actually create shade. As Alex set me up, I told him my concern: a very inconsistent tee game featuring lots of right side of fairway (and beyond) hits: pulls, draws, and ugly snap hooks. I told him how I despised being on the right side of courses from start to finish – over the years I’ve developed quite a fondness for playing the left side of the fairway and would love to get that that lovin’ feeling back. But above all else, I needed to hit the ball straighter and more consistent.

I hit a few 3-hybrids for him and actually was smacking them pretty good for the first half dozen or so balls. Fortunately, Mr. Snap Hook decided to make a cameo and that’s when Alex yelled out to me that he saw something and asked me to hold my finishing position.

I froze like a statue.

“I see what’s happening here. Now, don’t panic at what I’m about to tell you because I think it’s an easy fix. The saying goes never fool with someone’s grip but I need to have you try something.”

Now, conventional wisdom says that messing around with someone’s grip can lead to all kinds of trouble – everything from losing one’s swing to losing one’s sanity, family, home, and everything else one holds dear. But I’d come to trust Alex’s judgement implicitly (heck, even with my tee game woes I’m still hitting the ball better than I’ve ever dreamed) so I didn’t bat an eyelash and simply said, “tee it up”.

One thing about Alex is that he gets very excited when he’s got wisdom to pass along and in this case his excitement jumped from sub-light impulse to warp factor 6 in less than 2.4 seconds. “I see two issues here that I think are easy fixes for you. Set up at address as you normally do.”

Alex pointed out that my right hand grip was very strong – 3.5 knuckles worth. Not sure when that started happening – I’ve always played with kind of a neutral grip, but then again, when it comes to golf I’m as ADD as one can get. He asked me to weaken my grip a tad, down to two knuckles. His next comment took me by surprise, but if there’s one thing I like and respect about Alex is that he’s honest about himself as an instructor.

“Take a look at where your thumb is, it’s over the down arrow of the Callaway grip. A few years ago I realized I was teaching my students wrong, telling them to cover that arrow with the thumb; I came to realize that contributes to a closed club face at impact. So between your strong grip and that thumb over the arrow you’ve got a really shut face at impact.”

As the saying goes, light dawns over Marblehead. And now it’s confession time to my golf priest. “Which explains why I’ve been so inconsistent off the tee – I’ve been going against your instruction from our very first lesson to release my hands as I come through the ball. Instead, I’ve been telling myself to keep my hands quiet at impact to keep the club face from closing too much. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Alex knows a successful intervention when he sees one. “Exactly!” He has me place my bottom hand so the thumb is just left of the arrow on the 3-hybrid’s grip. I also weaken my grip just a tad as he instructed. But he’s not done yet. “There’s one final thing I want you to do: I want you to lengthen that swing on the take-back and the follow-through – you’re picking the club up a little quick – probably a result of your strong grip. I want you to focus on expanding the circle of your swing. And don’t keep those hands quiet – swing hard, release those hands, and make a good shoulder turn so that your left shoulder gets into the game.”

It sounds like a lot, but the instructions are actually pretty simple and make sense. By weakening my grip just a little I can take the club back on a flatter plane; by releasing my hands instead of keeping them quiet I’m making a fuller, more athletic swing with a more pronounced shoulder turn and making the A-flex shaft I’ve gone to whip through the ball, giving me more distance. The best part of it all? I can swing just about as hard as I want to. Like they say, grip it and rip it, let the shaft do the rest.

Alex tees up a ball and points out a generous fairway he wants me to aim at, between an electrical box and a couple of yard markers, and I take my address. For a few seconds, the world becomes what God originally planned: wars cease, lions lay down with lambs, the hungry have food and the thirsty have water. Marco Rubio halts his plan for immigration reform. Harry Reid says something nice about the Tea Party.

As I come through the ball, the strike is solid, the trajectory high and with – lo and behold! – a slight fade from right to left. Alex tees up another one. Same result. He tees another one up. This one is pulverized, long and straight as an arrow.

“That’s a beautiful swing there, Doug. Let’s try the driver.”

The results with the “big dog” are remarkably similar – lovely little fades interspersed with occasional bombs, all falling within the fairway Alex created. I’m in love. He then shrinks my fairway by 50%, but it doesn’t matter – it’s as if in just five minutes I’ve gone from a defensive golfer into an offensive powerhouse of accuracy. Not to mention gaining some extra yards along the way. He shrinks the fairway by another 50% and asks if I can try and get another ten yards off my drives.

As his obedient servant, I oblige, hitting two towering blasts with just the hint of a fade. Alex is pleased. “You can play that all day. Great job.”

We go back to the 3-hybrid and play the same shrinking fairway game. Rather than that damned snap hook, my miss is now to the left, and I know when that happens it’s simply because either my weight isn’t shifting forward enough or I’m quitting with my hands. This I can handle, because there’s no playing around anymore with trying to keep my hands quiet – everything is now about making a powerful move to and through the target.

“I’ll bet you’ve been hitting your irons to the right as well, though not as bad, correct?”, he says as we head back out into the sun and into his cart. “Do the same thing with your irons and I think you’re going to be very pleased.”

Our work is complete. As he drives me to my car, it’s nearly ten and you can already feel the heat of the day building. We say our goodbyes, but Alex reminds me he’s always around the regular range on weekends and expects an after-action report from Goodboys weekend. He reminds me that my original goal expressed to him back in March was that I wanted to play bogey-and-a-half golf – say, 96 to 99 – regularly. “The way you’re swinging you can do better than that – you can shoot low 90s easily. It’s now all about having confidence in yourself and your swing, making more putts, and managing your game and the courses you play. You have the tools, now go and do it.”

We’re less than four weeks away from Goodboys Invitational weekend, and for the first time I feel I’m not near where I need to be, but exactly where I need to be.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:00 | Comments (2)
June 25, 2013

A few thoughts while wondering if it’s really going to get as hot as they it’s says it will later this week. I was planning on playing one final round of golf before sending the clubs back east ahead of me, but that’s not looking too likely right now.

This is really an incredible story about an incredible soldier. Never heard of Island, KY either…

Reading this story made me realize just how much I miss Vegas. It’s only been about 4 1/2 months but it seems like years since I was there. I know where Firefly is – it’s on Paradise, close to our favorite Strip hotels. Never really appealed to me and I guess that’s a good thing!

You gotta love the New York Times, they really know how to spin a story. The whole comprehensive immigration bill the Senate voted for cloture on yesterday takes the concept of “extra security for U.S. Borders” to the height of absurdity. Ted Cruz is right – this bill is the Obamacare of immigration reform. It’s a pork-laden joke that shows just how unserious and recklessly incompetent our elected so-called “leaders” in Washington are. Hopefully, the House of Representatives will see this legisltaion for what it is and pay no attention to it. Serious issues deserve serious debate and legislation – in Harry Reid’s Democrat-led Senate, it’s just political pandering and game playing.

…and the fact that Republicans have bought into this nonsense is both sad and discouraging. I expected as much from John McCain – he’s useless – but Arizona’s other senator Jeff Flake ought to know better. Which is why I’ll join the effort to recall him.

Porous border security, 11 million illegal immigrants, a lackluster economy, government agencies running amok. So what does our esteemed President now focus his attention on? Climate change. Yeah, that’s exactly what the economy needs right now – more regulation and taxation. This guy is a friggin’ piece of work.

R.I.P. Bobby (Blue) Bland. Truly a giant of the blues has passed away. Great stuff like this and this.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:17 | Comments (2)
June 23, 2013

A few clips from one of my favorite all-time flicks. Enjoy!

From the opening where Charles Bronson takes down Jack Elam, Woody Strode, and Frank Wolff (without hurting any of the horses behind them!).

The big gundown between Bronson and Henry Fonda. Doesn’t get better than this. The music by Ennio Morricone is fabulous.

And the passage of time. Nothing lasts forever.

Once Upon A Time In The West was both my brother Mark’s and my favorite western of all time. We played the soundtrack so much we wore down the grooves of the LP. It’s a classic, an, as they say, opera of violence. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore and never will.

I’m particlarly fond of the ending, where Bronson carries off Jason Robards’ body as the railroad comes into the station and the music swells to a crescendo – it always makes me cry and touches me deeply. Y’see, Bronson, Fonda, and Robards all symbolize the passing of the old West, whereas the coming of the railroad railroad and Claudia Cardinale’s migration west from New Orleans symbolizes a new era dawning. I guess in some way it just cuts a little close to the bone, reminding me in my own way of just how much of a dinosaur I am, living in a time, place, and culture I’ve never and will never embrace. Like Bronson, I’m just running out the clock and riding to keep out of other people’s ways.

But I guess that’s why they make movies to begin with.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 03:25 | Comment (1)
June 22, 2013

A nod to Wilson Pickett and Creedence Clearwater Revival for the title of this post – that be some great ol’ R & B there, ain’t it? They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Lemme hear you say “yeah”!

But I digress.

As I’ve always said, the scorecard doesn’t lie, and today’s 48 + 51 = 99 at Superstition Springs Golf Club is, as they say, what it is. Good enough to drop my unofficial handicap below 28, which is something I wanted to do before Goodboys Invitational weekend. I’ve mentioned several times this year about my outings that I feel like I hit the ball better than I scored. Well, today was the exact opposite, where the scorecard betrayed a lot of scrambling, and this was a scrambling sub-100 round if there ever was one. If you had told me I would hit only three fairways (one via a solid skull on 18) and rack up another 40+ putt round (41), I would have guessed something in the 110 or above range. But this is a new Great White Shank, and if there’s one word that describes my game at this point it is dogged persistence, and that’s where I was all day long.

Actually, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. The three fairways hit belies the fact I was just off on six others (we play an honest brand of golf here, folks!) and actually drove through the fairway with driver on #11 and #13, something I never actually thought was possible, at least for me (more on that later). And while the putting was definitely not what I wanted it to be, I was actually pretty comfortable with that Ping Scottsdale all day; I just never adjusted to the speed of the Superstition Springs greens, leaving lots of downhill putts short and hitting my uphill putts too hard. It didn’t help that my chipping got a little sloppy on the back nine, but that’s what rocket-fast greens and 104 degree temperatures will do to you over time. I hit a season-high 10 holes at bogey or better and didn’t have a hole score higher than a seven (three of the four par 5s).

If there is one area of concern it was an omnipresent draw / hook / “rights” that crept into my game almost from the start. Which was weird, because the only word that describes my pre-round warm-up was “pure”. Back in the pre-Alex Black days if there was I was one thing I was familiar with, it was being on the left side of the fairway, either deliberately (playing a cut), or a big push that in less ambitious moments was nothing more than a glorified shank. Now I find myself battling a pull right that in finer moments can be called a power draw or, at most inopportune moments, a duck hook that I can’t stand – hell, I’d rather hit and be able to play a bona fide slice! My partner for this year’s Goodboys, Steve “Killer” Kowalski, says a hook is the mark of a good player (it tells you you’re really coming through the ball, which I am) but that doesn’t make me feel better.

If there was one new variable entered into today’s round it was replacing old reliable orange Wilson Staff 50 balls for Callaway Hex Diablos. The consumer reports I’d read were intriguing, and they definitely lived up to their advance billing:

The s-Tech core has a lower compression and is highly resilient. This combination provides extremely soft feel off the clubface, improves accuracy and provides fast ball speeds that maximize distance.

The first time I hit this ball I noticed a huge difference in feel and flight, and was stone in love with them from the git-go. For better or worse, they absolutely jump off any club face they come in contact with, and I used that performance for a lot of great approach shots from Palookaville. Those drives through the fairway on #11 and #13 were, I’m positive, purely the result of the Callaways, and I’m sure my putting performance had something to do with them as well, for I found balls flying past holes I was sure (and then verified) that the orange Wilsons would leave short and then got tentative on everything after that.

All in all, there’s no complaining about a 99, but I’m left with more of a sense it could have been a whole lot worse than a whole lot better. There’s certainly more work to do around the chipping/putting green with the new Callaways, and I’ve got Alex Black on speed dial to try and help me through this attack of the “rights” (once a conservative, always a conservative, I guess!). But I feel I did a good job today, both on my set-up and course management, and anytime you can break 100 at Superstition Springs you’re doing something right. I’m just glad I won’t be seeing this course anytime soon – whether you shoot a 112 or a 99, you feel like you worked your ass off to make that score.

I’ve got one more round in Arizona before I head back to New England for Goodboys Invitational weekend and all the preparation I’m planning. Hard to believe that a month from today the clubs will be at a UPS store for the trip back here and then won’t see the light of day for months. It’s been a really great and a grinding experience, and I’m looking forward to both seeing just where all this work leads come Goodboys weekend and a much-needed break from all things golf.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 00:24 | Comments (0)
June 21, 2013

Hard to believe the year is flying by so fast, but today is the longest day of the year:

The solstice heralds the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. In 2013, the solstice falls on Friday, June 21 at 5:04 Universal time, which is 1:04 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time and 12:04 A.M. Central Daylight Time.

And it’s not just the longest day of the year, tomorrow night will also feature a “supermoon”:

This year’s summer solstice also stands out because it will be followed shortly after by the largest “supermoon” of the year. In the early hours of Sunday, June 23, the moon will officially reach its full phase and will be the closest to Earth that it will be all year.

While the astrology-minded might be tempted to see significance in the timing of the two celestial events, there is no connection, said Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

“People draw this connection between [the supermoon] and the summer solstice, but it’s completely coincidental,” he added.

Back in olden days, the summer solstice was a real cause for celebration, but I’m not sure it has anything to do with sex. Still, all these links have a lots of fun and interesting facts about summer solstice traditions all over the world.

My wife Tracey used to dread the longest day of the year when we lived up in New England because that meant the days were about to start getting shorter, and that just meant fall and winter being around the corner. Still, there’s plenty of summer left – especially here in the Valley of the Sun – so my recommendation is to enjoy the day for what it is and celebrate all the good things the warmth of the sun brings us!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:02 | Comments (0)

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