June 20, 2013

I think I woke up the kid manning the counter at the Superstition Springs pro shop when I walked in around 1 PM to pay for my range balls – the last I would be requesting for quite some time. The temperature outside read 103 and the only sign of movement anywhere in the shop came from Golf Channel on the flat screen over the manager’s office with the CLOSED sign on it.

“Two large buckets of balls, please.”, I ask. “Say, I haven’t seen you around here, are you new?”

“Naw”, the kid says. “No one’s around, the course is empty. You’ll find the range empty as well. Sure you want to hit balls out in that heat?”

“I live for this”, I reply. “Tee it up.”

The kid wasn’t fooling, I’ve never seen a driving range so void of life. Just like last time, except this time there’s no one else out here – not even the Asian guy who’s always here – and someone had at least raked the balls off the range. As I walked to the ball machine I stopped to take the scene in. It was not just quiet, it was deathly quiet, like that scene in One Upon A Time In The West (one of my all-time faves, BTW) where the McBain clan are putting out the wedding feast and suddenly all the birds and crickets stop before Henry Fonda and his men emerge from the brush and shoot them all.

And the kid was right about the heat. I mean, I’ve been out here in the heat before, but this was really something. No birds chirping. No usual sounds of idle chatter, balls being hit, golf carts being washed down and run between the various locations. It was the golf version of the end of the world, just me, my Callaways, and my Big Gulp filled with ice and Coca-Cola. (Good thing on the latter, since no one had bothered to fill the water stand.)

But none of this matters – not the sun, the heat, nor the emptiness, for I have work to do. Today’s focus is on set-up and my swing thoughts going forward towards Goodboys weekend, just 31 days away. A dozen sand wedges pinched to 40, sixty, and 80 yards. A dozen pitching wedges hit anywhere from 50 yards to 90 yards, attempted both picked and trapped. Four nine irons followed by the same for the eight, seven, six, and five. Four balls off the turf, then four off a tee for each club. Looking and feeling pretty good so far, although you never know with the damned wedges because it’s far different on the golf course then it is on the range.

It’s blistering hot, so me and Big Gulp take a short walk and hang out in the shade under a spindly tree. It’s no cooler, just a little darker, but it helps. I’m thinking about how far I’ve come and how consistent I’ve become at striking balls, not just on the range but quite often (though not often enough) while playing actual rounds. A rabbit darts out from under a nearby set of bushes, looks around, realizes it’s too damned hot, then heads back under cover.

Back out into the sun. I move on to my hybrids and start spanking what will be come Goodboys weekend very important arrows in my quiver. The three hybrid I’ll use on tight holes where once upon a time (in the west or otherwise) I’d haul out my 3-wood. But so far I haven’t gotten a feel for that club so it will come along but only for the ride and a rare cameo if I’m screwing around on the range back east. Same thing with the four hybrid as a replacement for my 5-wood. I pulverize a dozen fours before I decide, what the hell, and drag out the 5-wood. After six or seven skulls and lousy hits, the 5 goes back in the bag, doomed to the same fate as its cohort the 3-wood.

A few long draws on the still-icy Coke and it’s over to the putting green for some chipping and putting. As hot as it is I’ve got some really good tempo and chip and putt five dozen balls, four at a time, to various pin locations. More times than not, I one putt – I really like this new putter and have gotten very comfortable with the way it feels and putts. (Of course, in a month I’ll be on New England greens and grasses and that’ll be back to square one.) The black surface of my putter’s head is so hot from the sun it’s amazing the balls don’t stick to it. As much as I love beating balls, I’m glad this is it as far as range ratting in Arizona summer heat goes.

I’ve been out here more than an hour and I’m still all by myself. The Coke has turned to Coke water but surprisingly there’s still a few cubes left to keep it cold. I wipe my face and neck with my towel and get back to work. I’ve still got a couple dozen balls left and it’s time for my grand exit. First, a dozen balls crushed with my driver (ten of twelve hit on the screws dead center, one ugly slice, one duck hook), then it’s back to the sand wedge and pitching wedge, six balls each as I started with. Some are a little forced, but the heat is really coming on now and it’s time to say adios.

I’ve got one ball left. It’s decision time, and for a moment out there in the heat, just me and my clubs under a shimmering, cloudless azure sky, I take a moment to think back to the very first time I came out here with my new Callaways just after Christmas, a different golfer with a completely different swing, attitude, and approach to the game. Who, if you had told him then that come mid-June he would have hit more than two dozen buckets of balls, spent more time on the range between March and June than he had in the last three years, and immerse himself in the game to the point where he could tell you his swung speed, ball speed, and relative trajectory off the tee, he would have looked at you and asked who you were and what did you do with The Great White Shank.

I tee a ball low to the ground and pick out my target straight ahead – a trio of date palms situated at the far end of the range between two mountains of the McDowells far to the north, hazy and brown against the blistering heat. I grab my three hybrid, carefully set the clubface directly behind the ball placed well forward, take my stance (slightly closed), square up my shoulders, and tell myself to “keep those $#@% hands quiet. I draw the club back straight and slow, then come through with Alex Black’s power move. The ball jumps off the clubface high and straight, splitting the natural fairway created by the 125 and 150 yard markers. A ball that would play on any tight par four you could toss in my direction.

I’m finished.

There’s a sound behind me, and Joe, one of the regulars I see from time to time is getting a bucket filled. I grab my gear and head for the parking lot.

“I see you left me some heat and a few spaces”, he smiles under his wide-brimmed plantation hat. “See you in a few days.”

“Not this time, Joe” I reply. “At least until the fall my range rat days are over. It’s time to play a couple rounds before I head back east for my annual tournament.”

He smiles. “Oh I’ve got a feeling I’ll be seeing you before then. You’ll find a reason – all us range rats do.”

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 03:53 | Comments Off on The Range Rat Says Adios
June 19, 2013

A few thoughts and items while experiencing the longest days of the year under the hottest sun we’ll get. Here in Gilbert, AZ it’s light enough to do yard work at 5 AM and if you don’t pass out from heat exhaustion you can go all the way past 8 PM. This is the time of year where carmelo and the boys really earn their landscaping pay.

End of an era: The Beach Boys are releasing what I’m guessing will be their final album, a 6-disc compilation of curiosities, unreleased tracks, and previously-unheard live performances called Made In California, due in the stores on August 27. I can’t wait, as there are several tracks featuring the late Carl and Dennis Wilson that I’ve only heard on crummy bootlegs. It’ll be a must for any serious BB collector.

You can’t have it both ways: It was none other than Lindsey Vonn who pronounced to the media that she and Tiger Woods were an item, and none other than Lindsey Vonn who didn’t do much to disguise her presence at tournaments her new beau was playing. So excuse me for not feeling sorry for Ms. Vonn when she complains to the media that she’s more than just Tiger’s girl.

The headline says it all: NTSB: Bad eyesight likely caused Okla. train crash. I mean, what’s wrong with this picture? Am I missing something here?

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An engineer killed in a fiery train collision in the Oklahoma Panhandle last year suffered from serious vision problems for much of his life, underwent several corrective procedures in the years leading up to the crash and even complained that he couldn’t distinguish between red and green signals, a doctor told a federal oversight board Tuesday.

So why on earth was this guy still engineering trains?

Immigration reform: Count me as over supposed Republican Senator Marco Rubio and his push for amnesty for 11 million illegal aliens over the scurity of our borders. I get calls from national Republican groups asking for $ and end up arguing with them because I won’t give them one dime if Senate Republicans keep pushing this folly. The Republican establishment in Washington just can’t get it through their thick skulls that it wasn’t the lack of Hispanic votes that kept Mitt Romney from being president, it was conservatives that sat on their hands and stayed home. I keep telling them the best way to combat the Democrats on this issue is to make folks understand that the one demographic that will be hurt the most by amnesty is the Democratic Party’s #1 constituency: African Americans. Comprehensive immigration reform will hurt inner-city blacks more than any other group by suppressing wages and taking lower-end jobs away.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 03:49 | Comments Off on The Longest Days
June 18, 2013

It was a great U.S. Open this year, and congratulations go out to Justin Rose, who has been knocking on the door of winning majors and made his first a really great one. A few final thoughts:

1. Lots of people picked Tiger Woods to capture his 15th major, but until he putts better on weekends he’s not going to win another major. I’ve said it before, he can post all the wins he wants on his favorite golf courses (Torrey Pines, bay Hill, etc.) – and take nothing away from him, those wins are still great achievements – but when it comes to majors he’s just another excellent golfer in a field of great golfers. There are just too many guys out there capable of winning majors, and that number is only growing larger by the year. Now that Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, and Justin Rose have broken through, do you think Tiger’s job of catching Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors has gotten any easier?

2. Jason Day is the real deal, a real gentleman, and someone destined to win a major – and soon.

3. And, breaking clubs aside, Rory McIlroy is my new choice to win The Open Championship at Muirfield during Goodboys Invitational weekend. I believe him when he says he’s really close.

4. Who will be the next to break through and win their first major? Besides the afore-mentioned Day, how about Jason Dufner, Billy Horschel, Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter, or Hunter Mahan? All great young golfers who hung really tough this past weekend under the most brutal conditions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them break through very soon. Dufner is the one in this group I’m especially high on. That dude’s got game.

5. As much as my heart goes out to Phil Mickelson for falling short a record 6th time in a U.S. Open, he’s got only himself to blame. He was in a great position after that eagle on 10, but that mis-hit wedge on 13 and that missed putt on 16 are unforced errors you just can’t make if you want to win a U.S. Open. Justin Rose’s goal all week was to focus on par, and that’s why he’s the U.S. Open champ.

6. People this past week were talking about Ben Hogan’s iconic 1-iron on 18 back in 1950; decades from now people will be talking about Rose’s drive on 18 and his follow-up 4-iron – two of the purest strikes you will ever live to see. It was golf at its finest.

All in all the biggest congratulations goes out to the USGA for having the vision to pull this year’s U.S. Open off at a classic site like Merion and the folks at Merion for working with the USGA to help make it happen. It was a wonderful venue, really tough, and one that deserves through its history and beauty and layout to be called upon again sometime in the future.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:00 | Comments Off on Open Thoughts
June 16, 2013

A few thoughts while believing pollster Scott Rassmussen is right when he says that all the scandals coming down around the Obama administration are really all about one thing: can you trust the U.S. government? I can tell you I don’t, and believe it or not, it pleases me not to have to say that. No one listens to The Great White Shank, but let me tell y’all this: big-government liberals and progressives will come to rue the day Barack Obama became President, for his legacy will be the undoing of their basic premise that government in its most basic form is good, right, and worthy of the people’s support and trust.

Is it just me, or shouldn’t this be a huge deal?

And while I can understand why this story hasn’t been made a bigger deal by the mainstream media, isn’t this a huge deal as well? I mean, if, say, it was reported that a Romney administration had sent in spies to infiltrate progressive organizations like the ACLU or Occupy Wall Street, wouldn’t the media have been calling for Romney’s impeachment?

I haven’t been watching, but the Stanley Cup Finals sure look like hockey at its best.

Saw a commercial for one of the NBC talent shows (might have been “The Voice” or “America’s Got Talent”) showing Cher as one of the guest stars. Sure looks like she’s a walking testimony to plastic surgery – I mean, she was like 18 when doing Ronettes back-up vocals back in 1963. You can do the math.

I’ll have more on this in another post, but this weekend’s U.S. Open at Merion as been a showcase for everything golf can be when a course is set up properly. I’ll admit, I thought – like most people did – Merion’s shortness as a layout would lead to a birdie-fest, but it just goes to show that talent and equipment be damned, in the end a well set up golf course and Mother Nature remain an unbeatable combination.

I sure hope the Obama administration keeps us militarily out of what’s going on in Syria. I’m convinced the best weapon against what’s going on in the Middle East is to go full speed ahead on the Keystone pipeline, oil shale fracking, and research on all forms of renewable energy. I was wrong about supporting President Bush going into Iraq and keeping forces in Afghanistan after the Taliban government was toppled. In my view, the only nation worth supporting and defending in the Middle East is Israel; other than that let them squabble, fight, and kill each other as they’ve been doing for centuries.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:39 | Comments Off on Weekending
June 15, 2013

Five weeks away from Goodboys Invitational weekend and I’m finally starting to feel all the work I’ve been doing starting to pay off. On a hot, dusty, and breezy Superstition Springs course I carded a 53 + 49 = 102 that easily woulda-coulda-shoulda been ten strokes less. I know I said a while back that golf school was over and the days of using the golf courtse as a laboratory were over with, but that was either naive, premature, or a combination of both. A lot went right today but there are still areas that I need to attend to if I have any hope of competing at Goodboys. Let’s take a look at the positives first:

1. My new senior flex driver hits like a dream. Because Superstition Springs is a classic “second shot course” you don’t get a lot of opportunities to drag out the big dog, but today I had eight chances off the see and hit or near hit seven fairways – not too bad. Unfortunately, the only hole where the dreaded duck hook showed up was where I least needed it, dumping on in the water on 17. But I hit my penalty off the tee and drilled it down the fairway in fine style.

2. My Ping Scottsdale putter is deee-lightful; I really like it. I’ve hit a couple hundred putts on putting greens since I got it two weeks ago and the work really paid off – not just because I’m comfortable with how it feels and hits, but it helps take the pressure off my chipping game, allowing me to relax a bit and try not to be too perfect. Today I reduced the number of putts attempted from the lower 40s to 32. There’s still work left to do there – while I had six one-putts I also had four three-putts – but I’ll take 32 putts any day.

3. My decision to go with driver or 3-hybrid off the tee is a great strategy for Goodboys weekend. On the five holes I chose the hybrid I hit fairway four times (don’t ask me about the fifth!). With Goodboys weekend coming up quickly I’ve decided to leave the 3-wood in the bag and use the 5-wood only when I’m on a wide-open par 5 with more than 200 yards to the green.

4. I’ve decided after much comparison on and off the course that when it comes to hitting irons I’m more comfortable (at least for this year) being a picker instead of a trapper. Whenever I’ve tried to trap the ball like Alex Black wants me to out on the course there’s just no consistency and feel for distance, whereas when I try to pick the ball I’ve got a better feel for what I want to do and don’t over-swing. I’m more than willing to trade a few yards for lack of ball compression for more consistency and accuracy. (Although I will admit trapping the ball is more fun and feels really great when you’re out at the range!)

5. Between now and Goodboys weekend I plan on trying to hit my sand wedge a lot more often when the opportunity presents itself. Two of my pars today were direct results of short pitches with the sand wedge – when chipping isn’t an option or a short, high flight is needed it’s a great weapon to have in my arsenal.

Now the negatives:

1. I’m back to learning distances with my irons and hybrids. I struggled today with a lot of approach shots because I simply don’t trust my distances. This is where the range really doesn’t help – if you want to score better you have to play more golf and all the various kinds of shots required. You can’t have, say, a 7-iron go 134 on one hole then the next hole fly it ten yards further. Same with the hybrids. I got in a lot of trouble today guessing clubs and guessing wrong. I’ve figured the 3- and 4-hybrids at ten yards further than I originally thought (190 and 180 yards, respectively), so that will help, but I’ve simply got to trust my swing and my irons enough to get a better gauge at how far I hit them.

2. I need to stick to the same set-up routine on every shot. All my best shots today were made after taking the time to see the shot, set up, square up, and let it fly, but too many times I just grabbed a club and hit without really thinking about what I was trying to do. I’m doing better, but I do need to get a little more disciplined in that area. Going forward I need to really focus on the same pre-shot routine every time: 1) Pick out a target, 2) Set club behind the ball and square up, 3) Keep those hands quiet, and 4) Did I mention keep those $#@%$& hands quiet?

All in all a good day, considering that the 49 on the back included a triple and a quadruple bogey, but I got sloppy on some holes you really need to focus your attention on. Can’t do that during a Goodboys weekend! I’ve got one more round planned for Superstition Springs next week and my final round in Arizona for the year the week after, and then everything gets shipped back to Massachusetts in preparation for my arrival the second week of July. There’s still much work left to do, but I’m gaining confidence that I’m back to making good progress.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 03:27 | Comments Off on A Step Forward (Updated)
June 14, 2013

Been a crazy week around the Richard hacienda. First of all, we’ve got this hot new Dell Inspiron laptop to replace the Inspiron desktop that head crashed just after we got back from San Diego. You would think we of all people would have been smart enough to be backing up all our data, but we weren’t – fortunately, Seagate was able to recover all of our data and will be sending us a new disk, but the tech guy who took a look at the PC’s insides says it looks pretty bad inside. I guess that’s what happens when your PC shares a room with rabbits. The fur I guess really raises havok with the internals. But I’m not getting rid of the rabbits, so we’ll just have to get smarter, faster.

Warner the tree guy came and gave our queen palms a manganese treatment to try and save the runt of the litter which we really like (both it and its healthier companion really give the swimming pool its tropical look) but he’s only giving it a 50/50 chance of survival. For some reason, queen palms are really popular here in the Valley of the Sun but they don’t like the kind of soil that’s here and often struggle. I told Warner that if that pal goes I’m replacing it with a more AZ-friendly Mexican Fan Palm, which not only require less H2O once their settled in, but make a lovely sound in the wind.

The Lowe’s windows install folks are coming next week to replace all our windows with energy-efficient double-panes. The only concern we have is that, because these windows eliminate ultraviolet rays our light-sensitive houseplants are all going to suffer. Still, it’s worth it considering the fact we’ll be able to rid ourselves of the brown screens that make the place seem like a cave. It won’t be healthy natural light for the houseplants, but the natural light will be nice and we won’t have to worry about our furniture fading because of the sunlight pouring in.

You want to know what a tough job is this time of year? Carmelo and the landscaping crew, who try to show up as early as possible before the temps go into the triple-digits. To day Carmelo knocked on the door and was excited to show me that the bougainvillea in the prayer grove have grown enough for him to create the first arch of the year by which the “altar and statues are all visible under a lovely arch of green and red flowers. If I can get a picture up in the next few days (once I get my Blackberry software loaded on the new machine) you’ll see how nice it looks.

Tomorrow the monsoon season in the Valley of the Sun officially kicks off, but for all intents and purposes we’re not going to see thunderstorm action here for a few weeks yet. You can already see the clouds building in the afternoon over the Supertition Mountains to our east, though, so the action isn’t that far away. It’s my favorite time of the year here. Arizona monsoon lightning is unlike the thunderstorms you get in the east – lots of dry storms with incredible displays of lightning.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:56 | Comments (2)
June 12, 2013

Another day that’s to be hot as blazes. We’ve been here ten years and I don’t recall it getting this hot this early. Heck, the pool temp is already at 94 – a month ahead of when it usually gets that high. Today I’ll be staying inside and keeping cool, unlike yesterday (see below). In the meanwhile, just a few worthy items of note:

I have a feeling the USGA’s decision to hold the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion is going to be regretted, big-time. Not only will the weather play a significant role in how the Open is played, the shortness of the course combined with the soft conditions will turn the event into a birdie-fest joke. Perhaps if the conditions were dry and the course playing hard Merion would still be a true test, but you can’t give golfers this good using the equipment available to them a short, soft course. The only good thing I see coming out of this is that maybe, just maybe, the USGA will stop worrying about non-issues like the anchored putter and focus it’s attention on the balls being used. It’s the ball that is causing these classic old courses like Merion to become dinosaurs and the glorified executive courses, allowing things you can’t control like the weather to play an even larger role.

This story makes you wonder who exactly the Obama administration is collecting information about and why. I’ll tell you why now, but it’s a given this will be revealed in the future (probably during a Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend news dump): the whole data collection effort was designed to exploit the previously-passed Patriot Act for two purposes: 1) identify like-minded individuals the Organizing for America group could contact and exploit in order to get people energized and to the polls to re-elect the President, and 2) suppress and create obstacles for conservatives and Tea Party activists to organize against the President’s re-election by passing their info along to other government agencies like the IRS and EPA. This is high crimes and misdemeanors beyond anything the Nixon administration was accused of doing – yet, Nixon was forced to resign and people went to jail. Not only will President Obama stay in office, but I sincerely doubt anyone in his administration will go to prison for this. Truly frightening stuff.

So, my friend Paul calls me while I’m at the Superstition Springs driving range yesterday. “Where are you?”, he asks. “Where do you think?”, I reply. “Wasn’t Jesus teaching in the temple? I’m at the driving range.” Paul’s surprised to hear that and tells me the Accuweather site says it’s 110 in Gilbert with an Excessive Heat Warning in effect. And all of a sudden I realize he’s right – I knew the afternoon felt hotter than usual. I’m drinking my water and still sweating like a pig. And that’s when I look around me and see that, except for one guy at the far end of the range beating balls, I’m alone. No one’s on the course, no one’s on the putting green, there are no cart attendants in sight, and the range is a mess with stewn buckets – many with a handful of balls left in them – strewn all over the place. The trash bins and the driving range haven’t been picked for at least two days. The usual sing-song of the birds has been replaced by an soft quiet, and the sky has the sizzing quality of a Ruth’s Chris steak. “Wow”, is all I can say to myself. I hadn’t noticed a thing. I go back to beating balls.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 09:10 | Comments (2)
June 11, 2013

There’s been a hole lot of hubbub and debate across the blogsphere over that bombshell UK Guardian article exposing a NSA program that monitors and gathers information from phone calls and e-mails made in the U.S. You’ve got good people on both sides of the political aisle either supporting what Edward Snowden did or accusing him of treason.

My take on all of this is pretty simple: whenever there’s a debate over the encroachment on personal freedoms vs. the concerns over our national security the cause of individual liberty and freedom have to prevail. In a open and free society there’s no way you can protect everyone’s lives: there are bad guys out there who want to do bad things to people. As much as we all want to believe we have control over our lives and that bad things only happen to other people, the truth is, you can’t protect yourself 100% from acts of terror and violence. Heck, I could be dead this afternoon from the actions of some deranged whack-job shooting up the local Fry’s while I’m grabbing bunny greens in the produce section. You just never know.

The greater concern, in my view, is exactly what President Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell speech, notable for his use of the term “military industrial complex”. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air writes in a much more eloquent fashion than I can just how close President Eisenhower was to the truth then as we hae come to know it today.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what can happen when political zealots – of any persuasion – have the ability to employ the muscle of the federal government to push their own political ideology. It’s not only a threat to personal liberty, it’s a direct violation of the first amendment to the Consitution – you might recall from your social studies class how it reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And, it seems to me this whole broad surveillance of specific individuals without a court order is in direct defiance of the 4th amendment to the Constitution as well:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Some people will say, I’m not doing anything wrong, let them do what they have to do.

My response: that’s fine, I’m not doing anything wrong either, but if you want to listen to my phone conversations and/or read my e-mails you better have probable cause and get yourself a court order.

What the recent Obama administration and NSA scandals show is a government that is not expansive and overwhelming in terms of size, power, and reach, but one that is completely out of control, unable or unwilling to police itself, and completely opaque in its doings to the average citizen. In my view, this is a far greater threat to our lives and liberties than anything a terrorist or deranged individual could ever do.

And lest one think I’m just piling on the Obama administration the danger in all of this is blind politically – one can only imagine the outcry and fury one would see from the mainstream media if this kind of thing was all coming out under a Republican president, or if it were liberal or progressive groups that were targeted by the IRS instead of Tea Party and conservative groups. The threat to our lives and liberties cuts both ways.

If there’s one good thing about all this, it’s that the opportunity to discuss, debate, and rectify these practices in the public realm is now before us: to do so in an honest and apolitical fashion is critical to our very future as a republic and what we want to be and how we want to live as a people. If, in the end, it leads to a smaller and more transparent and accountable federal government, replacement of the current tax code in favor of something that reduces exponentially the role and influence of the IRS, and stricter rules by which our national security agencies conduct their business at hand, this will all be a good and necessary thing indeed. Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful about this at all – there’s far too many cooks in the kitchen and political agendas at stake.

The last line of Morrissey’s post is spot on:

Eisenhower tried to warn us fifty-two years ago about this very outcome. Maybe it’s time to start listening.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 11:12 | Comments Off on Spies and Lies
June 10, 2013

It’s 104 degrees on a late Sunday morning – so hot that the dark blue finish on the Saturn would burn your hands if you left them there long enough. So hot that the jet-black head on my Ping Scottsdale putter is too hot to touch. The driving range at Superstition Springs is virtually empty; the only ones there are familiar faces: the young Asian guy with the big swing who seems to always be there whenever I am, and the older guy with a white mullet hair who always seems to be on his cell phone or chatting it up with whomever happens to be hitting balls near him. He looks edgy there all by himself with no one to talk to and no phone calls to make.

Just as I was yesterday, I’m here today with a purpose: 1) cultivate a reliable and consistent 3-hybrid I can hit on tight holes during Goodboys weekend; 2) sharpen my chipping game; 3) get comfortable with my new putter. Since my new graphite woods with the senior flex shafts aren’t due until Monday at the earliest, I’m using this weekend to sharpen the skills I will need to rely upon when the pressure is really on at Goodboys. I’m also practicing swinging my clubs harder than I have been: that day last week at the PGA Superstore fitting center really opened my eyes. As both Chad the fitting specialist and my swing coach Alex Black told me, I’ve been giving away yardage and consistency by not taking a full and more aggressive swing with all of my clubs. As a result, I’ve allowed my hands to either be too active or not active enough in the hitting zone, creating shanks or big pushes to the left or ugly duck hooks to the right.

The 3-hybrid is an important club for me to get comfy with, and two days of letting it fly after being sure to set up square is paying some real dividends: the duck hook and that gnarly push to the left have both become less frequent, and I can see the difference in both my ball trajectory and distance from getting some real compression on the ball. Today in front of my familar make-believe fairway on the far left side of the range I’m pulverizing one ball after another, not only seeing the difference but hearing it in the way the ball jumps off the clubface. This is Alex Black’s “power move” realized to its fullest extent. I think he’d be proud of me.

I’ve also been working extremely hard on my pitching wedge, to the point where I can now use it as my 100-yard club. Prior to my last Alex lesson, the best I could do was hit it 85 yards, but swinging a little bit harder and taking a divot has added at least 15 yards to the club. Today as I did yesterday, I’m effortlessly raining balls one after another down around the 100 yard marker without over-swinging, really compressing the ball in my follow through.

I down a few cups of water from the cooler and see the chipping/putting green is empty. The heat is really beginning to build but I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I grab four orange Wilson 50s out of my bag and toss them at various locations around the green. I pick out a pin and chip each one, then try and make no more than two putts (preferably only one) from where they land. I do this forty times today. For whatever reason, my chipping is less than stellar – OK for now because it means I get the chance to putt from longer distances. Whereas yesterday’s session was awful – couldn’t get the feel of the new Ping at all – today I’m starting to learn what this putter does best and begin to make the necessary adjustments in my swing and stance. I especially like the way you can hit it “dead” (without virtually any swing) and drain three-footers. I don’t do it often enough, but at least I know the potential is there. Now it’s all about repetition and gaining confidence.

I’ve been out in the heat for two hours and the Asian guy is still banging balls. The guy with the mullet is long gone – I guess the fact he had no company or calls to make made hitting balls seem like too much work on a blazing hot day.

I’ve put in some good and really significant work this weekend, and feel more confident about the kind of game I can take to the course the next time I’m out here. At my next session – hopefully Tuesday – I’ll be introducing those new graphite woods with the flex shafts to golf Great White Shank style. I sure hope they’re up to it, because six weeks from today Goodboys weekend will be over with and The Great Golf Immersion Experiment of 2013 will be history. Six weeks from today it will be back to the more mundane tasks of paying down the debt and watching the monsoon season turn into Arizona winter.

While enjoying a cold Sam Summer at the clubhouse grill I can’t help but think about all the practice sessions I’ve put in and how fast this year has gone by. I’ve worked so hard on my game – harder than I ever thought I’d ever want to, harder than any other Goodboy by a long shot, I’ll bet, yet have precious little to show for it in terms of scoring. Which, in the end, is all that matters. Still, it has been a great deal of fun and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of seeing my former swing smashed into a thousand pieces and slowly, gradually put back together again.

Whether or not it all comes together in time for Goodboys weekend is anyone’s guess: that’s something we’ll all know in six weeks.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:12 | Comment (1)
June 9, 2013

A few thoughts after another brutally hot day – I know it’s June but it’s early in June, a little early for heat of this nature.

Congratulations to the Boston Bruins, who are headed to the NHL finals following a sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Well done, lads!

Between the Obama administration’s unwillingness to make anyone accountable for the various scandals surrounding it and the IRS harrassing and targeting conservative groups simply on the basis of their political ideology, Americans are finally getting an accurate picture of a federal government completely out of control and so big and unwieldy that it’s impossible to trust anything it does anymore. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection blog has it right:

Obamacare will put into the hands of the IRS medical and health information of an unprecedented level. As bad as leaks as to which websites you visit would be, the threat of leakage of your medical information could be equally devastating to freedom of speech and the political process. It would take a mere nod and a wink to convince someone that participation in the political process was not worth it if the result was the exposure of sensitive medical issues.

You can’t separate the data mining, the culture of intimidation, and criminalization of daily life.

The answer to this problem is not easy, precisely because of the legitimate national security concerns. That where to draw the line may be difficult to ascertain does not mean that a line should not be drawn. The wholesale creation of a national database of everything electronic crosses any reasonable line.

Obama’s response is that we should trust the government.

The Obama scandals tell us otherwise. From the phony Benghazi talking points, to IRS targeting, to deceptive measures to obtain journalist phone and email records, the Obama administration at multiple levels and in multiple agencies has proven that it is not worthy of our trust. Or of our information.

2013 has been a bad year for liberalism and its big-government agenda, and I think history will look back on this year as the year the federal government reached its apex in terms of size and influence. Come the 2014 mid-terms no Democrat who wants to win is gonna run on a platform of more of the same; likewise, Republicans won’t have to work too hard to find issues that will define their opponents. The Obama years are going to be looked back on as the last gasp of 1960s liberalism. It’s ironic that the ’60s radical agenda was formed to wage battle against an administration they saw as overreaching in its power and influence; once they themselves gained power what they’re doing is far worse than anything the Nixon administration could have ever dreamed up.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m hardly a fan of First Lady Michelle Obama, but she was absolutely right telling that gay activist attempting to disrupt her appearance the other day that either the activist be escorted out or she would leave. Let alone the fact that gays, lesbians, transgenders and whatever the hell else they call themselves these days – I’m told “queer” is now back in vogue – have known no greater supporters than the Obama administration, it amazes me just how unhappy gay and atheist activists are. I mean, these are the most unpleasant and unhappy people on the face of the earth, yet somehow they get all the attention. I’m not talking about homosexuals who go about their lives as we heterosexuals do, and/or atheists and agnostics that go about their daily lives the same as we believers do, I’m talking about those activists who seem to live their lives in constant offense at the least perceived slight. Wish they’d get a life and leave the rest of us alone.

OK, enough ranting. The pool is already 92 degrees, so I’m heading back in for a little late-night dip.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:29 | Comments Off on Trying To Keep Cool

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