April 24, 2016

Back here in Massachusetts to help around with things while my mom is hospitalized. A few thoughts about May in Massachusetts:

The one defining smell of may in Massachusetts you immediately recognize is that of bark mulch. It’s everywhere. We don’t do bark mulch back in the Valley of the Sun, so the smell is friendly and familiar.

I’m a little disappointed in my Massachusetts cohorts. There’s a Starbucks Coffee next to the Dunkin’ Donuts down the street and I counted eight cars in the drive-thru at the Starbucks, only three at the D-squared. What’s wrong with these people?

May is a funny month. It’s spring, for sure, but the weather can change on a dime. Today the sun is warm on the face – you would definitely have to lube up on the sunscreen if you were playing golf – as a lot of folks were doing today, apparently – but the wind was still cool. Come Tuesday it’ll be rainy and only in the forties before it jumps back into the ’60s by week’s end, when, hopefully, the crisis here will be passed and I’ll be back in Phoenix.

Went grocery shopping at the local Market Basket supermarket, and the difference from my local Fry’s is quite distinct. Doesn’t seem to be a lot of happy and outwardly friendly employees at the MB, whereas at our local Fry’s chain – no matter which one you go to – everyone is uncurably friendly, from the folks directing traffic at the registers down to the elderly Asian gentleman who sweeps the floor at my local store. It’s not a criticism, just something about the different organizational cultures you just notice when you’ve been away for a while.

And speaking of supermarkets, it’s so weird to shop at a supermarket where they don’t sell beer and wine.

You can really tell that spring has indeed sprung here in the northern climes. Every day you can see the leaves just popping on all the trees. In a week or two will be my favorite time of spring, when the lilacs come out. Lilacs are my favorite flower, bringing back memories of the house I grew up in and my grandparents’ house. Back in the days folks used to plant lilac bushes beside the house so you’d get their sweet fragrance inside the house while they were out.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 13:39 | Comments (0)
April 21, 2016

R.I.P. Prince. Was never much of a fan of his but there’s little doubt he was a very underrated guitarist. As a 60-year old I can tell y’all 57 is way too young.

I found this article about Tiger Woods to be truly riveting and more than anything, sad. It’s just not in the guy’s DNA to be open and welcoming to his fans, the media, and the sport that made him rich beyond his wildest dreams. It’s not hard to imagine him as a retired golfer secluded in his mansion like some Gloria Swanson-esque character the world and his sport left behind a long time ago.

I gotta admit, conservatives might be aghast, but I’m with The Donald on this. Do we really want to get involved in redesigning the public bathroom wheel because a relative handful of transgenders want to choose which bathroom to use? The liberal media always – always – blows these kinds of things out of proportion (after all, it’s their lot in life to be outraged over something, anything!), but I’m guessing the number of people insistent on this kind of thing is actually pretty miniscule. When you gotta go, you gotta go, and last time I checked, every public bathroom comes equipped with stalls that can be locked.

…that being said, I understand the concern over non-transgendered males wanting to take advantage of this as an excuse to get their jollies (in some case, literally) in the company of unsuspecting women, but once again, as someone who finds solace and a great deal of common sense – something that’s not so common anymore – in the practices and traditions of the past, might it not be time to bring back the old bathroom attendant, like the strip clubs in Vegas use? (Not something I’ve ever experienced personally, you understand, just something one of the Goodboys – I forget who – once told me.) A very cheap solution to make sure there’s no undue hanky-panky – and someone can actually benefit from the employment. There, problem solved without yet another form of crazy legislation.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 15:23 | Comments (0)
April 20, 2016

Well that was quick. Only a couple of weeks ago Ted Cruz, fresh off of a big victory in Wisconsin, thought he had stuck a big fat detour into Donald Trump’s road to the GOP’s presidential nomination. All over the conservative blogs and cable networks all you heard was Cruz! Cruz! Cruz!, while Trump kept getting battered left and right. As Sundance at Conservative Treehouse writes:

…32 private jets belonging to dozens of millionaires and billionaires flew into Sea Island Georgia to meet with top RNC officials and GOPe leadership to strategize how to eliminate Donald Trump. They spent hundreds of millions attacking him. Trump remains standing – because voters remain standing.

Every professional political entity behind Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and the DC republican establishment coalesced with Ted Cruz to defeat Donald Trump. Billionaires have spent more attacking Trump in the past three months than they spent countering President Obama in the prior seven years. Their efforts continue today.

And, of course, for the umpteenth gazillionth time, you heard that Trump’s campaign was dead and buried.

Then came the Empire State. Cruz got walloped, never even got a delegate. In the end Kasich might get three or four, but the night clearly and overwhelmingly belonged to Trump. And now it’s Cruz’s campaign that is going to have to answer for staying in the race when he no longer – even were he to run the table going forward – has a path to a first-ballot nomination. Of course, that’s not Cruz’s strategy – his campaign knows that were his delegates to be based strictly off the voters he’s stick-a-fork-in-him-done. No, Cruz knows the only way he’s going to get the nomination is to stop Trump from getting the requisite 1,237 delegates for a first-round KO, then work the system with the GOP insiders to get the nomination on a second or even third ballot.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Increasingly, over the past few weeks, Cruz and his campaign have revealed themselves to be nothing short of total GOP insiders, working and gaming the system to influence as many delegates as they can in the hopes Trump falls short. Sleaze-ball politics, perhaps, but then I always thought Cruz to be more than just a disingenuous sleaze-ball, oh-so-cleverly portraying himself as a total outsider in the Senate when few know how to play the insider game better.

Perhaps if Cruz had kept Trump under 50% in New York to force a genuine split of New York’s delegates (say, both he and Kasich coming in with over 20%, with, say, something like Trump in the fifties), and Cruz getting between two and three dozen there would be hope for the Cruz camp. But he got smoked, Kasich got smoked, and the upcoming primaries in the Northeast portend more of the same. One has to think that behind the scenes the GOP establishment would love to get Cruz out of there to give Kasich a little better chance going forward, but that’s not going to happen. Everyone is stuck with each other, and it’s Trump who once again has the wind at his back.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 21:03 | Comments (0)
April 19, 2016

Majestic words from the late, great Bob Marley.

Unless, of course, you’re Red Sox manager John Farrell. :-)

Have to admit, I never really liked reggae until there we were, fellow Goodboy “Doggy Duval” McLaughlin and I were driving down the second hole at Las Vegas National Golf Club, listening to Bob and The Wailers “Jammin’” away – it seemed like the perfect music and attitude to whack golf balls to. When I built my Tropical Breezes collection I found just about every reggae band in existence plying their trade with Bob songs – all of them inevitably coming around to his iconic “Three Little Birds”, which I have come to love especially for the quirky-happy, synthesizer-masquerading-as-a-Farfisa-organ mimicking the general melody.

Beyond that, it’s really, when you come to think of it, not a bad philosophy to garf one’s life onto. Regardless of how we’d all like to think, there’s actually very little we have control over in our lives. In my view, all you can do is pursue love and joy in every way you can and take every day as it comes. Maybe every little thing isn’t gonna be alright, but while you can’t control everything that comes down the pike you can control how you deal with it and manage it. I mean, what’s the alternative? Drown yourself in cheap booze and Lady Gaga music? Look to surround yourself in the positive in everything and try to avoid all that negative crap that can make life as tedious as you want to make it.

Me? I choose the positive, and thank Bob for a little anthem to guide my way with.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:42 | Comments (0)
April 18, 2016

OK, I’ll admit I haven’t watched all of the Red Sox games thus far, but I’ve watched enough and read enough to know that manager John Farrell must be fired. And immediately. Not only is the guy mismanaging his bullpen in a way that will ultimately get him fired anyways, but by the time he does poor Torey Lovullo (his obvious replacement) won’t even have a bullpen left to wield for the rest of the year.

Look, I feel bad the guy was diagnosed with cancer last year (the only reason why, IMO, he kept his job to begin with). I don’t feel bad for the guy caught cheating on his wife with a Comcast SportsNet reporter. But what really bothers me is the fact he’s gonna wear Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara down to the quick before the calendar even flips to May. The guy is (obviously) managing as if every game is the seventh game of the World Series in a pathetic attempt to keep his job, with little recognition that the baseball season is a marathon not a sprint, and the team in the end is gonna suffer for it, big time.

The Sox are playing .500 ball (6-6) but there are definitely two, perhaps three games that Farrell has single-handedly lost because of his handling of the roster generally, and the bullpen specifically. I thought everyone had agreed that Tazawa was run into the ground last year and needed to be handled if not with kid gloves, then judiciously this year. Same thing with Uehara – isn’t that why they brought in San Diego closer Craig Kimbrel to begin with? So what has Farrell done? Uehara and Tazawa lead the pitching staff in appearances with seven and six, respectively. At this rate, Memorial Day will come around and both will be done for the year.

I’m only hoping (actually, I’m sure) GM Dave Dombrowski is paying close attention to what’s going on, and I guarantee he’s not liking what he sees. I know he’s jonesing to pull the trigger but he knows he’s got to give Farrell a little more time in order to make it look like he wasn’t ready to fire the guy before the team broke camp in Fort Myers (even though I’ll bet he was). My only hope is that by the time DD does get around to canning Farrell there’s still a bullpen left for Lovullo to use for the rest of the year.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:14 | Comments (0)
April 17, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 89
Location: Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch
Score: 49 + 45 = 94
Handicap: 26.4 / Trend: 25.7 (-0.7)

It has been better than 2 1/2 months since I last played a round of golf, at Stonecreek Golf Club where I shot a so-so 105, thanks primarily to my short game. At the time, my game had settled into the same all-too-predictable pattern: decent enough off the tee, an outta-bounds short game that saved my butt time and time again, but in between, an iron game that featured huge misses to the right (even with my short irons), to the point where anything inside 150 yards required 2-3 shots just to where I could chip or putt. Not a very good state to be in for someone aiming to play bogey golf consistently in 2016.

Between work and getting sick and then all kinds of personal stuff, I didn’t touch my clubs until the middle of March, which probably was a good thing, for it gave me time to re-examine what the heck I was doing as far as my swing was concerned. I went back to the February 2015 issue of GOLF Magazine and that iconic Hunter Mahan article, “7 New Ways To Hit Every Green” to see what I had been missing in my approach to my iron play. Looking at Hunter’s instruction, I realized I had fallen back into some bad habits – not going extra steep in my backswing and playing the ball too far forward were two obvious things that needed to be corrected. But I couldn’t help but feel something was missing.

So there I was, at the Kokopelli Golf Club driving range – my official headquarters for 2016 – on a cool, wind-blown March afternoon, and I’ve got the GOLF mag article with me. Maybe the other golfers hitting balls around me thought it was kind of strange, but I felt that hitting balls while checking what I was doing against what Hunter was telling me to do might shed some light on where I was going wrong. Somewhere along the way I knew there was something I just wasn’t getting.

I had hit a full bucket but still couldn’t stop pulling all my irons to the right. I then bought a small bucket and a beer and took a break to re-examine Hunter’s article, not reading his words but instead studying the illustrations that accompanied them. I laid the magazine on the ground and grabbed my sand wedge and slowly took a swing to the illustration. I think the guy next to me was chuckling – hey, I might have done the same thing myself! – but it was then I noticed that at the top of my swing I saw that, rather than my clubface pointing towards the target, as Hunter’s was, mine was pointed left of target, somewhere around two o’clock, I’d guess.

I’m thinking that can’t be right, so rather than keeping the face square to the top I allowed by hands to roll ever-so-slightly so that at the top my club face was pointing towards the target. And it was then I realized, after hitting the first sand wedges straight in I can’t remember how long, that I had also been robbing myself of distance by not getting any “snap” with my wrists coming through the ball. And while in doing so I seemed to be trading my beloved power draw at best, the hated big yank at the worst, for a slight fade, at least I was hitting the ball much straighter – especially with my short irons.

A month and several trips to the range later, I’m teeing it up for real at Trilogy Power Ranch. Nice course, fast greens, with just enough water and waste areas to keep one honest. To be truthful, I didn’t drive the ball (only 4 fairways hit) nor putt (38 putts) particularly well, but the difference in my iron play, while not where I want it to be, was still much improved over my last time out. Not only were the big pulls to the right gone, but I actually hit the green on several 120-yards or less shots – something heretofore unheard of! More importantly, I found that, even if I left my iron approaches short, they were short in front of the green where I could chip on and two-putt at worst instead of being so far right that there was only disaster with a capital “D”.

As a result, I found myself playing a strange kind of rocking-chair brand of near-bogey golf. Outside of a shaky first hole (a tattooed 7-iron missing the green by a yard leaving me an impossible lie in the sand), and a poor ninth (pulled drive OB followed by a chunky approach after my penalty drive) that resulted in triple-bogey sevens, I played solid the rest of the way. On the challenging back nine in a tough swirling wind that confounded by playing partners (a +3 golfer who plays in Champions Tour qualifying events and a 6-handicap) I shot bogey-bogey-par-bogey-bogey-bogey-par-bogey-bogey for a sweet 45 – the kind of golf I’ve been wanting to play for a while. And that without my best tee game to boot!

So, there it is: nearly three months to the day from Goodboys Invitational weekend I’ve made some swing changes that are really starting to pay off. I know I still need to get a little more steep in my backswing, not play the ball too forward, and, more than anything else, avoid jumping at the ball and over-swinging, but these are all things I’ll always be fighting. Which, BTW, is OK – I’m not trying to make the Tour, simply play bogey golf.

Today at Trilogy was a good start; I’ll have a far better idea of how these changes have taken after I play Stonecreek again in two weeks, and then after that the dreaded Superstition Springs – two courses where you absolutely, no-bleepin’-bones-about-it, must hit your irons straight. Those will be good tests, for sure.

By the time I head back to Massachusetts in one month’s time, I ought to have a real good idea where the state of my game lies.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 21:48 | Comments (0)
April 11, 2016

Still shaking my head over yesterday’s final round at the Masters.

It’s always been said that the Masters doesn’t really start until the back nine on Sunday. This timeline illustrates just how unbelievable it all was as events unfolded.

Loved Peter Kostis’ line after Jordan Spieth’s play on 12 upended the leaderboard: “It’s as if you were shuffling a deck of cards and a gust of wind blew them all over the place.” Priceless.

Here’s a cool article this is about how the Masters event became the Masters tournament we have come to know and love today. A big thanks to the “Big Three” – there will never be another like them. Talk about just oozing class:

Gotta agree with Kyle Porter here. I think you’re gonna see one fired-up Jordan Spieth by the time the U.S. Open comes around. He’s not just a quick learner, but I guarantee what happened yesterday will only motivate him to greater heights.

Has there been anything crazier to watch than Louis Oosthuizen’s tee shot on 16? His ball hits J.B. Holmes’ ball then dives into the cup for a hole-in-one. Bizarre.

Only 51 weeks to go until the 2017 Masters and seeing Danny Willett return the favor by putting the green jacket on Jordan Spieth. You just know that’s gonna happen, dontcha?

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 20:02 | Comments (0)
April 10, 2016

What a wild and wacky final day at the Masters! There’s a reason why this tournament is the absolute best of the golf year – between the way the powers-that-be set the course up on Sundays, the course itself, and the stakes involved you can bet that something is gonna happen that keeps one on the edge of their seats. Few, if any, leads are safe, and the one who ends up putting on the green jacket is the one who can play consistently while staying in the moment.

Take today, for example. It was around 4:45 PM EDT that I was already planning to get on the Jordan Spieth “Grand Slam” watch for 2016. Dude was five strokes ahead of his nearest competitor, the unheralded Danny Willett from Great Britain, at the turn after a series of clutch birdies to close put the front nine.

Then came #10. Spieth bogeys, Willett birdies. Lead cut to three.
Then came #11. Spieth bogeys, Willett birdies. Lead cut to one.
Then came #12. This is something I really don’t understand. On Sunday #12 is sucker pin placement. Anyone ought to know that short is death by water, the play is long, into the bunker. Countless guys have lost the Masters by hitting it short, so what does Spieth do? He hits it short, it bounds into the water. Then he flubs a penalty shot into the water again. he ends up with a quad-bogey seven (!), and drops to three behind Willett.

After that, while putting up a brave front, his brain is mush but still puts on a good enough show until he misses a crucial birdie putt at 16 and it’s hasta la vista Jordan. Willett does what he has done all weekend – play assertively while avoiding mistakes, and thus the green jacket goes to the gentleman from “jolly old”. Perhaps there’s roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on the menu at the 2017 champions dinner?

There’s not a lot you can say. Spieth, I think, has learned that in a major no lead is safe; Tiger Woods in his prime would have tried to push that five-stroke lead to ten and not let up until the final putt dropped. Spieth’s young, he’s learned a valuable lesson from this and I’m sure will do everything he can to make sure this never happens again in the future. A few other thoughts:

This was Dustin Johnson’s tournament to win. If he had made even half the putts that skimmed the hole over the weekend he’d be wearing the green jacket. Dude simply has to learn to putt better.

Rory McIlroy played horribly from the start and reinforces my impression that while he’s got all the talent in the world there’s something missing between the ears or in the heart.

Jason Day – my pick – had a lousy tournament. Not sure what he was struggling with but he couldn’t get anything going whatsoever.

The Europeans are loaded when it comes to talent. I just don’t see the Americans matching them in overall skill and wherewithal when it comes to the Ryder Cup this September.

The biggest winner of the tournament? Augusta National, which, thanks to the windy conditions separated the wheat from the chaff and proved once again why it’s the absolute best golf event on TV.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:28 | Comments (0)
April 9, 2016

Some kind of weather-dude I am: there I was last week thinking that we’d seen the last of our rain for this spring until the monsoon comes in July, but then we got a good soaking on Thursday night, could get another one tomorrow, and then another one by the end of next week. This has sure been a strange year, weather-wise. Thanks, El Nino.

…and speaking of the weather, the Masters has lived up to its billing as just about everyone’s favorite tournament to watch with the winds making Augusta National quite the stern test for just about everyone. While my pick Jason Day is five back I still think he’s gonna be there in the end if he can get that occasional yank out of his irons. The wind made Phil Mickelson miserable yesterday – he looked as bad as I’ve ever seen him – and he was sent packing early. But the saddest sight I’ve seen during all the coverage is Arnold Palmer looking rather feeble and every bit his age during the ceremonial start on Thursday. Aging sucks, and no one – not even kings – are immune.

The Red Sox better get their starting pitching after David Price sorted out pronto, or it’s gonna be a short ride for manager John Farrell. You gotta hand it to their offense keeping them in the games so far, and I have to admit Hanley Ramirez doesn’t look bad at first base. And after watching a couple of games I’ll grudgingly admit Dave O’Brien is doing a creditable job as Don Orsillo’s replacement. Might end up getting that DirecTV MLB Extra Innings package after all….

He’s got an odd approach to his game and his swing, but put me down as someone who likes the cut of amateur, soon-to-turn-pro Bryson deChambeau’s jib. He’s gonna be a star, for sure, and his obvious love of the game and the charisma he brings to it makes him a player to watch. I hope he’s a captain’s pick on this year’s Ryder Cup team.

Bruce Springsteen has become a joke, a parody of everything the modern-day liberal left is. I wonder what staunch Democrats like JFK and LBJ would think about a law that simply requires transgendered people to use the bathroom of the gender they were born with.

If Donald Trump’s campaign did something like this they’d be talking about it 24/7 on CNN and FOX News.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 09:46 | Comments (0)
April 7, 2016

Not the punk band, but the scene I’m predicting we’ll be seeing come Sunday afternoon in the Butler Cabin at Augusta National when 2015 winner Jordan Spieth slips the green jacket onto Jason Day as the latest Masters champion. My view: Day not just has the entire package (just about everyone agrees on that, you’re not going to be #1 in the world if you don’t!), but he’s really ramped up his iron and short game play over the past year – something he’s missed having previously at Augusta.

So that’s my prediction and I’m sticking with it: Jason Day for the win.

Former Masters champs to keep an eye on this year: Zach Johnson (there’s something about the guy I just can’t take to, but you can’t deny the guy’s intensity and skill with his irons), Adam Scott, and Phil Mickelson. Lots of folks like Justin Rose, not me. Nor do I like Spieth nor Dustin Johnson (even though I’d love to see DJ win his first major at Augusta). And no on Rory McIlroy, who has all the talent in the world but someone I’ve come to think is kind of immature and a head case. Anyone who dumps the likes of long-time gal pal and fiancée Caroline Wozniacki (by phone, no less!) has bigger issues than what his putting stroke looks like.

My dark horse pick: Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Would be great to see another Spaniard pick up a green jacket.

Can’t wait to watch the television coverage, even if it starts with the bozos on ESPN today and tomorrow. But when Jim Nantz intones his hokey but familiar, “Hello, friends” on Saturday you can bet I’ll be watching along with the rest of the golf world. Sure Nick Faldo will be alongside him, but that will just remind me of the late, great Ken Venturi. It’s all part of what the Masters is about: the past, the present, the future.

Next to Goodboys Invitational week (say, is that happening this year, Exec-Comm?), it’s the best week of the golf year for me.

Queue the music!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 09:27 | Comments (0)

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