April 29, 2017

Greetings from Massachusetts, the home of the American Revolution, the Eastern Daylight Time zone, clam chowda and the veal cutlet sub, and the land of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (not necessarily in that order of significance). It has been a busy week here and the blog was getting a little anxious for an update, so here goes…

About the beyond absurd and ridiculous focus by the mainstream media and the cable new networks on the first 100 days of President Donald J. Trump’s administration:

Me? I’m giving the Prez a solid B for his efforts to date. What and how much he has actually accomplished isn’t nearly as important as the foundation he is laying for the remainder of his term. Sure, the Gorsuch nomination to the Supreme Court was a solid win, but the fact he has to deal with two elected parties with seemingly little interest in doing anything else but maintaining the status quo and getting re-elected, while not surprising, is what I’m most disappointed about. The GOP leadership in both the House and the Senate had the better part of eight years to prepare for action following Barack Obama’s presidency but they appear to have done nothing but feed off the public trough and taxpayer dollars.

I’m guessing the primary reason for that is that, being as out of touch as the mainstream media was in not seeing Trump’s potential ascendency, just like everyone else outside the Beltway, they never expected anything but a Hillary Clinton presidency. That’s no excuse: their job is to legislate and to provide an alternative vision to whatever Obama, Hillary, and the Democrats had to offer and they sat on their hands. Now, Trump being elected President has forced them to goven in the majority and they’re absolutely clueless as to how to even go about it.

I’m so glad I became an Independent.

I’m hoping that with the 2018 midterms on the horizon (again, the only thing our so-called “elected leaders” in Washington care about) the GOP will grow some balls and start ignoring the Democratic Party, the loony left, and the mainstream media, and just start doing their jobs. If Democrats want to play the obstructionist route, then go around them for gawdsakes. Pass healthcare reform, tax reform, and judicial reform (i.e., blow the 9th Circuit up), fill all existing judicial openings on the lower courts with solid conservative judges, and let’s get this damned country moving forward and working again. To do anything less will mean a golden opportunity to make real change happen in the country wasted.

Somehow, I don’t think a president like Donald J. Trump is going to sit back and let that happen. Let’s see what happens over the next hundred days.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 09:04 | Comments Off on Trump’s First 100 Days
April 24, 2017

I know it was Saturday, but frankly when it comes to Earth Day, environmentalists, and climate change I could give a rat’s ass. I defer to George Carlin on this. And it’s a must-see dose of reality to everyone.

Because, y’know, those so-called climate “experts” are so damned right about everything, right? Heck, I remember back on the first Earth Day the biggest concern was about “global cooling” taking place because of the sun not being able to permeate air pollution – something, BTW, The Beach Boys sang so beautifully about back in 1972. Then it was called “global warming” and you had Al Gore’s propaganda piece and Michael Mann’s hockey stick. Then, when that didn’t happen quickly enough to alarm everyone and invoke the massive taxation on first-world countries to fund the massive redistribution scheme leftists are always dreaming about, it became, finally, “climate change”. Which is a great phrase when you think of it because you then can blame everything that happens around the world from a climate and socio-political perspective on the climate. Which, as Carlin alludes to in his bit has never stopped changing since the earth began a gazillion years before humans started inhabiting this floating ball of rock.

So excuse me if I think this whole Earth Day thing is a bunch of hooey.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:24 | Comments Off on A Happy Belated Earth Day (Not!)
April 23, 2017

A few thoughts to ponder while in between some serious house cleaning…

It’s the end of an era as The O’Reilly Factor is no more. Wonder what Megyn Kelly is thinking about. She got too big for her britches too fast and should have just cooled her jets. Now she’s in nowheresville and the chance of a lifetime – heading up the nightly FOX News lineup – has gone buh bye.

Tiger Woods has another back surgery. It’s becoming increasingly hard to see him coming back to play professional golf full-time. But if it truly is – as his agent says (an agent, BTW, who has yet to tell the truth in a single statement he’s ever made), a way for Tiger to simply live the rest of his life pain-free, well, after all he’s been through the guy deserves at least that.

Lydia Ko has now gone through nine – count ’em, nine! – caddies in her brief professional career. Either the girl is nuts or she’s getting mucho bad advice from her team. As Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie can both attest to, as Frank Sinatra famously sang, “you’re flying high in April, shot down in May.” At least Ko is young enough to grow up.

…which is why I’m never crazy about these teen phenoms turning pro so early. Your youth years are so short. If you’re that good, you’ll still be good enough when you’re 23 or 24. The risks of early burnout and injuries (as Wie can attest to) are just so high. No matter how good you might be, kiddies, professional golf is still for grown-ups.

If an asteroid strike is truly coming, I’m just gonna sit on my patio with a Hemingway Daiquiri or two or three and just watch it happen.

Can I just say a word or two about the Doc Ford series of novels by Randy Wayne White? I’ve already read nine of them and there hasn’t been a bad one yet. Just good entertainment and a fab alternative to sitting in front of the TV and feeling your brain cells getting sucked out of you. If you like fiction set in southwest Florida and all over the Caribbean and the St. Somewheres of the world let me know – you can have them after I finish them!

If you’re a Red Sox fan, I hope you haven’t bet the farm on seeing David Price pitch this year. Dollars to donuts he’s going to end up having Tommy John surgery, and you heard it here first. And with that go their chances for a deep playoff run this year. I’ve seen just a few games so far, but it’s not hard to see that the team’s weakness is their bullpen and inconsistent 3-5 starting rotation. They’re just not deep when it comes to pitching, and it will kill them in the long run.

Much as I hate to say it, keep an eye on the Yankees this year. They are up and coming!!

Woke up the other day with this early Pink Floyd tune in my head. Reminds me just how cool a band they were and how much my brother Mark and I loved their early music before Dark Side of the Moon turned them into superstars. I hear this song and I’m transported back to the old house on Main Street, lying in bed in the morning and hearing the birds outside.

My latest music craze is Hawaiian music. If you’re interested in mellow music that’s bound to help keep you sane in a world like this go to YouTube and check out the likes of Cyndi Combs, Hawaiian Style Band, Dennis Kamakahi, “Sister” Robi Kahalakau (she, Stevie Nicks and Charlotte Church are my favorite female vocalists), Elua Kane, Gabby Pahinui, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Keali’i Reichel, and Kuana Torre Kahele. Believe me, you’ll catch my drift.

These clowns are lucky they weren’t born 55 years ago – they’d find themselves storming beach heads in the South Pacific. It makes one almost embarrassed to be an American.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:11 | Comments Off on Weekending
April 21, 2017

Yo! Cats and chicks out there, I gotta confess there have been only a relatively few times in my life when hearing a song for the first time absolutely blew me away. Like in a life-changing way.**

But it was while surfing the Internet the other night and checking out one of my usual haunts, a Phil Spector/Wall of Sound appreciation site called Cue Castanets! that, much to my surprise, I came upon this video by none other than “The Boss”, Bruce Springsteen backing a track from his 2007 release Magic. And I have to say, not only has it rocketed into a very exclusive list of my favorite tunes of all time, it seems to have occupied a place in my brain ever since – even while sleeping. I seem to fall asleep and wake up to the song in my head.

Truth be told, I’ve never been much of a Springsteen fan – he’s always seemed a bit too much of a limousine liberal for me to fully embrace his music. Sure, there have been releases over the years (Born In The USA and Nebraska, to name a couple) that I’ve enjoyed, and just about every release of his has had at least a couple of tunes that were OK, but not enough to turn me into a bona fide fan, if you catch my drift.

But I am familiar enough with his music to know that amongst his greatest influences as a musician is Phil and his so-called “Wall of Sound” (“Born To Run” the most obvious example; there are others). And just hearing those first opening bars with the multiple guitars strumming in sync (a Phil trademark – “Be My Baby”, “My Sweet Lord”, “Isn’t It A Pity”, to name just a few, but to these ears it sounds like a faster version of John Lennon’s and Phil’s unreleased “Be My Baby”) was enough to perk up my ears and think that something special was obviously happening.

Although recorded nearly a decade ago, “The Girls In Their Summer Clothes” sounds like a period piece, something that easily could have been recorded in the mid-to-late sixties by the Righteous Brothers or the Walker Brothers. Besides the multiple guitars creating a lush background, you have castanets and Bruce’s weary vocal carrying the initial verse before Max Weinberg’s drums lead the E Street Band into a full band second verse (another Phil trademark). The piano flourishes in the choruses sound like something Jack “Specs” Nitzsche would have arranged for Leon Russell to play. There’s nothing here that smacks of 21st century electronic wizardry: it’s a band just going all out and playing their asses off from start to finish.

And the lyrics are just what you’d expect from Springsteen. Images painted of small-town Americana: the front porch, the sidewalks filled with people and lovers walking hand in hand, the bank building and the department store in the center of town, the diner on “the edge of town” (just off the interstate?) a respite and means of escape from the loneliness and restlessness he’s feeling. After all, the girls in their summer clothes are not just passing by, they’re passing him by. And you have the waitress serving him coffee asking “a penny for this thoughts”, as if that is all he’s worth.

Well the street lights shine
Down on Blessing Avenue
Lovers they walk by
Holdin’ hands two by two

A breeze crosses the porch
Bicycle spokes spin ’round
Jacket’s on, I’m out the door
Tonight I’m gonna burn this town down

And the girls in their summer clothes
In the cool of the evening light
The girls in their summer clothes
Pass me by

Kid’s rubber ball smacks
Off the gutter ‘neath the lamp light
Big bank clock chimes
Off go the sleepy front porch lights

Downtown the store’s alive
As the evening’s underway
Things been a little tight
But I know they’re gonna turn my way

Frankie’s Diner’s
Over on the edge of town
Neon sign spinnin’ round
Like a cross over the lost and found

Fluorescent lights
Flicker above Bob’s Grill
Shaniqua brings a coffee and asks “fill?”
And says “penny for your thoughts now my boy Bill”

She went away
She cut me like a knife
Hello beautiful thing
Maybe you could save my life

In just a glance
Down here on Magic Street
Love’s a fool’s dance
I ain’t got much sense but I still got my feet

La la la la, la la la la la la la

No matter what happens, even amidst the weariness and the melancholy there remains a sense of hope that things are just ready to turn around – after all, he’s got both the ability and the agility (his feet) to take advantage of the opportunity if only it would come.

The lyrics are timeless: he could be singing about last weekend or memories cherished (or not so) from long ago. Either way, the sentiments of loneliness, restlessness, desperation, and coming to terms with the fact that youth does not last forever are universal. I love the way the chord change at 2:49 seems to express a sense of hope that one person or one thing can change everything, can bring it all back. It’s all these things that makes the song so meaningful and personal to me.

Want to hear something funny? I listen to the song and its lyrics and I can picture my fellow Goodboy friend “Cubby” Myerow sitting in an aluminum lawn chair on his front porch in Salem, Massachusetts, just a stone’s throw from that Elizabeth Montgomery statue, the ocean just blocks away, a cold beer in his hand watching the world passing by on a summer night as the heat of the day starts to wane. With perhaps the aroma of an Italian restaurant just down the street filling the air along with the sounds of basketball being played on a nearby playground. Not sure why that is, but that’s the image I get. Hope you don’t mind, Cubby!

But I digress.

The whole purpose of this post is to say that “The Girls In Their Summer Clothes” is a memorable and breathtaking performance from start to finish, destined to take its place in the roll amongst my favorite songs of all time. Well done, Bruce!

BTW, if you want to see the official video for this song click here. It’s really good. Catches both the mood and the underlying melancholy really well. And the fact that both of the videos were shot at the Jersey shore, well, I’m a sucker for anything that involves the ocean.

But I have a feeling y’all knew that, already.


** For those wondering, off the top of my head, the Ronettes “Do I Love You” (my first exposure to Phil’s “Wall of Sound”), The Beatles 45 RPM of “Hey Jude” b/w “Revolution” (in my view the greatest single in rock music history), Fleetwood Mac’s “Think About Me” and “Bleed To Love Her”, the first time I heard the music of Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys In Concert and the Pet Sounds albums, The Sandals’ “(Theme From) The Endless Summer”, and Charlotte Church’s “Cold California”, to name just a few.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:06 | Comments Off on The Girls In Their Summer Clothes
April 19, 2017

For Easter I dug out one of my prayer candles from out of the office closet and lit it this past Saturday, then placed it under the table in the prayer grove. It looks nice there, glowing amidst all the bougainvillea flowers that have fallen off the bushes in the past couple of days.

Death and resurrection, I guess that’s what it’s all about.

I titled the post in the hope of the Resurrection rather than in the faith of the Resurrection. I think that’s a more accurate statement of where my spiritual situation stands at this juncture in my life. I was thinking about it on Sunday and realize that outside of my mom’s funeral service last year I haven’t been to church for the better part of four years. And it really didn’t bother me. I still think about religion, and God, and the Church a lot, but what I believe is a whole different thing.

A large part of me has come to believe that we who are privileged to live here in the US of A, with the freedoms we take so much for granted, our supermarkets full of the bounty of God’s creation, plentiful clean water to drink and food to eat, a governing system that, while far from perfect, is hands above just about any other on this planet, and everything else we tend to take for granted: well, perhaps this is what heaven is. We’re not enslaved by totalitarian regimes, the majority of our people don’t live amidst garbage and filth and poverty beyond anything we can imagine like folks do in large swaths of Africa and Asia. For all bitching and complaining we do, to be alive here in the USA of the early 21st century is where it’s at. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than this, is what I’m saying.

What happens after we die? Well, I’m not going to worry about it. When my time comes I’ll deal with it then and let God, whomever He, She, or It is, handle things from there. I like to live in the present: I find thinking about the past makes me feel melancholy and a bit lost – not because of what I have or haven’t done, or under achieved or over achieved in, it’s just those I’ve loved and everything I knew as I’ve grown to this age is increasingly lost to the passage of time. I look at my life and have very few regrets about anything I’ve done, decisions I’ve made or things I should have done differently, and can only ask how do I know whether I would have come out of them better or worse than I am now? You can’t dwell on that kind of shit – it’ll eat you alive.

So I focus on the present: the things I need to do at work, the quiet joys of relaxing on my back porch, the golf clubs left to complete my set, the books I’m reading, the tasks of everyday life at hand. As far as the future is concerned, Tracey and I have done as much as we can to plan and prepare for our retirements (mine coming much sooner than hers!), so it’s just prepare just in case you live long enough to experience it. I know things will change, some for the better, perhaps, most surely for the worse. But you can’t fixate and worry about it: life has its own way of coming at you just like it always has. Life is fleeting. Joy and anguish equally so. You deal with the cards you’ve been dealt and deal with it as best you can.

Which is why a candle burning in a little secluded prayer grove may seem a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, yet perhaps it means so much as well. It’s a gesture that recognizes there are much bigger and smaller forces out there that we simply can’t comprehend. And that, in the end everything comes down to death and renewal. It may not be resurrection in the most Christian of terms, but it’s a symbol of how tenuous our holds are on our own little existences that mean even more little in the long run. It’s my own little reminder of just how fragile life is, and how important it is to live every day to its fullest, ever mindful that my life, just like that candle’s in the prayer grove, and just like all those fallen flowers that were once so full of life and color, has its limits.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:05 | Comments Off on In The Hope Of The Resurrection
April 18, 2017

“What the [Callaway] Steelhead XR might lack in visual flair is made up for with speed and power. An updated face cup combines with improved welding and manufacturing to generate COR numbers up to the USGA limit, which results in 2 mph more ball speed over current XR irons.

The hollow bore-through hosel, last seen in X-22 irons, allows up to five grams to be shifted toward the toe, boosting head stability. The CG is positioned dead center (heel to toe) to help with forgiveness. In addition, the CG is higher in the short irons than where you normally impact the ball, resulting in a lower, boring flight. In the long irons, the CG it is below the impact point for higher-flying approaches.”Callaway Steelhead XR review at Golf.com

Third session at the PGA Tour Superstore, third different sales associate. This one, a young Texan named Cain, appeared to fancy himself as an amateur golf instructor as well, since, after I had taken a few swings with a Mizuno JPX-900 6-iron, with a Cobra F7 7-iron and a Callaway Steelhead XR Pro 6-iron awaiting their respective turns, he asked me to stop.

He: “Mind if I make a suggestion?” Oh boy, I’m thinking, here we go…

Me: “If you’re talking about my golf swing, I thought the idea was to establish the constants of machine, conditions, and clubs, with the brands themselves and the shafts being the variables. Now you want to introduce another variable?”

He: “I think with a couple of minor adjustments I can get you ten more yards with every club, maybe a few more.”

Me: “Cain, there’s no such thing in golf as a minor adjustment. I’m a 24-handicap. Ten more yards to a good golfer might make a world of difference, but to The Great White Shank it amounts to bupkis. I’ll listen to what you have to say, but I can’t make those changes part of this test. Deal?”

It seemed Cain didn’t like the position of my top hand in my grip, said he likes to see two knuckles whereas I was only showing one. He also didn’t like the position of my club at address, it was too far forward. He wanted to see the shaft pointing at my belly button. He then asked me to take my normal address, close my eyes, and stick the club out straight. He turned the club head in my hands slightly (for me) counter-clockwise, perhaps no more than an inch, maybe two.

He: “Does the club feel lighter in your hands?”

Me: I dunno, maybe a little.”

Cain explained to me that having the club forward in my stance and my grip taken together promote mis-hits because the club face was never square at address.

He: “I’ll bet you pull a lot of shots to your right.”

Me: “When I’m not shanking them to the left.”

Cain asked me to just consider what he was suggesting. Now I didn’t know this Cain from Abel, and I’d never heard my swing guru Alex Black over at Superstition Springs make either of those suggestions. I will grant him this, however: he was definitely onto something when he asked after watching me take a few more swings (this time with the Cobra F7), if I had any mobility issues with my back. When I replied none that I was aware of, he mentioned I had this annoying (to him) habit of sliding into the hitting zone, and not turning with my lower body.

He: “No wonder you fight the shanks. You seem to have to work really hard to get that club face square when you come through the impact zone. You need to think about the changes I suggested. Otherwise, every swing you take is a shank waiting to happen. There’s one good thing, though…”

Me: “I’m all ears.”

He: “Your shank is a heckuva lot easier to fix than a slice or a hook would.”

After hitting the Mizuno (very nice feel, but still to expensive for my pocketbook) and the Cobra F7 (from the very first swing I ever took with it to the last, very consistent in its performance) it was time to take some swings with the Steelhead XR. I didn’t look at the club, I just assumed he gave me the same club I’d been using in my prior two tests. After three balls I knew something was up.

Me: “This isn’t the same club I’ve been hitting. And it looks different, too.”

He: “I gave you the Steelhead XR Pro. It has a thinner clubhead, supposed to be more forgiving.”

Me: “Well, maybe that’s true for a pro, but I can tell you it doesn’t feel more forgiving to this 24-handicap. It feels like a completely different club altogether.”

Cain fetched a Steelhead XR, and from the moment it was in my hand I knew this was the club for me. I liked the steel shaft, the way the ball jumped off the club face, it felt very familiar to me, but Cain persisted (after all, in addition to golf instructor wannabe he was a sales associate) in that he still felt like he could get an extra 5-10 yards if I went with a graphite or another kind of shaft (I forget the name) that’s kind of a hybrid between steel and graphite. I was ready to pull the trigger, but hey, I’d come this far, I might as well go the distance.

I hit a number of shots with both the graphite and the hybrid shafts. Cain was watching the machine and analyzing all the stats it pushed out, said he’d recommend graphite shafts, but asked me what I thought. Frankly, I couldn’t tell the difference one way or the other, and steel was cheaper, so…

Me: “I’m ready to pull the trigger, let’s close the deal.”

He grabbed a ruler, asked me to stand up straight with my arms at my side, told me there was no need to special order. Said I could take the set they have in stock right off the rack if I wanted. That wasn’t going to happen because I already knew that I’d want the 4-iron that came standard swapped out with a sand wedge, which didn’t, and at no extra cost except for the shipping and handling. Which he was willing to do. The end result being, I got a great deal on what I hope will be a great set of irons for years to come.

I’m glad I went through the process and took the time I did. It was fun working with different sales folks and getting their input. Now it’s on to the next step, which is to pick out a driver and a fairway wood. Let the process begin!!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:52 | Comments (2)
April 17, 2017

A items to start the week:

The 2017 Masters has been history for a week now, but for some it will remain a precious memory forever.

I guess my Augusta National is Portsmouth Country Club, where the view upon turning into its oak tree-lined lane with its clubhouse at the end of the driveway doesn’t look a whole lot different. It’s a drive I’ve made many times, and it’s one I never tire of. Hopefully I can play it again sometime this year. All I need now is a set of clubs!

Folks might notice I haven’t posted much about the politics lately, and that’s because I haven’t got a lot to say. I’m pretty much with the Prez on just about everything he’s done to date. He’s pretty much as advertised – impulsive, unpredictable, still feeling his way around who the players are and what is and is not possible. Unlike the nattering loons in the mainstream media, I don’t think a president’s first one hundred days means squat outside of setting a tone for the rest of his presidency. Talk to me in six months as to whether I think he’s doing a good job or not.

That being said, this seems about right to me:

“It has become increasingly clear to me that there was widespread wiretapping of President Trump and his associates and that the underlying justification was pretextual — it was actually intended to spy on a political opponent. And it is equally clear that the nonsensical post-election tale that Russia colluded with Trump so that he could beat Hillary Clinton was a coverup tale to justify the unmasking and leaking of some of the information — particularly about General Flynn — which has taken place. The prior administration was so confident Hillary would win that they left their tracks uncovered and afterward were desperate to hide the truth so they projected and whispered the Russians were colluding with Trump.”

The whole Trump/Russia thing only makes sense when you accept the fact that the mainstream media is nothing more than a group of Democratic Party operatives.

…and they still can’t believe that Hillary Clinton lost the election. And they’ll never accept it. Nor will she. When will people finally wake up to the fact that she was, and was always, a lousy politician who headed up a lousy campaign? But I guess it’s easier to say that it was the Russians who through Donald Trump decided she shouldn’t travel to Wisconsin at least once during the campaign.

I can’t say I’ve agreed with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on much, but if he keeps this up I might have to start paying more attention to him. I’ve watched her in action during a number of Senate confirmation hearings and she’s an embarrassment to the Senate. Not, unfortunately, to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I’ll bet. All the more reason to live in Arizona.

President Trump is right, you have to wonder who’s funding these organized protests. Me? The moment I see Barack Obama’s medical records and college transcripts then I’ll ask PDJT to release his tax returns.

I miss the team of Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy. Thanks, YouTube!

I miss Warren Zevon. Thanks, YouTube! Another must listen is Mohammed’s Radio, with Lindsay Buckingham and a (then) Stephanie Nicks doing on background vocals.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:04 | Comments Off on Monday Musings
April 14, 2017

Sure enough, after yesterday’s tryout at the PGA Tour Superstore I couldn’t get the look and the feel of that Callaway Steelhead XR 7-iron out of my head. Maybe I had, after all, fallen in love with that girl that looked, talked, and moved so nice – I fall in love so easily!

But there was something bothering me about this whole clinical trial business: it was all being done under the same controlled conditions. In some ways that’s good – anyone who ever had a 8th grade biology class and dissected fetal pigs will tell you any experiment worth its salt requires a control along with the variables. In my case, the control was the PGA Tour Superstore setting and the clubs they gave you to try out; the variables being The Great White Shank’s swing and mental attitude that can change from one day to another.

It was late last night, and it was lovely sitting under happy pineapple lights with a glass of Pinot Grigio, the palms stirring restlessly in a slight breeze, the bright moon basking the patio in a liquid silver. I liked that Steelhead XR a lot, I thought, but what would I really accomplish by heading to the PGA Tour Superstore and hitting the same club again? How could I be sure? How could anyone be sure in my position? And what’s really behind that Ben Affleck / Jennifer Garner divorce? Did they just outgrow each other? Did Jennifer get tired of picking Ben’s clothes up off the floor? Did Ben get sick of Jennifer’s routine of sitting in front of the TV, eating bon-bons and watching Lucifer reruns?

The important questions. Mind you, I never thought JG was that cute to begin with, so maybe I’m on Ben’s side on this. But what do I know?

It was then I decided I was going to do something completely uncharacteristic. I’d go to another golf place, Van’s Golf Shop, and roll the dice. Play dumb and see what they offered me to hit along with, oh by the way, a Steelhead XR (if they had one I could hit). And then hit balls under entirely different conditions.

I had been at Van’s before and I wasn’t impressed. The PGA Tour Superstore is big, bright, and open, whereas the Van’s is a kinda small – claustrophobic even – a store that reminds me of the golf version of the old Building 19 1/2 outlet chain back in my Massachusetts days. Everything crowded into a small place with a few nets you could hit into. They didn’t have a huge selection, but Brandon the sales associate set me up on a spot with a lower-tech version of the swing machine that PGA Tour Superstore has in spades. He had the Steelhead XR 7-iron and he had a Ping G30 with a graphite shaft that I could compare against.

I took a couple of practice swings with the Steelhead and just felt like my swing was off from even yesterday’s clinical trial. Still, we set up and I proceeded to hit a few pushes, a few pulls, and a couple of straight ones, all traveling between 143 and 150. Hell, the most I used to get out of my old RAZR-X 7-iron was 135-140! I grabbed the Ping and hit a bunch of shots, none of them exceeding 135 yards. I’m thinking that can’t be right, so I asked Brandon to make sure I was setting everything thing up exactly the same so I could hit three balls apiece with the Callaway and the Ping.

I actually hits some pretty good shots – at least for The Great White Shank. The Steelhead went 143 (a push), 142 (a pull), and 153 yards (on the screws), in that order. The Ping went 133 (straight), 135 (straight), 133 (a push).

“Wow”, says I. “That’s quite a difference. Do you think it’s the graphite shaft?”

Brandon smirked. “Must be, it’s never the person swinging the club.”

So that as they say is that. I’ve hit the Callaway Steelhead XR 7-iron on two different occasions, in two different locations, using two different 7-irons, and with two different kinds of machines to measure swing and distance. That’s enough variables in and of themselves, dontcha think? And in both cases, I’m consistently hitting that 7-iron nearly ten yards further than I hit my old RAZR-X 7-iron. I mean, what’s up with that?

I’m thinking a decision is about to be made.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:52 | Comments Off on Closer Still…
April 13, 2017

It’s my second outing at the PGA Tour Superstore down the street as I try to come closer to making a decision on what irons I’m going to put in my as-yet-to-be-purchased bag for the 2017 Goodboys Invitational and beyond. After last week’s session, I had spoken to my good friend and fellow Goodboy “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis and he suggested I take a look at the Callaway Steelhead XRs; so, because I wasn’t impressed with the Callaway XRs I had already tried, when Tyler the sales associate came over to me, I asked him for samples of three clubs:

Mizuno JPX-850
Cobra King F7
Callaway Steelhead XR

Tyler set me up in the TaylorMade performance booth and I went to work. Strangely enough (or perhaps not so strange), I felt just a little bit out of kilter as I warmed up as compared to how I felt last week. But that was OK – I wanted to try hitting these clubs under every kind of Great White Shank condition (and when you’re a 24-handicap there are always a lot of conditions!) possible. Since I hit the Mizuno so well in last week’s trial I grabbed it again and proceeded to skull my first ball approximately (so the machine said) 50 yards. My second ball was a shank that didn’t even register on the machine – after all, it can’t measure anything the ball doesn’t hit.

I didn’t panic at this point, and was damned glad to look behind me and see that Tyler was helping another customer. I almost expected to hear over the loudspeaker, “Shank in the TaylorMade booth! I repeat, shank in the TaylorMade booth! All associates to the TaylorMade booth!!”. So I now knew that the Mizuno JPX-850s, for all their cost (they run about $1K for the iron set) didn’t feature any kind of anti-shank technology in its design. Which, in some ways, was good: it made me realize that my handicap, my swing, was just like a PGA Tour pro in the sense that it really didn’t matter what clubs I ultimately chose; there’s no set of clubs that’s going to turn me into a, say, 16-handicap no matter how good or how expensive they are.

Fortunately, I didn’t let those first two hits bother me. I grabbed another ball, striped it 156 yards – a good five yards further than I normally hit my 6 (by this time Tyler was watching and said, “good swing, really solid”). I hit a bunch more and set the Mizuno aside.

Next up was the Cobra F7 7-iron. It’s funny how your memories of recent experiences can change in such a short period of time. At that first session I remembered the Mizuno 6-iron having a kind of heavy feel to it, and the Cobra F7 7-iron as being light as a feather. Today it seemed just the opposite. Still, I seemed to hit it about the same as I remembered from last week. It’s a nice club, for sure, but nothing that stands out and screams, “HIT ME TO THE CENTER OF THE GREEN AND I’LL LEAVE YOU WITH JUST FIVE FEET FROM THE PIN, YOU DUMBASS!.”

Tyler had disappeared again at this point. He had had a pink purse in his hand (I didn’t ask), so I’m guessing (hoping) he was off to the lost and found. I grabbed the Callaway Steelhead XR 7-iron and immediate said out loud with a shake of the head and a grin, “You bastard!”. Not sure if anyone heard me, but I was talking to The Funny Guy, the one who had suggested trying out the Steelhead XRs to begin with.

(You see, here’s the thing about The Funny Guy: not only is he infuriating in the amount of times he’s right about things, but he also excels when it comes to spending other people’s money. I could tell y’all the story about when – and I’m talking years ago, like decades – he took Tracey shopping for golf-related Christmas gifts for me. But it’s best I not, and for everyone concerned!)

Like I was saying, The Funny Guy has this way of combining knowledge, audacity, and out-and-out chicanery when it comes to knowing how to spend other people’s money – especially mine. And I have this sneaking sense that after all these years he has come to know my swing better than anyone, even my swing coach, Alex Black. At any rate, after taking that first look at the Steelhead XR 7-iron, I knew it just looked right to my eyes. And the first few hits? Well, all I can say is that it is one damned forgiving club. Even the slight mis-hits I made seemed to have little difference in terms of trajectory and distance. By the fourth swing that I had hit my usually-reliable 130-135 yard 7-iron 142, 147, 149 and 138 yards, respectively, upon which Tyler remarked, “nice turn, nice swing!”.

But this is one time I refuse to fall in love with the girl simply because she looks, acts, talks, moves, and smells great. So I played it coy and set the club back down and grabbed the Mizuno for several swings. I was starting to feel a little more comfortable and made some nice shots. That Mizuno is a damned nice club, one I’d have no hesitation about with dropping in my bag (if I had one, that is). I also hit a number of decent shots with the Cobra F7, although I have to admit the feeling stayed with me that there was nothing exceptional about that particular club.

I went back to the Callaway Steelhead XR and I again hit some nice shots: a big push or two and a pull or two as well, but there was no doubt in my mind that it’s a very, very nice club. And at $699 for a set, the Steelheads are $200 cheaper than the Cobra King F7s and a whopping $400 cheaper than the Mizuno JPX-850s. I realize now that I was hitting the wrong Mizuno model – I meant to ask for the JPX-EZ (much more affordable), and hope to do that on my next – and hopefully final – trip back.

So, after two rounds here is where things stand:

1. Callaway Steelhead XR
2. Mizuno JPX-850
3. Cobra F7

It’s my plan not to let this whole process drag out a whole lot longer – I am, after all, a 24-handicap, and you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. But I will admit – and damn you, Funny Guy! – I have a feeling that as I fall asleep tonight I’m going to be thinking about those first few hits with that Callaway Steelhead XR 7-iron. After my Las Vegas disaster I never thought I’d ever be playing Callaway again (and I might still not, I gotta get my hands on those Mizuno JPX-EZs!) but I could sure do a whole lot worse.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:30 | Comments Off on Getting Closer…
April 11, 2017

…wrapping up this year’s first major of the year with 18 – count ’em – 18! – esoteric thoughts about the 2017 Masters.

1. Well, I know I always feel a little more refreshed after taking care of things when Mother Nature calls. Why shouldn’t Sergio?

2. The pre-Masters show on Sunday – Jim Nantz’s remembrance of Arnold Palmer, featuring the very last television interview with “the King” was both sad and poignant. Couldn’t help but think of my late Mom while watching it: like Arnold, Mom was a hero of mine; like Arnold she passed away last year, retaining her mind to the very end even though her body was breaking down like Arnie’s obviously was. It’s sad to see your heroes grow old, watching people who lived lives so vibrant reduced to mere shells of themselves by the passage of time. The sobering fact is that none of us are immune to that, so matter who you are and how big and famous you are.

3. And speaking of the passage of time, methinks this was the year that made me think that Phil Mickelson’s days of seriously competing at Augusta are over. It’s such a tough course to walk and I don’t think his body and mind are sharp enough to keep up with it over four straight days. You could see on Friday in those difficult conditions that he ran out of gas midway through the back nine. Then he just got sloppy and made equal portions of mental and physical mistakes throughout the rest of the weekend. But there’ll be no tears for Phil: he and Augusta have had a great run together.

4. Sergio had a great victory for sure, but I wonder how things might have would be different had the red-hot Dustin Johnson not slipped down those stairs at the house he was staying at. One of my Goodboys friends, “Goose” Dwyer was heard to joke that it was Seve Ballesteros’ ghost that pushed Dustin. I can buy that…

5. Along those same lines, I wonder how or if things would have been different if Rory McIlroy’s approach shot on nine on Friday hadn’t hit the flagstick and ricocheted some thirty yards down the hill. But Augusta gives as much as it takes away, and Rory needs to do a better job of ripping apart the back nines than he did this year.

6. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jon Rahm will someday be the fourth Spaniard (after Seve, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Sergio) to win a green jacket.

7. Speaking of nationalities: the TV guys love to refer to Sergio as “the Spaniard” and Thomas Pieters as “the Belgian”. So why not refer to Hideki Matsuyama as “the Jap”?

8. Count me as surprised at how little the top of the leaderboard changed names over Saturday and Sunday. Perfect conditions, but no one with the exception of Justin Rose on Saturday made a huge move over the weekend. I missed hearing the roar of the crowds on Sunday and wondering who just made a big move.

9. Fred Couples’ swing is still a beautiful thing to watch after all these years.

10. Watch Jordan Spieth invoke Arnie’s name and then pull off a beautiful shot.

11. I don’t care what Sergio says, that putt he had on 18 to win in regulation does not, will not, nor ever will break left. It’s straight, and either Sergio misread it or he just gave the putt a slight inside-out dipsy do.

12. The CBS golf coverage was pretty good as usual, but the normally solid Dottie Pepper I thought was awful, both in her on-course commentary and the insipid questions she asked during her one-on-one interviews. I know she’s better than that – she just sounded unprepared.

13. Matt Kuchar’s hole-in-one on 16 was great, but what he did afterwards is why the folks like the guy so much. He’s got enough game to win a major, I think – he’s always on the first or second page of the leaderboard at your average PGA Tour stop; I just wonder if he’s got the mental intensity to be a killer at a major. As Seve once said, he’ll shake your hand and wish you luck on the first tee, but after that his only goal was to destroy you.

14. Goodboy “Cubby” Myerow has that same kind of intensity when he plays hockey – which is why he’ll be spending this year’s Goodboys Invitational on the injured list. We’re not getting any younger, Cubby!

15. Rickie Fowler is fun to watch. I think he learned something by being in the next-to-last group this year, and I can easily see him winning a green jacket some day.

16. My pick Jordan Spieth didn’t get the job done this year, but I’ll pick him against next year and every year after that. I love to watch him play, love his intensity, and enjoy the way you can always tell if he made a good swing or not by his immediate reaction. I don’t understand why more pros don’t talk to their balls – how do they know it’s not listening? If Jordan can avoid injuries and the “Tiger trap” (y’all know what I mean), he’ll have three or four green jackets by the time he’s through.

17. Looks like this year was it for Ernie Els. His five-year exemption from winning The Open Championship in 2012 expired this year and he ended up finishing dead-last.

18. The Masters is the absolute best golf tournament to watch on TV and I can’t wait for Masters time to come around again. And like I say, I’m already picking Jordan Spieth for the win.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comments Off on A Post-Masters 18….


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