April 9, 2017

Congratulations to Sergio Garcia for his exciting and well-deserved first major, winning the 2017 Masters in playoff fashion over fellow European and Ryder Cup comrade Justin Rose.

This was a strange Masters. After all the hype over the two marquee pairings of Rose and Garcia and Americans Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, it was disappointing to watch Fowler and especially Spieth slowly but gradually remove themselves from contention. 90 minutes into Sunday’s telecast it was strange to see how little suspense there actually was. Like Saturday, the field was playing under perfect conditions, and like Saturday, no one in the field was making a move. It was just Rose and Garcia doing their thing and the rest of the field seeming like they might as well have been playing another run of the mill PGA Tour event.

It wasn’t until the turn that things got interesting. Garcia seemed to lose his focus on 10 and it seemed like Rose had the green jacket for his taking until his missed putt and Garcia making his on thirteen seemed to reinvigorate the Spaniard, and from then on you had a true duel in the sun right up until the very end. It was pretty exciting stuff for sure, but nothing like Masters of previous years where you had leads changing every five minutes and countless roars from the patrons on the back nine creating an atmosphere of suspense and expectation.

Still, if you were to ask anyone who they’d most like to see win besides Phil Mickelson it would have been Sergio. He’s a true people’s choice, and his win will make him one of the most beloved Masters past-winners for years to come. Who knows? Maybe having this monkey off his back will free him up to win another major or two, just like Phil did. It would be great to see.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:10 | Comments Off on Sergio Gets His Major
April 7, 2017

A few thoughts as we head into a Masters weekend:

The Masters theme in extended HD. Enjoy the visuals, I think they’re almost as good as the music.

…and did you know that the Masters theme actually has lyrics? It does. They’re not very good, but there ya go.

I miss Ken Venturi in the tower with Jim Nantz.

See Bubba Watson today? Supposedly, he’s on some health kick where he’s lost like fifteen pounds – not that he had them to lose to begin with. His new diet is lots of vegetables and fish. I can’t believe how awful he looks – he’s the Karen Carpenter of the PGA Tour. Get that man a steak!

I nominate William McGirt and first round leader Charlie Hoffman as Masters field golfers who look most like a Goodboy.

Watching Thursday’s telecast, my first thought was, where are the azaleas? Turns out because of unseasonably warm weather they bloomed three weeks ago. Guess there are some things even the Masters Committee can’t control. Oh well, better luck next year…

Anyone who could watch the opening ceremony honoring Arnold Palmer without getting a tear in their eye – especially watching Jack Nicklaus – isn’t human.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:59 | Comments Off on Assorted Masters Stuff
April 6, 2017

…so the last time I left this topic I was discussing my plans for the middle section of the back yard, the area you see when you’re standing inside the house and looking out back. In my original post, I detailed why I was seeking a kind of radical redesign – one that would use space and light colors to create an airy kind of buffer between the east side of the back (the swimming pool and pool deck) and the west (lawn and Tiki bar deck). As I mentioned in that post, the idea was to have the patio and that area of the back yard create the kind of theme we sought to achieve in the overall landscape design: in our case, something both whimsical and tropical in the “St. Somewhere” vein, a combination of the Caribbean and the South Seas.

The original post showed what the area looked like. Now let’s do some before and after shots to give you an example of everything that went down over the past few weeks. First: the patio. Amazing what a sprayer and some white flat latex paint can do to make wicker look bright and cheery. Here’s the before:

…and here’s the after, albeit from a slightly different angle, but you still get the idea:

We also re-positioned the chairs around the Jimmy Buffet “Boat Drinks” table so that anyone walking outside onto the patio to get to the barbecue or the swimming pool no longer has to walk around the furniture. It’s all designed to make an area that’s actually quite small appear more open an allow the new “strand” area and the pool deck stand out.

Speaking of the “strand” area, just to jog your memory, here’s a picture of what the area looked like before – definitely more of an Arizona, desert-y feel than anything remotely tropical, right?

And now after, showing what a ton and a half of light-colored rock, a second queen palm, and a tiki purchased from a local artist who distributes his work at the nursery down the street can do:

Actually, to call it a “strand” doesn’t really describe how the area ended up, it actually looks more like a small tropical island in the South Pacific than anything else – especially with the palm debris that was allowed to stay right where it dropped courtesy of Mother Nature and a big windstorm we had the day after it was done. Funny thing: last Friday I came home to see the debris picked up by our landscaper Carmelo’s crew (they’re thorough if nothing else!). Fortunately, they only tossed the debris into our trash barrel, so I was able to retrieve it and put it back where it was.

I’ll have to speak to Carmelo this week to make sure it doesn’t happen again – you can’t let landscaping stand in the way of art!

But it’s not just the view from the back door that is transformed: look at the before and after pics taken from the lawn looking towards the swimming pool. Like I said in the original post, it was a jumble of stuff masquerading as an Arizona backyard:

Now the area looks bright and airy, especially after I spray-painted our patio dining set the same white as our wicker chairs. It looks especially nice in the late afternoon sun:

Pretty nice, huh? The area also looks really nice at night with the new palm softly lit and the big mesquite in the far right corner brightly lit with a new spotlight that enables you to see it from inside the house at night, thus emphasizing the four-season (actually, it’s only two, “hot” and “not”) lifestyle we have here in the Valley of the Sun.

Total cost? Between the landscaping, three tikis (I bought two others, will show you those in a later post), the queen palm, and the patio furniture painting project (including one false start due to bad advice from the True Value guy), the whole effort cost a shade under two grand. Not a bad investment for getting the back yard looking pretty close to way I originally envisioned it so many years ago.

Of course, when you own a house no good deed goes unpunished. In this case, by upgrading everything around it you end up highlighting stuff that still needs to be done. In this case, it’s the pool deck, which may not look too bad in the photos above, but it’s in dire need of resurfacing. But that’s a project for next year. Tracey has her own (strong) ideas of how it should be resurfaced; I think in this case I’m just gonna sit back and let her decide once we get all the quotes. But that’s a long time away – for now, it’s nice to just sit outside, during the day or at night under soft pineapple lights, and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment not just for a job well done, but of a vision and concept successfully realized.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comment (1)
April 4, 2017

It’s been over a month since I last hit a golf ball, sinking that 3-footer for a crowd-pleasing triple-bogey seven on the last hole at Las Vegas National, and I’ll admit I was starting to feel itchy. Even more so after talking with my good Goodboys friend The Funny Guy about getting my swing checked out at the Hudson, NH Golf & Ski when I’m back in Massachusetts the last week of this month. The idea being, ask to try a few different brands of clubs out in their bays where you can hit outside – not at a damned screen – and see what feels good.

I had a ton of work today but had to go out and get a haircut, so I was already in the general vicinity of the PGA Tour Superstore five minutes away from me and on a whim decided to stop in. I have to admit, just being around something associated with golf rekindled a kind of excitement – after all, being a free agent with no clubs in my garage except my Ping Scottsdale putter is a position I’ve never been in. And with more than three months still to go until Goodboys Invitational weekend I have the time and leisure to pick out the kind of clubs I want and do it in a way that allows me to make a good and informed decision.

I sauntered up to the counter by all the hitting bays and talked with Ryan, told him my situation, told him I was a 24 handicap, told him I hadn’t hit balls for a month and that I was just getting over an acute case of the shanks, and – most importantly – let him know the process I was planning to follow. That right now I just wanted to try out a few different kinds of irons just to get a feel for what would be a different set of clubs, no matter what happened. Steel shafts off the rack would be fine. That at this point I didn’t even want to think of woods and various combinations, that I just wanted to hit three different brands of irons.

I had already stopped in a couple of weeks go just to feel the different kinds of brands out there and felt comfortable narrowing my search in irons to the Calloway XR, Cobra King F7, and Mizuno JPX. If I didn’t like any of those, then I’d toss something else into the mix. Afternoons are quiet at the PGA Tour Superstore this time of year – everyone’s out playing golf – so there was no rush, all the bays being empty. And Ryan, being the astute sales associate (and PGA professional) that he was, knew this was no time for a “my way or the highway” attitude: after all, new club sales for anything except the most exotic and boutique stuff are pretty flat and that it was in his interest to make me comfortable with my process.

He gave me a Mizuno JPX 6-iron and 7-irons for the Callaway and Cobra, told me to take my time and have at the machine. I’ll admit to being a little nervous as I put on my golf glove. Would I shank the first ball I hit? And if I did, what then – hit a second? And then what if I shanked that one? I guess I’d just take off my glove, hand the clubs back to Ryan, and go home to craft my farewell letter to my fellow Goodboys in the nation. I mean, that’s how bad my last two golf experiences were. Maybe it was because I was so sick at the time (and sick I was, I ended up losing fifteen pounds and it was only last week that quick moves no longer left me lightheaded), but gee-whiz, what if it wasn’t because of that? What if I was a casualty of the game in the making like Ian Baker-Finch was – after all, he had to quit the game because it was destroying him psychologically.

So there was a lot riding on that first swing at some stupid bay at a PGA Tour Superstore this first week of April. I grabbed the Mizuno 6 and took a swing. Didn’t even take a practice swing, just grabbed a ball and hit it. Amazingly, it actually went straight! As did the second one. I topped the third, then yanked the fourth, but I started to enjoy myself, feeling the anxiousness leave me as I took a few more swings. I then grabbed the Cobra 7 and hit some pretty decent shots. Ryan encouraged me to start swinging a little harder to try and get as much out of the clubs as I could, telling me that was the only way I’d get a real feel for what these clubs could do. So that’s what I did, and I could actually feel a little more confidence coming back. Perhaps being sick in Vegas had left a swing thought of just swinging easy as a way to get through the rounds and it was doing that that encouraged the shanks – I mean, who knows?

What a head case I am.

Anyways, I tried the Callaway 7 and really didn’t like it. I’m not sure why, but after a few swings I found myself gravitating back to that Mizuno 6. I really liked that club, felt like I could really wail away at it. Then back to the Cobra, then back to the Callaway. After a good 30 minutes, I had racked up some pretty decent golf swings, being complimented by Ryan on several occasions. I told him I’d be back to try them all again because with my swing, who knows what will show up on any given day. But here are a few thoughts:

1. If I were to rank the clubs I hit today it would be the Mizuno, Cobra, and Callaway in that order.
2. I’m really not interested in a complete set of the same brand just for the sake of playing a single brand.
3. By the time I hit the Golf & Ski I’m going to be down to two iron choices and start looking at drivers and woods.
4. Depending on how the sets play out, whatever serves as hybrids (#3 / 4 iron replacements) will be a crap-shoot.

Arriving home I cracked open a Sam Adams (I knew I was finally over being sick this past weekend when a Sam Adams Boston Lager actually tasted good for the first time since, like, forever) and put on some mellow surf music. And it all felt good. And it all felt right.

The Great White Shank had taken his first step forward to rejoining the golf-playing community.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:27 | Comments (3)
April 3, 2017

It’s the week in the professional golf year that is, to quote CBS Sports’ Jim “Hello, friends” Nantz, “a tradition like no other”. It’s Masters Week. The precocious, spoiled brats featured in the tiresome Drive, Chip, and Putt competition have been swept off the Augusta National grounds like so many dead azalea blooms (thank God!) and the adults are finally taking over.

This year’s Masters promises to be a good one. Of course, you have the red-hot Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy ready to overpower Augusta with their incredible distance, but I’m still sticking with Jordan Spieth as my pick. I know he missed the cut at the Shell Houston, but you could tell his mind was a thousand miles away in Augusta. He’s got a lot to make up for with last year’s cheap bridge table collapse, and I think he’s ready to up his game to ensure defending champion Danny Willett is putting the green jacket back on his shoulders. Besides, if Spieth can play with hickory sticks, he can surely win again at Augusta.

One person who won’t be there is Tiger Woods. I’ve come to believe that you can’t believe anything that comes out of the mouth of his agent Mark Steinberg. The guy lies like a rug trying to keep Tiger relevant and in the conversation of everything that is golf today, but you really have to wonder if the guy is coming around to the realization that he just can’t do it anymore. I mean, five minutes on the range and he decides he’s not going to play at Augusta? He couldn’t play when he teed it up at Dubai, and nothing has changed since that tine to make anyone think he’s any closer to rejoining the Tour on a regular basis than he was at this time last year. At some point it becomes a question of whether it’s all worth it. He had a great run, will always be known as one of the greatest golfers who have ever played the game. Ought to be enough to leave it at that.

And what’s going on with the LPGA allowing a phone-in by some Cheetos-eating, 16-handicap couch potato to influence the winner of a professional golf tournament? If I were Lexi Thompson I’d be pretty livid about the whole thing. The LPGA should put a stop to this kind of thing, and pronto.

Masters week is always special. It’s the best tournament to watch on TV, bar none. So queue the quaint music, turn up the microphone volume so that every bird within fifteen miles is heard, have a moment of silence for the departed King, and let those words ring out, indicating that winter is truly over and another golf season is upon us.

“Fore, please!”

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 16:44 | Comments Off on Masters Week

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