July 29, 2018

Let me be blunt right out of the box: I’m not going to look back on the 2018 Goodboys Invitational fondly in any way, manner, shape or form. My game sucked, for sure. But Foxwoods Casino and Resort is not the place to go if you want to have a 12-man golf package handled smoothly when things go awry. Let me explain the circumstances before I get to the golf.

So the Goodboys had twelve players assigned to six rooms, two to a room. Unfortunately, at the last minute, one of our players was unable to make it due to a family situation so the idea was the we would reduce our package to eleven players, four staying two men to a room, the others going to a three-man suite. I thought I had had it handled pretty well until after golf on Friday when the boys started checking in and found that two of the rooms had gotten completely screwed up. More on that later.

The golf course at Foxwoods – Lake of Isles Golf Course – is by far the toughest golf course the Goodboys have ever played. A number of holes have forced carries, and all the greens are elevated and protected by bunkers so you need to have your game in gear and play smart. Right from the start, on the driving range on Friday, I knew I was completely out of sync – big swings, rushing my downswing, jumping at the ball. And I fought it for eighteen holes, coming in with a brutal 59/57=116. Which was too bad, because my partner “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis torched the course with an 88. I can’t remember too many shots from Friday that were any good; I do know I lost 16 balls over the course of the round and ended up having to buy a dozen at the pro shop after the round.

What I will always remember most about Friday is that after the golf, when the Goodboys started checking in, two groups discovered their reservations had been screwed up. Coming off the course after a difficult day, all I wanted was to have a cold Pinot Grigio and head up to my room for a hot shower; instead, I was stuck at the registration desk trying to sort out who was supposed to occupy the three-man suite and how everyone was going to be charged. Dinner that night was at 8:30 PM, but when I arrived for dinner I was told that the accommodations for the three-man suite were still all screwed up, so it was back to the registration desk.

There’s no point in going through the details. Bottom line was, after supposedly getting things straightened out, I was too agitated and stressed to even eat. I’ve got certain Goodboys questioning my judgement and the arrangements of the rooms, and I’m feeling as low as a guy can feel. It’s now 9:30 PM and I’m tired, hungry, and stressed out over everything. I can’t blame anyone but myself for feeling that way, but as with everything else this entire damned friggin’ year, it’s just one stress and issue after another and I can’t relax.

It’s Saturday morning on the putting green just prior to us all teeing off. I’m off by myself practicing my speed and tempo when I’m told that one of the teams went down to the front desk and found out they were getting charged something like $800 more than they should be. At that time there was nothing I could do about it; all I could do was promise that I’d look into it as soon as I got off the course. Call it an excuse if you want, but throughout the round I couldn’t separate out the golf from the fact that the charges on the rooms were still screwed up, and it was something that was going to have to be taken care of as soon as I got off the course.

While I played better on Saturday than I did on Friday – my ball-striking and my tempo was much improved – I never really got into a rhythm. I didn’t drive the ball consistently well and my chipping continued to be abysmal. While I struck my irons much better than I did on Friday, I never could string together shots that would enable me to make pars and bogeys. If I hit a decent drive, I couldn’t make hay with my approach shots. And while I putted OK, I was sloppy around the greens. And left to my own devices when my partner was off dealing with his own problems, my course management sucked. When you’re playing target golf you have to have a plan and stick to it. And when you get out of position, you put the ball back in play and resume your plan one stroke to the bad. I didn’t do that, and it really cost me. I finished with a 112, knowing that I’d pissed away a minimum of 12 strokes based on course management alone. My partner The Funny Guy struggled with the greens all day and finished with a 103 – 15 strokes higher than the previous day. He really could have used my help that round, and I failed him in every sense of the word.

One of my fondest memories of the weekend will always be Saturday after golf. My hope was to be able to speak with the Lake of Isles concierge to try and get the rooms and charges straightened out before everyone went to dinner, so I headed back to the clubhouse while my partner stowed all our golf gear in his trunk. I told him to give me ten minutes and then pick me up out front. I go inside only to see the concierge is closed for the day. I go back out front and wait to be picked up. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes. It’s hot outside and I’m feeling worn out, sore, and grimy. I go back into the clubhouse and find myself a comfy chair amidst the dark walnut and mahogany:

There was no fire, of course, but I picked that comfy chair on the right and quickly fell asleep for what must have been ten or twenty minutes. If I had my choice I would have stayed there for, like, forever. But I found my ways downstairs where the gang were having cocktails and got the immediate sense I was the skunk appearing at the garden party. Which was OK – I grabbed myself a Pinot Grigio and kept to myself.

Dinner at The Cedars steak house on Saturday night was (at least in my mind) excellent. My Goodboys friend “Killer” Kowalski had some personal things to take care of so we separated from the pack and found some nice away time for a round at the Hard Rock Café and watched a funk / disco band that only served to remind us just how much all the music from today sucks. Come midnight, Killer was done so I answered my partner’s text and went down to join a bunch of the Goodboys in the loud and obnoxious main room at The Fox Tower casino. One thing I learned about Foxwoods – it’s about as far away from Vegas as my game is from Dustin Johnson’s. The entertainment is cheap, loud, and tawdry, and the people who flock to experience it all are perfectly matched.

On Sunday morning we awoke to the gullywasher the meteorologists had been promising for the past several days as a sub-tropical system moved its way up from the south. Calls to the planned Sunday course were made, the Goodboys all gathered around several small tables in a tiny coffee shop, and the consensus was that it wasn’t worth playing. The sun was starting to peek out, but we knew the course was going to be sloppy and wet, and with the possibility of downpours in the afternoon no one had the enthusiasm to get after it. Instead, “Skeeta” Clark and “Goose” Dwyer were named winners (see above right), and a bunch of us headed back to the Lake of Isles golf course for breakfast and to watch the final round of the Open Championship. In my mind, it was the best time of the entire weekend: food to match the camaraderie, a few laughs, and, most importantly, relief (at least in my mind) that it was all over.

Two days after Goodboys Invitational weekend, two of the Goodboys in the above pic, “Hulkigan” Tripp and “Mothra” Nolan (fourth and fifth from the left) handed in their resignations. Which is OK – Goodboys come and Goodboys go. The years go on and the Goodboys Invitational endures. But after this year’s weekend, count this Goodboy tired, burned out, and stressed out. Even with all the practice I’d put in, the Lake of Isles course was far too difficult for what my golf game is capable of, the billing and reservation system at Foxwoods too incompetent, and the entire weekend a fiasco. Looking back, the idea of Foxwoods might have been a good one, but Goodboys Invitational weekend should be one where you can relax, play some golf, and get away from the stresses of lives. Having to carry something akin to 180 yards four times during a round and have to think about every friggin’ shot you have to make is not my idea of a weekend getaway. If that’s the way it’s gonna be from here on out, then count me out.

Of course, the whole weekend is still too raw and fresh in my mind. In another month, my dad will be set up in his new digs, everyone here in the Valley of the Sun will be looking forward to the onset of Arizona winter in October, and I’ll reacquaint myself with my clubs. I’m planning on scheduling a short game lesson with my swing coach Alex Black because I’m tired of throwing away strokes around the green and having everything I try work for a round or two and then go all kaplooey. My MyScorecard.com handicap now stands at a whopping 27.2, and I remain committed to getting it down to a 20.

For now I’m just glad that the 2018 Goodboys Invitational is in the books. What a let-down.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 23:07 | Comment (1)
May 13, 2018

I’ve done all I can as far as Goodboys 2018 is concerned, the next move is from the Possum.

Possum, we’re waiting…

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 18:46 | Comments (0)
March 30, 2018

…My smart phone rang while I was frying corned beef hash and egg in an iron skillet over an open fire in the Bitterroots by a lazy stream the color of quartzite. A pot of water with coffee grains dumped in it hissed against hot rocks. The morning air was filled with the smell of damp brush and mule deer musk, the night’s dampness determined not to release its hold until the morning’s sun approached its zenith.

“Who is this?”, I asked, putting the phone on speaker.”

“Want to do a Facetime session?” a voice crackled through the phone.

I could hear rustling in the bushes down by the river. Elk? Moose? Knights of Columbus? It didn’t matter to me. The call was from a Goodboy, a made man, one of the top dogs. And not just any Goodboy, this was one of the Exec-Comm boys, and I knew breakfast would have to wait while I gave him my full and undivided attention.

“I need to know if you’ll commit to a newsletter this year.” The voice, initially relaxed and at ease, now sounded impatient and persistent, as if an increasing desire to urinate had arisen in his loins.

A cottontail scampered under a cottonwood tree behind me, as if sensing a hawk circling above in the convection. A tumbleweed rolled past the rabbit, and a whisp of sudden cool air raised goosebumps on my exposed arms.

“Hey Siri”, I called out over the pop and snap of the hash and eggs. “Tell Mr. Exec-Comm the Goodboys newsletter will be published in mid-June, as always.”

“I’m here”, said the voice through the speaker.

“Winner, winner chicken dinner!” came the voice through the speaker.

A breeze now arose out of the southwest, causing the pines and firs that towered in the grove above me to rustle and whisper. The sky that had started off rosy and cloudless became quickly smeared with overcast and the promise of approaching rain. I heard the distant rumble of thunder, and the air around me filled with the anticipation of a storm as if riding the whirlwind of an ancient Roman chariot.

I looked at the opening of my tent flapping angrily against the side as the wind rose and the clouds above turned dark and foreboding. I finished my breakfast quickly, tossed the coffee on the fire, its hissing and sizzle disappearing in clouds of steam, then hastily scoured my skillet in the stream’s fine sand where a rainbow idled lazily above the gravel bed before returning it my saddlebag. Raindrops began to pucker in the stream, and thunder, much nearer now, echoed against the mossy green walls of the valley.

“Goodbye, Possum”, I said into the speaker, hurrying towards the shelter of my tent. “Looks like a good day to watch Paula Creamer golf videos on YouTube.”

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 22:44 | Comment (1)
July 24, 2017

And so another Goodboys Invitational is in the books.

First of all, the good news: by and large, all the hard work I’d put in over the past two months paid off “bigly” – I drove the ball fairly well and pretty consistently throughout the weekend. My ball-striking with my irons was also consistent throughout the weekend – the most important thing, in my humble opinion. For what seems like forever I would dread any long iron shot or par 3 over crap that came along, afraid that I would chunk it into the junk or shank it and and thereby send me off on a one-way ticket to Nowhereville for the rest of the day (if not the entire weekend). Not this year, daddy-o, not after all the hours I put in in the heat and the dust of a Phoenix summer. No, for the first time in my Goodboys Invitational career I attacked with my irons fearlessly. Sure, I got into trouble with some yanks and over-swings, but I pulled irons out of my bag with abandon throughout the weekend – something I was committed above anything else to do. In that regard the weekend was an unqualified success and something to build upon.

The bad news, and the honest-to-God truth was, I give away the Goodboys Invitational championship, and did it in the worst way possible, as my short game (especially my putting) completely left me on Sunday and in turn let my team down. Was it akin to the infamous “cheap bridge table collapse” of the “Killer” Kowalski and “Gaylord” Perry team at Killington in 1993, where, with the Spielberg Memorial Trophy seemingly in the bag with seven holes to play, allowed yours truly and “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis to win in improbable fashion? No, but it was pretty bad.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s like saying, “So, apart from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” But that’s getting ahead of things. Let’s first walk through the entire weekend just so y’all’s clear on just how much of a success it was for The Great White Shank, regardless of how events played out.

On Friday the Goodboys gathered at Agawam Hunt Club in Providence. A nice course, perfect for a Goodboys Invitational opening round. Wide fairways, generous landing areas, fast but consistent greens – similar to what I’m used to here in the Valley of the Sun. I had told my Goodboys pal The Funny Guy after my dismal Tuesday outing at Green Meadow that I was this close to putting my game together, and put it together I did. Just two days prior, on Wednesday night, playing nine holes in the twilight with my Goodboys pal Killer at Trull Brook, I made par on four of the last five holes on the back nine for a crowd-pleasing 46. In doing so, I found a little something on the twelfth hole that would keep me in fairly good stead off the tee throughout Goodboys Invitational weekend. So on Friday at Agawam, I drove the ball exceptionally well, as well as I’d done in many a day. We were playing a four-man bramble off the tee, and I’m pleased to say my foursome used several of my drives for their second shots in. Overall, I hit seven fairways and had 34 putts – a damned good performance. My shot of the day was on #3, a par 4 where after a duffed second shot I was left with 124 yards to the pin, then stuck an 8-iron to 1 foot for par, which I happily converted. By the end of the day, with all our Goodboys handicaps taken into consideration, I had shot a second-best 82 (conservatively, had I played my own ball in I’m guessing I would have shot somewhere around a 96), and my partner “Skeeta” Clark and I had a two-stroke lead going into Saturday.

Segregansett Country Club in Taunton was, by and large, a tough sled for most, if not all, of the Goodboys. A little local knowledge on this tight, shot-makers course would have gone a long way; unfortunately, none of us had ever played it before. It was here that the first cracks started to show in my game, and, not surprisingly, it was courtesy of my 5-wood and hybrids, clubs I have struggled with since I brought them home two months ago. At Segregansett, there was no hiding the need to use those particular clubs: there were tee shots on several holes that one simply couldn’t pull driver on, and I paid the price dearly for it. Looking back at the card, I can see those clubs costing me a good four strokes. Given the quirkiness of the layout, I felt happy with a 53 / 55 = 108 on a course I had only hit three fairways on. And while the greens were quick and a little tougher to read than at Agawam, the 33 putts I hit didn’t cause me any grief. What I was most proud of was the fact that I lost my tempo for a good portion of the front nine but clawed my way back. My 108 wasn’t especially great, but pretty much all the Goodboys had a tough time of it that day. Knowing what I now know, Segregansett was a course I wouldn’t mind playing again. Going into Sunday, Skeeta and I were five strokes up on our nearest competitor. With the way I had played and how I was striking the ball, there was every reason to believe we had a better than even shot of taking home the Goodboys Invitational trophy.

Things didn’t get off to a good start on Sunday at Triggs Memorial Golf Course in Providence. The fairways weren’t unusually narrow, but the rough just off was so thick that if you strayed even slightly the best you could hope for was to get it back in play; there would be no going for the green out of the rough at Triggs. I found that out on the very first hole – a sculled drive that took two tries to get it onto the fairway. Unfortunately, I pushed a 5-iron waaaay left, then it took me two shots to get it on the green before two-putting for a double par.

It wouldn’t get a whole lot better from there.

Triggs is an old Donald Ross-designed course – meaning, lots of elevated and undulating greens protected by bunkers and thick rough off the fringes. If you weren’t pin-point in your accuracy with your approach shots it was too bad for you: if you were off a little, you were off a lot. Which I was. I stopped counting the number of times my approach shots would roll off the green into the thickest of roughs with downhill putts. Maybe others have that kind of game, but we just don’t see that kind of crap here in the Valley of the Sun. And how do you practice for it? The greens themselves were inconsistent and just slower than what I was used to, and it caused me fits. After a while they just wore you down, and I was worn down, tired, and frustrated by my short game from start to finish. While I hit only four fairways all day I don’t feel as if I drove the ball all that badly, but when I didn’t hit the fairway bad things just sort of happened. And I don’t feel as if I hit my irons that bad either, although I was clearly a hair off.

Once again, my 5-wood and hybrids treated me harshly. There are some very long par 4s on the front nine at Triggs, and three increasingly long par 5s on the back – holes requiring precision with hybrids and fairway woods. And with the rough waiting to gobble your ball like a Great White Shark, dumping a 5-iron down the hole wasn’t an option – not when you’re 3-putting greens and missing every two-foot putt, which I was. And in each case, I simply couldn’t hit the damned things – duff after duff after duff. It became such a hopeless task. But what ended up truly killing me was my putting – a total of 41 putts (even with a chip-in on #6), including seven – count ’em, seven! – three-putts. I know I’ve had days with more putts than that, but not on a Goodboys Sunday with everything on the line. And it cost our team dearly. I managed only two holes at bogey or better all day and a Goodboys high score of 115. And that on a day when my partner Skeeta blistered the course with a rockin’ 78.

Sitting on the Triggs patio afterwards, I was still hoping against hope that our scores would hold up, but, like Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff last November when the numbers started coming in, I was starting to get a little nervous. The other scores were better than I expected, and my partner was hoping against hope that one of the teams would catch us from behind so that he (i.e., we) wouldn’t be stuck with having to run next year’s event as tradition dictates. When it was announced that the team of “Possum” Shepter and “Mothra” Nolan had beat us by five strokes, all I could do was look at my card and see all those three-putt holes and the long par 4s and par 5s where even a halfway decently-hit 5-iron or hybrid might have made the difference. Skeeta wasn’t unhappy with the results, but I was pissed. I hadn’t just thrown the potential for a decent round away, I had given away the 2017 Goodboys Invitational!

This one’s gonna smart for awhile.

Still, it wasn’t all for naught. For the first time in my Goodboys career since we started paying a monetary reward for first- and second-place finishes, I actually took home some dough-re-mi. Second place wasn’t first place, but knowing that it was my play on Friday that gave us the head start heading into the weekend helped ease the sting of Sunday’s fiasco. And looking back, I feel confident that with another go at Triggs Memorial I could go out and put up a decent number, and the same goes for Segregansett. I’m not just close, I’m very close to where I want to be.

All in all, I have no complaints with how things went down this Goodboys Invitational weekend. Would it have been nice to win? Absolutely. But we came close and that’s good enough for me. It would have been nice to have figured out my 5-wood and hybrids, but that wasn’t my primary area of focus these past two months. It would have been nice to chip and putt better on Sunday at Triggs, but I just don’t have the opportunity to play those kinds of greens and learn the kinds of shots those kinds of greens demand out in Arizona. What I wanted to do this Goodboys weekend was strike my irons with authority and drive the ball reasonably well, and in both cases it was “mission accomplished”.

Now it’s time for a nice, long break until the fall.

Congratulations to the new Exec-Comm, Possum and Mothra. You’ll have the privilege of seeing their happy mugs at the upper-right of the Goodboys Nation weblog main page until someone takes it away from them.

And, finally, a “YUUUGE” muchas gracias to the former Exec-Comm, “Goose” Dwyer and “Deuce” Doucette for two great years of Goodboys Invitational weekend planning. I’m sure they’re grateful for the chance to not have to play with each other for a third straight year, but, more especially, at not having to worry about planning yet another Goodboys Invitational.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 00:12 | Comments (0)
July 14, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 2
Location: Trull Brook Golf Club
Score: 49
Handicap: 23.8

A few of us Goodboys have made playing the back nine at Trull Brook a tradition over the years, and it’s a good test: A couple of tight holes and a couple of wide-open ones, all situation amongst rolling hills. It’s a nice way to gauge where your game is before you start teeing it up for real. There have been years where we got off early enough to get in as many as thirteen holes before darkness sets in, but this year we had just enough daylight to get nine in. The other guys were yukking it up (as usual) on seventeen, but as I stood on the hill in the growing dusk breathing in the fresh, clean air my thoughts were on Arizona and all the hard work I’d put in over the past four months to get me to this point.

Not to be lying four on the sharp, dogleg-right then uphill par 5: I’d crushed a 5-wood that split the fairway, then (for the second time – see below) mistakenly pulled my 3-hybrid instead of the four – I was using a pull-cart and my clubs were all sitting upside down from how they’re usually sitting standing up in a golf cart – and pushed it way, way right, then getting back into position with a 7-iron before leaving my 64-yard pitch just off the green right. No, I was thinking of the last six weeks and everything that had happened in my life since my last lesson with Alex Black. Golf has been more than just hitting balls with my Mom’s passing, it has been a much-needed diversion from real life. This past Saturday, I’d finally chosen to abandon completely the upright take-back I’d been employing since seeing that Hunter Mahan article in the February 2015 GOLF Magazine and going with a lower (flatter) takeaway – not just with my irons, but with my woods and hybrids as well. And the difference has been pretty marked: I’m now driving the ball straighter and longer than I ever had. The Goodboys are a tough bunch, so when you’re getting complimented on how well you’re driving the ball you know you’re doing something right.

On #10, my 240-yard drive left me on the uphill – something I’d never done before in the countless times I played there. A crushed, 250-yard drive on the uphill, dogleg left par 5 #12 left me only 210 to the middle of the green. On #14, a slight, uphill par 4 with a creek running ~ 190 yards from the tee that traditionally I’ve never tried to drive, I hit probably the best drive of my life: a dead-straight 230+ yard blast that left me only 110 to the pin. Doesn’t sound momentous, but you gotta understand: I’ve played these holes probably forty times over the years and have never found myself in territory like this. It made me feel as if all the process of discovery and tweaking this and that in between all the sadness and stress going on around it had been worth it.

Of course, it wasn’t all peaches and cream: a slightly-pulled pitching wedge left me off the green right and three putts gave me a double-bogey six; on twelve I meant to choke down on a 4-hybrid but mistakenly pulled the three instead and yanked it OB right, leading to a double-bogey seven. Throughout the nine I continued to struggle with my short irons and my short game (16 putts), but I did end up parring #14 as well as the par 3 #11 and par 4 #18, so the 49 I ended up posted sounded about right. But, boy, looking back, it could have been so much lower.

So that as they say is that: tomorrow the Goodboys Invitational starts and I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I know I’ve been trying to be too fine with my chipping and need to be more aggressive, forgetting about those lightning-fast Arizona greens. Of course, if the Plymouth courses feature faster greens than what I’ve been playing the last two days at Green Meadow and Trull, all the better, but I simply have to bear down and get the job done. It won’t be for lack of trying, however – my game is in the best state it has ever been, ball-striking wise. Now it’s just a matter of finding confidence and executing as I know I can.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 06:51 | Comments (0)
July 13, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 3
Location: Green Meadow Golf Club
Score: 52 + 49 = 101
Handicap: 24.2 / Trend: 23.8 (no change)

Great to be back in New England and playing golf on the same kind of courses I can expect to play this weekend at the Goodboys Invitational. While golf in Arizona is the same game and useful in crafting one’s swing, it is primarily around the greens where the difference lies: in the Valley of the Sun the greens are typically flatter and rocket-fast, and there’s not the kind of swales and rough around the greens that you see around these parts. As a result, and I guess it is to be expected, that my first prep round this week would feature a few struggles around the green. While I knew I’d probably make a few more putts than the 32 I’d been averaging to date, 41 putts is still completely unacceptable. Seven holes with three putts and one hole with – gasp! – four putts.

To be truthful, it wasn’t just the putter to blame here: my game from 110 yards in was pretty abysmal. I can think of three 9-irons that either never hit the green or left me putts from a gazillion feet away. I can think of several chips from just off the green that went completely awry. Taken together, when you can’t put it relatively close to the pin you’re putting way too much pressure on your putting game.

The good thing is that these are relatively easy fixes, and I could feel myself starting to get more comfortable around the greens as the round went on. So all is OK: had I made, say, six fewer putts, that’s a mid-90s score. One or two shots that didn’t get away from me and I’m looking at, say, a 92 or 93 that would be perfectly acceptable. And even though I only marked three ‘X’s indicating fairways hits all day, there were more than a few holes where I was just off the fairway, so I drove the ball pretty well. As a final tune-up, I’m still in a good spot heading into Goodboys Invitational weekend.

The next time I tee it up for a full round, the scores will really count.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 06:58 | Comments (0)
July 11, 2016

It would be nice to say that the Goodboys have been waiting 51 weeks for the 26th Goodboys Invitational, but the fact it that’s just not so. As the adage goes, the Goodboys can’t wait to see each other until Friday morning. Then, after Friday’s first round and the ‘Boys have renewed acquaintances for a round of golf, Sunday afternoon can’t come soon enough. 🙂

Speaking only for myself, no one – and I do mean no one in Goodboys Nation has worked harder on their game than I have. This time last year I thought I had made significant steps to improve my game, but, looking back, I realize now I didn’t know what the hell I was doing out there; this year, I’ve come to know my swing so well that I can tell where the ball is going just from the sound of the ball off my club face. I’m in a good spot right now, it’s just a matter of seeing if I can execute and if my swing can hold up under the mind-numbing, bone-crushing pressure of a Goodboys Invitational. All the pieces are in place, now it’s just a matter of doing it to it.

It’s time to play ball. Let the games begin.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 17:43 | Comments (0)
July 5, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 11
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 49 + 50 = 99
Handicap: 24.2 / Trend: 23.8 (-0.4)

Funny how golf is. Most of the time we high-handicappers post a score we trudge to the 19th hole, plop ourselves down in front of a brewskie and our playing partners and bemoan those six or seven shots that got away from us, truly feeling (whether rightly or not) that we left shots out there that kept us from posting a real low score.

Today was not one of those days.

I chose the title of this post for two reasons: 1) I feel damned fortunate to have escaped from the clutches of Superstition Springs Golf Club with a 99, and 2) I’m ecstatic at the prospect of not having to tee it up there again for a very long time. In both ways, I have escaped the torture of the Springs and the special form of punishment it seems to reserve for The Great White Shank, no matter what game he brings to it.

I was actually feeling pretty damned good about my game going into today’s round. Per a suggestion from Alex Black during my last lesson I bit the bullet and tweaked the take-back on my driver in order to gain a more repeatable swing, and had had one of my best range sessions of the year yesterday. As a result, I think I had the best day ever driving the ball at the Springs. But the problem with the Springs is that it doesn’t care one way or the other: you can struggle off the tee and make good approach shots. You can hit the ball well off the tee and be just a hair off on your approach shots (as I was today). Or, you can hit the ball well off the tee and hit good approach shots and struggle with your short game, as I did on several holes today. It doesn’t matter: the Springs will find a way to penalize you to the umpteenth degree. In short (as you’re probably guessing by now), you have to have all cylinders firing on your game in order to post a low number at the Springs, and you can never relax, not for one shot, or you’ll be looking at double-bogey so fast it will make your head spin.

Today it seemed no matter what I did the Springs did everything it could to make breaking 100 excruciatingly hard. Every bounce – and I do mean every – seemed to go against me. A slightly pushed 5-iron off the tee at the par 3 #3 hit something and bounded far left, leaving an incredibly tricky pitch under a tree that I was lucky to just get back near the green. My approach with a pitching wedge on the next hole was a foot from being perfect; instead it bounced uphill into a pot bunker. Rather than having at worst a two-putt for bogey I ended up with a quad eight. Balls that typically bounced left would go right, and vice-versa. And not for anything good.

What held my game together today was my driver and my putter. The scorecard would show only six fairways hit, but by and large I was on target nearly all day. And between holes six and eleven I one-putted five of those holes. I’d like to have that pushed tee shot left on #14 that ended up in the pond, but it was the crappy 5-iron I had no business trying to get to the green that went OB that pretty much sealed my fate for the quad-bogey eight that resulted. As the back nine went on and the heat began to really cook both me and everything around me, I was grinding on every shot – even the two-footers I had left for bogeys and double-bogeys coming in. The Springs wasn’t giving anything away for free, and when I tapped in a two-footer for my double-bogey and a 99 their was no sense of joy or angst or anything: I was just numb, physically and emotionally drained, just glad to get the hell out of there.

With only eleven days to go before Goodboys Invitational weekend I’m not in a bad place. The Springs is just a damned tough course with no holes whatsoever that even begin to fit my eye. Had I played any other course, say, Trilogy at Power Ranch or Lone Tree or Stonecreek I really think my game today was good enough to hang something in the low 90s up there – my tee game was that good. But I know there’s still some work out there to do: I have to get more confident with my irons – Alex would be on me about not trusting my swing and fighting my weight shift. And I’ve got to figure out where the hell my 5-wood and my 3- and 4-hybrids went: I’d been hitting them so well recently and today they really hurt me on some holes. But these are minor things: as I say, Superstition Springs demands precision and accuracy on virtually every hole, and speaking only for me (others may feel differently) I can never relax when I play there. Disaster always seems to be around the corner, and the pressure to consistently make good shots doesn’t translate well to my swing.

It will be interesting to see how my game translates to New England golf and the pressure of a Goodboys Invitational weekend. My game seems quite different from the last time I teed anything up there, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. As for Arizona golf, I’m pretty much done for the year, but I’ve made great progress: I started the year as a 26-handicap and have take more than two strokes off it since. So I’m trending well heading back to New England and looking forward not just getting away from the heat, but Superstition Springs as well.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:24 | Comments (0)
June 11, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 35
Location: Lone Tree Golf Club
Score: 44 + 43 = 87
Handicap: 25.6 / Trend: 24.2 (-1.4)

I wish I could tell you there was a point in time during today’s round at Lone Tree Golf Club where I felt everything came together and that I felt “in the zone”, but that never happened: playing alone on a warm, humid day in the Valley of the Sun, I simply stayed in the moment, playing the shot in front of me, not worrying about the last shot, not thinking about the next shot, not concerned about the numbers I dutifully scribbled on the scorecard. My only swing thought throughout the day was to not over-swing and to focus on my weight shift practice swing, as my swing coach Alex Black had shown me at our last lesson, then let it fly.

I won’t lie to you: my performance last week at Superstition Springs hurt, really stung, and so I spent a lot of time this week – four trips to the range – working on ridding myself of the bad habits that had crept into my game over the past six weeks like, to quote Stevie Nick’s wonderful lyric in Fleetwood Mac’s “Angel”, a ghost through a fog. I’d always been prone to over-swinging – my “death move” being finishing off on my back foot with my front foot on what I call twinkletoes, but in the past few weeks it had gotten so bad that I had lost control of my driver and was shanking my pitching wedge. So the trips to the range this past week, even with all the heat and in the sun, focused on only two things: weight shift, and not trying to kill the ball.

I’d played Lone Tree well in the past, shooting 90 once, but I remember that particular round more for taking advantage of the subdivision the course winds its way through by way of a number of fortuitous bounces off the walls that line so many of the holes than anything else. Oh, and the meltdown on the par 5 #18 when I realized I only had to triple-bogey the hole to break 90 but made nine instead.

I know it sounds the height of arrogance – especially after shooting an incredible forty-one (count ’em, 41) fewer strokes than my round at Superstition Springs just a week ago, but the fact is this was pretty much a rocking-chair 87. Being consistent off the tee all day I was never in any real trouble except for the island green #12 where, having to take a drop after going just short with a 5-iron from 155 yards out, I really put pressure on myself to put a pitching wedge on the deck from the 70-yard drop zone. Which I did, knees shaking, but then three-putted (my only one of the day) from thirty-five feet.

Usually, I can look at a round and say that I left x number of strokes out there through bad shot-making or bad decisions, but the 87 was pretty much right on target. If I got lucky with a sand wedge chip-in for birdie on the par 3 #8, I had to take a drop with penalty on the par 4 #17 because a foursome all of a sudden appeared out of nowhere behind me, and I had no time to look for my tee shot which at last look was headed dead straight down the center of the fairway. But those are the breaks.

…Come to think of it, there was a sequence of shots that, if anything else, defined today’s round. On #7, a 433-yard par 4 with a pond lining the right side, I push my drive left through a fence and into a neighbor’s swimming pool. Rather than take a drop, I hit my third off the tee and pulverize it dead center of the fairway, leaving me 187 to the pin. I grab my 4-hybrid – a club I’ve struggled with all year – and hit it flush. A click, a couple of bounces, and I’m left with a putt of sixteen feet, which I then proceed to leisurely two-putt for a very nice double-bogey six. That one felt pretty good, I’ll tell ya.

The numbers don’t lie: eight one-putts or less, eight fairways hit (six on the back), two birdies (my first of the year), five pars (two of the three par 5s, including that pesky #18), and six bogeys. And while Lone Tree is no Superstition Springs, it’s no slouch either: nearly 6,500 yards from the blues with a rating of 70.3 and a slope of 120. I don’t care what course you’re playing, you shoot 87 and you, mi amigo, are playing golf.

What I’m most proud of, of course, is the fact that I spent most of the day smack-dab in the middle of the fairway following my tee shot. Which is why there are really no heroics to boast of from today’s round. Golf is so much easier a game to play if you’ve got a nice lie and a good yardage to the green: you just pick the right iron and try and shook it down the whammy. And while there were a couple of sculls out there, there were more than a few pulverized 4-hybrids and enough close-enough-to-precision irons that allowed my short game (the best I’ve had all year) to take over from there: hence the one-putts.

Still, just as I said after shrugging off last week’s debacle at Superstition Springs, today’s round, while as gratifying as last week’s wasn’t, is just one round and tomorrow is another day. The ice-cold Sam Adams Boston Lager went down pretty smooth at the grille afterwards, and I felt really good about seeing all that hard work at the range this week pay off, but I’m content to simply enjoy this round of a lifetime for what it was and to just keep trying to improve on what I’m trying to do.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:02 | Comments (0)
June 2, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 44
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 55 + 73 = 128 (Adjusted: 55 + 62 = 117)
Handicap: 25.6 / Trend: 25.6 (no change)

Hi, this is Rich Lerner. Let’s go out to Superstition Springs and a truly ugly round of golf put together by The Great White Shank, his worst of the year. I’m here with our Golf Channel analysts Brandel Chamblee and David Duval, both of which have seen their own share of ups and downs on the golf course over the years, but I’m guessing nothing like this. Brandel, what went wrong for The Great White Shank out there today?

Most folks think the approach shot is the key to scoring at Superstition Springs, but like the great Greg Norman has always said, the most important shot on any hole is off the tee. You can talk putting, short game or irons, but if you can’t get off the tee, to use a baseball analogy, you’re already sitting at 0-2. Eighteen holes, zero – and I mean zero – fairways hit by TGWS today. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a challenging course like Superstition Springs or the local muni down the street: if you’re hitting your second shot out of position at best, or lying three or more at worse – and we all saw plenty of that today – you’re gonna get crucified out there.

David, what did you see from The Great White Shank out there today?

Confusion. Poor swings. Playing the ball way too far forward. You just can’t play that way. He lost fourteen balls out there today. That’s a lot of penalty strokes. And not just that, it makes for an expensive round of golf!

And Brandel, that was the story for today, wasn’t it? The Great White Shank not being able to get off the tee.

Very unusual for him, for sure, because if there has been one aspect of his game that’s been as steady as anything else this year it has been his tee game. I don’t recall ever seeing TGWS hit a banana slice like he did on the par 5 sixth: it not only went over the subdivision wall, but clear over the house adjacent to the wall. And then to top his second ball into the pond right, well, it’s tough to play bogey golf on a par 5 when you’re sitting in the fairway and lying five after three tee shots.

David, what on earth happened on the par 3 seventh?

Your guess is as good as mine. Sure, the tees were set up crazy back, at a whopping 223 yards, but I’m surprised he didn’t just pull 5-iron and play the hole as a short par 4. In my mind – and this is just my opinion – trying to go for the green with a 5-wood when you’ve got water in front and to the right, knowing that you’re already struggling with your woods, is just inviting disaster. Which he did by topping his first ball into the water, banana slicing his second into the car lot beyond the wall left, and yanking his third into the water right.

He settles down a bit on numbers eight and nine to shoot 55, but the roof really caved in on the back nine. What did you see, Brandel?

Just a lot of mistakes. He struggled to make double bogeys on ten, twelve and thirteen – and that par on the par 5 eleventh resulting from a beautifully struck 5-iron was very nice, but #14 has always been the Shank’s nemesis. A wide fairway, for sure, but with water in front and curling down the right with that pond on the left, you have to hit it straight. Unfortunately, he topped the ball into the pond on his first then yanked the next two into the water right before finally finding the fairway. Lying seven, he tops an attempted 5-iron lay-up into the pond, then a couple of chips and a three-putt later, well, I call that a 14.

And it didn’t get any better after that with a triple-bogey six, a double-par ten on the always-tough 17th, and yet another ten on #18 that featured two more lost balls. His Goodboys handicap only allowed him to post a 62 for the back, but that was a whopping 73 – almost unheard of. David, how does one recover from that?

Pull putter off the tee, I guess. [Laughter] But seriously, continuing with Brandel’s baseball analogy, it’s no different than one of those fluky games during every season where the team is down 17-2 in the third inning and they’re dragging the mascot out to throw knuckle balls the rest of the way. I mean, it’s one round of golf – and an ugly one, for sure – but you just have to shake it off, figure out what you did wrong, and get back to fundamentals.

Brandel, you have to be wondering what’s going through that young man’s mind – after all, we’re only 6 1/2 weeks away from Goodboys Invitational weekend.

That’s right. Our Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports he had a lesson with his swing coach Alex Black only yesterday, and they always say never go out and play a round after a lesson. I do think he’ll be OK. He has to look at today as an anomaly – and it probably is, given the way he has hit the ball off the tee most of this year. If he looks at the bright side, he’ll see that his score was so high that his MyScorecard.com handicap didn’t move an inch. And, while it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, he did hit several decent irons out there – something he hasn’t really done that much of lately.

Well, if there’s one small consolation, at least he was playing by himself and not having to worry about playing with, say, a stick and slowing him down. Now that would have been a bit uncomfortable.

Thank you Brandel and David – astute analysis as always. Now back to Orlando and our Golf Central studios.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 22:31 | Comments (0)

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