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)
May 28, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 49
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 54 + 55 = 109
Handicap: 25.4 / Trend: 25.6 (+0.2)

I’m so glad Exec-Comm finally published last year’s Goodboys Invitational scores, – three tough courses for sure – so that all the Goodboys know where they stand before I assume the role of Gaming Commissioner for this year’s 26th annual shindig. For me, the adjustment didn’t turn out so bad – now I only have to break 100 to lower my handicap, whereas before the MyScorecard.com handicap system had me needing to break 94 – something that, based on yesterday’s outing at Superstition Springs, ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

It’s not that I played awful – it would have interesting to see what I might have scored at another course – but I played what they call “Superstition Springs awful”, where getting off the tee isn’t necessarily so hard, but accuracy with your approach shots from 140 yards in is beyond essential. And here is where I gamely fought an iron game that has suddenly gone south, taking my short game along with it.

Take hole #1, a dogleg right up the hill to a green well-protected on the left by sand traps and on the right by deep grass bunkers. I split the fairway leaving 160 yards to the pin. My 5-iron approach took a long, limp trajectory into the sand, leaving me both short-sided and a with a down-hill lie fifteen feet from the pin. Now I will say this: my sand game, as with the rest of my short game, has been pretty damned jake lately, but this was an impossible task to pull off, even for me. Which I nearly did – emphasis on nearly. I strode to #2 with a double-bogey.

On #2, a straight 383-yard par four, a big pull left me only 105 yards to the pin. I grab pitching wedge and proceed to shank it (yes!) into a deep grass bunker in front of the green. Another double. A big, fat 5-iron on the par-3 third left me 50 yards to the pin but two duffed sand wedges and three putts later I’m looking at three opening sixes on my scorecard. Another split fairway on #4 was followed by a shanked 9-iron (where did this come from??) into the canal, but a do-over left me only two feet for bogey (that’s more like it!). Which I miss for another six.

Now normally sixes aren’t bad numbers on a scorecard for me, especially if they’re interspersed with the occasional four and five for good measure, but such was not to be the case on this occasion. For the first time in my golfing career I drove to #9 with a card reading 6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6. My playing partner Rich suggests I miss my one-footer on nine for double-bogey and another six if only to break the monotony of it all.

“Don’t laugh”, says I. “I might just do that.” I don’t.

Driving to #10 I know I can’t possibly play any worse than I did on the front – no iron game, no short game, a tentative putter (17 putts) – and yet I’ve still got the back nine which, with the exception of a hole or two each time out, I’ve pretty much torn apart this year. I bogey #s 10-13 (even though it took a couple of miraculous shots that I had absolutely no business making to get me there but did), and I was feeling fairly stoked as I strode to the 14th tee.

Due to the lack of rainfall this winter, the 361-yard, par 4 #14 at the Springs has lost a lot of its teeth. There’s still that pond on the left, of course, but there’s a lot more fairway than there used to be. And you don’t want to go right on your approach either, because then you’re either hitting out of sand or hard-pan downhill with the pond lurking on the other side of the green. After splitting the fairway with my best drive of the day, with only 134 yards to the pin and a 7-iron in my paws, I do both. First, a banana shank into the pond (“Doug, eres un culo de caballos!”), then a yank pulled so far right that it splits a couple of trees put there purely for aesthetics and bounds into a canal. Can you say quad bogey?

I bravely par the 215-yard par 3 #15 but the starch is out of my shorts. I actually bogeyed the always brutal, water everywhere #17, but that was only because a mis-hit pitching wedge sculled short of the water, and playing #16 and #18 I added four more lost balls to make it nine for the day. Still, there were no tantrums, no moaning or groaning – my playing partners were having issues of their own – so we enjoy the day for what it is with more than our share of laughs.

“We could be working stiffs.”, says Rich.

“Heck, we could even be golfers.”, says I.

Back in the cool of the grille over a frosty Sam Adams Boston Lager and a delightful bowl of chili, I review the carnage. For whatever reason, my iron play has been slipping a little more over the past four times out and I’m plum out of ideas as to why. I’m sure a 3 AM call to Hunter Mahan to review the particulars of his iconic February 2015 GOLF Magazine article would help, but he ain’t gonna want to hear from the likes of me. Could also be time for a session with my swing coach Alex Black, but what if I can save a few sheckels and figure things out at the range?

Either way, I know I gotta get my you-know-what together, and pronto, because the calendar ain’t lyin’, and seven weeks from today I’ll be knee-deep in the 2016 Goodboys Invitational with no place to run and no place to hide.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 12:06 | Comments (0)
May 22, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 54
Location: Trilogy Golf Club at Power Ranch
Score: 44 + 50 = 94
Handicap: 25.2 / Trend: 24.8 (-0.4)

(A big nod to Frank for the post title.)

Day two of my golf weekend began exactly the way day one ended: fighting my swing on the range as I warmed up for my round at Trilogy at Power Ranch. It was going to be another windy, dusty day out there, and I’m guessing the conditions scared a lot of folks away because today I was going to be playing all by myself. Halfway through the small bucket that featured a couple of shanked pitching wedges and yanked drivers, I figured I could just as well work on my swing on the course as I could at the range, so I saddled on up and headed on out.

A pulled drive on #1 required a lay-up, then a sculled pitching wedge (at least it wasn’t shanked) led to a two-putt for double bogey. On the short par-4 second my drive went way OB into the houses left. But a miraculous 5-iron recovery left me twelve feet for par which I two-putted for bogey. To say I was scrambling would be an understatement.

But golf is a funny game. Whenever you think you’ve mastered it, it comes back to bite you. At the moment you think you’re playing like the Titanic in iceberg-filled waters, the fog raises and lo, there’s an island with palm trees and cabana bar chicks just off to starboard. On the 580-yard par-5 third, I hit the best drive of the weekend, then followed it up with a pulverized 5-wood to 70 yards. I yanked my pitching wedge wide right, then came up short with a sand wedge, then chipped to one foot for a bogey six. Disappointing, for sure, but some kind of switch had been turned on, and by the turn I had gone bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey-par (the 596 yard par-5 that I missed a three-foot putt for birdie) then bogey before missing a three-footer for bogey on nine.

The key to my game is my tee game. Yesterday (and a bit of today) aside, if I can keep my drives out of trouble I have enough of an iron game and a short game to play consistent bogey golf. Yesterday, all aspects of my game were off. Today, starting on #3 most of it came back from out of the blue. Confidence, I think, plays a big part – if you can start putting one good swing on top of another you just ride the wave until you either hit the shore or get pounded on the rocks.

I hit my drive OB on #10, but after that I drove the ball longer and more consistent than I have all year. Still playing alone, I played two balls on the 560-yard par-5 thirteenth and made birdie with my first ball and missed a four-footer for birdie with the second. The only hiccup – and it was a big one – was on the #1 hardest hole on the course, the 419-yard par 4 sixteenth which is a slightly winding uphill hole with a diabolical green set on a hill that slides right to left. Following a center-cut drive I had 205 to the pin. A pulverized 5-wood left me pin high on the right, but above the hole in the rough between the green and a set of trees.

It really wasn’t rough my ball had come to rest on, it was actually hard-pan. Looking back, maybe putter might have been a better choice but it wasn’t an obvious choice. I grabbed my pitching wedge and the following comedy of errors ensued:
* Chip runs past the hole and down into a grass bunker left
* Chip back runs past the hole and over the green into a grass bunker right
* Chip runs past the hole into the same grass bunker two shots ago
* Chip runs over the green into the same grass bunker two shots ago
* Chip barely makes it onto the green, leaving me a 20-foot putt
* Sink the putt for a crowd-pleasing quad bogey eight.

And just like that I was back to scrambling my way to the clubhouse. I was fortunate to bogey the par-5 #17 after a crappy drive and my only real poor course management error of the day, a recovery 5-wood that went straight into the trees and dropped onto hard pan. But a solid 5-iron left me 70 yards to the pin and I sand wedged it to six feet for a two-putt. A solid drive on #18 led to a bogey for a 50, but take a couple of strokes off of the #16 debacle and I’m right around shooting ninety.

Sitting the cool darkness of the Trilogy grill over a burger and an icy-cold Sam Summer – as enjoyable an experience as a round of golf itself – I looked at my cards from yesterday and today and tried to find a common theme. And I think it all evolves around trust: trusting my swing, and trusting the changes I’ve been making. Yesterday’s abysmal set-up and alignment issues were all about not trusting; today I think I made some progress in that regard but there’s clearly still a ways to go.

I guess that’s the nature of my game, at least at the present time – it’s all or nothing at all. And the secret, I guess, is that when things are going good just ride the wave, and when you feel you have nothing do whatever it is you got to do to survive until it all comes back again.

There’s lots of outside house work to be done next Memorial Day weekend, so the plan is to return to Stonecreek in two week’s time and see where the game stands after a well-deserved break. By then there will be less than seven weeks to Goodboys Invitational weekend. Am I in a good spot? It’s really hard to say, but at least my handicap trend is running in the right direction – my MyScorecard.com handicap index is down nearly two points since last year’s Goodboys Invitational.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 20:05 | Comments (0)
May 21, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 55
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 54 + 54 = 108
Handicap: 25.2 / Trend: 25.2 (no change)

Cue the music, Raoul…

This is going to be a hard one to tell Mother about.

Yeah, I know – Superstition Springs is a damned tough course – would sure love to see how some of my fellow Goodboys would fare there! And sure, the wind was up today – and I mean really up – enough to make you think you were playing some dusty parkland course in West Texas. But there’s really no excuse for shooting a double-bogey 108. None at all. Not after all the work I’ve put in.

Had an exceptional range session yesterday – probably the best I’ve ever had – that carried over to my warm-up today. I was daring “the Springs” to give me all it had as I strode to the first tee. A yanked drive into the sand later and I soon found myself seemingly behind the 8-ball all day. Not to mention having to play catch-up after going double-double-triple-triple on the first four holes. I suppose I could pat myself on the back for staying calm and hanging in there patiently waiting for my game to come around whereas in prior years this kind of start might lead to a general melt-down, but frankly, that’s not good enough anymore. I’ve worked too damned hard to get out on a course and set myself up for failure by falling into the bad habits of the past in terms of set-up, alignment, and ball-position which I did today. And more frustrating was the fact that I couldn’t troubleshoot and correct the problems in-round.

I thought I had turned it around to start the back nine by going bogey-bogey-bogey (featuring two missed four-footers for par), but I then tried to get cute on a tough pitch from a grass bunker on 13 that I duffed and ended up two-putting from three feet for a double-bogey six. That seemed to take the wind out of my sails, for it was The Poseidon Adventure going in. Three balls in the water on the next hole (two yanks off the tee and a shanked 7-iron approach), a 5-iron hit across the access road and into the canal on 17 (exactly where I was aiming, it turns out) for a triple-bogey eight, and two balls OB on 18 (3-wood drive yanked into the creek right followed by my “recovery” 5-wood blasted over a wall left and across the street into the Springs parking lot) for a quad helped seal the deal.

Under the toughest conditions I’ve ever played at SS, I suppose a 108 isn’t anything to slit my wrists over, but my greatest concern is hitting only four fairways, making 30 putts, and only 8 holes at bogey or less (no pars) are stats I thought I’d gotten over a while ago. On another day I would have walked straight from the 18th hole to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls, but I think I’m going to chalk today up as one of those days.

Tomorrow I’ll play Trilogy at Power Ranch and simply try to focus on my set-up and alignment because I still believe all the work I’ve put in is about to pay dividends.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 17:40 | Comments (2)
May 14, 2016

[Ed. note: since this year’s Goodboys Exec-Comm has been (for lack of a better term) a little delayed in revealing its plans for the 2016 Goodboys Invitational weekend, Goodboys Nation weblog sent a reporter (call him “Woodward”) to meet with a certain someone (call him “Earl E. TeeTimes”) with serious connections to the Exec-Comm inner circle. In the spirit of “All The President’s Men” (yours truly’s all-time fave flick), we have the scoop right here on Goodboys Nation weblog.]

What’s the topic for tonight?

This year’s Goodboys Invitational weekend.

You’ll get no information from me on that.

Look, all I’m looking for is who the teams are and where we’re playing.

And you think I’m going to break trust and tell you what I know? You must be dreaming. …Or a Ted Cruz supporter.

I didn’t know there was a difference. [Awkward pause] But you do know, don’t you? And you could tell me, correct?

Well, the fact is that I do know, but if you knew what I know then you would know what I know and what I know you would then tell others what you know when right now the only one who knows is me and if you knew what I know then I wouldn’t be the only one who knows what I know. Or knew. Or whatever.

[Crickets chirping]

The Goodboys universe has always been tight-lipped about these kinds of things. I was once playing in a foursome with Ron “Cubby” Myerow – a former winner of the Goodboys Invitational, BTW – and after missing a two-foot putt he flung his putter fifty yards into the brush behind the green. Fifty yards! “The trick”, he said, “is not minding”.

Doesn’t surprise me, Ray Charles could putt better than Cubby on his best day. Look, I haven’t got time to play your chickenshit games! I need to know what you know.

[All of a sudden the haunting sound of someone whistling echoes through the parking garage. The sound slowly recedes into the deep flourescent night, leaving in its wake an eerie, unsettling silence, the humidity and stillness enveloping the two like a Hillary Clinton pantsuit.]

Did you take a cab?

Yeah. Yeah!

How do you know it was a cab?

Well, the driver wore a turban, couldn’t speak or understand a word of English, and he spent the entire time talking on his cell phone while taking me in the wrong direction. I ended up tossing him a c-note and walked here myself.

[Lights a cigarette and exhales deeply.] Forget about the aura the mainstream media has created around this year’s Exec-Comm. The fact of the matter is, these aren’t a very bright bunch of guys, and things got out of hand.

Where are the Goodboys playing this year?

[Dramatic pause] You’re going back to Plymouth. Friday at CrossWinds – that is, unless they can grease enough palms to get you all out at Pinehills again. Saturday at Indian Pond. Sunday at Waverly Oaks.

Indian Pond? Hell, that’s a private club! How on earth did Exec-Comm get the Goodboys on that track?

It wasn’t Exec-Comm – they outsourced the tee times to the team that finished last, last year – remember?

Wow. I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Heh. That would explain Donald Trump becoming the GOP nominee. I suppose you’re also going to be wanting to know who the teams are this year, right?

[The parking garage is quiet except for the hum of air conditioning. Earl E. TeeTimes stubs out his cigarette, exhales, and steps closer to Woodward.]

It was a “Goose” Dwyer operation from the start. Everyone is involved, that’s what happens when you start outsourcing your operations. The thought was, Exec-Comm could make a little drinking money if they put the configuration of the teams out to the highest bidder, but then the Establishment dough-ray-me came in and blew the whole operation to shreds. Here are the teams:

“Killer” Kowalski – “Possum” Shepter
“Doggy Duval” McLaughlin – “The Great White Shank” Richard
“2 Times” Proctor – “TFB” Andrusaitis
“Deuce” Doucette – “Goose” Dwyer
“Skipper” Bornemann – “Cubby” Myerow
“Vegas” Clark – “Hulkigan” Tripp

My God, they all came back. What about “Mothra”?

Mothra’s on the outside looking in, just like Bernie Sanders, minus the crazy uncle hair.

[Suddenly, there’s the sound of a car starting up and it tears out of the parking garage, its wheels squealing all the way like a bitch in heat. Woodward looks around, and Earl E. TeeTimes has disappeared.]

Sonofabitch. I wanted to ask him where we’re eating this year. Looks like I’ll have to wait until the newsletter.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 02:42 | Comments (5)
May 8, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 68
Location: Stonecreek Golf Club
Score: 50 + 51 = 101
Handicap: 25.4 / Trend: 25.2 (-0.2)

Day Two of my weekend golf odyssey began with a nice little range session where I felt ready to get out to Stonecreek Golf Club and finally do some damage. It had beaten me up more than a few times in the past, but after yesterday’s round at Superstition Springs I felt confident that this would be THE day.

An hour later: five holes, five lost balls. An ill-advised lay-up into the water on #1. My tee shot finding the same pond on #2. A sculled 5-iron into crap on the par-3 third (how’d that happen?). A pulverized drive through the fairway (and a neighbor’s fence) on #4. And an 8-iron approach shot on five that I thought I’d hit purrrrfectly but found the pond right of the green. And yet I’m still alive, courtesy of a diabolical short game and a red-hot putter, including three straight one-putts all from around twelve feet.

Jordan Spieth (actually, his name’s Connor, but he looks like the PGA Tour’s boy wonder with a swing to match), one of the two sticks I’m playing with, finishes off his Pabst Blue Ribbon, and says with a grin, “Dude, you can play this game if you can get within fifty yards of the hole!” He and his friend have country music playing in their cart, so I respond with, “Like that country song goes, ‘If Today Was a Fish, I’d Throw It Back In'”. They like that, and his partner Clay yells, “Let’s start playin’ some freakin’ golf!”

And so we do. I go bogey-par-par-bogey to rescue a 50 on the front, but after the turn I’m out of sync again. It’s not like I’m shanking balls all over the place, it just that I feel a hair off. I can’t seem to put together two good shots in a row, and the two times I do, I three-putt the green. It was just that kind of a day. A par and two bogeys on the back to close and I limp in with a 51 for a 101, just like the surf route.

While it would have been nice to break 100 (and looking at the card I see how easy it would have been to do), I’m not that disappointed. It wasn’t that long ago that on a day where I’d hit only four fairways and lost nine balls I’d be looking at somewhere around a 120, but I hung in there throughout and never once thought the mojo wouldn’t come back on my next swing. The sticks were a good bunch of guys to play with, and I’m guessing we won’t see another bright, lovely 75-degree day until the heat gods flip the switch in October. And that 101 still dropped my handicap index a smidge.

But there’s clearly still work to do. I know I fell into some old bad habits out there, playing the ball a little too forward in my stance and swaying during my backswing and not getting more vertical as Hunter Mahan advises, but that’s just being more disciplined, slowing things down a little, and making better decisions when I’m out of position. But all that comes with practice. Two weeks from now I’ll try the same two courses again and just see how it goes. By then Goodboys Invitational weekend will be less than two months away. Lord, how this year is going by fast!

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 11:58 | Comments (0)
May 7, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 69
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 55 + 46 = 101
Handicap: 25.7 / Trend: 25.4 (-0.3)

Fifteen feet.
Six feet of rough, two feet of fringe, seven feet of green.

On the fifth hole at Superstition Springs, a sharp 291-yard dogleg left, I’ve just finished splitting the fairway with a 190-yard 3-hybrid and getting away with a 110-yard 9-iron that landed in between two deep sand traps behind a narrow green when I really should have pulled pitching wedge, and am in a damned fine position for at worst a bogey five. I’m feeling pretty frisky about my game right now, sitting at 3 over (par, bogey, par, par) and a rocking chair one at that.

The chip I’m facing is decidedly downhill, and nothing to get too aggressive with: on the other side of the green is a sand trap, then a pond behind that. I’m not worried – after all, I’m, like, in the zone, right? Looking back, the easiest play would have been to take my putter and leave it on the green for at worst a two-putt for my bogey. But I feel good about my short game and pull my pitching wedge.

Bad idea. Shelter me from the powder in the finger, as they say.

I chunk my chip into the deep sand trap no more than two feet to my right. I know what I’m now facing – I’m the golf equivalent of Prince right now. With a downhill lie I catch too much ball with my sand wedge and it flies the green and the sand trap behind it, and lands in the pond. I take my drop and duff that one into the deep sand trap protecting the green. An out and two putts later I make a quad bogey snowman. Talk about throwing away shots.

The rest of the front nine is just bad golf, being in the wrong position – something Superstition Springs will penalize you for greatly – on every hole. I go triple-triple-double-double and limp into the clubhouse with a 55. I’m ready to call the day quits, but then I start thinking: what else am I gonna do – go back to work? So I drive over to ten, committed to going as low as I possibly can, recognizing that the back nine at Superstition Springs and The Great White Shank have never really ever seen eye to eye.

I tell myself to hang in there. After all, a little poor course management at SS goes an awfully long way, and truth be told I hadn’t been striking the ball badly at all. I par the difficult 10th hole, then, after going a little loose off the tee on the par 5 11th, I put some good iron shots together to make bogey and feel my short game finally starting to come around. I make par on the par 3 12th. After a triple-bogey on 13 (in which, attempting to get out of a deep sand trap with a 8-iron, my ball almost tore my head off when it ricocheted back at me), I par the 14th, then make a miraculous bogey on the par 3 15th with an unearthly chip from nowheresville (applause from the guys playing the adjacent hole). I then par the 16th following an unearthly 5-iron approach. With two holes to play I’m lying 32 – 32! Not half bad, eh? Unfortunately, I put two balls in the drink on the brutally tough par 5 17th for a quad bogey nine, then make a rocking-chair bogey on 18 for a crowd-pleasing 46.

The numbers don’t lie: a 55/46=101. 6 fairways hit. 27 putts. 9 holes at bogey or less (including a career-high five pars!). And all that on a brutally tough course, and on a windy day. Not a bad day’s worth of work.

Right now I feel I’m in a good spot. I’ve got a little over two months until Goodboys Invitational weekend and all the work I’ve done on my iron play over the past month is really starting to pay off. In prior years that front nine score would have done me in, but I’ve got enough confidence in my game now that I know if I just execute shots the way I need to and hang in there with my short game as it is I’m gonna be OK.

More than anything else, I’ve changed the way I approach my swing. In past years everything was about feel – the good days could be pleasant enough, but they were few and far between. With the help of Hunter Mahan’s iron-hitting philosophy from GOLF Magazine’s February 2015 issue I’ve become much more of a technical golfer. It’s like anything else: if you apply the same axiom to every shot you’ll get a predictable outcome; the only variables are the wind, the lie, and overall course conditions.

I really feel as if I’m ready to take my game to the next level, which to me is bogey golf. The only question is how and when that will happen. I’m coming on strong, y’all.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comments (0)
November 5, 2015

Was cleaning up some folders on my PC and came across this, a magazine cover design by Goodboy “Cubby” Myerow following “Killer” Kowalski’s and my 2008 Goodboys Invitational victory (was it that long ago?) down on the Cape. Here we are, posing in our snazzy victory jackets in front of The Captains in Brewster, Massachusetts:

It looks happy, summery, and warm. Good times. Good times. One of these days we’ll have to get back there and play for yucks.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 16:37 | Comments (0)
July 27, 2015

I know y’all have been waiting to hear the details of this year’s 25th annual Goodboys Invitational weekend, so consider this post everything you’ve been waiting for and then some!

A great weekend was had by all. First of all, the weather cooperated quite nicely for us once again. It started out steamy on Friday but we got some nice cloud cover to keep the heat down, and the same held true for Saturday when we lucked out having a bad thunderstorm dissipate as it passed north of us. Sunday started out sunny and oppressive, but the clouds came in again and made it very comfortable for playing, so the boys couldn’t use the weather as an excuse, that’s fer shure.

The three Plymouth, Mass. courses picked by last year’s Exec-Comm were (at least in my view) the best combination of courses we ever played. Waverly Oaks was a banger’s course but you still had to bring your short game. The Nicklaus course at Pinehills was as nice a course as the GBs have ever played – although a “Jack track” it allowed for a lot of imaginative shot-making as it weaved it’s way through pine forests. And while CrossWinds G.C. featured the same kind of rolling hills as Pinehills, it had generous fairways and terrific greens. It wouldn’t bother The Great White Shank none to play one or two of these courses again next year.

As mentioned below, a big fat “Congratulations!” to the team of “Deuce” Doucette and “Goose” Dwyer for achieving the highest level of golf excellence possible and the title of Exec-Comm for 2016. Not only did they win the coveted Spielberg Memorial Trophy and a chance to don those nifty polyester jackets, but their mugs get to adorn the Goodboys Nation blog for the next year. It was great to see Goose win his first Goodboys championship in fifteen – count ’em, fifteen! – tries, and for Deuce it he’s now a two-timer in the Goodboys winner’s circle. They finished seven strokes ahead of the second-place team of yours truly and “Cubby” Myerow (as the late, great Mel Allen used to say, “how about that!) and as for the other teams, I mean, who cares, right?

If there was one disappointment for the weekend it was the food. The one thing all Goodboys hope for going into the 2016 Invitational is that this Exec-Comm will find us some better places to chow. (Which is not to blame the outgoing Exec-Comm for their choices – given their location I probably would have picked them as well.) The East Bay Grille was beyond horrible – we waited 2 1/2 hours for bad food – and while Isaac’s gets points for at least delivering our food two hours earlier than the previous night, that’s about it. There seems to be a lot of cool places to eat once you get a block away from the touristy harbor locations, so that’s something I’m sure will get consideration in the 2016 plans.

All in all it was a great weekend – lots of laughs, great golf, and a joy to see everyone again. Let the countdown to 2016 begin!

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 21:58 | Comments (0)

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