April 7, 2014

It’s Masters week and here in the Richard household the question isn’t who’s going to win (my pick is “The Mechanic”, Miguel Angel Jimenez), but whether we’ll be listening to the soothing tones of Jim Nantz and that lovely Masters theme while drinking Bloody Marys (extra spicy for me!) or mimosas:

I’ve got to believe that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is well aware of the recent spate of withdrawals by high-profile players Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson after putting up a big number in the first round of recent tournaments. The fact is, people pay good money to support the Tour’s events and its charities, and there’s no room for pussies who can’t handle the thought of hanging around another 24 hours just to miss a cut. Knowing the Commish as I do, I’m guessing the message is being handled out of the public eye but very forcefully.

I guess I don’t understand the outcry over Golf Digest having Paulina Gretzky (Dustin’s significant other) on the cover. Sure, if it were up to me I would have had either Azahara Munoz, Pornanong Phatlum in one of her on-course go-go dancer get-ups, or, better yet, personal fave Paula Creamer, whose swing is as sweet and adorable as she is. But Golf Digest exists to sell magazines, and if they think they can sell more of them with Gretzky on the cover, more power to them. Knowing the FemiNazis out there, they’d probably prefer Sandra Fluke holding a putter in one hand and the remains of an aborted baby in another. I’ll take Gretzky.

Anyone who believes the spin from Tiger Woods’ camp that they expect him to be back playing by mid-summer will find this post and this post sobering indeed. Sure, in regards to the latter, much of the content is NSFW, but the person seems to know what he’s talking about. The guess here is that Tiger misses the U.S. and British Opens and is hoping to give it his best shot at the PGA in August. All in all, this appears to be a lost year for Woods, and one has to wonder just how much major champion golf he has left in his body.

I think every passionate golfer has his/her own Augusta National in mind when they turn into their favorite course with a round of golf ahead of them. For me it’s the right turn onto the oak-lined lane into Portsmouth Country Club. It’s my favorite golf course in the world, and some nights when it’s hard to sleep I think about hot summer days spent out on its links or, on a few occasions, just pulling my rental car over to the side to hit a few dozen 8- and 9-irons in the field in preparation for that year’s Goodboys Invitational. It’s a special place for me – as much of a golf “religious experience” as there is. God willing, can’t wait to tee it up there again this coming July.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:24 | Comments (0)
April 6, 2014

Did you see this story? When an ardent leftist like Andrew Sullivan expresses his concern you know that the progressive left has started to over-play its hand. I mean, a CEO of a company donates some money to an anti-gay marriage effort and he’s bullied out of the company as a result? I didn’t realize there was a litmus test for gay marriage as part of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution? The Supreme Court has ruled many times that money is free speech politically. I mean, where does this kind of thing end? If I don’t support legalization of gay marriage (which, in fact, I do – I just don’t support same-sex couples entering into the sacrament of Holy Matrimony), does that mean Dreamhost drops my blog for me not being sufficiently tolerant? Of course, that would be their right, but….

And why stop at gay marriage? Why not extend the whole concept of intolerance to support for Obamacare, or the lawless and incompetent Obama administration? Or the continually globetrotting-on-the-taxpayer-dime First Lady? Or immigration reform? Or unabortion?men? Or, like Paul Ryan recently took all kinds of fire for, current-day black culture and its impact on African Americans? Or immigration reform. Or abortion?

Of course, a private company can hire or fire whom they see fit (although in Eich’s case I’d be considering a lawsuit if my firing was a result of anything but fully-documented poor job performance), but I think there’s a bigger issue here, and it is something Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey wrote about in a column a few weeks ago. As he put it succinctly:

Tolerance does not mean acceptance or participation. It means allowing people to make their own choices about what they choose to do, and to respect the ability of their fellow citizens to do the same as long as it does no injury to them.

As I’ve said before in this space, for all of its over-hyped bluster and blather about tolerance, acceptance, and diversity, the progressive Left in this country is anything but. Democrats in Washington from Barack Obama on down, the NAACP and shakedown artists like Al Sharption and Jesse Jackson, the labor unions (particularly in the public sector), the majority of our colleges and universities, and major media outlets like the Washington Post, New York Times, L.A. Times, and those who bring you the so-called “news” on the broadcast networks and cable channels like CNN and MSNBC are, in fact, amongst the most intolerant.

There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about the issues you care the most about and doing what you can legally to change people’s minds. But the progressive Left knows no bounds – whether you’re Harry Reid attacking the Koch brothers almost daily, or Planned Parenthood or Sandra Fluke shrieking about conservatives wanting to harm women and take away their contraceptive rights, this idea of sexists, racists, and homophobes lurking around every corner simply because someone happens to disgree with their precious concepts of tolerance, acceptance, and diversity, if left unchecked will only lead to greater bullying on their part and very dangerous place for this country to be.

But that’s what facism is all about. And the progressive Left wears it like a cheap suit.

You know what I say? I say you punch back twice as hard. Because that’s the only thing bullies understand.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:04 | Comment (1)
April 5, 2014

“You’re not very good with your short irons, are you?”, my playing partner Roy says to me.

We’ve just finished the twelfth hole at Kokopelli Golf Club, and for the fourth straight hole I’m walking back to the cart feeling pretty satisfied with my bogey five. In this case, I had bombed a drive that had caught the downside of a mound just off the left side of the fairway, leaving me 135 yards to the pin. Following the agreement between me and my swing coach Alex Black during last week’s lesson, I had resisted the urge to just walk over to my ball and whack it; instead, I took several steps behind the ball, identified an aiming point in front of the ball, took a practice swing to visualize the shot I wanted to make, and then proceeded to hang it out left of target between some moguls off the green. A decent enough chip to get me just off the green and two putts later, I had tapped in for my bogey five.

One of the most interesting aspects of playing golf here in Arizona is teaming up with strangers. I don’t really have any close friends here, and the acquaintances I do have, neighbors and co-workers and such, don’t play. So my golf is played with every kind of golfer you can imagine. I’ve been fortunate in that there’s only been a small handful of times where golf has been played with unfriendly people; most times, there’s always good conversation, a few laughs, and enjoyable comraderie to make it an enjoyable experience.

My playing partner at Kokopelli was an elderly fellow wintering from Illinois named Roy. Roy was a good egg, and we hit it off from the start. As on most occasions when strangers meet, we started off with the usual “where you from” and “what do you do” and that kind of thing. We talked about our golf games and what we were working on, and it wasn’t long before we were cracking jokes with the other twosome and making light of whatever challenges were were facing during our respective rounds. Roy couldn’t hit the ball long, but he always kept it in play – an aspect of the game he obviously took a great deal of pride in. He definitely noticed the three lost balls off the tee (two on one hole) I hit on the front nine, and when he tallied up my score and announced I had shot 52 (he a 49), he made sure I knew that I had left a lower number out there.

“Those lost balls (four) and that four-putt on eight killed you”, he said with a frown. “You’re a twenty-seven handicap and you leave a 44 out there? I’d have trouble sleeping at night”

“Oh, I sleep fine”, I assured him. What else was I supposed to say? He was right – I had left a heaping helpful of strokes out there, for sure.

So when we’re walking off twelve I guess Roy got tired of seeing me toss away strokes as if they meant nothing. Unlike me, he obviously took the whole concept of getting that little white ball from the tee into that little round hole on the green in as few strokes a possible very seriously.

“You’re not very good with your short irons, are you?”

I didn’t know what to say – after all, I’ve spent so much time working on my tee game and my short game (only 28 putts today) that there hasn’t been a whole lot of time to spend on my short irons (7, 8, 9, pitching wedge). Besides, these clubs are always the toughest to practice with on the driving range because it just doesn’t equate to what you see playing a real round of golf.

“On the last three holes you’ve had three opportunities to get on the green in regulation (that is, on those par 4s, putting for birdie), and in all three cases you couldn’t hit the green. What clubs did you hit?”

“Er, 8-iron, 9-iron, 7-iron.”

“And in each case you did what, miss the green and after chipping, two-putt for bogey.”

“Well, my goal is to play bogey golf, you know.”, I say in my humble defense.

I can tell Roy isn’t satisfied. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to play bogey golf – heck, that’s what I’m out here trying to play. But for God sakes, man, when the Lord gives you an opportunity to make a par you have to take it! You can never be satisfied with bogey. I’ve watched you all day. Those penalties. That four-putt for a nine after putting your drive just off the fairway. And those short irons – why, you’re throwing away strokes as if they don’t mean a thing!”

A pause. “OK, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to criticize.”

“No, that’s OK, I say. I know what you’re saying. Nothing I haven’t told myself a gazillion times.”

But I’ll admit my confidence was shaken. On thirteen I triple-bogey seven the par-4 after tattooing a drive that left me just over 100 yards from the green. On fourteen, I triple-bogey a par-3, hitting two balls off the tee OB right – the first a pulverized moon shot into the adjacent junkyard, the second a topped screamer into an acacia bush. It isn’t until fifteen that I finally get my head back in the game, double-bogeying a par-5 after a dead yank off the tee. I think Roy has given up on me when I once again miss the green on sixteen after a decent drive (a chunked 9-iron), leading to a careless double-bogey. I bogey the par-3 seventeenth before parring the par-5 closing hole (#1 handicap hole on the course) with flawless play from tee to green for a 50 and a 102.

As we head for the cart return, Roy is his “Father Knows Best” best. “I know you say you’re a 27-handicap, and after watching you today I believe it. But you can play so much better. You’ve got the ability, I can see it – you just have to trust yourself and your swing. Don’t be afraid to play aggressive when you have that opportunity. It’s all well and good to strive to play bogey golf – and for you that would be great. But don’t ever be satisfied with bogeys for the sake of bogeys. When the opportunity is there for par, go for it! You might even find yourself making a birdie or two.”

Sitting over a cold Sam Adams afterwards I can’t help but think how far away I am from where I would like to be. It’s all well and good to have the goal of shooting 88-95 on a regular basis, but I can’t even break 100 regularly right now. I’ve worked so damned hard on so many facets of the game – my driver, hybrids, fairway woods, sand shots, chipping, putting – yet each aspect of the game comes and goes like some UPS driver doing his daily rounds. I wonder if I’ll ever really be able to put all the pieces together. I wonder if it’s all worth it. At any rate, Roy was right – my short irons really aren’t very good.

I guess it’s just another piece of the puzzle I’m going to have to find a way to solve.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 00:10 | Comments (2)
April 4, 2014

…one of my favorite scenes from one of my all-time favorite movies. Whenever I’m blessed to drop into Pagliuca’s in Boston’s North End and sit with a lovely glass of the house chianti and a basket of fresh bread staring me in the face, that quote always comes back to me. And I order the veal. Parmagiana, no cheese.

[Ed. note: I know, that defeats the purpose of the parmagiana to begin with, but ever since I was a kid and my Mom would make veal cutlets whenever my godfather Milt (now there's a connection!) would come by for supper, I always had them plain with just tomato sauce. Then I'd apply a little parm just for color.]

As far as The Godfather goes, I agree with the commentator that this is one of the all-time great scenes in cinema. The sights. The sounds. Al Pacino’s dark facial expressions and black eyes – it’s all top-notch acting and what movies are supposed to be all about.

I’m playing golf today and will probably have to settle for a burger or something quick afterwards, but this scene in The Godfather makes me long for a post-round dinner at Pagliuca’s and real Italian food. It doesn’t get a whole lot better.

And if you’re ever in Boston you have to make it to Pagliuca’s. And when you do, try the veal, it’s the best in the city.

I guarantee you’ll come out alive.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:37 | Comments (0)
April 3, 2014

The first sign of a problem was when my pest control guy says to me that it looks like I have a cat doing business in the sandbox where my Tiki bar sits.

“Oh no”, I said to him, “I think those must be left over from the dog the people who owned the house before us. They created the sand box intending it for their own personal beach, but their dog had other ideas.”

“Trust me”, says he. “You got yourself a cat problem. Believe me, in my line of work I seen enough to know.”

All of a sudden I’m putting 2 + 2 together and coming up with four. The cat we’ve seen walking on the walls around our house. The cluster of mourning dove feathers I found a few months ago by the back wall. The fact that the mourning doves no longer frequent our fountain at dusk. The cat that has deigned our beach area as his own personal litter box.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love cats. Before we started having rabbits we had cats and they were great. But I have little tolerance for some neighbor who allows her pussy cat to run loose around the neighborhood, terrorizing mourning doves, driving birds away from our yard and trees, and – most especially – using my Tiki bar beach as its own personal litter box.

But what to do? If I had a gun I could shoot it, but my luck I’d probably end up hitting a neighbor’s house, or, worse, a neighbor.

I could try to poison the cat, but, really, that’s not very humane. After all, it’s not the cat’s fault – he or she is just doing what comes naturally. It’s really the owner’s fault for allowing the cat to run loose to begin with.

I could hire someone to sit at the Tiki bar, riding shotgun with a glass of water handy and throw it at the cat whenever it appears. Talk anout a lonely job!

I suppose I could capture the cat and hold it for ransom, the price being the owner’s promise to keep the cat indoors for the rest of its natural life. But then I’d need to be alert and be able to grab the cat. I don’t think so.

Or I could find some kind of anti-cat solution that will make the cat wish he/she had never step foot on our lawn and keep it that way forever. Hence, my purchase of the Contech CRO101 Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler from Amazon.com. This device allows one to hook up a hose to the device, which then, upon detecting any creature within its range, sends a spray of water to send them scurrying. Here’s the description, it sounds pretty cool:

A huge amount of time and energy goes into keeping your yard and garden looking great, so it’s only natural that you want to protect them from damage caused by hungry wildlife or local dogs and cats. But there are lots of reasons to avoid chemical deterrents, traps, and hazardous electric fences.

Whether you’re a dedicated organic vegetable gardener or a parent looking out for the health of children and pets that play in your yard, you’ll appreciate the simple, innovative, and effective water-based concept behind the Scarecrow Motion-Activated Sprinkler. It’s also a great choice for neighborhoods where fences are prohibited and for people who consider wire fences and other visual barriers unappealing.

When the ScareCrow detects an animal it instantly releases a short but startling burst of water. The sudden spray of water and the movement and noise of the sprinkler scares animals away. Animals associate this negative experience with the area and avoid your yard in the future.

The Scarecrow is versatile enough to keep deer, rabbits, and other foragers from snacking on plants and bulbs, to prevent dogs from digging up newly seeded lawns, to keep the cat from using your garden as a litter box, and to scare predators like herons and raccoons away from your fish pond.

The ScareCrow’s motion detector is powerful enough to guard an area up to 1000 square feet of coverage with a single sprinkler. For added coverage, Scarecrow sprinklers can be linked in series to guard larger spaces.

Setting the Scarecrow up is fast and easy, and doesn’t require any special tools. Simply install a standard 9-volt battery, connect the sprinkler to your hose, push the 17-inch stake into ground to secure the unit, and set the adjustable sprinkler arc to cover the area you want protected.

Up to 1000 square feet? heck, I probably need only 100 or so. But I’m hoping that this devide does the trick and keep that stupid kitty cat away from my Tiki bar beach. Will it work? I’ll let you know after I set it up this weekend.

Oh, and thanks to Al Stewart for the post heading. The song brings back great memories of my Top Priority band days.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:51 | Comments (2)
April 2, 2014

While the news of Tiger Woods having back surgery to release the pressure of a pinched nerve came out on April Fools’ Day I can assure you it is no joke to the professional golf world, which now faces somewhere around 3-4 months of events without its largest draw in terms of interest, attendance, viewership, and dough-re-mi. Make no bones about it – the professional golf world lives and breathes from Tiger, and you can bet TV viewership and events attendance will suffer simply in the knowledge that Tiger won’t be playing. Same holds true with the Masters, which, while in my view was already wide open, now seems even more so.

Perhaps more than any other sport, golf requires a fundamentally sturdy back because of the precision required against the rest of the field. And for Tiger, while the hope is he’ll be back to his regular self sometime this summer, who really knows – any kind of back surgery is no joke:

A microdiscectomy is a type of minimally invasive spine surgery to relieve pressure and pain caused by a herniated disc. Operating through a small incision in the lower back, surgeons remove small disc fragments that are pressing against spinal nerves.

Recovery can take several weeks and doctors typically advise against bending and twisting the back until patients are completely healed.

After all, it’s not just the playing in the tournaments, it’s all the practice required to keep sharp and the course walking over a four-day period against golfers much younger and now just as talented (though inexperienced, fur shure) as he is at 38 that truly clouds Tiger’s future. He needs four majors to tie Jack Nicklaus’ record, and while it is true Jack won his final major at the ripe old age of 46, everyone knows Tiger has had a lot of lower body injuries for a 38 year old, and his 38 is an old 38.

As I’ve said before, you don’t have to like Tiger Woods or some of the things he’s done over the years, but you have to respect him as a golfer and everything he has done for the sport since his arrival in the late 90s – it’s not much different than the impact Babe Ruth had on baseball in the roaring 20′s. Professional golf needs a healthy Tiger Woods as much as Tiger needs professional golf to achieve his life-long dream. The big question now is what kind of Tiger Woods will be there upon his return, whenever that is.

Here’s hoping for a speedy and successful recovery for Tiger.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:50 | Comments (0)
April 1, 2014

The carp rode slowly on the wind
There was no forward, no behind
A gray horizon without hope
To where he left the stevedore’s soap

A fire dome, lit lamppost strung
Whose hat into the world is flung
Far cypress mocks a mossy groan
As daylight fades and turns to stone

Through brick-strewn streets at night adaze
A dream, perhaps, a turn of phrase
For “Jack the cat”, paw-pointed stick
In mule-grass waits the stalking tick

“I swear by days they’ll long be told!”
Shouts Barber Stan out in the cold
I languish low amongst the weeds
To hear the carp’s more prescient needs

There’s nothing much inside this poem
That seeks a literary home
It’s not too hot – nay, not too cool
‘Twas just a poem, an April fool.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:16 | Comments (0)
March 31, 2014

I once had a professor who taught Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, Dr. Johanna Bos, whose lectures were so exquisitely crafted that, rather than dutifully scrawling notes in my notebook, all I could do was listen with mouth agape, hoping to drink in 1% of the brilliance I was hearing. Her politics and the angle by which she approached the OT was (at least it seemed to me) extremely liberal, but that didn’t matter: this was once-in-a-lifetime stuff; if anyone walked out of her lectures without a greater understanding and appreciation of God’s involvement with Israel and His intentions for Creation you were beyond hope. Her lectures were a mystical and life-changing experience.

I say this because my lesson with Alex Black on Saturday was something akin to that – everything he said was so on target and applicable to my golf game that I was frantically trying to commit his every word to memory while still attempting to stay in the moment and apply what he was saying to our 45-minute lesson. We started out talking about my goals for 2014: bogey golf and 88-95 on a regular basis. I told him I knew I could do it – heck, I had posted scores of 90 and 91, and shot a dozen rounds around 100 over the past year while pissing away at least a dozen strokes a round.

That didn’t sit well with my swing coach. “That’s an awful lot of strokes to throw away during a round”, says Alex. “How did you do that? Penalties? Mistakes? Too many putts?”

“Yes, yes, and yes”, I replied.

I shift the subject quickly to my need for a more consistent transition from backswing to downswing and shifting my weight from back to front. Alex, being the kind of teacher he is, oozed confidence: “I’ve got a great drill to help you with that weight shift. But there’s more to it than that – if you want to shoot bogey golf, as most of my students do…”

Most of his students? At this point I’m ready to face the machine guns and take the next foxhole just for him.

“…we’re gonna have to take a hard look at your swing.” A pause. “And your game.”

Ugh. I didn’t know this was going to turn into a golf intervention. Still, I know there’s no way I can improve to where I need to be without significant changes, not only technically with my swing, but in my overall approach to the game as well.

Like last year, Alex reaches into my bag and grabs a 7-iron – which is great, because I hit my 7-iron like John Daly hits his 5 (not really, but it sure sounds fun to write). I hit a few – a couple good, a couple thin, and Alex is on it like white on rice.

“You’re playing your ball too far forward, so we’re gonna drop that back a couple of inches. More importantly, you’re not getting enough lag in your downswing. Here, let me grab my camera…”

…which he does, and we videotape a few swings from the side and the back. We then head under the shade of his tent and do the whole “film at 11″ bit:

From the video, Alex is able to identify the source of my problem by pointing out that my head, rather than staying on top of while the club is making contact, is coming up and sliding behind the ball, meaning the club face at impact is too far forward on plane. If I were producing a better lag and keeping my upper body quieter, my head would be on top and my club face holding back through impact; instead, I’m behind the club face and finishing up on my back foot instead of my front, with my upper body ahead of my lower.

Alex grabs my pitching wedge and places it under my back foot, my foot on its face so the shaft is sticking up behind me, and he has me take some swings to get the shaft to hit the ground before the club face makes contact with the ball. It’s a great drill for the driving range. We also work on my alignment, which continues to be slightly open at address. He asks me how I align my feet at address. I’m sure this is something very important, but I’m not smart enough to get where he’s going.

Alex senses that I’ve just taken the next off-ramp towards Clueless City.

He explains. “There are only two times on a hole where you can handle the ball – on the tee, and on the green.” I finally get what he’s trying to say. I’m thus given the go-forward task of making sure the lines on my golf ball are always pointed where I’m aiming whenever possible so my feet can follow suit to ensure that everything is square and moving towards target. For someone who finds it hard not only to concentrate while out on the golf course, but slow the game down to where everything you are doing has a specific purpose, it’s a truly “wow” moment.

There would be more.

“Do you take a practice swing while out on the course?”, asks Alex.

“Not usually.”

There’s an awkward silence. Looks like I’m taking a practice swing regularly out on a course going forward.

We talk about a “one and two” count in the swing – “one” being the backswing, “and” the first move downward where the back leg starts moving forward and the club is allowed to drop into the slot, and “two” the move forward where the weight shifts from back to front and the club moves through the ball, clipping the grass in front of the ball (no divot necessary). For someone who has historically used my upper body to try and hit the snot out of the ball whenever possible, hearing Alex stress the need to keep my upper body “numb” during my downswing, I feel as if I’m learning to play real golf for the first time.

“Last year was all about the fundamentals”, says Alex. “This year it’s all about the kind of contact and repetition that leads to scoring.”

I hit several 7-irons as pure as I have ever done. Not only is the contact cleaner, but I’m picking up some trajectory as well, since the angle coming through the ball is a little more steep than I had been doing previously.

We move on to my hybrids. I love hitting my 3- and 4- hybrid but confess to Alex that I never know where one is going from one swing to another. He makes sure I understand that the swing I’ll be taking going forward with my hybrids is the same as with my irons – in other words, the “and” position of bumping my hips forward to create lag and letting the club fall into the slot (sounds like a surfing term to me). Playing the ball in the middle of my stance (unlike forward as I’ve been doing), I’ll be hitting more down on the ball instead of sweeping it off the turf, just as I would do with an iron. I proceed to hit three of the most perfect 3-hybrids I have ever hit in my life.

“How did that feel?”, Alex asks.

I’m speechless. “Um, good” is all I can utter.

We next head to the 3-wood, which I’ve been having a boatload of issues with recently (in fact, there’s currently a restraining order against me). I mention to Alex that I’ve been playing with the idea of a stinger for those tight holes where hitting the fairway is a must. I might as well have told him I forgot my wallet at home. You see, Alex doesn’t believe in stingers. “If you can hit a 3-wood or a 5-wood they way you’re supposed to you don’t need a stinger.” I dutifully nod in agreement.

I’d be lying if I said all the 3-woods he had me hit were perfection. They weren’t. While it is true that a precious few were as good as any I’ve hit in my life, most were pulled and topped as a result of not getting my weight shifted properly. So there’s obviously a bit of work left to be done there.

We take a few minutes hitting pitching wedges to 100, 75, and 40-yard targets. I understand where he’s going with this: if I want to play bogey golf I need my smaller clubs to get me to more one putt (or at the very least, easy two putt) distances than I’ve been giving myself to date. Besides, it’s great practice for shifting my weight from back to front.

In forty-five minutes I feel as if I’ve been in deep golf therapy. Last year’s lesson was like practicing swimming in the shallow end of the pool with water wings; today I was fourteen years old again and thrown off the motor boat by my Uncle Don into Lake Ossipee with my brothers and cousins and forced to sink or swim. There was so much information on different levels being passed my way that all I could say to myself was “wow” after paying Alex and heading off for some putting practice on the incredibly fast and fickle Superstition Springs putting green.

We weren’t done.

“It’ll be quieting down here in a few weeks”, says Alex, “I think you’d find it helpful if we were to go out and play nine holes. I want to see how you manage your way around a golf course.”

My veins immediately start running ice water cold – after all, who would want to put their Achilles heel on display before your very own swing coach? I gulp and say it’s a great idea – in fact, let’s do it on Superstition Springs’s back nine, the place where bogey golf hopes go to die in a series of tight finishing holes with lots of water. After all, if I’m going to show off my (lack of) course management skills, why not where they’re tested to the point where I still don’t know how to properly play holes 14, 17, and 18. We agree to exchange e-mails in a few weeks. It would be a great learning experience.

Our initial session last year was all about the basics and fixing the historical flaws in my swing that had been there for twenty years. This year was like jumping from basic arithmetic to calculus. But I expected that – after all, if you boldly proclaim you want to shoot between 88 and 95 regularly but to date have only shot two rounds in the low 90s, you have to expect to be introduced to all sorts of things you have never considered before.

I’m excited about the homework I’ve been given. I know I’m up to the test.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:22 | Comments (2)
March 30, 2014

A little over a year ago I had my first golf lesson with swing doctor Alex Black, after which my swing underwent significant changes in terms of downswing, ball placement, and alignment. As I’ve written in this space before – to some ad nauseum :-) – the results, while not overwhelming in terms of day in /day out numbers, have been more than satisfactory because the changes eliminated the wild swings (literally!) in my play and re-kindled my love for the game and the quiet joy of just hitting balls on an afternoon sun-washed driving range.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve got a pretty specific goal in mind for 2014 – shooting bogey golf regularly),and in order to accomplish that I’ve got some serious work to do. For one thing, I’ve finally come to understand that hitting balls at the range and playing a round of golf with the goal of shooting somewhere between 88 and 95 are two different things entirely, to the point where they’re almost different sports. I’m doggedly committing myself to better course management (slowing the game down, getting out of trouble as quickly as possible, not compounding the inevitable mistakes that will be made, etc.) which hopefully will help. And I absolutely have to play better on the par 3s and par 5s – after all, the one sure way to post a big number is to fill your scorecard with 5s and 6s on the par 3s and 7s and higher on the par 5s. That’s where the course management thing comes in – avoiding the big numbers that turns your round from chicken a la king to chicken a la crap.

But there’s also a technical aspect to it, and that’s where Alex comes in. I know I need to have to hone a more consistent swing and transition from backswing to downswing, shifting my weight from back leg to front and driving through the ball more consistently. And I have to get more consistent with my 5-wood and my hybrids – not only because that’s typically where the big numbers on the par 5s come in, but those are the clubs I have to have confidence in on narrow holes where I absolutely, no-bones-about-it, must hit the fairway off the tee (hello, Wentworth By The Sea!). And finally, there’s nothing wrong with having Alex just take a look at my swing to see if anything bad has crept in since I last saw him eight months ago, just prior to last year’s Goodboys Invitational. I’m excited about seeing my swing guru and hearing what he has to say.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 01:40 | Comments (0)
March 29, 2014

Off for a golf lesson with my swing guru Alex Black. Will have full details in a post to come. In the meanwhile…

If true, this could be very exciting news. To have a more active monsoon season followed by a wet winter would be just what the doctor ordered around here. Folks are already saying that, El Nino aside, the dust we’ve had over the past two days already points to a more active monsoon come late June. In the desert Southwest you take whatever wet you can get.

Who knew there were even churches in Antarctica? I know I sure didn’t. But the photos here are breathtaking and the stories quite interesting. Enjoy! (Hat tip: National Review Online’s Corner Blog)

Here’s hoping Grady Sizemore is able to stay healthy and have a great season for the Boston Red Sox. If he can stay healthy – and that’s a huge if – Sizemore is a better player than Jacoby Ellsbury ever was, and ever will be for the New York Yankees.

This is as much an indictment on Barack Obama’s failed presidency as anything else that has been written.

It is hard to imagine a presidency with so little to its credit after five years of frenetic activity. Disastrous decisions of the Bush presidency set the stage, but are no excuse for today’s failures. Three years after we were assured the recession was over, underemployment stands at 13 percent, 7 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force, our debt has topped a fantastical $17 trillion, and GDP growth barely touches 2 percent. Great Britain now has a higher labor-force participation rate than the United States. The nation’s health-care system is in increasing disarray thanks to an imprudent, utopian plan that has solved few of the problems it set out to reduce while introducing heartless uncertainty for millions of others. Meanwhile, this president, far more than his predecessors, acts in capricious and lawless ways, deciding by personal whim which elements of law he will ignore. In response, the so-called media eagerly follow his college-basketball picks and record his personal shopping sprees.

Barack Obama is a liar and a stooge, and his wife nothing more than a moocher living the high life on a scale even Marie Antoinette would find astonishing at the taxpayer’s expense. The two of them are nothing but a couple of con artists using their politics and their race as weapons against any kind of journalistic scrutiny, and the USA is going to be paying for the damage they have done both to the Presidency and the rule of law for decades to come. And shame on the mainstream media for playing the role of co-conspirators by rolling over and playing dead during the Obama presidency. They are as much of a disgrace to their profession as the Obamas have been to this country and to the Presidency.

It’s about time folks started noticing just how deep the currents of corruption and lawlessness run in today’s Democratic Party. Personally, I think I think it’s time the entire Democratic Party is investigated for fraud and corruption under the RICO statutes. Between its inherent ties to the labor unions, voter fraud, corruption, lying to Congress, and abusing the rule of law the President, the IRS, and his departments of Justice and Health and Human Services have abused their power and authority to the point of impeachment and criminal prosecution. Barack Obama and his Chicago gangsters make Richard Nixon look like a petty dime store thief, and Senate President Harry Reid and Attorney General Eric Holder have disgraced their offices beyond anything seen in this country’s history.

For the record, the prediction here is the Red Sox make the playoffs and the Yankees don’t. I’d go with predictions by division, but with the season as long as it is that’s become akin to New Year predictions on New Year’s Eve. All I will say is I think Detroit and St. Louis have a great chance of meeting in the 2014 World Series, so I’ll stick to that.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:10 | Comments (0)

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