1st Annual Jean Short Open.

The Patron Saint of Denim and Mesh.

The Patron Saint of Denim and Mesh.

There’s a lot of big golf events this weekend.  Something called the British Open will be getting underway in Scotland on Thursday.  I’m picking Hunter Mahan by the way.  Just to make an official pick.  A lot of the sport’s attention will shift, however, on Saturday to a little hamlet called Phoenixville, PA.  The First Annual Jean Short Open will get underway just after 3 pm, and will televised on the Speed Channel.  I’m sure most of you have no idea what a Jean Short Open is, or why anyone would ever wear, or even say the words jean shorts…well these are good questions.

The Jean Short Open is a tribute to banned golf.  We all know that I go on and on about these golf courses that I refuse to play.  They’re banned, and I sound like a snob, but it’s really just self preservation.  If I played these courses all the time, I would hate golf.  Well, we’re throwing that all out the window on Saturday.  Come hell or high water, we’re going to tee it up at Pickering Valley (the most banned of the banned), and not only that…we’re flying in the face of all logic by teeing off in the late afternoon. 

Who:  This event was the brainchild of Mr. Rand, who has a predisposition to wearing jean shorts, and is most comfortable when everyone else around him is uncomfortable.  Rand even made a show out of “shopping” for his jean shorts, when we all know he was just in his closet, picking from his extensive collection.  Well played.  Rand decided that he wanted to get me to play Pickering, and I buckled, and Haas and Kev are coming probably because Haas wants to see me in jean shorts, and Kev (despite frequenting Pine Valley and Baltimore CC) because he really, really likes Pickering. 

Why Jean Shorts:  Well, Pickering is a special place.  It is the kind of place that existed before dress codes, and a place that passes no judgement.  The real question is, why not jean shorts?  The only rule at Pickering is “No Cutoffs”.  I think this means in the bar…and has nothing to do with attire.  This is a basic when in Rome situation.  You go to Winged Foot, you put on a pair of pants and act like cell phones haven’t been invented.  You go to Pickering, it’s Levis and Dale Jr. trucker hats. 

Format:  The format involves a complicated rule system that Rand created.  All I know is that drinking is involved, we are somehow playing for 2 meals…and bad shots will be rewarded.  The rest is just details really.  There certainly is a format, but there are no losers in this event. 

Predictions:  Well, first and foremost I predict that Haas/Kev and Rand will be waiting for me on the first tee while I lock myself in my apartment and turn my phone off.  Just kidding, just kidding.  I won’t even be in the state.  In reality, I’m predicting a good time, but Pickering will likely still be banned after this event, we may ruin Kev’s golf swing for the rest of the season, and at some point, probably when we’re trying to figure out where to go afterwards, we are going to regret putting on those jean shorts. 

We’ll be hoping to get a picture of this obviously, so stay tuned.

The Difficulty Debate.

Cape Kidnappers Looks a Little Penal.

Cape Kidnappers Looks a Little Penal.

A couple things made this question pop into my mind.  Why does a golf course have to be difficult to be considered good?  I’m headed to play Commonwealth National in Horsham, PA today, and it’s a very nice Arnold Palmer design, but it is easy to get the score headed North in a hurry.  You have to be hitting it well, and it’s the kind of place that can put you into a slump all by itself.  The difficulty of the layout produces a lot of good players, but at the same time, I can’t imagine a typical player has any fun there on a regular basis.  Somewhere along the line losing a dozen golf balls became part of the game, almost a badge of honor that one had played a good golf course. 

Certainly for a course to be championship worthy it has to be difficult.  The older, classic American courses are diffcult due to natural changes in terrain, and natural hazards.  If you play a course like this you will have trouble in the bunkers, be overwhelmed by the rough, and probably shoot a million, but you’re not going to lose a hundy spot worth of golf balls.  There’s no penalty shot allowance.  And, that’s where some of the newer courses make their reputation.  With all the good natural terrain and hazards used up for older courses, housing developments, whatever…designers are forced to make tracks out of less desirable pieces of land.  What we get is the modern monster.  Places carved through swamps, quarries, wetlands, and even the occasional landfill….if all that fails they just take a flat piece of land, and mound the horse-bleep out of it, and plant fescue everywhere.

Without much to defend itself we get an array of hazards.  Environmentally protected areas, waist high grass or brush all over the place, sand dunes leading into oblivion.   You miss the fairway at one of these places, and it’s time to reload.  It’s not punch out and try to salvage a bogey, it’s re-tee and brace yourself for a smooth triple.  Play by the rules, and you could have 12-15 penalty shots.  These places are another contributor to the rampant cheating in golf, and I don’t blame people for not wanting to be hitting 3,5,7 off every tee.  It’s insane.  Not only does it inflate scores, but it grinds pace of play to a halt.  You spend an hour golfing, and four and half looking for slap nut’s ball. 

So,  what I’m really proposing an upscale, well appointed, easy golf course.   Give me wide fairways, moderately paced greens, a uniform first cut of rough that is completely playable.  Visually striking, but shallow faced bunkers, docile greens.  Where is this place?  Perfectly conditioned, all the amenities, the service, the practice facility, but you don’t shoot 135 every time out.  It’s a good time not looking for golf balls all day.  It feels good to shoot a good score every once in a while, and so you know that you shot it at a course that isn’t terribly difficult….who cares?  Mix in a birdie from time to time.  This notion of self punnishment by playing golf courses that are too hard, from tees that are too long, just baffles me. 

Find your level, you’ll have more fun.

Anecdote VIII.

If you Ain't Cheating, You Ain't Trying.

If you Ain't Cheating, You Ain't Trying.

Golf has this reputation as a sport of honor.  The stories of tour pros turning themselves in for rules infractions are always well publicized.  J.P. Hayes turned himself in for using a non-conforming ball during Q-School, and lost his card.  Certainly at the top level of the sport there is some integrity, but this is in stark contrast to the everyday playing of the game, where I don’t think there could be less of an adherence to the rules.  Some people don’t know the rules, but most others just don’t care.  Most sports, when played recreationally, pay some attention to the rules.  Not so much golf.    

I’ve encountered dozens of cheating episodes over the years on the course.  I once let a kid in a high school match shave about 20 shots over twelve holes, because it really didn’t make a difference.  He was also so clueless that it would have been pointless to get into a discussion.  I’ve seen people called out.  I’ve seen people drop balls out of their pocket.  I’ve seen them roll the ball over, miss-mark their ball, everything you can think of, and this was all in tournament play.  I think my personal favorite moment of cheating, though happened between two guys I was playing with in a college tournament.  An incredible tale of golf karma:

It was the league championship tournament.  Don’t be impressed by this at all.  We played in threesomes with players from two other colleges of F&M’s ilk.  We were just onto the back nine, and up to that point it had been an uneventful day.  One guy I was playing with, from Dickinson, seemed less than thrilled to be there.  He was drinking Jack and Coke out of a 20 oz. bottle, and quietly going about his business.  The other guy in the group was a complete hammer.  Standard poser, all the equipment, but horse bleep game.  Probably had been playing at his dad’s country club for 20 years, but still couldn’t break 80.  He looked the part, though. 

So the tee shot on this hole required you to carry a hazard that came in from the left side.  If you tried to carry the hazard it drastically shortened the hole, but if you didn’t make it across, you were going to have to re-tee.  So, the jerk-off gets up to hit, and sends this dying quail right into the middle of the marshlands.  I’m watching, but not really watching, and all of a sudden he spins around quickly, and says, “I think that just made it across.”  It hadn’t come within 80 yards, but you know, whatever. 

So, we all tee off, and then walk down the hole where we start to look for this kid’s ball, and I’m not really looking for it, because it’s in the middle of the hazard about a 100 yards back.  I’m just kicking some grass around, and waiting for him to go back to the tee.  All of a sudden, he’s like, “Found it.”  He’s nine miles up the fairway.   I look at Jack and Coke, and have this, “Is this kid for real?” look on my face.  There isn’t a ton you can do at this point. It becomes one word against another.  Having seen it before, I was just going to let it go, but Jack and Coke had some surprising integrity.  Probably a good time to mention this kid was an ex-football player, and was about 6’2”, 230.  He also had a unkempt beard, and remember had been swilling whiskey for 11 holes. 

The resulting conversation:

Jack and Coke says, “That’s your ball?” 

“Yep.”

“You know you hit it in the hazard right?  We all saw it go in,” Jack and Coke takes a contemplative sip of his drink. 

“It carried.  I think it hit the cart path.” 

“The cart path,” Jack and Coke looks around in disbelief.  “You realize that you would have had to hit that ball about 315 yards in the air for it to get here.  Into the wind, and it’s fifty degrees.” 

“I think it hit the path,” Toolbox repeated himself. 

Jack and Coke stares him down for ten or twenty seconds that felt like an eternity, and then simply said, “All right.” 

Well, what happened next?  The mullet couldn’t hit a shot.  He was so freaked out that Jack and Coke knew he was cheating that it messed his mind up completely.  He imploded.  It was amazing.  Not only did the kid have no integrity, but he didn’t have the blank conscience to carry it out.  It was an epic fail of the perfect proportions, and a classic example of golf karma. 

So, when you’re out with your buddies having a good time, go ahead and take that Mully.  Everyone will be happier in the long run, but if you ever decide to play for something leave the foot wedge and the magical Titleist genie at home.

Sign of the Times.

Artificially Enhanced Popularity.

Artificially Enhanced Popularity.

A lot of crazy stories over the weekend.  The shooting death of former Titans quarterback Steve McNair was a shocking piece of news.  McNair was an icon in the Nashville community, but now stories of his troubles begin to bubble to the surface. The reminders that we don’t really know the athletes we follow seem to be more prevalent than ever. And, instead of being disappointed, or shocked at the latest revelation or incident, maybe we should just take a lesson from Dodger fans.

The Dodger fans are welcoming Manny Ramirez back from his steroid suspension as if he’s a conquering hero. His popularity is as high as ever, and he was treated like a rock star during his Minor League rehab stint. They’re reacting like fans who got their best player back, which is exactly what happened. The reason for his absence doesn’t bother them, and why should it?

Baseball players use/have used steroids. A lot of them have. The players aren’t perfect citizens, some are hardly role models, so let’s stop treating them as such. Just treat them like guys who play for your favorite team. They’re not being nominated for the Supreme Court so let’s just focus on what they do on the field.

Back in the days when athlete indiscretions weren’t reported there was a constant love between player and fan. I’d like to see a variation of that. Why can’t we just say, you know what? I don’t know if he’s a decent guy, and he’s not my hero, or my kid’s role model, but while he’s playing for my team…I’m going to support him. This is my team, and I’m sticking with it. Some people might think the Dodger fans are too forgiving, are phonies, are blinded by the LA scene, well…whatever. They seem to be having a good time, and isn’t that the point?

Blake Griffin’s Last Hours as a Free Man.

Don't be Too Impressed.  It's an 8-foot Rim.

Don't be Too Impressed. It's an 8-foot Rim.

So I guess I have to mention the NBA draft?  It’s tonight, starting at 7 pm.  I waited until now, because I figure everyone is about to split from work, and so it’s actually like I didn’t talk about it at all.  Blake Griffin is going number one.  Ricky Rubio doesn’t want to play in Memphis, and other than that I’m not really sure about what is going to happen. 

The Sports Guy wrote a stunningly comprehensive piece on the history of the Clippers yesterday.  After reading as much of it as I could stand, it is hard to picture Griffin having success in the NBA.  On the other hand, he’s a freakish, man-child, specimen of an athlete that should be able to handle the transition with relative ease.  I feel no sympathy for the Clippers.  A lot of this is their own doing, but I don’t want to see Blake blow out an achilles or anything. 

I think the last NBA draft I watched was the one where the Sixers took ‘Spoon.  Ok, I watched a few after that, but they’re pretty much the same.  You could put in a tape of last year’s draft, and watch that, and you’d get the idea.  Awful suits, overly happy mothers, analysts mugging for the camera and trying to invent new catchphrases.  It’s pretty standard. 

Do the Sixers have any chance of landing someone decent?  It’s highly unlikely.  Unless they trade up, or get lucky.  I’ve seen Maynor, Ellington, Lawson some people think Jennings is going to slip.  Who knows.  They had a similar pick in 2002 and took Jiri Welch.  I once saw a video of him jumping over some Euro car.  I never saw a video of him making a shot.  Maybe they’ll go crazy and pull a big trade, hey I’m all for it.  Move the needle a bit.

Who’s David Price?

I thought a Slumpbuster was a....

I thought a Slumpbuster was a....

LaVar Arrington’s career may have peaked when he was laying out opposing punters at Penn State, but I will forever remember his line in response to a reporter asking him what he thought about Dan Morgan’s claim that Miami’s linebackers were Penn State’s equals.  LaVar responded, with complete sincerity, “Who’s Dan Morgan?” 

 The Phillies line-up performed a variation on this trick Tuesday night, shelling Rays phenom David Price in two separate innings, and cruising to a 10-1 win.  Price was victimized by errors, but got a great deal of the plate on a number of occasions and served up his share of extra base hits.  John Mayberry and Chase Utley homered for the Phillies.  Unimpressed with the opposing pitcher, the Phils continued to dominate on the road, and Jamie Moyer continued to be able to control young line-ups.  This guy would be so filthy as a high school pitcher right now, it’d be insane. 

You could criticize the Phillies for only having big innings, but it’s tough to keep the pedal down when it’s 10-0.  The offense is still missing Ibanez, and despite the outburst…J Roll was a smooth 0-5.  So, not everything was fixed in one night, but it was nice to see when I had the over tied in with the Tigers and the Texas Longhorns in a little three team parlay.  I’m expecting Texas to blow it in the late innings, but it’s nice to have some hope. 

Quick R.I.P. to Ed McMahon, who passed away today.  McMahon, a type of personality we’re likely to never see again in the entertainment world, got his start at channel 10 in Philadelphia.  For those that only know McMahon as the host of Star Search, it’s probably worthwhile to check out some old Tonight Show clips to see his chemistry with Johnny Carson.

I’ll leave you with a final thought.  Is chocolate the only food that is delicious if it is frozen, room temperature, partially melted, or completely melted?

Anecdote V.

Pu**y Golf?

Pu**y Golf?

Ok, so someone said I didn’t say anything interesting today, so let me try to fire off a quick anecdote.  I actually am about to go play golf…but my loyal readers always come first.  Also, look at Mickelson  (and Duval)  go ahead Davey.  So this is a high school golf story, and since you’ve probably never heard a high school golf story, this will immediately become the best one you have ever heard.  Anecdote V, subtitle “Pu**y Golf.”

So, I was friends with this kid in high school, we’ll call him Beej, because that is actually what I called him in high school (not what you are thinking, but anyway).  So, Beej had this intense rivalry with this kid that went to another high school.  They hated each other.  I’m not sure how it started, but it was like 80s Celtics/Lakers.  Crazy intense.  The other kid even had a “hype man”.  Just some lackey that followed him around and agreed/laughed at everything he said.  So eventually this crazy rivalry spilled over onto the golf course.  It was a picturesque Fall afternoon at Twin Ponds.  I was playing with Beej and our opponents were his Nemesis and the Lackey.   His Nemesis was a pretty good player, and I was decent, Beej was all right, and Lackey would have been lucky to shoot his weight (ballpark:235). 

So the round starts innocently enough, but there’s certainly tension in the air.  The Nemesis is not playing that well, and I actually was having a decent day.  Lackey was mostly raking bunkers and eating Skittles or something…I don’t remember.  So about halfway through the twelve hole round, the Nemesis starts rifling clubs all over the place, he’s cursing, the whole nine yards.  No big deal, nothing we haven’t seen before, though he did almost drill Lackey with his putter at one point.  And, that was a big target.  Anyway, that was foreshadowing. 

We get to the next to last green, and the Nemesis calls a penalty on Beej for some ball marking infraction.  Whatever rule he had come up seemed obscure, but he was going to penalize Beej two shots.  Beej went through the roof, he possessed a hair-trigger temper.  He attempted to call retroactive penalties for club throwing, soliciting advice and profanity.  This actually was a stroke penalty in High School, though it was never called.  Nemesis claimed you had to call that penalty at the time, and then Lackey chimed in that he hadn’t cursed or thrown a club at all.  Interesting. 

No resolution by the next tee, and it’s super awkward.  Nemesis and Beej are trading insults, and we’re going back and forth on whether or not there is going to be a fight on the 12th tee at Twin Ponds.  Then, right at the end of the argument, we got the line we’ve all been waiting for, the gem we will always remember.  In response to the accusation that he was making up penalties just because he got caught doing something, Beej responded “You’re the ones playing pu**y golf!”.  And, there it is. 

Aftermath, there was no fight.  There was heated discussion after the round, and no coach could find any rule resembling what the Nemesis had called on Beej.  All scores stood, but unfortunately I think we might have lost the match.  I was waiting in the bus, and the coach came on and said we lost and that “Livingston had shot 70″  We played 12 holes.  My response to this was, “Who the hell is Livingstone?”  He was a freshmen on the team, and he cried on the way home.  Whattya gonna do?