Golf Digress

Physically cultured commentary on Sport and Wellness

Chalk Talk

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News item: “FAMU received a $900,000 guarantee for the shellacking.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/22/13

Ohio State 76  Florida A&M 0.

Transcript excerpt featuring comments of the head of University Football Operational Management Services (UFOMS) discussing the upcoming contest between the athlete-students of your perennial college football powerhouse and the recent quality opponent from The Southeastern San Felipe Falls State A & R:

Hell, yes, we’re looking past this [expletive deleted] week. This one’s hardly worth the breath. Bet the house. Do they even have a [expletive deleted] mascot? Look:  when coaches go on about they can’t focus on anything but this week’s game, and this and that, they’re just blowing [expletive deleted] smoke, right?

And what’s this about fundamentals? Listen to me: fundamentals are [expletive deleted] overrated. There isn’t time for all that. These boys aren’t much for learning. I’ve told our team to stop with that [expletive deleted]. Work on style, individuality, personality. Improve the sack dance. Play to the crowd. Stand out. That gets eyeballs. Show the fans something. . . when they make a first down, gain a couple of yards, of course, especially when they score, or send out some idiotic message on social media. Taunting’s healthy – lets out aggression. I wasn’t hired to teach no fundamentals. What we want is highlights. I tell them: go to the BBQs, go to the parties, the bars, the strip clubs. Let the fans see you. Enjoy your college experience. Interact, sell jerseys, represent your school.

Here’s the deal: for us to do anything around here, the fans and boosters are going to have to step up and make it [expletive deleted] rain. Like they’re doing it at these other schools. There’s no magic about it. Either they get it done or we end up going to some bowl no one’s ever [expletive deleted] heard of, and I just go fishing. Hey, aren’t ya’ll going to ask me about our penetration? That’s a joke you tight [expletive deleted].

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Getting old

[Swimmer Diana Nyad’s recent triumph reminded me of Paul Fournel’s thoughts from the wonderful Need for the Bike. p.s. Jelly fish stings?! On the tongue?! Ugh.]

Photo courtesy of the Stark Center for Physical Culture (starkcenter.org)

Photo courtesy of the Stark Center for Physical Culture (starkcenter.org)

Getting old with the bike means gaining endurance and wisdom. It’s having the ability to go further more calmly, to train better, and, in general, to get more out of it.

But aging also means going slower, “lunging’ less quickly, soon not lunging at all, and soon not caring that somebody else lunges right in front of you.

There’s ruin in the cyclist’s aging as well. I rode the fastest between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty-two. Since then, I’ve been on the decline – and it’s not going to get any better.

This decline, which happens in stages, is tolerable. You can manage it in the fatalistic mode, you manage it in friendship – aging in the peleton. The only indispensable things are a real love of the bike and a reasonable serenity.

The big existential advantage of this aging of the thighs is that it always precedes the overall, inevitable aging of the cyclist himself.

Therefore I’ve entrusted my bike with the mission of notifying me of my aging. It’s doing nicely.

“A remarkable kid”

Steve Termeer, the general manager and chief operating officer of the University of Texas Golf Club, joined me recently on the radio. A former Longhorn golfer, Steve got his degree (finance), and has for many years distinguished himself locally and within the Southern Texas PGA from here in Austin. He remains naturally well-versed regarding golfing matters on the 40 Acres. He was also once the No. 1 ranked high school player in America. His son, Tayler, now plays for Texas. I’d hoped to talk more about a prodigy’s progression but we got side-tracked. Young Jordan Spieth was about to tee off contending in the final round of the Tour Championship. Short on time, I felt compelled to ask the obvious question. Was Steve surprised how early success has come? He responded:

It’s very interesting. The last guy who left the University of Texas in golf was David Gossett, after winning the U.S. Amateur and then he went on to win one of his first tour events out there back in 2000. [A cautionary tale – ed.] To see what Jordan’s accomplished is truly amazing. But he’s a remarkable kid. I got to be pretty close, to watch him. My son Tayler began to play golf here at the University of Texas at the same time that Jordan came in. So they were in the same class. It’s unbelievable. The kid is such a special kid.

What a lot of people don’t know is that behind the scenes he’s even a more remarkable person than the guy you see on TV. That’s great for the PGA Tour. You know, the family, his father John Spieth, his mom. He’s got a special needs younger sister. I think that probably set the tone for him at any early age to keep everything in perspective. And in this day and age you hear things and see things…People, well, like Tiger, who are at the top of their game, and what he does on and off the golf course. You’ve got a kid in Jordan Spieth, he’s the real deal and I’m really thrilled to see the money and all that stuff that’s coming. And you can’t help but root for him. And it’s genuine and true. It’s really what the PGA Tour needs. It’s a remarkable story.

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That’s Golf! 9/15/13

Inside the congenial shag-encrusted studios. Glamorous, isn't it?

Inside the congenial shag-encrusted studios. Glamorous, isn’t it?

GOOD SUNDAY MORNING, FRIENDS. WELCOME ONCE AGAIN. THIS IS THE 8 O’CLOCK SERVICE. YOUR PERSONAL PRONATION HOUR OF POWER BROUGHT TO YOU BY SPORTSTALK AM 1300 THE ZONE IN COOPERATION WITH YOUR AUSTIN COMMUNITY CHURCH OF THE INVETERATE DUFFER. PLEASE BE SEATED. I THOUGHT WE MIGHT OPEN THESE PROCEEDINGS WITH A SHORT READING FROM THE BOOK OF HOGAN, CHAPTER ONE, VERSE ONE: “YE WHO SO DIGGETH THE SPHERE FROM THE EARTH SHALL REAPETH THEIR REWARD AS THE SUN CROSSETH THE HEAVENS.”

 (CUE RELIGIOUS MUSIC…)

 I DO HAVE A LITTLE TRUE INSPIRATION TO PASS ALONG FROM BEN HOGAN. IT COMES COURTESY OF AUSTIN-BASED TEACHER CHUCK COOK, WHOSE STUDENTS INCLUDE FIVE MEN WHO CAPTURED THE HOLY GRAIL OF SEVEN MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS. CHUCK ONCE APPARENTLY ASKED HOGAN WHAT WAS THE TURNING POINT IN THE GREAT MAN’S LEGENDARY CAREER. AND BEN SHARED THIS INSIGHT WITH THE FUTURE ACCOMPLISHED INSTRUCTOR. A LITTLE ADVICE FROM BEN’S WIFE, VALERIE.  . . .JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU’VE HEARD IT ALL ABOUT HOGAN, THERE’S MORE. IN FACT, THERE’S A NEW BOOK, ABOUT HIS PUTTING, OF ALL THINGS. BUT THE ADVICE GOES LIKE THIS, VERY SIMPLE WORDS – AS OFTEN THE CASE FROM THE GREAT WORKS – VALERIE TOLD HER HUSBAND, QUOTE: “IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME. . .” END QUOTE. “IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME.” THAT FROM JEFF RUDE’S RECENT COLUMN IN GOLFWEEK: ““DUFNER’S TEACHER TRACES WISDOM TO HOGAN SESSION.”

ALSO, THIS WEEK, I SUPPOSE YOU MAY HAVE SEEN THIS: A WISCONSIN GOLF COURSE RECEIVED A TORRENT OF NEGATIVE PUBLICITY OVER AN ILL-ADVISED PROMOTION. NINE HOLES WITH CART FOR ONLY $9.11. SOUNDS LIKE A DEAL. THIS, HOWEVER, WAS OFFERED ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE SEPTEMBER 11TH ATTACKS. TALK ABOUT POOR TASTE. TUMBLEDOWN TRAILS – THAT’S THE NAME OF THE COURSE – WAS SURPRISED AT THE ADVERSE REACTION TO THEIR 9/11 SPECIAL, ESPECIALLY GIVEN THAT THEIR “SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER” BIRTHDAY SALE HAD BEEN SO WELL RECEIVED. . !!!

An American Paradox

It strikes me as an American paradox: a nation with many great athletes and a fascination for sports and such a mania for exercise technology, and they somehow avoid the easy, unheroic path to fitness. Sometimes I believe all these machines are a vestige of Puritanism: instruments of public self-flagellation to make up for private sins of couch riding and overeating. French women happily don’t suffer from those extremes of good and evil. Wellness is a gray area of balance.

From: French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, Vintage, 2007.

Tempo

[Phillies pitcher Cole] Hamels spent much of the first few innings on Wednesday watching Mets right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch at a snail’s pace. Matsuzaka slowed the game to a nearly insufferable tempo, typically taking 25 seconds or more between pitches. It reminded Jimmy Rollins of former big league pitcher Steve Trachsel, who also worked slowly. “It was hard to stay focused,” Carlos Ruiz said. “It was hard to wait that long. I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was a long day.

According to Fangraphs, Dice-K has averaged 25.3 seconds between pitches from 2007-13, making him the second-slowest starting pitcher in baseball behind Josh Beckett, who has averaged 25.5 seconds between pitches in that span. Perhaps Dice-K lulled the Phillies to sleep.” (Todd Zolecki, MLB.com writing about a recent Phillies/Mets barnburner, 8/28):

(p.s. The Phillies overcame the lethargy, winning the game 6-2, the Mets making three errors, perhaps also lulled by their pitcher’s deliberations.)

Rhythm

 And that was the thing that golf did more than anything else: it provided the time and the space, the practiced rhythm and rituals of interaction that allowed relationships to unfold over time – not in a single round or even a weeklong trip, but over years of rounds and decades of trips. Golf helped build memories. And of course I’d experienced this with friends, but some of my greatest memories were of being alone on the golf course.

John Dunn, Loopers, A Caddie’s Twenty-year Golf Odyssey, Crown Publishers, 2013.

Rhythm

Hell is the rhythm of others. When the decision to speed up or slow down is no longer yours, you become another cyclist. Through a kind of rebellious logic, it’s always when your legs are tired that the rhythm speeds up, it’s always when you’re in the process of putting on your gloves that you have to get a move on… You experience, on a small scale, the difficulty of bike racing.

“The Others” in Need for the Bike by Paul Fournel, University of Nebraska Press, 2003

Rhythm

 A good but neglected rule in all matches except team games is PLAY YOUR OWN TEMPO. Don not fall into the trap of unconsciously imitating the rhythm of your opponent. …In golf, ‘my tempo v. yours’ is a valuable gambit. A. should be slow if B. is fast, and vice versa.

“It’s MY Tempo v. YOUR Tempo in Golfmanship by Stephen Potter, McGraw-Hill, 1968.

Rhythm

 You can’t force yourself into a perfect rhythm and flow; it only comes when you stand out of its way and let it appear on its own.

Marathon Man by Bill Rodgers and Matthew Shepatin, St. Martin’s Press, 2013.

 

Timing

Old news now, I realize. What I found so commendable in Jason Dufner’s triumph in this year’s final golf major championship was not his driving, nor his putting, though both were stellar over a long and difficult trail. His composure – that was the thing – his ability to maintain his own sense of rhythm against the stultifying pull of the occasion along with the direct orbital tug of his nearest pursuer.

Jim Furyk appeared to be laboring against a strong personal tide or headwind. In and out of focus he ambled,  pummeled by an unseen undertow, and, possibly, the accumulated psychic weight from years of knowing his swing resembles a man wrestling an octopus. Every golfer feels something similar in tight situations, as does all but the most care-free athlete. Reading the above passages, it seemed an appropriate place to begin with an appreciation of that implacable force that governs sports – so coveted, so easily observed if overlooked, and so easily derailed.

Some seem to glide downstream, indeed, it’s often described as “flow.” Others struggle with each willful, gravity-laden step. Harvey Penick didn’t like rhythm. He preferred to call it timing, “getting your muscles together to produce the maximum speed of the clubhead at impact and the angle of face square on the line to the target.” That seems too clinically narrow, if assuredly accurate, a diagnosis. Is there not also artistry of a fish swimming? Sam Snead described the best golf swings as “oily.”

Bobby Jones admitted he found rhythm in an old standard, “Limehouse Blues.” Back-to-back events were once won on the LPGA Tour by a player locked onto the beat of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head.” This must explain the popularity of ear buds and the runner’s penchant for a suitable soundtrack. Doggedly plugged into the beat, searching for a compatible cadence, they never hear me when I ride past. My gentle “on your left” drifts by occupied and ravaged ears.

Rhythm

“Getting started, keeping going, getting started again — in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival, the ground of convinced action, the basis of self-esteem and the guarantee of credibility in your lives, credibility to yourselves as well as to others.”

Seamus Heaney, commencement address at The University of North Carolina, May 12, 1996.

This page

This Page Cannot Be Displayed.

So you say.

Would the stubbornness have anything to do with my unwillingness to pay?
What are you hiding?
And what happened to your scale that was
supposed to be sliding?

Could this request now rest with the NSA?
Or, would you simply prefer I try back later today?

Tell me this: How do I know Google isn’t watching closely,
as I surf quietly, distracted, morosely?

Requested page, you can’t – or won’t – be displayed?
I remind you the world is just a click away.

And another thing I wish to convey.
The next time you’re trying to make the digital scene,

Do me a favor, page. Don’t darken my screen.

“Evident Merit”

Dear Jim,

We’re sorry to say that your piece “We Don’t Swim…” wasn’t right for us, despite its evident merit. Thank you for allowing us to consider your work.

 

“We don’t swim…”

Those invited to swim in the suburbs once commonly encountered a sign conspicuously posted in the pool area. The sign read: “We don’t swim in your toilet, so please don’t pee in our pool.” At the age of 10, I found the sign disturbing. Decades later it still is. Some versions featured an equally disquieting caricature.

What was this all about? To a boy who loved swimming both notions were absurd. Swimming in toilets? Urinating in pools? Really? People did this? The accusatory tone was also unsettling – snarky, the feigned politeness that didn’t fool anybody. The sign could only be there for one reason. I got it, because someone had peed in the pool. Worse, they had been doing it often enough to warrant buying and posting a sign. Suspicion immediately fell on the child host who may have been a friend or, in the complicated ethos of pool etiquette, merely a classmate who we could take or leave (before we knew he had a pool). The sign, you might say, clouded the waters, if you get the drift.

Something else. There was the larger, remaining question of whether the sign indicated a deeper “problem” (bedwetting!), forever tarnishing the pool invite as just a shameless ploy for young friends for “Joey.” Obviously, no one wants to be tarred with the bedwetting brush, even by association.

Another natural possibility was that the likely offender was a younger sibling…one who probably couldn’t read. Hello. Do parents not recognize that incontinent and malicious toddlers don’t comprehend surreal signs, let alone heed their message? Another possible thread was that some young previous guest had been “caught” (how?). This would place any young guest under suspicion. How in the hell was I, routinely fingered as the prime delinquent whenever cries rung out, going to prove my innocence that, hey, I didn’t whiz in the pool?

The presence of the sign understandably dampened enthusiasm. You’ll recall that an exaggerated related reference got an easy laugh for the makers of Caddyshack. A Baby Ruth bar floats menacingly in the country club pool, assisted by an ominous soundtrack. The announced discovery of the bar bobbing along causes instant mayhem.

The thought of toilet bowl recreation, as expressed on the regrettable sign, would memorably return in the diverting televised image of a nautical man adrift in a commode shilling for Tidy Bowl. Remember? Apparently marooned, despite his (delusional) bonhomie didn’t he have the sense to realize his destiny – trapped on a row boat in a scenario too disgusting for words? One that would end with a hellish whirlpool not unlike the damned victims of Stevenson’s Merry Men? Come on! And how did he get there? What possible crime could have mandated him to be marooned inside a giant toilet bowl?

Who did this to him? How did he retain his rank? He’s obviously mad. I seem to recall in some of the ads he was playing an instrument. Passing the hours with a ukulele, was it? What’s up with that? Did that have something to do with his being there? Good acoustics down there in the bowl? Nowhere in the sea shanties and the tales of the sea, filled with larger-than-life legends of monsters and the unknown, was there ever anything like this. I’d rather face the giant squid.

The riveting Ty-D-Bol spots also bugged me – they still do – obviously – but not nearly as much as that pool sign. On every visit to a pool where it was displayed there remained the specter that someone had indeed “done it,” and might secretly try to strike again, who had, in language we heard over and over as children, “ruined it for everyone,” in this case by leaking a thin yellow stream into thousands of gallons of shimmering blue chlorinated water. It wasn’t me, ever. I swear to God.

Rosmarinus officinalis

The large, spiky, ungainly bush oversees a local first tee. Drought be damned, the plant grows lustrously throughout Central Texas. Its resin is useful for many things, brushing teeth and shampooing hair. Good for freshening breath, it’s said, soothing sores, darkening and enriching hair color.

The ancient Egyptians believed it revitalized hair. So does a friend now happily back from chemo land, bolstered by compliments from no less than a movie stylist. His teenage daughter now uses it. At least one reference mentions the versatile herb as a centuries-old baldness cure. Likely as not, it’s ignored in your yard with a jar on the spice rack. Any guesses?

A conceivable tonic of confidence for those folliclly –challenged, this herb’s purported healthful qualities include some very desirable athletic traits, among them: improved memory, relief from headaches, alleviation of stomach pains, colds and sore throats.

Image

Most golfers walk right by en route to the drama of the first tee. I won’t pass without grabbing a sprig, and sniffing its complex aroma. Perhaps it’s all in the mind, a dose of psychosomatic golf medicine, or a little natural performance enhancement.

From The Little Herb Encyclopedia (Woodland Health Books, 1995): “In the Middle Ages, in Europe, rosemary was used to clear vision, to sharpen the senses, to help weak memory and to alleviate nervous ailments.” As this touches on just a short list of personal golfing infirmities, don’t be surprised if your next visit to the big box golf retailer features a prominent display of Dr. Shag boy’s Magical Sweet Swing, Green Jacket Elixir (Patent Pending).

From Practical Aromatherapy (Parragon Book Service, 1997): “Add it to the bath as a pick-me-up for mental and physical tiredness …”

From Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists (Parker Publishing, 1987): “Prepared as a tea, it reputedly soothes the nerves and relieves nervous insomnia, mental fatigue, and simple or congestive headaches. One heaping teaspoonful of the cut leaves is placed in a cup, and boiling water is added. The infusion is covered with a saucer, allowed to stand for five minutes, and then strained.”

Chroniclers of legendary sporting yore typically described the clarity of intense concentration as “the look of a champion.” Mexican immortal Lorena Ochoa had that look in spades. She walked briskly past me (in the middle of her final round). In her wake a vapor trail infused and excited the gallery. With it was a sense of absolute certainty that she would win, which at the Canadian Open that week, she did. Eldrick Woods also exuded it for a time.

You might look for a little sprig the next time you feel the spirits flag.

[A disclaimer: your correspondent is not a doctor, nor does he play one on the radio. Herbal references note that rosemary oils should not be used by pregnant women and epileptics. Anecdotal evidence additionally suggests bees are attracted to the concoction of oil and rosemary, so it’s best left off the dome before heading to the course.] -0-

 

 

Race Daydream

Apt & Austin Tri 039

Spectators line the route in beach chairs. It’s race day, a marathon. I’m standing with some of the other volunteers. Here come the runners. Support staff deftly step out onto the course. Arms extended with flimsy cups, these are alternately: consumed, dropped, spilled, tossed, squashed. I’m reaching out, too, as if hailing a cab, holding out my race refreshments. Instead of a cup of water, I’ve got the good stuff: packs of regular Camels, a can of Colt 45, several Hav-A-Tampa Jewels, wrappers thoughtfully removed. Runners dart and veer around me. They scatter like gazelles through the veldt. Let’s never forget that community events like these couldn’t happen without the support of dedicated volunteers. Feels good to lend a hand.

Competitor struggles to find loose change.

Competitor struggles to find loose change.