Golf Digress

Physically cultured commentary on Sport and Wellness

Month: January, 2014

Christie: “To use the vernacular, the ball was on the tee.”

THAT’S GOLF! JANUARY 12, 2014     Script, SportsTalk AM 1300 The Zone, Austin

GOLF IS, ARGUABLY, I’LL GRANT YOU, ONE OF THE MINOR SPORTS. BUT, AS I’VE PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED, IT HAS SEEPED INTO SOCIETY IN INTERESTING WAYS, INTO THE LANGUAGE, FOR INSTANCE, AND INTO THE CONSCIOUSNESS AND CULTURE. AND OF ALL THINGS WE GOT ANOTHER EXAMPLE THIS WEEK – FROM NO LESS THAN THE CENTERPIECE OF THE BIGGEST NEWS STORY OF THE WEEK.

I HAPPENED TO LISTEN JUST LONG ENOUGH TO NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE’S MARATHON PRESS CONFERENCE, FOLLOWING THE BUSINESS OVER THAT MARATHON TRAFFIC JAM – ONE IN WHICH MY MOTHER AND SISTER, IT TURNS OUT, WERE STUCK IN. AND GOV. CHRISTIE SAID THESE EXACT WORDS: QUOTE: “TO USE THE VERNACULAR, THE BALL WAS ON THE TEE.”

Teed up, or off? And now out. A bit of oratorical golf foozling from the New Jersey governor, ready to scramble.

Teed up, or off? . A bit of easily-overlooked oratorical golf foozling from the New Jersey governor, ready to scramble.

DON’T KNOW IF HE PLAYS GOLF, BUT HE OBVIOUSLY KNEW ENOUGH ABOUT THIS USEFUL PHRASE OF THE ROYAL AND ANCIENT GAME TO ENLIST IT IN HELPING DIG HIMSELF OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE. FUNNY HOW GOLF FINDS ITS WAY INTO THE LARGER CONTEXT.

…GOOD MORNING.

IT’S THAT’S GOLF! NEVER A  COVER CHARGE. HALF PRICE DANCES… NO, YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE ME DANCE. …ANOTHER DISEMBODIED YANKEE VOICE ASSAULTING YOUR SENSES THROUGH THE RADIO.

THE HOUR’S ENDEAVOR IS TO ENHANCE OUR APPRECIATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF GOLF. YOUR HOST, SHAG BOY, AND SCRIBE: 5’ 9” 150, 16-YEAR, LIFETIME  CATAMOUNT, THROWS RIGHT, BATS RIGHT. STILL PLAGUED BY THAT NAGGING GROIN STRAIN. AS DUANE THOMAS ONCE NOTED, WE’RE ALL DAY-TO-DAY.

WE EXTEND A VICARIOUS WELCOME AGAIN TO THE CONGENIAL SHAG-ENCRUSTED CONFINES.

OUR TOPIC: THE GAME THAT – EVENTUALLY – ENDS… WITH A TAP-IN.

THIS IS, ODDLY ENOUGH, THE LONGEST-RUNNING GOLF RADIO SHOW IN THE STATE. THANKS TO BOTH OF YOU FOR TUNING IN. WE’RE CLOTHING OPTIONAL. ALL WE ASK IS THAT WHATEVER IT IS, PLEASE JUST KEEP IT ON.

IF THE NAME OF THE PROGRAM CONFUSES YOU – I REALIZE IT’S EARLY – HERE’S HOW IT WORKS: WE TALK ABOUT THE GAME OF GOLF’S MANY FAUCETS, ALL OF THEM TURNED ON.

AND HERE’S JUST THE SORT OF HELPFUL HINT THAT WE PASS ALONG KNOWING THAT NO ONE WILL EVER TRY IT. BUT SINCE IT COMES FROM THE ONLY BOOK I KNOW OF THAT FEATURES A MAN SHINING A SHOE WITH A BANANA ON THE COVER, I FELT IT WORTHWHILE TO PASS ALONG. PERHAPS YOU’RE STILL IN A RESOLUTION, GET-THINGS-DONE FRAME OF MIND.

THE SOURCE: THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, “HALEY’S CLEANING HINTS” BY GRAHAM AND ROSEMARY HALEY. IT’S ALSO THE ONLY BOOK I CAN RECALL WHICH SUGGESTS THAT A PAIR OF MEN’S OLD COTTON UNDERWEAR MAKES A GREAT LINT-FREE DUST CLOTH. NOT SOMETHING, I CONFESS, I’VE EVER CONSIDERED.

BUT, FOR OUR PURPOSES, THE HALEYS OFFER THIS TIP FOR WHAT THEY PROMISE  “GLEAMING GOLF BALLS:”

IT’S A RECIPE. MIX A SOLUTION OF A GALLON OF WATER WITH ONE CUP AMMONIA. LEAVE YOUR GOLF BALLS IN THE SOLUTION OVERNIGHT.

TRY NOT TO KICK THE BUCKET EN ROUTE TO THE BATHROOM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. OR ANYTIME. I’M GUESSING YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND TOO MUCH TIME INHALING THE CONCOCTION….THOSE ARE JUST MY OWN HINTS.

A GALLON OF WATER, A CUP OF AMMONIA, DEPOSIT YOUR GRIMY GOLF BALLS, AND IN THE MORNING: GLEAMING GOLF BALLS.

…JUST THE KIND OF TIP YOU WON’T GET FROM THE LAMESTREAM GOLF MEDIA.

TYPICALLY, SINCE OUR MOVE TO SUNDAY MORNINGS, WE TRADITIONALLY OPEN WITH A MESSAGE OF INSPIRATION.

OUR TEXT TODAY COMES FROM JACK BURKE JR., THE VENERABLE HOUSTON SAGE, A FORMER MASTERS AND PGA CHAMPION. HIS SUBJECT: “THE EYES OF OTHERS ARE UPON YOU.” I SUPPOSE, IN OUR CASE, IT IS LITERALLY THE EYES OF TEXAS.

THIS FROM HIS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED CHRONICLE: “IT’S ONLY A GAME:”

“TO SUCCEED AT GOLF,” HE BEGINS, “YOU HAVE TO MASTER THE ART OF NOT BEING EMBARRASSED. YOU HAVE TO TAKE YOUR EGO OUT OF THE EQUATION AND JUST PLAY. IT’S INCREDIBLY HARD TO ERASE THOUGHTS OF HOW YOU’RE GOING TO BE PERCEIVED BY OTHERS, AND THE CHALLENGE NEVER CEASES. YOU THINK ARNOLD PALMER DOESN’T FEEL EMBARRASSED WHEN HE YIPS A FOUR-FOOT PUTT IN FRONT OF A BIG GALLERY? SURE HE DOES. HE MASTERED THE ART OF NOT BEING EMBARRASSED YEARS AGO, AND NOW HE’S LEARNING IT AGAIN.

FINDING THINGS THAT DON’T INTIMIDATE YOU IS A FULL-TIME JOB. MOST PEOPLE ARE AT LEAST A  BIT FRIGHTENED OF MANY THINGS. GOLF CAN BE INTIMIDATING. BUT YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT ON. IF YOU DO THAT, YOU VERY SOON WON’T BE INTIMIDATED AT ALL. THERE IS ENOUGH TRULY SCARY STUFF GOING ON IN THE WORLD THAT NOTHING CONNECTED TO GOLF SHOULD BE.”

PLEASE BE SEATED.

“GOLF CAN BE INTIMIDATING, BUT YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT ON.”

WORDS TO LIVE BY FROM JACK BURKE. ‘IT’S ONLY A GAME,’ WORDS OF WISDOM FROM A LIFETIME IN GOLF.

Al Geiberger’s sensational sixth tip?

Al Geiberger's sensational sixth tip is SKIPPY!

Al Geiberger’s sensational sixth tip is SKIPPY!

A touch of recent rainy weather conjured up a memory. Al Geiberger was playing in the Legends of Golf here in Austin. His son, Brent, would follow him onto the tour. This day Brent was caddying for his old man. They had a cart but I remember ‘Skippy’ pointedly telling Brent to get the rain gear ready and keep in handy at a moment’s notice. It stuck, I guess, because I sensed an exchange of tour wisdom from father to son. (I didn’t realize Brent would win two events, Hartford and Greensboro, but shouldn’t be surprised. His dad played on two Ryder Cup teams and won a bunch, 11, including several big tournaments.)

Cleaning, the next day the above ad appeared in an envelope about to be tossed. The 1966 PGA Champion, later known as ‘Mr. 59,’ got a Skippy Peanut Butter endorsement back when there wasn’t much for pro golfers, or to any professional athletes, for that matter. I honestly don’t remember the ads, nor do I suspect they would have made much of a difference, not that I was the intended audience. Years later I did later watch those goofy Sybervision tapes that detailed Skippy’s silky swing in slow-mo.

Of course, Skippy was ever-present. Later, during those annual brief stops in Austin, when things weren’t nearly as severe with senior golf as they seem today, Al took the nickname in  stride. As he says here: “Skippy Peanut Butter is great for quick energy. And I prefer Skippy because it’s got more peanut flavor.” You tell him, Skippy.

Given the continued preference for PB&J among the triathlete and century-cycling crowd, Al was clearly ahead of his time.

Al’s Five “Fabulous Golf Tips to Help Lower Your Score:”

1)     Slow your swing down – Think of swinging easy during the entire backswing and most of the down-swing, and use your speed in the hitting area. A fast backswing means a slow hitting area.

2)     Use your body more – Think of your body as the main source of power. Use a good turn of the body and shoulders throughout the entire swing.

3)     Putting – Try striking the ball on a downward stroke. This will keep you from coming up off the putt and allow you to strike the ball much more solidly.

4)     Improve your balance – If your balance is bad try straightening up your back a little and crouching in the legs instead.

5)     Tip to the beginner – Learn the fundamentals from a qualified professional instead of teaching yourself and forming bad habits.

The Smooth SwingMaker (Patent Pending)

"Ladies and gentlemen, more crippling advice over the centuries of introspection, devotion, and dissection of the golf swing would be hard to find." The Smooth SwingMaker.

“Ladies and gentlemen, more crippling advice over the centuries of introspection, devotion, and dissection of the golf swing would be hard to find.” The Smooth SwingMaker.

Please direct your attention to the accompanying photo. Seems harmless enough, by all appearances a box containing an innocuous golf practice aid, one of any number of thousands. There is the ubiquitous caption in capital letters promising a lower score – with exclamation point! You’ll note the golfer is either smiling or grimacing. This is not unusual in the course of swinging a club by novice or expert. In this case what I take for a grimace is expressed with good reason. Take heed: the man has fallen under the spell. The reader may also wonder why the golfer is apparently hitting away from the green so near in the foreground. This can also be explained.

The product is The Smooth SwingMaker. Insidious, really, the only word for it, but one has to admire the simplicity, the ingenuity.  An attractive cardboard box that could contain a Happy Meal holds pure poison. If only I could remember who to thank for the introduction. It is no longer on the market. The words “patent pending” appear in the lower right-hand corner. These words should always prompt pause, if not suspicion.

In the spirit of inquiry, this post is presented as a cautionary tale. We approach The Smooth SwingMaker wearing the protective gear of experience. Were there proper oversight of the golf practice aid market, akin to, say, the precautions taken with research of chemical or biological agents – that could in the wrong hands pose a danger – products like The Smooth SwingMaker would never be unleashed on an unsuspecting public. I believe it stands alone.

A golf life is littered with practice aids, catnip to the struggling. Occasionally they “work,” whatever that may mean. In time immunity can be developed but there is no effective inoculation. The author can reflect on the efficacy of two aids:  the impact bag and the weighted club. Both sit unused in the closet. A flash of success will emit a temporary positive impulse within the brain’s recesses where reality nestles beside illusion.

The number of available products is impressive, testament to Man’s inventive, impatient quest. Many aids, no doubt well intentioned, are ridiculous, often miraculously so. Patent drawings detail spikes, harnesses, or other unfortunate belts and buckles. The unwitting current reliance on technology feeds the category.

Practice aids of one sort or another have long been enlisted to teach golf. Video is now ubiquitous but the best teachers rely on everyday items. The most effective aids, arguably, may be the least sophisticated: a two-by-four, a tee, a bucket. My alignment woes were once (temporarily) solved in a mall parking lot astride a painted parking space strip.

One successful instructor can’t visit the giant hardware store without seeing dozens of potential teaching aids. The concept is sound. The objective is to help the student “see” the inherent awkward universe of the golf swing. This can often be done with a tool meant for some other purpose. Harvey Penick’s grass whip may be the most famous example. Once common to tool sheds, the grass whip is now perhaps as familiar to most Americans as a scythe, if no less effective an aid.

The Smooth SwingMaker carried a suggested retail price of $12.95. Again, we highlight those two dangerous words: ‘patent pending.’

"Attach the square piece of Velcro to the center of he visor as close to the front as possible."

“Attach the square piece of Velcro to the center of he visor as close to the front as possible.”

Inside the box is a booklet, three plastic perforated golf balls, and two small white plastic cups. One cup has a string attached. At the end of the short string is a ball. Those of a certain age may recall an ancient wooden toy in which children, or adults, would try and scoop the ball through the air into the cup. This gets to the core of The Smooth SwingMaker’s genius, simplicity.

The adept attaches the cup with the ball on the bill of their ball cap. There’s a piece of Velcro to secure it. He then places the ball into the cup on the cap, and swings. The objective is to keep the ball in the cup as one does so. This keeps the head still, which every golfer – and those who have never played – has heard about, a canard often taken on face value. As the booklet points out: “If your swing has flaws, the ball flys (sp) from the cup.”

There are 10 pages of illustrated instructions with an order blank in the back.

I’m hesitant to quote too liberally from the instructions, but let me just offer a representative sample.

The SwingMaker improves your game in two basic ways. First, with regular practice it helps you with two important fundamentals: keeping your head down and still and encouraging you to move your body in a coordinated, fluid motion. I fyou don’t do these things, the ball will fly from the cup. For example, if you swing too hard, the ball will likely “swirl” inside the cup and pop out. If your swing is smooth, it won’t.

Ladies and gentlemen, more crippling advice over the centuries of introspection, devotion, and dissection of the golf swing would be hard to find.

"If your swing has flaws, the ball flys (sp) from the cup." The author hereby absolves himself of any responsibility relating to the above statement.

“If your swing has flaws, the ball flys (sp) from the cup.” The author hereby absolves himself of any responsibility relating to the above statement.

“Your friends may laugh when they first see your Smooth SwingMaker,” begins the anonymous author, who we might refer to as Dr. Evil. There are two cups. I see now that they are slightly different, and interchangeable, one preferred for woods and irons, the other for shorter shots. “Practice will be the best teacher as to which cup to use when.”

…That’s enough. I can feel the pull, the Smooth SwingMaker’s allure…Must. Put. Back. In. Box. . . .Phew. That’s better. It would be professionally unethical to unleash such a horror. It must be kept from those seeking improvement.

You’ll remember the scene at the end of the Indiana Jones movie where the Arc of the Covenant is sealed and securely deposited in the burial ground of an enormous anonymous warehouse filled with similar crates? That would be my suggestion for the Smooth SwingMaker, the Pandora’s Box.

At the conclusion of this essay, this most dangerous device will be transported to the secure, climate-controlled vault of The Stark Center for Physical Culture at Sports at the University of Texas at Austin. Express instructions will prevent its indiscriminate use.

2014 Chalupa Chase preview: Davis eyes double

"You can hit it as long as you want," says the 2013 champion, "and they don’t give you points for hitting it close.” In his left hand, the pro holds the ceremonial Balander Driver.

“You can hit it as long as you want,” says the 2013 champion, “and they don’t give you points for hitting it close.” In his left hand, the Pro holds the ceremonial Balander Driver.

2014 Media Guide   First in a Series  Collect them all!

It’s in the Bag…2013 Chase for the Chalupa Champion “Mr.” Eddy Davis

It was a touch of Deja-vu all over again. Defending Chalupa Chase champion “Mr.” Eddy Davis came within a winter’s worst whisker of birdieing the first three holes of the season opener. A good start is key for Davis who stresses the importance of maintaining good karma. “It’s major league,” he said recently. “It sets the tone. I don’t know what I mean by that. I know it’s good.”

Talking tools with Golf Digress on the eve of his 51st birthday, the “Pro” threw down the gauntlet. “It’s all between me and the golf course,” he said. “Everybody’s going to be playing harder. Once you win the first one, everybody wants to win it, and you want to win it, too. You can’t get the hat trick unless you win the second one. If I can get 10 up on y’all, it’s over.”

Coy about tinkering, he mentioned improving his strength and hydration, adding: “I’m gonna change my body first before I change my equipment.” One club unlikely to change: his Scotty Cameron. “No sir. Joe [former Clay/Kizer Director of Golf Joe Balander] told me it was a pretty nice putter, good balance, good weight. He gave me a good deal. I bought two.” (Younger brother Warren has the other.)  2013 was, he offered, an “interesting year. It started off slow but picked up. I think my putting was good overall. You can hit it as long as you want, and they don’t give you points for hitting it close.”

DRIVER                                                                                                                                Cleveland 270 (10.5 degrees, 39 gram, regular Miyazaki shaft), two years and counting. “It just feels good.”

FAIRWAY WOOD                                                                                                           TaylorMade Rescue (21 degrees, 65 gram, Aldila regular RIP shaft. “For when I need to open up some ass-kicking anywhere from 175 to maybe 200, or, 150 out into a stiff wind. “

IRONS                                                                                                                                Cleveland CG1s, 5-PW, Regular flex, GAP 95 graphite shaft. “Curtis [CK club guru Curtis Short] gave me these. I was hitting Nike. I liked the way they looked, the way they feel. That’s the only thing to me – look and feel. The weight’s good, the shaft’s not too stiff, feels perfect.” Grips are Golf Pride Velvet: “real simple, not very fancy, just a clean grip.”

WEDGES                                                                                                                                   “Most of the shots are from 100 yards in. That’s the money. That’s the difference between birdie and par. In the Chase for the Chalupa, it’s all about the birdies.” He carries four: Cleveland CG1 PW (48 degrees), and three Pings, the Tour-S (56/12) and (52/12) and the PING Tour-W (54 degrees with 10 degrees of bounce). The 56 is the favorite. “The 60 is like the rescue club. That’s the one I get out of the garbage can with. But it’s limited in its yardage. Its good 50 yards [and] in.”

PUTTER                                                                                                                                    Scotty Cameron Napa, c. 1995, with a Winn mid-sized grip. It replaced an 8802. “Mr. [now Sir] Edward Boufford took that out of the bag. I was whupping his ass with it so he decided to take it back.” (Davis’s young son, Jaden, an aspiring golfer, has shown repeated interest in the Napa, now routinely sold online for upwards of $900.) “He’s not getting it.”

Karma Chameleon? Scotty Cameron Napa putter grip clearly in need of repair.

Chalupa1 002

BALLS                                                                                                                                      Titleist Pro V-1. “It just rolls really good. I like the way it feels.”

BALL MARKER                                                                                                                “Whatever I can find in my pocket.”

BAG                                                                                                                                          Titleist Sunday bag.

ACCESSORIES                                                                                                                     Bushnell Pro 1600. (What’s this, Pro? No barometric pressure or humidity readings?) “It gives me the yardage. That’s all I need. All the rest I figure out by feel.”

Wrigley’s Spearmint. “For concentration.”

That’s Golf! Annual Golf is not a Sport Rant

THAT’S GOLF! JAN 5, 2013 SCRIPT                                                                            SPORTSTALK AM 1300 THE ZONE, AUSTIN, TX

GOLFERS LOVE A BARGAIN. IT GOES TO THE VERY FIBER OF THE OLD SCOTTISH GAME, OF COURSE, IN WHICH LESS IS MORE. THE LOWER THE SCORE, THE FEWER THE STROKES, THE BETTER – VERY DIFFERENT THAN OTHER GAMES.

WE KNOW THAT THE BALL RETRIEVER DATES BACK AT LEAST TO 1857, WHEN A CADDIE, OLD ALICK WAS IMMORTALIZED HOLDING THE TOOLS OF HIS TRADE, INCLUDING A NETTED BALL RETRIEVING STICK. HE’S DRESSED IN TOP HAT, AND LONG COAT. GOLF BALLS WERE MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE THAN NOW, HAND MADE. WHICH DOESN’T EXPLAIN WHY GOLFERS TODAY SQUIRREL GARBAGE CANS FULL OF BALLS. BUT, TO SAVE A BUCK, WE CAN REPLACE GRIPS RATHER THAN PURCHASE A NEW SET OF CLUBS.

THE GAME’S A GREAT VALUE, AND, THE GREAT THING ABOUT IT: NO MACHINES TO WIPE!

IN THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON, LET ME PASS ALONG TWO QUICK BARGAIN TIPS. I GOT A GREAT DEAL ON A CHRISTMAS TREE YESTERDAY. JUST SITTING THERE ON THE CURB. PERFECTLY GOOD, GREAT SHAPE, WITH A STAND AND EVERYTHING.

IF ONLY I HADN’T PROCRASTINATED. THE GOOD ONES WERE GONE EARLIER, BUT IT’S STILL A GREAT TREE.

AND, IF YOU LOOK CAREFULLY THERE ARE GREAT DEALS ON HOLIDAY CANDY. I FOUND BAGS OF CANDY CORN ON THE LOWER SHELF, IN THE BACK, AT THE DRUG STORE. MAYBE IT WAS FROM HALLOWEEN. DOES THAT REALLY MATTER? YOU JUST SPRINKLE ON SOME CINNAMON AND A LITTLE NUTMEG, HEAT ‘EM UP, AND PRESTO: INSTEAD OF CANDY CORN – you’ve got “CHRISTMAS” CORN. THE KIDS HARDLY KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

HONESTLY, WHO CAME UP WITH CANDY CORN? I’M GUESSING A DENTIST. THANK YOU. I’LL BE HERE UNTIL 9 O’CLOCK.

THE ENDEAVOR IS TO ENHANCE OUR APPRECIATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF GOLF. WE’RE A PRESENTATION OF SPORTSTALK AM 1300 THE ZONE, AND YOUR AUSTIN AREA CHURCH OF THE INVETERATE DUFFER. THIS IS THE LONGEST-RUNNING GOLF RADIO SHOW … ON THE WEST SIDE OF SOUTH CONGRESS AVENUE COVERING THE ENTIRE BOULDIN CREEK LISTENING AREA. THANKS TO BOTH OF YOU FOR TUNING IN.

WE START, ODDLY ENOUGH, WITH FORMER PRO-BOWL DEFENSIVE BACK Nnamdi Asomugha. HE RECENTLY RETIRED. WHAT COULD THIS POSSIBLY HAVE TO DO WITH GOLF? GOLFERS ARE OCCASIONALLY CONFRONTED BY THOSE WHO THINK PRO GOLFERS ARE SOFT, THAT THEY AND THE GAME THE PROS PLAY IS SOMEHOW ‘LACKING’ COMPARED WITH OTHER ENDEAVORS LIKE THE NFL AND THE NBA.

(If you’ll forgive me, I roll out this rant once a year.)

WHEN SOMEONE MENTIONS THAT GOLF IS SOMEHOW NOT WORTHY, THINK OF Nnamdi Asomugha. THE TALENTED CORNER BACK WAS A TWO-TIME FIRST-TEAM ALL-PRO WITH THE RAIDERS. HE THEN SIGNED A $60M, five-year contract with the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES. TWO YEARS LATER, HE WAS CUT. HE THEN PLAYED THREE GAMES WITH THE 49’ERS BEFORE BEING RELEASED IN NOVEMBER.

GOLF IS DIFFERENT. NO SPECIALISTS. EVERYONE HAS TO BE GOOD AT EVERY ASPECT OF THE GAME. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GUARANTEED MONEY, IN THE WAY IT’S DISPENSED IN OTHER PRO SPORTS. NO PRO LATE IN HIS CAREER IS ASSURED OF ANY MONEY DOWN THE ROAD.

GOLF, OF COURSE, IS A SOLITARY ENDEAVOR. NBA TEAMS HAVE A MINIMUM OF FIVE COACHES, COUNTING THE STRENGTH COACH, THE VIDEO COACH, THE DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL, THE TEAM MASSEUSE AND CHEF, AND A SCOUTING STAFF OF 10 GUYS WHO TRACK COLLEGE BALL, THE OTHER NBA TEAMS, AND INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS. WHO PICKS UP THE TAB? THE TEAM.

IN GOLF, OUTSIDE OF A FEW CELEBRATED EVENTS, THERE IS NO TEAM. EVERY PLAYER DOES IT HIS WAY – EATS HIS WAY, TRAINS HIS WAY, HE MAY HAVE A COACH, HE MAY NOT. NO ONE FINES HIM FOR MISSING PRACTICE. HE MAY PRACTICE YOGA OR WORK-OUT. IF HE DOESN’T, NO ONE SAYS A WORD. THE PLAYER IS RESPONSIBLE – FOR EVERYTHING. HIS WIFE, HIS CADDY, HIS AGENT, HIS DAD, HIS COACH (OR NOT). HE DECIDES. AND HE PAYS FOR IT, NOT SOME DEEP-POCKETED, DESPOT OWNER. HE EVEN PAYS TO COMPETE IN EACH EVENT. NOT MUCH, BUT THERE IS A PGA TOUR ENTRANCE FEE.

IT HARDLY NEEDS TO BE  MENTIONED, BUT I’LL GO AHEAD AND STATE THE OBVIOUS – THERE IS NO DESIGNATED HITTER IN GOLF. NO SUBSTITUTIONS. NO TIMEOUTS. IF YOU’RE NOT PLAYING, IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE GAME, YOU’RE NOT MAKING MONEY. THE CONCEPT OF GUARANTEED MOOLAH  TAKEN FOR GRANTED, AND RUINING MOST MAJOR SPORTS?

GOLF IS DIFFERENT. YOU CAN’T GO TO THE BENCH. YOU CAN’T DRAFT. YOU CAN’T SUBSTITUTE.

AND, A WORD ABOUT  COMPETITION… MOST WEEKS YOU’RE NOT JUST COMPETING AGAINST, SAY, PEYTON MANNING. IN GOLF, AT THE SAME TIME, YOU FACE PEYTON MANNING, TOM BRADY, ADRIAN PETERSON, JAMAAL CHARLES, DREW BREES, NICK FOLES – THEY’RE ALL THERE, CERTAINLY AT THE BIG EVENTS. EVERY WEEK, AND HUNGRY. NOT TO MENTION 40 OTHERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD WHO COULD STEAL THE CHEESE, TO NO ONE’S SURPRISE.

COULD YOU IMAGINE NFL PLAYERS CUT AT HALF-TIME? AND NOT COLLECT A CHECK? HAPPENS EVERY WEEK ON TOUR.

YES, GOLF IS APPLES AND ORANGES TO OTHER SPORTS. I’M JUST OFFERING A GENTLE REMINDER.

AND, JUST AS AN ASIDE: WHEN YOU LOOK AT SUPERSTARS IN OTHER SPORTS: MICHAEL JORDAN, TONY ROMO, LAWRENCE TAYLOR, JERRY RICE, CALVIN MURPHY, JOHN SMOLTZ, ETC. – ALL PASSIONATE GOLFERS — THEY ALL TAKE UP GOLF – AND THEY’RE ALL, WELL, OKAY, EVEN GOOD AMATEUR PLAYERS. BUT THEY’D STARVE AS PROFESSIONALS. I CAN THINK OF TWO WHO DID MODESTLY WELL AT GOLF AFTER THEIR PRO CAREERS ELSEWHERE: JOHN BRODIE, A VERY GOOD QUARTERBACK, PLAYED COMPETENTLY ON THE SENIOR TOUR FOR A TIME. AND LONG AGO, SAM BYRD, A GOOD PITCHER WITH THE YANKEES. BABE DIDRIKSON WOULD TOP THE LIST. BUT IT’S A VERY SHORT LIST. MICHAEL JORDAN – THE GREATEST BASKETBALL PLAYER EVER? HIS GOLF IS OKAY. JERRY RICE IS OKAY, AND MANY OTHERS – NHL GREAT MARIO LEMIEUX – WAS AN OAKMONT CLUB CHAMP – BUT THEY KNOW THEY COULDN’T HOLD A CANDLE TO THE PRO TOURISTS.

FRANKLY, IT’S EMBARRASSING WHEN THOSE THAT SHOULD KNOW BETTER BELITTLE GOLF.  THEY’RE JUST SHOWING THEIR SHORTCOMINGS. A SOPHISTICATED GAME…TAXING THE MENTAL & PHYSICAL. THE DISCIPLINE, THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, THE SKILL, THE PRESSURE – NOTHING LIKE IT. TO PLAY AT THE TOP LEVEL. TO WIN A MAJOR…IT’S CAPTURING LIGHTENING IN A BOTTLE.

IN GOLF, THE PLAYING FIELD, THE CONDITIONS ARE DIFFERENT EVERY DAY, DESIGNED TO TEST AND IMPERIL SKILL AND JUDGMENT. NOTHING LIKE IT.

ALL PROFESSIONAL SPORTS ARE TENUOUS. GOLF ESPECIALLY SO. ALL I’M SAYING.

SO WHEN SOMEONE SAYS GOLFERS AREN’T ATHLETES, OR HOW CAN THEY MAKE SO MUCH MONEY, FAT DUDES, WALKING UP AND DOWN A FAIRWAY WITH A CADDY – NO CLOCK, NO CROWD NOISE, NO BLITZES, NO BRUSH-BACKS, NO DEFENSE, NO TEAMMATES – REMIND THEM THAT IN GOLF YOU PLAY YOUR FOUL BALLS. THAT’S RIGHT, NO MULLIGANS, NO REPLAYS.

JUST REMIND THEM OF SOME OF THESE THINGS.

OF COURSE FOR OUR PURPOSES, THE PROS ARE JUST A SMALL BUT IMPORTANT PART OF THE BIGGER PICTURE. I’LL TALK ABOUT THEM, BUT WE DON’T FIXATE ON THEM. IT’S A PERSONAL PREFERENCE. OTHER SHOWS UNDOUBTEDLY DO IT DIFFERENTLY, MOST OF US DON’T PLAY FOOTBALL OR BASEBALL. BUT GOLF CAN BE PLAYED, AND PLAYED PASSIONATELY AND WELL, BY JUST ABOUT ANYONE. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE 6’ 4” 240, OR RUN THE HUNDRED IN SOME BLISTERING SCORE. A VERY DEMOCRATIC GAME. THE CLUBS DON’T KNOW HOW OLD YOU ARE, WHAT KIND OF MONEY YOU MAKE, OR WHO YOUR PARENTS ARE.

THAT’S GOLF, AND THAT’S WHY WE LIKE IT.

IT’S TRUE, YOU DON’T SEE PRO GOLFERS SMILE MUCH. THEY PLAY FOUR DAYS. IMAGINE AN NFL GAME LASTING FOUR DAYS.

A great thing about golf? No machines to wipe. Just like the congenial shag-encrusted Zone confines.

A great thing about golf? No machines to wipe. Just like the congenial shag-encrusted Zone confines.