Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Weekend in Oshawa

On Friday, I made the two hour drive north to Oshawa, Ontario to visit my buddy Ryan.

Ryan's wife Christina was away with friends for the weekend so he decided to have his friends up for a couple days. The plan was to hit the town for drinks Friday night and then play golf at 9am Saturday at Oliver's Nest GC in Lindsay, an hour northwest of Oshawa and then Ryan was having a 16-person No Limit Poker Tournament at his place in the evening ($20.00 buy-in).

I arrived at his place around 10pm Friday night and our mutual buddy Jay was already there. They were playing online poker when I arrived. "I didn't make the trip to watch you guys play poker!" I exclaimed. So the three of us decided to have a little 3-person N/L tournament instead. Jay, as usual, was the first to go but I ended up getting outlasted by Ryan in the end so he took the $15.00 prize pool.

I then went to the darkside...online poker. Ryan booted up his computer and had me play for him under his account. He had $47.00 in Ultimate Bet and I decided to play on the $0.50/$1.00 table. Within 25 minutes, I had doubled his money and at the end of two hours, I had him up to $156.00! Just crazy, crazy profit with those small limits...I can see why people like online poker so much now...just so many bad players!

Three hours of sleep later and we were off to Oliver's Nest for some golf. Ryan's friend Bryan picked us up and we were off on our 50 minute drive. The course itself was pretty decent. It's a par 71 rated at 71.4 from the Gold deck and a slope rating of 129. The yardage from those tees was 6625 yards.

The course had to be one of the firmest I've played. It was still very lush, but it ran extremely fast. I hit seven fairways with my driver on the day and here were the driving distances on those shots: 259 yds, 324 yds, 298 yds, 270 yds, 227 yds, 275 yds and 275 yds. That's pretty damn long for me!

The par 3 7th hole at Oliver's Nest Golf Club

The hole shown above was #7, a 160 yard par three. Jay and Bryan are shown walking to the green in the picture. My game was very sharp again. I shot an even par 35 on the front nine with one birdie (a two putt bird on a par 5) and one bogey. My putter wasn't really working all day and it cost me some shots on the back nine, as I shot 39 to finish the round at +3 or 74. Pretty good for the first time at the course. Jay shot 86, Bryan made three birdies (to my two) but had way too many doubles and triples and ended up shooting 88. Ryan struggled all day (he doesn't play much anymore), making only one par in his round of 97. We all had a great time.

We headed back home to get ready for the poker tournament that night.

Updates to come.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Game Returns

I finally put things together on the golf course yesterday morning.

I bogeyed the last hole from the middle of the fairway but ended up shooting 72 at St. Catharines from the back tees, where the course rating is 73.1 and the slope 131. It is the second 72 I've shot in my life and falls one shot off my career-low 71 from August 2003.

My putting has been a huge problem lately and for that reason, I borrowed a putter from the pro shop before the round. I decided to take the 3-wood out of my bag and play the round with two putters. For whatever reason, on the first green, I decided that it would be stupid to mess around with a new putter during the round. So I pulled my own flatstick out and promptly sunk a sliding 12 footer for birdie right off the bat. I proceeded to bogey the second and fifth holes, birdie the sixth and bogey the ninth to shoot 37 on the front.

I missed a six footer for birdie on the short par five tenth hole but made up for it with a five foot birdie make on #11 to get to even par. Pars on #12 & #13 were followed with my fourth birdie of the day on the par three 14th to get me into red figures. Reaching #18 at -1 for the day, I nailed my best drive of the year on the 409 yard par four 270 yards down the middle. The pressure then got to me as I 'duff/shanked' my second with a nine iron right under a tree about 20 yards from the green. I ended up almost making the pitch shot, as it rolled over the cup and finished five feet away but I couldn't convert the par save to finish at even.

I'm really happy with how I played. I wasn't wanting to protect the subpar round, instead really looking to press forward and make another birdie to set a new career low. It helped that one of my playing partners, Ben, was tearing up the back nine. At one point, he was -4 through seven holes on the incoming nine! He's a young guy, probably about 20 years old and just shows NO FEAR on the course. I took quite a bit away from playing with him and it helped on the greens, as I had only 27 putts for the day, a new low for 2005.

My whole goal this year has been to break 70 for the first time and I really think I can do it. I just need to play 'boring' golf, hitting greens in regulation and avoiding major mistakes. Then, play aggressively on the greens...get that ball past the hole! You will make 0% of the putts left short of the hole so hit that thing firmly!

I can't wait to get out there again!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Ouch!


Hmm...it doesn't look so bad now!

We had a ball hockey game last night as your Rabid Pandas faced their big rivals, the Knights in SCBHL action.

We were shorthanded, as usual, with only two subs for the game while the Knights had almost three full lines for the game. However, they just didn't seem to have any legs, as we ran them ragged all game.

We were up 5-0 when I went in on a two-on-one with my buddy Jamie. He fed it across the crease to me as I was streaking toward the goal when the goaltender, in an attempt to pokecheck the ball away, caught my foot instead. I ended up flying right into the goalpost shin first. My shinpad went flying off my leg, of course, and I was down for the count!

It took all of 30 seconds for my lower right leg to turn completely purple but the seven inch scar is looking a lot better now.

We ended up winning 7-0 and I ended up with a goal and two assists in the victory. Playoffs are upcoming.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Heron Point Golf Links

Heron Point Golf Links
Alberton, Ontario, CANADA


6841 YARDS (PAR 71)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 72.8/135
COURSE ARCHITECT: Thomas McBroom (1992)
ACCESSIBILITY: Private
COURSE WEBSITE: http://heronpoint.clublink.ca/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 1
LAST PLAYED: May 21, 2005.
LOW SCORE: 82 (+11)

ACCOLADES -
- ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2014: #73
- Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 in Canada 2015: #70


Harris' buddy Preston is a member of Clublink, Canada's largest owner, operator and developer of golf courses, who currently have 28 clubs under their massive umbrella. Preston's home course is Heron Point in Ancaster, just outside of Hamilton, so we made the 35 minute trip to play on Saturday afternoon.

What a great course and what a fantastic day! It was about 22 degrees under partly cloudy skies and I was able to pull the shorts out of the moth balls for the first time this year.

The green complexes out here are something else; it is target golf at its finest. Very few opportunities to run the ball up to the green, with most of the complexes elevated from the fairway.

There were a few noteworthy holes: #6 is a 582 yard par five that plays downhill from the second shot on; the green is located about 50 feet below the fairway and almost plays like a chute, as the edges of the fairway roll up towards the rough, making the hole resemble a half tube. Terrible description but you have to see it to appreciate it.

#8 is a pretty 171 yard par 3 off an elevated tee with a multi-tiered green, as were most of the other greens out here.

The par 3 8th hole at Heron Point

Then you move to #9, a 433 yard par 4 that requires a 208 yard carry over water on your drive. Yikes.

#18 is pretty similar to #9. The finisher is 408 yards off an elevated tee and it demands a 238 yard carry over water to reach the fairway! I'd hate to have a great round going only to knock a couple in the drink here!!

An intimidating carry awaits at the tough closing hole at Heron Point

My game was not sharp enough to tame this 6841 yard course, rated at 72.8 from the Gold Tees and with a slope of 135. I shot an 82 with no birdies and just couldn't get the putter going. Harris played exceptionally well, shooting a 76. Our host Preston came in at an even 80 while Toast struggled early on in his round but fought back with a 39 on the back for an 87 overall.

We ended up having a couple pints of Stella Artois on the patio post-round and then ventured to the Keg for some fine steaks.

Just a great day!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Collusion at the Casino

No posts in three days...boy have I been busy!

Thursday night was a pretty exhilarating one for Toast and myself. It certainly wasn't because of my golf game, as I shot 44 for nine holes after work, my worst score of the year. Toast fared much better, shooting a 38 I believe.

The exciting part of the night was catching cheaters at the Casino later that night!

I'll try to explain this as well as possible but it may be one of those situations where you had to be there to see it. Culprit #1 is sitting in seat #6 at the 3/6 table. Toast is directly to his left in #7 while I'm in #8. Culprit #2 shows up about 5 minutes later and sits in seat #5. The two guys, obviously friends, immediately go for a 20 minute "dinner". No big deal, happens all the time.

The fun starts when they get back to the table. Things had been extremely tight considering the normal action a 3/6 table gets at this casino. Not so when these guys started with their game...

Basically, the guy in seat 5 played every hand preflop without fail. No biggie...happens all the time. Whenever the guy in seat 6 had a hand, he raised. Again, no biggie. You get your callers post raise with a couple folders, as per usual. However, EVERY TIME the guy in #6 raised, the guy in seat #5 reraised and #6 subsequently capped it. 100% of the time. This essentially trapped all of those who called earlier.

Now this was pretty fishy in of itself but what made the whole thing definite was when the guy in seat #5 actually had to show down his cards. You see, his whole role in this game was to increase the pot for his buddy who had the good cards. However, sometimes the guy in seat five would actually hit a hand on the flop and be forced to stay in. In fact, he had to showdown three times. His hole cards in those three situations were 72o, 83o and 92o! He capped betting rounds with those hands.

I was on to this game relatively quick, maybe the fourth or fifth time they tried it and relayed my thoughts to Toast. He wasn't so sure, thinking that the guy in seat five might just be some lucky maniac. I think Toast became sure when the guy took down a monster pot with the 7,2 offsuit. He ended up nonchalantly excusing himself from the table and went over to the pitbosses, asking what their thoughts were on collusion and cheating. "We don't appreciate it much, sir", was the answer they probably gave him.

So, we now had eyes on the table and maybe the culprits could sense it, because they were quiet for about 20 minutes. Toast had cashed in and was waiting for me to finish up my session when the two pulled the stunt for the last time. I folded my hand and said "They've done it again, I'm out of here!".

I'm not one to hold back my thoughts.

I wished everyone at the table good luck and went to cash in. After walking about 20 feet from the table, I was surrounded by casino personnel, asking what's going on at the table, what exactly are the two guys doing, etc. So Toast and I are explaining the game and another guy from our table, who was sitting in seat #1, comes over and says "you guys saw them cheating too, right?". The additional confirmation was pretty much all the casino personnel needed.

As we were leaving the poker room, all we saw were about four casino employees directly behind the culprits while they were removing their chips from the table. I don't know if they were asked to leave or if they couldn't take the hot stares but either way, it was a completely exhilarating experience for us. I just don't understand why these guys didn't change things up occasionally to put people off...there was no subtlety to their game whatsoever. Like I said, the betting was capped 100% of the time when seat #6 raised...why the guy in seat five didn't occasionally just CALL or fold boggles my mind. Maybe they thought that people at a 3/6 game either wouldn't notice or wouldn't say anything

They thought wrong!

Oh yeah, I ended the session down three dollars! The entertainment (which almost included a fist fight at the 1/2 No-Limit table) certainly was worth a lot more than the 300 pennies lost!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Going Digital

I decided to spend some of my poker winnings today.

After doing quite a bit of research over the past couple of weeks, I broke down and bought a digital camera today. I'm now the proud owner of a Canon PowerShot A95 5.0 Megapixel DC! Best Buy has a great deal on right now: any $200.00+ camera purchase comes with a free Lexmark P915 Home Photo Printer, valued at $149.99.

The camera itself is pretty sick (in a good way) and it will likely take me days to go through the manual to check out the countless options available.

I ended up also buying a 512MB memory card as well; this will allow me to save about 200 pictures at the highest resolution on the card. I'm really looking forward to hitting the golf course and taking a bunch of pictures to compliment my upcoming hole-by-hole review.

Also, Harris is working on plans to take us to Heron Point Golf Club this Saturday, a supposedly gorgeous Clublink course. I'll definitely have to learn how to use this thing before getting out there!

Once I get it running, I'll try to post some pictures here on my blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Slowly Coming Around

I think I'm pretty close to finding my golf swing again. I played Saturday and Sunday and shot 80 both days but the score doesn't tell the story in either case. I was extremely fortunate to shoot the 80 on Saturday but deserved a much better fate on Sunday.

I hit 11 greens in regulation on Sunday but my 35 putts really held me back. I took out a Taylor Made Rossa putter for the round and just couldn't make a thing with it. My short game was pretty lackluster throughout the round and it's an area I'll need to spend some time on. I'm never worried about that part of my game, as it's usually my strength, so overall I am optimistic that I'm turning the corner. I actually birdied the first two holes of the day, giving me hope that a special round was forthcoming. However, it turned out that the special round was being played by my buddy Harris, who was in a three-ball with Toast and another friend, Ben. Harris broke par for the first time in his life, making a big putt on the 18th hole to shoot 71. To put this accomplishment into perspective, his previous best was 78!!! Great round Harris!

To celebrate, Harris, Toast, Ben and I made the trip down to the Casino to test our luck. After about an hour of waiting, I was placed on a table with Toast, who had already been playing for about 35 minutes and had taken a few bad beats. I was to Toast's immediate right and was able to take down a huge pot really early in my session when my wired 4's turned into a full house on the turn. Toast ended up hitting an ace high flush on the river and another guy had trip kings so I was able to rake in a monster when they hit their hands. Toast gives a pretty thorough rundown of the hand at his blog.

Pretty much the best table I've ever played at. There were these three gals who sat down and pretty much played every hand right to the end. Early in their session, two of them ended up in a showdown together and split a pot with King high - I think that was the moment that Toast turned to me and said he was calling his girlfriend to tell her he'd be a bit late for dinner! LOL!

I kid you not: after 14 hands, or an orbit and a half, I was up about $200.00. The cards eventually cooled off, as they always do, but I still ended the 3 1/2 hour session up $229.00.

What a great place!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Celebrity Blogs

I was looking around the web at some reviews for the forthcoming Star Wars finale Revenge of the Sith and happened across Director/Actor Kevin Smith's personal blog. Smith directed Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy (among others) and updates his blog on a weekly basis in extreme detail: hell, he even talks about his sexual episodes with his wife! Too...much...information! But it's all pretty funny stuff. Check out his blog right here.

Another 'celebrated' celebrity blog comes from Wil Wheaton, a C-List actor best known for his performance in Rob Reiner's smash hit Stand By Me. He updates the site daily and is a big fan of poker so if you're into that sort of stuff or like checking out the thoughts of a semi-celebrity, check it out.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Another Poker Tale

Harris, Toast and I intended to play some after work golf last night but the weather took a major turn for the worse and ended those thoughts. I was actually scheduled to play in another ball hockey game (the Pandas were victorious on Thursday night, as I finally broke out of my slump with a pair of goals) but the owner of the league overbooked our time slot so the contest was cancelled.

It would have to be another Casino night.

Harris ended up bailing out on us so Toast and I headed down to Niagara Falls ourselves. We eventually ran into a couple of our buddies: Gary (golf buddy) and Dave (co-worker of mine) showed up soon after we arrived.

The table was hot all night: lots of loose action and monster pots. Things really picked up about 20 minutes after we sat down when "The Tourist" himself (see my post from last week) showed up with a couple racks of chips. Both Toast and I had big smiles on our face...we were going to take all of that money!

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to play anything. At one point, I went more than two orbits (10 person table) without seeing one flop. The cards were that bad. Through two hours, I hadn't won a single pot and was down about $100.00. Meanwhile, the tourist was just DOMINATING the table. Four leaf clover my butt, this guy is luck personified! Backdoor flushes, gutshot straights, rivered sets: he does it all! After about a half hour, he was up at least $175.00, if not more. He was even smirking at me from across the table!

Oh my. Could I be wrong about this guy? Could he actually be a shark?

Ummm, no. His luck started running out around halfway through the session. His aggression at the table is unbelievable: he will cap betting rounds with gutshot draws and continue to reraise people with nothing but a high card. This isn't No-Limit, remember. We're talking $3/$6, where no one is going to fold if they're already raising bets. His stack started dwindling just as fast as it was accumulating minutes earlier. He eventually became a non-entity at the table with less chips, playing fewer hands and playing a much more passive game.

Meanwhile, I was able to finally take down a pot when I hit trip Kings about two and a half hours into the night. Soon after came the hand of my life:

I'm dealt 10s7s in the SB and get four limpers to me. I decide to call just because it's THIS TABLE. BB calls and we're off.

Flop comes down Jd,10d,9s. Yuck. I've got middle pair and a gutshot straight opportunity and decide to call the three dollar bet from Mr. Tourist himself as do three others. Turn card is 8s.

I've got my straight but all I'm thinking about at this time is that someone has the Queen and I'm dead. The tourist checks, the player in middle position bets out and I decide to call. I've folded made hands before only to get stung (again, see my previous posts) so I once again have a hand I can't get away from. Anyway, I can improve my hand big time if I river another spade. The BB folds and the tourist calls.

River card is 6s. Bingo! I just hit my flush. Tourist now BETS, MP calls. I'm not sold on anyone staying around on a runner/runner flush (I hit it but I already had a made hand on the turn) so I raise. The tourist looks me over and folds and MP calls. I proudly turn over my flush and he mucks his hand.

Toast looks at my hand and says "You have a straight flush man!" Holee sh@t! I didn't even realize it!!! I was so pumped just to hit a SPADE that I didn't even realize that I hit the second rarest hand in poker next to the Royal Flush! Loud cheers from our table for that one, minus a million points to me for not NOTICING WHAT I HAD!!! That is the first straight flush in my poker playing career.

That hand seemed to change my fortunes, as I started getting decent cards the rest of the night and ended up profiting a cool $17.00 overall. Yeah, it's pocket change but to come back from over $100.00 in the hole is hugely satisfying.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Rough Day but a McTastic Night

First things first.

I had a great night on Tuesday, meeting the lady friend's mother and her nephew Cole for the first time. Jacky's sister Andrea was also there as well, as we dined in Port Dalhousie, a small town outside St. Catharines that's famous for the annual rowing regattas held there. After, we took the three year old Cole down to the lake to feed the ducks and then retired back to Jacky's mom's place for tea and 'The Incredibles'. I've never seen the movie before but the first half was really good. I'll have to check out the whole thing another time!

Lots of yelling and screaming at work today made for a tough day. I also had a meeting with a real estate agent friend of my father's. It so happens that this same man is Jacky's uncle. World = too small. Anyway, I got pre-approved for a mortgage today and am now looking at places with just a little bit of trepidation. Spending (and borrowing) a lot of money makes me nervous and things seem to be moving a bit too fast for my tastes...I'll likely tell the guy I'm on more of a six month plan as opposed to a 1 week plan. I guess we'll see how it goes.

I wanted to rid myself of the stress by hitting the links but the weather looked a bit ominous upon getting out of work. My normal partner in crime on the golf course, Toast, agreed that the potential for rain meant one thing: Poker is on!

First, we hit the golf club for some dinner to kill off a bit of our 'credit' - our club automatically bills every member $60.00 per month for food as a means of accruing revenue so we might as well make sure we get our money's worth! We ran into my buddy Jay (from the Niagara Men's Tour), who was there doing the same thing with his wife Laura and their adorable four year old daughter Olivia. I was in Jay and Laura's wedding party last year so we're pretty close and their daughter seems to be quite fond of me. She insisted on sitting at our table for dinner, wanted me cutting her food, etc. I think I'll be a pretty darn good dad one day...

On to the Casino. Toast elaborated about the ineptitude of the staff in the poker room at his blog, as we had to wait around 45 minutes to get on a table while dealers sat around with nothing to do. Just a joke. Then, to top it off, they won't even allow those waiting for a spot to sit down in the poker room: they make you wait outside like you're 7 years old. But I digress...

They opened up a new table for the people on the waiting list so I was sitting with Toast again. He immediately sat down at seat 10 and I chose seat 8. Really tight table for the first hour or so and it really took awhile for things to heat up, as many of the early pots saw only two or three players taking the flop.

There wasn't anything particularly noteworthy from my session, just good solid poker. I may have misplayed three hands all night: twice I slowplayed 'the nuts' on the river, checking into the original bettors and hoping for the check raise, however, both times I got checked down. Only one time did I attempt an unsuccessful steal. On another note, Toast and I actually got involved in a few of the same hands, a definite rarity. He came out on top in the first while the second hand saw me win a decent pot from an unfocused Toast, who a hand earlier had taken down a hugely satisfying pot with QUAD ACES! I'd be dazed after hitting that hand too so we'll let that one slip! The third hand I rivered a gutshot straight to the ace to take him down (I was on a flush draw I swear!).

At the end of the 3 hour, 15 minute session I was up $120.00, a total I'm quite pleased with. Toast continued his torrid pace at the tables, profitting another $106.00 to go over a grand in winnings in less than a month.

We end the night by stopping at a McDonalds drive-through for celebratory milkshakes and get the most eager employee in Mickey-D's history at the intercom. We didn't get the requisite "Welcome to McDonalds, may I take your order?" but got a longwinded introduction that almost seemed like it was computer generated. I'm paraphrasing, due to being stunned into laughter but it went something like "Welcome to McDonalds! We thank you very much for your patronage, as we're nothing without our customers. Can I take your order?". Toast and I just looked at each other while trying to suppress the chuckles. Then, he hands us the shakes and says "Have a McTastic evening!" Good lord I almost had tears coming down my face after that!

Good times.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Much Dreaded 'Drop-In'

Well, my buddy Jay was off by a little bit regarding my placement at the first event on the Niagara District Men's Tour. I ended up finishing in a tie for 18th place with my 79. 54 golfers teed off on the day with 3 others not starting so I'm in decent shape to start. You can check out the tour at the official website.

The golf game was pretty brutal yesterday as I shot 82 at St. Catharines in the first gathering of the year for the normal Sunday gang. We usually have 8-12 guys out on Sunday's and everyone throws in $20.00 for skins. Each of the foursomes usually play a Hollywood as well. I was a 'donator' yesterday, losing $25.00 in total to start the year off on the wrong foot. I just played a bad round of golf. I have a lot of things to work on, that's for sure. I planned on hitting the range after work today but I needed a day away from the game.

So I come home, throw some day old Duff's Pizza in the oven and get comfy in my smelly workout shirt and Adidas shorts when I get a knock at the door. Now, I live in a condo building with the old buzzer entry so I must assume the person at the door lives in the building. Likely either the superintendent (not very likely though) or Harris, who lives in the building as well and may be looking to borrow last week's episode of 24. I open the door and find the girlfriend standing in front of me.

"Surprise honey!", she says.

Ah crap. I can't tell you how self conscious I got when she walked in the door. I haven't seen her since I went to dinner with her and her sister on Thursday night. They had a couple family functions on Friday and Sunday and I was busy with the golf tournament and my Mother's Day dinner on Saturday. Of course, my place was an absolute sty, I probably reaked due to the fact I threw on the first shirt I saw upon coming home from work and probably had bits of pepperoni stuck in my teeth from the pizza I just finished devouring. I've only known Jacky for a month so I'm always trying to impress her; I started apologizing for my appearance and the state of my place. So what's her response to all of this?

"I couldn't wait until tomorrow. I've missed you so much." And with that I got a big hug and kiss.

Talk about making my day!

Another big day tomorrow. I'll have to get out of work a bit early tomorrow in order to make a 5pm dinner with Jacky and her mother, who I'll be meeting for the first time. Jacky's sister Andrea and her son Cole will also be there. Should be fun!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Tournament Result; Mother's Day Dinner

Well, the first tournament round of the year is over and done with and I'm relatively satisfied with my performance.

I shot a 79 today at the very difficult, windswept Ussher's Creek Golf Course. 79 is a decidedly average score for me in normal conditions but this round was very taxing from both a mental and physical perspective. Five and a half hour rounds can do that to you, especially when you have a mother's day dinner to make and you CAN'T be late for that!

For whatever reason, I get a bit nervous before these events and only these events. I'm never nervous for any tournaments at the club, nor am I nervous when playing in any of the provincial tournaments. If you can believe it, I triple bogeyed the first hole in three of the five events last year!!! Now that's nerves for you!

Today, I had a game plan and I stuck to it for the most part. When I didn't, things went bad.

I planned on hitting my brand new 2-iron hybrid club off the first hole, a short par four measuring 366 yards. I actually had a driver out for a minute or two before teeing off when I saw the others with the big stick in their hands but smartly went back to the hybrid. I nailed it off the tee just left of the fairway, hit an 8-iron in to 9 feet from about 150 yards out and drained the putt to start promisingly with a birdie.

I promptly gave the shot back on the next hole, a short par five and then three putted the third for another bogey. The greens were unbelievably slow...quite possibly the slowest I've played in a decade and I just couldn't adapt. I did make one monster, nailing a 35 footer for birdie on the intimidating 6th hole, a 410 yard par four completely bordered by water on the left side.

Funniest hole of the day was number eight, the #1 handicap hole on the course. It's a brute in the tamest of conditions, a par four measuring 459 yards. Today, we were playing into a two club wind. I nailed my drive and still found myself 237 yards from the flag! My 3-wood sailed right and short, I pitched beautifully to six feet and missed the par putt for my bogey net par; the same result of everyone else in the group. What a golf hole.

From the funniest to the most upsetting. Number nine is a 538 yard par five with water down the entire right side. It really comes into play at the green, where the creek crosses over to the left of the postage stamp sized putting surface. My original plan was to force myself into making it a three shot hole so as not to flirt with disaster. I would hit the 2-hybrid and then hit the 3-hybrid second shot to about 100 yards. Why can't I stick to the plan?!

I hit the driver instead and of course it found the lip of a fairway bunker. I hit a great recovery, getting the ball to within 174 yards of the hole. However, my 5-iron third was hit thin and while it did make it over the creek, the slope took the ball right back down into a watery grave. I was able to drop on the other side of the water since it did make it over originally but was unable to get up and down to save my bogey, giving me a 40 for the front side.

I made one more birdie on the back nine, a five footer on the par five 14th hole and finished strongly with pars on the difficult 17th and 18th to end the round in the 70's.

I hit 10 greens in regulation today and hit 7 of 14 fairways, both improvements on my recent form. However, my putting was atrocious: I had 33 putts on the day and only 4 one-putts (three of them were birdies, the other a bogey). That's right, I didn't get up and down for par once all day and that's usually my strength.

My buddy Jay had a horrible day in the event, shooting a 90. He said he only hit two greens in regulation all day. He was really down on himself when I spoke to him, saying he was glad he gave up the membership this year if this is the way he's going to play. I'll have to get out on the course with him soon to try to bolster his spirits.

Since I had to get out of dodge right away to make the mother's day dinner, I wasn't able to stick around to see how I stood overall after the event. Jay says that the scores were generally very high and says that I definitely placed in the top-15. If so, I'm pleased. I'll obviously report back when I find out the scores.

I barely made Mother's Day dinner with the family. We usually do something really fancy but my mom just wanted to try the Mandarin, a chinese-style buffet here in town. Dinner was fantastic. My sister was able to make the trip from Toronto and it's always great seeing her. She brought me an I-Pod Shuffle, a mini-MP3 player that I can use to relax while practicing on the driving range this year. I guess she received this as a gift through her business but already had one so she asked if I wanted this one. Very nice gift! Thanks Sis!

I'm completely exhausted. I'm golfing at 8am tomorrow (oops, I guess that's today) and it will be the first time we get everyone together for our weekly skins game. Hopefully I can continue to improve on today's performance!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Tourist Wins...This Time

It's been a busy 24 hours.

Friday night saw Toast, Harris and I playing a quick 18 holes after work. I was horrible on the front and scrappy on the back, as my nines of 43 & 37 would tell you. Toast played his best game of the year, shooting 77 while Harris was 84.

We then ventured out to the Casino for a bit of 3/6 action. It was an interesting session, to say the least. The table was extremely inviting, as money was literally flowing in the direction of Toast and myself for the first couple of hours. Up about $135.00 or so, I got into quite a bit of trouble when the big cards started coming my way...

Hand of the night: I'm dealt JcJh (my first pocket pair of the night) in late position and raise. Five callers later we see the flop come down 8,9,10 all diamonds. Lump develops in my throat. It checks around to me, I bet out and two guys call (first caller I make out to be a good player, second caller is a complete 'donkey', as Toast would say; however, this donkey had his lucky horseshoe with him all night). Turn card comes down as Qs, making my straight. Calling station bets, I raise, the other guy cold calls the two bets and the Tourist calls. River card is a freaking Queen of diamonds, meaning four flush cards on the board.

The tourist bets out. Now, here is where I make my mistake. First of all, minutes earlier, the guy to my left who's still in the hand (the good player) has a conversation with me about this particular calling station, saying you can't make bluffs at a 3/6 table while I nod in semi-agreement.

Back to the story: I now call the bet and say "I'm calling this just so you can see what I have". When did I become the effing tourist for god's sake? I can't believe I would announce something so stupid. I'm basically admitting I don't have a flush. Guy to my left RAISES and the tourist calls as usual. I decide I'm definitely beat now with two guys in the pot and muck my straight face up. Well, wouldn't you know...the raiser has trip Queens only (!) and was "trying to bluff you guys" while the calling station had AcJs in the hole to take the pot with the same freaking straight I just gave up. It ended up being about a $90.00 pot that I should have split.

If you can believe it, things got worse.

The next four hands dealt to me were: 77, 99, AJs and AA. Un-freaking-real! I lost big pots on the 77 and 99 and out of frustration FOLDED the suited AJ! I was reverse tilting!!! The table was enjoying my theatrics (I kind of turned into Phil Helmuth for about five minutes...geez I must have been annoying last night). Then I get the wired aces. I raise and am promptly reraised by an overeager Harris to my right. "Let's cap it", I say. 5 callers (I loved this table).

Flop comes 10, 7, 3 rainbow. By this time, Toast knows what I've got (he's folded already) and is trying to prop me up, saying "you've got this one". When a tough old guy raises me on the flop, I fear a set. However, I'm unable to get away from the aces when the board never pairs and the guy indeed turns over trip 10's. Just not my night.

I ended up losing only $58.00 on the night but it felt like my stack was taken from me at gunpoint. It felt like I was hit by a mack truck...I've never felt so dazed at a table in my life.

The irony is that when I was up the $135.00, I really didn't have great hands. Hell, I won the first hand I played with 35 offsuit when no one raised my post. I hit some nice flops early and was able to take large pots the few times I won. Then I get good cards, don't hit flops and lose all of my profit and more.

Harris was down a bit on the night but my buddy Toast was a huge winner again and is riding a fantastic streak. Only a fool would say it's luck though: he plays an extremely tight brand of poker and he's proving that his methods pay off handsomely at this level. Well done my friend!

Niagara District Men's Golf Tour

The first leg of the local amateur golf tour kicks off today from Ussher's Creek Golf Course. The tour is comprised of 55 of the top amateurs in the region and I decided to play again this year.

I had planned on a huge post, outlining the golf course and my gameplan for every hole but I've run out of time, as I tee off in an hour and a half.

My overall strategy is to play very conservatively, hit to the middle of the greens and not to press unless I have a chance to win the event.

Wish me luck!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Meeting the Family

Well, I guess I have to call her my girlfriend now.

No more 'lady friend'. 'The girl' probably isn't appropriate anymore either. I've only been seeing Jacqueline for about a month and I typically keep things very quiet regarding my relationships. None of my friends have met her. My parents certainly haven't met her.

How long I can keep this up is in serious doubt after having dinner with Jacky and her sister Andrea last night in downtown St. Catharines. Andrea lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband Todd (a former world-class triathlete who has competed with and defeated Lance Armstrong) and their 3-year old son Cole. She has been visiting her sister and mother since Sunday and I've been told that the first words out of her mouth upon seeing her sister at the airport were "where is this guy and when do I get to meet him."

Well, the when part was last night, as the three of us had a great dinner together at Pow Wow Restaurant. We spent over three hours getting to know each other...okay, it was three hours of me getting grilled by Andrea!

All kidding aside, Andrea is just as fantastic as her sister and I think I made a pretty good impression on her. Okay, I know I made a good impression: she already was asking when the two of us could visit them in Colorado.

I wonder how the golf courses are in Boulder...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Afraid to Pull the Trigger

Depending on your point of view, GolfTown is either heaven on earth for fans of the game or the end of civilization as we know it...at least to your local golf professional who's pretty much unable to compete with the corporate juggernaut.

I'm a big fan of the place. It is the crackhouse of the golf addict. 10,000 square feet of golf clubs, balls, clothes and accessories. If you can't find it at GolfTown, it doesn't exist.

The interesting thing is that I've driven up to Mississauga three times in the last six weeks (about a 45 minute drive from St. Catharines) and I haven't spent a dime. For whatever reason, I've been afraid to spend money there.

Well, that was going to change tonight, as I made the pilgrimage once again after work. My first tournament of the year is on Saturday afternoon, as the first leg of the Niagara District Men's Golf Tour kicks off from Ussher's Creek Golf Club at the Legends on the Niagara (I know, a bit of overkill on the course name). I have some voids in my bag (mind out of gutter please) and was looking to GolfTown to fill my needs.

In order of priority, I need:

  • 3-wood (13 degree)
  • 2-iron Rescue-Mid (16 degree Tour Preferred Model)
  • Putter (Scotty Cameron Newport Series)
  • Driver

The strong 3-wood is a necessity for me due to my desired set makeup, which includes a four degree gap at most between clubs, with the notable exception of my wedges. I want to go with either a 9.5 or 10.5 degree Driver and the 13 degree 3-wood, then move on to the 16 and 19 degree Rescue-Mid's (2-iron and 3-iron alternatives). These give way to my Taylor Made 300 Series irons (22 degree 4-iron through Pitching Wedge) and finally my two Cleveland 588 Series Wedges in 52 degree and 60 degree lofts.

I'm currently playing an old Nike 9.5 degree driver and I'm pretty satisfied with it. I don't feel like I'm losing much distance with it but I might be sacrificing accuracy. I was lucky enough to play in a pro-am last year with former PGA Tour member Ray Stewart, a Vancouver, BC native. Ray suggested that I buy the Taylor Made R580XD and put the Aldila NV shaft in it: he said "you'll have as much distance as the guys using the R7 and save a boatload of cash." The R580XD has come down to $268.00 at GolfTown but I'm still on the fence because of my other needs.

I hit the Callaway Big Bertha 3+ Wood in both graphite and steel tonight on their simulator. The steel comes standard with a 'Uniflex' shaft, something that supposedly conforms to your swing speed. Sounds like hogwash to me and the results showed it, as I hit the graphite better than the steel. My launch angle was two degrees higher (11 degrees) and I was hitting that sucker 250 yards (232 average in the air).

I still didn't pull the trigger.

I did end up buying a nice pullover for the cold days we've been having and also bought a sharpie and a new visor. Big whoop.

So I still need the 3-wood before Saturday and now will likely look to my golf pro for that. I purchased their "Platinum Program" this year, a $100.00 fee that entitles me to 15% off all purchases in the shop for the entire 2005 calendar year. I also still need a new pair of golf shoes, as my old pair split apart near the toe on the weekend (of course the warranty has passed).

God I wish this game wasn't so expensive.

Dave is a Deviant

My very good friend David, working under the handle 'tag-me-in', has a photo blog up and running at the very cool 'deviantART' site.

Dave is currently taking photography classes and is very skilled with the camera. Check out some of his work
right here. The double exposure shot and the shots taken at Ball's Falls are completely kick-ass!

The Rabid Pandas

Pardon me, you ask? Rabid Pandas?

That is the name of my ball hockey team. We've got a great group of guys on our team and we've pretty much all been playing together since the spring of 2002. We play all year round (14 games per season plus playoffs, with four seasons in a year) in a covered, state-of-the-art outdoor hockey rink here in St. Catharines.

As is the case with most Canadians, I love hockey and this league we play in is a pretty great way to stay in shape and continue with the game we're enamoured with. Unfortunately, we're not playing very well in the spring season - we lost 8-5 last night in a pretty physical affair. I've been slumping pretty badly lately but was able to pot a goal and add an assist in the game last night.

The guys on my team are ticked that I haven't updated our
ball hockey club's website in awhile and are likely even more pissed now that I'm keeping a blog. I'll likely get back to it soon...if we start winning again!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster

Now, I'm a big fan of the Star Wars series of movies and I certainly am looking forward to seeing Episode Three in a couple of weeks. However, one guy has taken his love of these movies a step further...

Witness
The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster, a blog written from the point of view of Darth Vader. This has to be one of the funniest, most clever satires I've ever read. Now if you hate Star Wars, you'll likely think that this guy has entirely too much time on his hands and needs to get a life. If you love Star Wars, you'll be rolling on the ground in laughter.

Either way, it's worth checking out. Oh yeah, and don't forget to read the comment section for each of the posts as well, as Vader appears many times to personally answer questions in typically eloquent fashion.

Hilarious.

What's Up with the Blue Jays?

Another great performance by the Toronto Blue Jays Monday night against the previously unbeaten in eight Orioles, winning 6-2 in a 12-inning thriller.

Baseball would likely be ranked way down the sports watching ladder for me personally. I'd much rather watch a hockey or football game, although I must confess that the lockout on the ice hasn't had that much of an effect on me (bad news for the NHL if one of its biggest fans doesn't even miss it).

However, this Blue Jay club is pretty fun to watch. Their lineup is well balanced and can hit a baseball like nobody's business. Shea Hillenbrand has been tremendous, leading the A.L. in hitting through April, while Greg Zaun has accepted his new responsibilities as the starting catcher for the ballclub by coming up with countless clutch hits and calling great games behind the plate.

The starting pitching has been pretty damn good, especially Doc Halladay, who looks to have regained his Cy Young form from 2003 and rookie Gustavo Chacin, who has shown incredible poise right from day one.

I'm still not sold on the bullpen, especially closer Miguel Batista, who doesn't have the stuff to dominate hitters. However, Batista and the rest of the bullpen have been very sharp in the last six games so maybe they'll prove me wrong.

This has been a fun team to watch in the early going. They never stop fighting and there seems to be a lot of character here, something that all of a sudden seems missing from teams like the Yankees. I seriously doubt that this will continue but I can say that the Jays are much better than originally advertised and I expect them to win around 85 games this season.

Monday, May 02, 2005

24

Wow. The last two weeks of 24 have completely restored my faith in the show.

Absolutely spellbinding television tonight. David Palmer returns and makes some hard decisions that could have consequences just as damaging as the potential nuclear attacks from the terrorists. Chloe returning to CTU and continuing to bring the comic relief:

Paraphrasing
Edgar: Chloe, are you alright?
Chloe: I feel nothing. I killed a guy, yet there's nothing there. I hope I'm not a psycho or something.
Edgar: Maybe you're still in shock. Maybe you'll completely freak out when this whole thing is over.
Chloe: Yeah, I sure hope so.

Awesome. And then there's effin' Jack Bauer. The guy breaks into the Chinese Consulate and extracts the only link to the evil Marwan in clinical, coldblooded fashion. He then tops it off by throwing the wounded informant on a gurney in CTU and forces the doctor to abandon surgery on another dying man who not only is his girlfriend's estranged husband, but also the man who saved his life five short hours ago.

And just chomp on this for a second. They can produce all of that drama without a single scene involving Marwan!

What a television show.

A Very Busy Weekend

The golf game is slowly coming around. Saturday was one of those dreadful Canadian spring weather days, raining and windy with temperatures hovering around 5 degrees. I was on the course with Toast, Harris and one of the semi-regulars Chuck. I played really well through the first seven holes (considering the poor weather), going +1. I made the turn at 39 after consecutive bogeys and decided to keep playing, as Toast and Harris dropped out because of the conditions.

I should have done the same, as my effectiveness on the course dropped faster than the temperature, with me shooting an ugly 44 on the back nine for a disappointing 83 on the day.

Had a nice Saturday night with the girlfriend. We hit the Keg Restaurant in Niagara Falls on the ninth floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel. The restaurant has a 100+ foot bay window with panoramic views of the Falls and the Niagara River: just beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, you pay for that view at this Keg, as they jack up the prices at least 25% over any other Keg. Still, it's still nice to splurge every once in a while. From there, we ended up at the Blue Martini Lounge on the 35th floor of the Hilton for a couple martinis to close the night. Another neat place, again overlooking the Falls. They have a guitarist/singer performing and the atmosphere is tremendous - highly recommended.

More golf on Sunday. Once again I was joined by Toast and Harris, along with semi-regular Jon. I hit the ball a bit better and was able to get around in 78 shots. My putting and chipping are still a bit lackluster but I hit some really good shots during the round and made a lot of routine pars. I'll likely try to hit the practice tee this week to work on my game a bit. Tournament season is just around the corner.

After a late breakfast, Toast, Harris and I ventured down to the Casino for some poker. The table was extremely soft again but this time, I was unable to take advantage. My cards were colder than cold and I literally didn't win a single hand for almost two hours. I somehow survived that cold spell but was never able to get back anywhere near even and ended up down $155.00. My only pocket pair was fours (and that turned into a full house that won my biggest pot of the night) and I rarely saw a playable hand. It was frustrating because the table was very loose and there was money to be made but you can't make big plays at the $3/$6 here - you have to have a hand and I just could never get one. Oh well, that's variance for you. I'm still up quite a bit for the weekend so I can't be too upset. On the plus side, Toast was a big winner again, racking up over $200.00 in profits on the day. Harris wasn't so lucky. He's a very loose player and it worked out for him in the first hour at the table, as he hit no less than SEVEN FLUSHES on the night! Just to give perspective, the last three nights at the casino for yours truly, I haven't seen ONE, even with two winning sessions! However, Harris just plays too many borderline hands and his chipstack started dwindling down. At one time he was up at least $150.00 and he ended the night down $55.00. Toast celebrated his big win by treating Harris and I to a great pizza and wing dinner at Yanks Restaurant in Niagara Falls, where they arguably have the best pizza in the region.

A great way to end the weekend.