Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sweater Vests Rule!

My buddy Toast has a funny blog entry about my affinity for sweater vests on the Golf+Poker site.

I'm still trying to decipher whether the post is mean-spirited or not; since it's Toast, I'm leaning towards the former but I can laugh at myself so no harm done. Although, I'm a lot more handsome in person than I am in that photo he posted of me on his blog!

When all is said and done, I rest easy knowing that the two sweaters I actually own were purchased with money taken from Toast and Harry on the golf course or the virtual felt at PokerStars.

But I'm a 'luckbox' right? This run of good fortune is certainly destined to end at the hands of these two non-sweater vest wearing, rule oblivious, hip-hop cargo short wearing, six-foot gimmie taking youngsters isn't it?

:)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Preview: Niagara Men's Tour at The Grand Niagara Club

I tee off in about two and a half hours at Rees Jones' Grand Niagara Club for the second leg of the 2006 Niagara Men's Tour.

I finished in a tie for 21st at the first event held earlier in the month at Bridgewater and I'm hoping for a better result this afternoon.

My game is in a weird state right now: my putting and chipping are absolutely phenomenal at the moment - likely the most consistent and solid it's ever been. However, my iron play is really poor and it's something I'm going to try to work out before I tee off later today. I've been hitting very few greens in regulation (averaging seven a round) and that is taking it's toll on my score.

Grand Niagara is only about a year old and is in fantastic shape for a new club. The fairways are running pretty quick and the greens, while slower than average due to the prevalence of Poa, run very true.

I had the chance to play a practice round out there recently and found the course from the Gold Tee deck (approximately 6900 yards) to be much easier to navigate than from the back tees we played last year. Funny thing is that my score didn't improve at all - I shot 83 both times I've played.

The key at Grand Niagara is staying out of trouble off the tee and keeping the ball short of the hole at all costs. Jones extensively makes use of collection areas around the green and almost all of them fall off at least ten feet from the putting surface, making for almost impossible up-and-ins. Every green on the course features a huge ridge of some kind, placing a premium on the location of the approach shot.

I won't bore you with my complete gameplan here but I will make a point of using irons and rescue clubs on a few of the par fours to stay out of hazards and will doing my best to just aim for the middle of the greens throughout the round and count on my hot putter to bail me out.

I'll report back on my success tomorrow if I can.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Victoria Day Weekend

Canada celebrated Victoria Day on Monday, a national holiday in this country, which meant an extra day of golf for yours truly.

It was a horrible weekend, weather-wise, in southern Ontario. Temperatures hovered around 8-10 degrees (45-50 degrees on the fahrenheit scale) with winds gusting to well over 30 miles per hour on each day.

It was bitter cold to say the least.

I played with Gary and another chap on Saturday morning and battled my way to a crappy 80.

Sunday was a different day, scoring-wise.

Easily the worst weather we've played in this year and I decided to put together one of the best rounds of my life. I had the winter mitts on inbetween shots to stay warm but a hot putter and excellent iron play was likely enough to keep me toasty, as I went bogeyless for the FIRST 16 HOLES, with one birdie and 15 pars!

Alas, my four-iron into the 206 yard par three 17th got taken by the wind and swept into a greenside hazard and I made double bogey for my first blip of the day. A failed up and in on 18 resulted in a bogey and a round of 74.

It felt almost as good as my 68 from last year.

On Monday, I hit the ball horribly but made almost every putt I looked at and shot 78. I had an incredible 11 putts on the back nine and 25 overall, including a three putt!

Maybe Harris is right...maybe I AM just a lucky-ass, grinding hacker.

That's okay though. I'm quite happy being the lucky-ass hacker who CONTINUALLY destroys his glove cleaning butt in skins every week! ;)

How about a putting tip??? I made a posture adjustment last week on the greens and it's working out tremendously well.

Basically, I'm bending more at the hips with a straight back rather than slouching plus I'm using my shoulders rather than my hands when stroking the ball.

I also feel like my eyes are right over the ball now too after a tip from Ryan, one of the assistants at the club. He told me to take a CD or DVD and put it on the ground. Take your setup position and assuming the ball is the hole in the CD, your eyes should be right in line with the hole.

It's a great tip and it showed that my eyes were WAY outside the intended target line. Try it...this works wonders!

Another busy week coming up. The Sabres come home for games three and four of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals and I'll be there for both contests.

I'll also be getting in an evening practice round at Rees Jones' Grand Niagara Club with Harris, Gerry and Jay in preparation for the second event on the 2006 Niagara Men's Tour, which takes place on Sunday afternoon.

I'll have a preview of that event up by Friday or Saturday at the latest.

Computerless

I've gone and done it again.

I have this nasty habit of always doing something awful to my computer, whether it's deleting integral .DLL files, attracting viruses or ad-ware or in my most recent case, breaking a pin on my CPU, rendering it useless.

My computer wasn't booting up properly so I decided to go under the hood and take a look. Keep in mind I know next to nothing about fixing computers but I figured what the heck!

Dumb move.

I probably had a faulty power supply or something cheap like that but now I'll have to replace the CPU too. I tore off the CPU fan to take a look to see if THAT was the problem and in the process bent a bunch of the pins. We were able to straighten most of them out but lost one during our little 'operation'.

Gosh I'm an idiot.

My buddy Jim is in the 'puter industry, thankfully, and will likely be able to get me the new parts for free under my warranty.

Problem is that I'll likely have to wait a couple weeks for the parts to come in.

So that means fewer posts on 'Now on the Tee', unfortunately. Hopefully the problem is rectified sooner, rather than later.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stats Are Fun!

I've already documented the fact that I'm an absolute stat nerd.

As you can see in the right-hand border, I keep track of almost every conceivable stat for every round of golf I play. I'm not sure if analysing these numbers is making me a better player but it is interesting to me nonetheless.

For whatever reason, I popped over to the official PGA Tour website to see how I match up against the best players in the world.

Surprisingly enough, I'm not in last place in every category!

To put all this into proper context, I realize that the courses I've played, on average, are much easier than the courses on tour and how they're setup.

There are 187 members of the PGA Tour that are ranked in each category. Add me to the mix for 188 total players. Let's take a look at where I stand!

SCORING AVERAGE -
1. Phil Mickelson - 69.40
2. Jim Furyk - 69.46
3. Adam Scott - 69.50
186. Hank Kuehne - 73.86
187. Craig Perks - 74.45
188. Matt - 78.50

Well, this is the one stat that I have NO CHANCE in improving on from a ranking perspective. I'm just not at a level where I can average 73 shots a round.

AVERAGE DRIVING DISTANCE -
1. Bubba Watson - 320.2
2. J.B. Holmes - 312.6
3. Robert Garrigus - 310.3
185. Matt - 268.4
186. Fred Funk - 268.3
187. Brad Faxon - 264.1
188. Corey Pavin - 262.0

Woohoo! Fourth last! I'm actually at a disadvantage in this stat due to the fact that the course setups on tour are very fast, meaning a lot of roll on the fairways. Needless to say, the amount of roll on Canadian golf courses in the spring is next to nothing.

DRIVING ACCURACY PERCENTAGE -
1. Fred Funk - 79.2%
2. Joe Durant - 75.9%
3. Jim Furyk - 75.1%
185. Matt - 45.6%
186. David Duval - 45.2%
187. Hank Kuehne - 44.8%
188. Craig Perks - 40.6%

Fourth last again. The fairways at St. Catharines are very narrow so I'm not getting the benefit of the doubt here either. I'm ahead of a major championship winner and a Players Champion! Wait till I get my new driver...look out #184!!!

GREENS IN REGULATION PERCENTAGE -
1. Phil Mickelson - 72.0%
2. Mark Wilson - 71.6%
3. Tiger Woods - 71.2%
186. Craig Perks - 53.2%
187. Hank Kuehne - 51.1%
188. Matt - 45.0%

Boy. Perks and Kuehne suck this year! They're at the bottom of everything! I'm very disappointed in my GIR% thus far but my iron play will improve...and that's a promise. That percentage will be around 50% by year-end.

PUTTS PER ROUND -
1. Aaron Baddeley - 27.47
2. Brian Gay - 27.61
3. Retief Goosen - 27.64
186. Chris Smith - 30.30
187. Jay Williamson - 30.50
188. Matt - 30.80

Last again. I've actually putted pretty decently this year and this stat proves just how good the short games on tour really are.

PUTTING AVERAGE (PUTTS PER GIR) -
1. Brian Gay - 1.704
2. Phil Mickelson - 1.706
3. Tommy Armour III - 1.710
168. Matt - 1.820
186. Nicholas Thompson - 1.859
187. Rocco Mediate - 1.868
188. Matt Hansen - 1.869

My best stat category by far. This just tells me that I've been pretty opportunistic when hitting greens this year.

SAND SAVE PERCENTAGE -
1. Michael Allen - 68.9%
2. K.J. Choi - 64.3%
3. Brian Gay - 63.4%
184. Matt - 31.3
186. Fred Couples - 26.5%
187. Chris Couch - 25.9%
188. Eric Axley - 22.0%

Well, I'm ahead of Freddie!!! And Couch just won a tournament a couple weeks back...

SCRAMBLING (PAR OR BETTER AFTER MISSING GIR) -
1. Scott Verplank - 67.4%
2. Brian Gay - 67.1%
3. Stephen Ames - 67.0%
186. Chris Couch - 46.8%
187. Craig Perks - 46.2%
188. Matt - 33.3%

Here is another stat that shows just how good those guys are. Hmm. Brian Gay is having a pretty good year statistically. Couch must have gotten pretty lucky at that tournament too. Oh yeah...Perks continues to suck.

BIRDIE CONVERSION (BIRDIES PER GIR) -
1. Phil Mickelson - 38.3%
2. David Toms - 36.4%
3. Brett Wetterich - 35.6%
177. Matt - 24.7%
186. Hidemichi Tanaka - 23.4%
187. Thomas Levet - 22.7%
188. Rocco Mediate - 22.3%

I'm also ahead of major championship winners like Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman and Larry Mize in this category. Again, I've been pretty opportunistic this year when actually hitting greens, elevating this number somewhat.

Oh yeah. One other interesting stat that boggles my mind. My stroke average on par fives this year is 4.80 or 9 under par overall. Good to know I'm taking advantage of the long holes this year!

That was a fun exercise! I'll do it again maybe in a month or so.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Blogging is Hard When You're Planning a Wedding

Sorry for the lack of updates lately.

I've been engaged for over a month now and we STILL haven't set a date for the wedding. It's been a very frustrating process, trying to satisfy both my fiance AND my meddling parents.

In the end, it's Jacky who should get the final word, not the parents so we're going to be drawing a line in the sand right now.

The issue of the day is where we hold our reception. The problem is finding a place for October of this year and that has proven to be extremely difficult. We found that the Pillar and Post, a lovely hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is available for October 14th but my parents are DEAD SET against that place.

Why you ask?

Well, it's because the Pillar and Post doesn't do business with my company. In fact, there was a pretty strained parting of ways about 8 years ago and we've done nothing with them since. My father is strongly against spending one cent in that facility due to all of this.

I understand, in a way but this is my wedding and when time is a factor, beggars can't be choosers.

We HAVE to book something in the next five days and if they continue to be petty about this, I'm going to threaten them by saying we're going to elope.

That'll fix 'em!

In other news, Now on the Tee's favourite hockey club, the Buffalo Sabres, advanced to the NHL Stanley Cup semifinals by defeating the #1 seed Ottawa Senators in only five games.

There is something magical happening in Buffalo this year...

I've already committed to tickets for the rest of the playoffs so I'll be there right to the end. The city of Buffalo has never won a major sporting championship so the city is rallying behind the team like never before.

Bring on the Carolina Hurricanes!

I actually ventured to Casino Niagara with my buddy Toast on Friday night and played No-Limit for the first time in a Casino. After being down about $50.00 early when my AK lost against pocket jacks, I was able to take down a HUGE pot when I picked up pocket tens and the flop came down ten high (with two clubs on the board) for a beautiful set. I was raised $40.00 on that flop and pushed all-in.

I was called by a chap holding the less than stellar hand of J5, suited clubs. He didn't hit his flush, thankfully, and even if he did, I ended up hitting a full house on the river that would have won it for me regardless.

That was a $234.00 hand!

I lost a few hands late in the night but ended the evening up $101.00. Good stuff!

I played golf on Saturday and Sunday morning and came through with solid scores of 77 and 76 respectively.

My putting has really come around after a couple of posture tweaks, as I had only 26 putts on Saturday and 28 putts on Sunday - both EXCELLENT numbers. My ball striking has been very inconsistent early on but one of my playing partners yesterday noticed that I wasn't really finishing my swing on iron shots. I made the necessary adjustments and hit the final four greens in regulation after only hitting an ugly THREE through my first 14 holes.

Thank goodness for my short game right now!

I also placed an order for a new driver: I'll be getting a Taylor Made 425TP, with a Fujikura Re-Ax 65g Shaft and 9.5 degrees of loft. There was a club fitting day at St. Catharines last week and I was just pounding the ball with this club in conjuction with an uncommon weight configuration on the clubface (these clubs have movable weights on the bottom of the head and the T.M. rep indicated that my optimal configuration was pretty rare).

Exciting times ahead both on and off the course!

I promise to do that PGA Village recap shortly, just for you Harry!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Niagara Men's Tour 2006: First Event in the Books

Bridgewater Country Club
Fort Erie, Ontario


Course Architect: Stanley Thompson
Established: 1927
Personal Rounds Played: 4
Low Score: 75

My first official tournament of 2006 was the Niagara Men's Tour opener at Bridgewater Country Club in Fort Erie, right on the US/Canada border near Buffalo.

I had the opportunity to play a practice round last week with fellow St. Catharines members Gerry and Harris, both members of the tour, and I was extremely impressed with the course.

There's really nothing to write home about from a topography standpoint, as the land is really flat out there. However, Thompson (I'm not sure how much of his original work remains but for arguments sake, we'll assume most of it is his) uses a lot of visual deception from the tee to confuse the player and the green complexes are quite something as well (false fronts, heavy sloping, some crowned surfaces).

It's a very pleasant golf course and one I had little difficulty with in the practice round, although my short putting was alarmingly poor.

I made five birdies, including three in a row at one point en route to an easy 75 in the practice round. I made about four absolute BOMBS of 20 feet or more, including a beauty on the par three 13th from about 40 feet off the green for bird. I honestly don't remember making that many long putts in one round but it was tempered by the fact I three-putted four times and had a tremendous amount of trouble with short putts.

The greens were LIGHTNING fast and the new grip I was using while putting didn't seem to work well on the short ones. But hey, 75 is a darned good score so no complaints.

I felt ready to put a good score together in the first event of the tour.

Last year, I had two top-six finishes in five events and ended up placing 11th overall, a fantastic improvement over my mid-30's finish in 2004. Click here to relive the details of my second place finish in the final event from last year at Beechwood Golf Club.

My goal this year is to improve on that performance and challenge for a win at one of the five events I play. There are six legs to the tour this year but unfortunately, a business trip in August will keep me from playing in the event at Sparrow Lakes. Thankfully, I won't be penalized for missing an event, as a new wrinkle to the tour this year sees a player's worst event 'thrown out' and points not counted.

So the zero I post for that day won't hold me back.

I drove up to Bridgewater with my buddy Jay, also a tour member (and my caddy during Club Championship last year). I decided to stick with the new putting grip for the round, even if it meant a few missed putts.

Gotta trust it, right?

I got off to a rough start. I hit a poor rescue off the first tee, a very difficult 423 yard par four with a creek that bisects the fairway 275 yards from the tee, which takes driver out of my hands. I was forced to hit another rescue to the green, which I missed right. My pitch shot rolled through the green and I missed the ten footer for par. I bogeyed the second and then three-putted the easy par five third hole for a double bogey, putting myself at +4 through three holes.

I was able to right the ship, making a nice two-putt par on the treacherously sloped fourth green and just missed making birdie on the par five fifth. However, I three putted once again on the par three sixth and I made the decision to revert BACK to my usual putting grip on short putts, as confidence was waning.

I parred the last three holes on the front to escape with a 41 but promptly threw away two more shots on the benign 10th hole. I skulled my gap wedge second about 20 yards over the green onto the 11th tee and was forced to hit a running shot under a tree that kept on running 60 feet past the pin. Three putts later for my second double of the day.

I got one back on the next hole, making an 8 footer for birdie to get back to +6 on the day but that would be the only red number on my card this day.

Bogeys on the short 313 yard 14th and the mid-length par four 17th (my fourth three putt of the day) and pars on the rest added up to a disappointing 80 on the day.

Scores were pretty high overall, as the course played firm and fast with some very difficult pin positions. I ended up in a tie for 21st in the first event of the year out of 62 golfers; one of them did not finish the round.

You can check out the Niagara Men's Tour website for all the details. I don't like the way they've allocated points on the results page (everyone from 49th place on got 7 points, strangely) but oh well...who am I to complain!

The Men's Tour has 63 members this year and a place on next year's tour will require a top-30 finish overall for official exemption.

I'll have to be better if I'm to challenge for my desired top ten position, that much is for sure. There are a number of really good young players on tour this year, mostly graduates from our local junior tour.

Next event is Sunday May 28th at Grand Niagara Golf Club, a course I've played once before.

It should be a fun year!

I'll be back tomorrow with more from the PGA Village trip.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Too Tired to Talk

My goodness.

I almost had a heart attack watching the Sabres/Senators round two playoff opener tonight from Ottawa.

Goals galore, sudden swings in the play, great skating. This is the NHL everyone wants to see.

Buffalo came back FIVE TIMES from deficits in the game, scoring with less than 15 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and then won less than 30 seconds into overtime, leaving me breathless.

What a hockey game!

More to come on the PGA Village trip plus a preview of my first tournament of 2006, the Niagara Men's Tour opener from Bridgewater CC, which takes place Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

PGA Village

PGA Village
Port St. Lucie, Florida, USA


RYDER COURSE
Course Architect: Tom Fazio
Established: 1995
Personal Rounds Played: 1
Low Score: 82

WANAMAKER COURSE
Course Architect: Tom Fazio
Established: 1996
Personal Rounds Played: 2
Low Score: 77

DYE COURSE
Course Architect: Pete Dye
Established: 1998
Personal Rounds Played: 2
Low Score: 84

Harris arranged for a nice stretch limo to take us to the Buffalo International Airport in style to begin the vacation. We left around 12:30pm on Wednesday afternoon in order to catch our 3:30pm flight.

Unfortunately, we had TWO stopovers on the way down to West Palm Beach, one in Detroit and the other in Atlanta. A lightning storm in Atlanta caused further delays and we didn't end up in West Palm until after midnight.

Preston handled the arrangements with our Florida transportation, picking up a Jeep Laredo. And we were off on the forty-five minute drive to Port St. Lucie.

Of course, everything was closed for the night when we arrived so we had to go to the security office for our keys to the villa. Comedy ensued when we had to first double back to the office after getting lost trying to find our villa (really, a needle in the proverbial haystack...the place is HUGE) and then upon finally finding our place, the key DIDN'T WORK!

We finally got in around 2:30am after another employee of the resort drove down and let us in. The place was absolutely ENORMOUS.



There were two bedrooms in the villa, each with an ensuite. Harris and Preston took the large room with the massive ensuite (double sink, huge shower, etc) while Vito and I got the other room with the modestly sized ensuite.

There was a THIRD bathroom in the hallway that led to a spacious great room, with a full kitchen, dining room and living room all represented. We also had an enclosed patio.



This place was bigger than my fiance's house!

Anyway, we quickly went to bed after the tiring day of travel in preparation for our first round of golf the next morning.

We played Fazio's South Course (EDITOR: now called the Wanamaker Course) first. Now, we decided on a little match play 'Ryder Cup' competition to keep things interesting during the vacation. Essentially, we were going to have six rounds of matches - three would be team best-ball and three would be singles match play.

That way, we were able to have every combination of partners and matchups represented. You get one point for winning a match, a half point for a tie and obviously, nothing for a loss.

Match number one would be me and Vito teaming up against Preston and Harris. There was really no scientific way of handicapping the events but we decided that I would be giving Harris and Preston a shot a side (2 per round) and I'd give Vito 5 a side (10 per round). Harris and Preston would give Vito 4 a side (8 per round).

I nailed my first tee ball of the vacation from the back tees right down the pipe and we were off!

I was the only one to par that hole, a 548 yard par five, giving Vito and I a 1up lead. We maintained that until the 222 yard par three fourth, when Preston's par held up. Things spiraled downhill from there...

I finished the side double bogey/bogey for a less than inspiring 43 while Vito had a rough go of it, shooting a 60. Harris (44) and Preston (41) built a pretty commanding 3up lead after the front side.

Vito won us the 10th with a bogey/net par and my par on 11 got us back to within one but it wasn't to be this round. Preston made the first birdie of the vacation for our foursome on the 545 yard par five 13th to begin a three hole winning stretch, culminating in a 4&3 victory in match number one.

Preston was low man, shooting an 84. I shot an 85, Harris came in with an 88 and Vito ended up shooting a 111.

For round two that afternoon, I decided that Vito should get another four shots from each of us, meaning 14 from me and 12 from the other two. Everyone agreed, and we were off to the North Course (EDITOR: now called The Ryder Course) for round two.

This time, Harris and I teamed up. It became a running joke that my partners played their worst games when teamed up with me. Haha.

This one wasn't even close. We were three down after four holes and ended up 2 down through nine. Vito played MUCH better, shooting a 49 and teamed effectively with Preston's 40. I also shot a 40 while Harris choked his way to a 45.

Since Vito was getting 7 shots a side from me, they were able to pick up at least three holes because of strokes.

We were an ugly FIVE DOWN through 12 and started a furious comeback. I won 13 with a par but after tying 14, we were four down with four to play: dormie is the term for not having a chance to win but needing to take every remaining hole for the split.

Harris took both 15 and 16 with pars to get us to 2 down. On 17, a 549 yard par five, I knocked a wedge stiff for the tap-in birdie but Preston's putting, which was phenomenal all vacation long, stroked home a ten footer to halve the hole and take the match 2&1.

I was able to garner the best score of the second round, shooting 82 to Preston's 83. Harry came in at 91 while Vito improved 16 (!) shots, notching a 95.

So after day one, Preston had two points, Harris and Vito had one and yours truly...the big GOOSE-EGG!

We hit the grocery store after the round and cooked some pizzas and some mediocre lasagne back in our kitchen before hitting the sack in preparation for day two.

This would be a day I'd endure the biggest ass-kicking of my match play life...

And to add insult to injury, it was at the hands of Harry, king of Boss (inside joke).

To be continued...


Monday, May 01, 2006

I'm Back

Just a quick note to let you all know that I'm back safely from Port St. Lucie.

Details to come on the trip but I'll tease you by saying this, something that I've never said or will likely ever say again in my life...

I'm all GOLFED OUT!!