Monday, July 31, 2006

Trash Talking is a Must!

I just got invited to play in one of Harry's big fantasy football leagues today. You know it's going to be a fun league when it's titled 'Trash Talking is a Must 2006'.

These guys are seriously hardcore. Harry wakes up about 6:00am on Sunday mornings, puts his little football jammies on and rushes downstairs like a kid on Christmas morning (or Hanukkah if your last name is Boselaberg). This guy starts watching the NFL Network at 7am on game days just to stay ahead of his fantasy competitors and is aghast that someone would even CONSIDER playing golf on a football Sunday.

I think they're all like this. Bunch of freaks!

These guys STUDY this stuff for hours on end. Harry would likely talk about fantasy football 24 hours a day if he could but he has to slave at work, watching his staff clean gloves for about 28 minutes a day (not including a 2 hour smoke break) before packing it in sometime mid-morning in the summer. It's a tough life. Then he goes and plays a ClubLink course for half price but really plays like crap because all he's thinking about is whether to choose the underrated Clinton Portis with his second round pick or take a chance on the soon-to-break-out Eli Manning.

Ooops! Sounds like I might know something about this stuff eh Harris? Well, I did beat your ass last year in a pool and still GOLFED EVERY SUNDAY MORNING! What happens if I actually TRY to do well? It will be another 'rebuilding' year for The Glove Cleaners.

I look forward to the challenge and the camaraderie and will have to start working on my trash talking.

I only played one round of golf on the weekend, as I had to help a buddy move on Saturday.

The round on Sunday was oh-so-similar to every round I've played lately: bogey on one, bogey on two, bogey on three, bogey on four. Two three putts included. I was able to par number five and I birdied six to get back to +3 on the day but promptly bogeyed seven after my first really bad swing of the day off the tee. I parred eight and nine for a 40 on the front.

I had another solid back nine, birdieing the 10th and 15th holes but an ugly double on the straightforward 17th meant a 37 on the back nine for a 77 overall. I ended up losing my weekly match with Bernie 2&1 but swept the Hollywoods in our fourball and won a skin to end up $9.00 for the day.

I hope to do some very low-key practicing this week. I'll likely keep it loose by putting and chipping around in my sandals tomorrow. Maybe I'll hit some balls too. I'm going to practice either Wednesday or Thursday as well then will play 18 on Friday night after work to tune up for Saturday's first round in the Club Championship. I finished in sixth place last year but the competition is better than ever in 2006 so I'll need a solid first round to stay in the picture.

I'll likely do a long-overdue hole-by-hole review of my home course, St. Catharines Golf and CC sometime this week to help me prepare my gameplan for the weekend.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Overcoming Dreadful Starts

I was playing the Cutten Club in Guelph the other day with one of my supplier reps, who was kind enough to bring me and one of my purchasing agents out for an afternoon of golf.

I started out by making a forty foot putt on the first for BOGEY, then doubled the second and doubled the third. +5 after three holes...

Skip ahead to the 17th hole. I've only hit five greens in regulation to this point. It hasn't been pretty. I look over a four footer and drain it for par to stay at +6 for the day.

Scott, my garbage bag supplier rep says, "My God you're a grinder!"

Toast and Harry are right. Not about the 'luckbox' stuff but I definitely am a grinder.

I pretty much have to be. I don't have the natural ability of a lot of guys I play with. Since I started playing as a pre-teen, my swing looks decent enough but I'm not a very good ballstriker, relatively speaking. Since I'm too stubborn to practice and haven't had time for a refresher lesson on fundamentals, I'm stuck working with what I have.

So I grind like hell.

I don't consider myself to have a great mental game but I've always prided myself on the fact that I can right the ship after a poor start.

Unfortunately, it's something I'm having to do way too often these days. The round at Cutten - I was five over after three and ended up shooting 78. Last Sunday at St. Catharines I was four over after four and still ended up shooting 77 with a bogey on 18.

Then the other night, I brought my buddies Jay and Ryan out to the course and I started bogey, double, bogey, bogey.

I go through quite the range of emotions after a stretch like that. I'll get mad or maybe I'll start feeling sorry for myself. I might be embarrassed too. But then I get defiant.

You have to!

I think to myself that "there's no way I'm shooting in the 80's today" and "it's time to bear down."

So I scratch and I claw, going -2 on the next 7 holes to get it back to +3 on the day as we reach my nemesis hole, the 12th at St. Catharines.

Of course, I hit my tee ball in the water and make double.

I fought my ass off for seven holes only to lose it all on one swing. What do I do now?

Might as well keep grinding.

I hit some nice shots coming in and was able to par holes 13 through 17. I bogeyed the 18th in the dusk to shoot another 78, pretty solid after another brutal start.

Why do I bring all of this up?

Well, I'm getting tired of the grind, to be honest.

The only thing consistent about my game these days is its inconsistency. The handicap is up to its highest level in over two years and my scores show no signs of improving.

I sound depressed but I'm really not. I'm excited...it's time to get defiant again. The point of all of this is essentially to give myself an online pep talk, something tangible to help motivate me out of the scoring funk that I've fallen into.

I have to get my butt out of bed early and actually hit the driving range this weekend before playing. It's a running joke between Toast and Harry (one that I enjoy actually!) that I never practice but if I want to start scoring better, I need to work on my game more. I know that.

I hope this post is the defining point of my golfing year. Time will tell if that is indeed the case.

Eight days and counting till club championship...

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Best Thing in the World - Business Golf!

Oh hell yeah!

I might get only one or two chances a year to play golf with one of our clients or suppliers. Tomorrow is one of those days.

I'm travelling to Guelph tomorrow to play the Stanley Thompson-designed Cutten Club, a lovely private course where one of my supplier reps is a member. I've never had the chance to play there so I'm really looking forward to the experience. Should be a great day!

The honeymoon is booked and we'll be spending ten nights at the
Princeville Resort in Princeville, Kauai.

Jacky and I actually narrowed it down to Princeville and the Maldives, a remote island on the Indian Ocean. It would have been pretty exotic but the flight costs would have been a killer for my sister, who just closed the deal on a new house in the extremely swanky Rosedale area of Toronto.

So Princeville it is, which means I'll get a crack at the resort's Prince course, a top-100 in the world track according to both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. I'll be bringing my camera for that one! Check out a shot of the interior of the course below!


I played golf on Friday night with the crew (Harry and Toast), a rare treat this year. I shot 77, which is a pretty solid score for me this year but didn't hit the ball very well. 28 putts helped, that's for sure. Toast and I hung out afterwards on the patio and drank a couple tasty Stellas before going our separate ways.

Saturday was pretty depressing. It was absolutely pouring out and Gary and Toast, my playing partners, walked in after nine holes, leaving me on the tenth tee contemplating finishing my round all by my lonesome. I lowered my head and went inside instead, grabbed some breakfast and watched a bit of the Open Championship.

I HATE nine-hole rounds with a passion...it's like a waste of two hours in my opinion.

Later that night, Jacky and I frequented a new restaurant on Hartzel called 'Echoes of Asia', where they serve Thai/Vietnamese cuisine. I had a tasty dish called Chili Seafood Stir Fry - I still like Sahla Thai and Mai Vi better but Echoes is pretty good too.

We topped the night off by seeing Pirates of the Caribbean II. I absolutely loved part one but I must say that I am pretty ambivalent about the second installment. Way too long and devoid of sound plotting, this movie is basically an exercise in moving from action setpiece to action setpiece. Johnny Depp is excellent again, however and is worth ** alone for his performance. Overall, ** 1/2 stars out of four from this reviewer.

We had twelve guys out on Sunday for the $10.00 skin game plus I had a side game with Bernie, one of the top players at the club. He's a multi-time club champion at St. Catharines and recently rejoined the club after a two-year absence.

For the second consecutive week since his return, I got into his pocket, shooting another 77 to beat him 2&1. I also won two skins and was up in the Hollywood game to profit an incredible $45.00 on the day! Best haul ever I think!

I'm starting to hit the ball a bit better, as I hit 9 of 13 fairways on Sunday and am consistently hitting 9+ greens in regulation as well. My putting was a bit off on Sunday (32 putts) but I feel pretty good over the ball these days in all aspects of the game. Club Championship is in two weeks and I'm looking to make a statement this year.

My game has been generally pathetic this year - my hot putter has been the only thing keeping my scores reasonable. I'll never hit the ball as long as a guy like Harry but if I can just keep the ball in play and get some consistency with my irons, I should be able to make the cut again this year and perhaps fight for a top-three finish in the open flight. I'll have my buddy Jay on the bag for the second consecutive year so it will be a fun weekend regardless of score.

I'll try to take a couple photos out at Cutten tomorrow and post them here, along with my impressions of the course.

EDIT TO ADD:
Oh yeah, I never talk about it anymore here (much to Toast's chagrin) but I've been playing some online poker recently. I've been playing $1/$2 limit for the most part and pretty successfully too. Toast challenged me to move up to $2/$4 and after being up big after an hour, I promptly got spanked for my entire buy-in of $60.00. I came back again tonight though and won $113.00, putting me up $53.00 overall at the higher limit.

I'll likely head back to the $1/$2 games until I get up to $1000.00, which I feel is a reasonable bankroll for the $2/$4 game. Keep in mind I said reasonable, NOT optimal! I've got a little over $600.00 right now on the site from my original $100.00 so I've got a ways to go.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Looking for a Honeymoon Locale

As you're all likely aware, I'm getting married at the end of October and I am looking to take the future wife on a nice 10 day honeymoon a couple days after the wedding. I'm wondering if anyone who visits here has been to an exotic place that exceeded expectations...

I was leaning towards the Pacific side after being under the false impression that the Atlantic and Gulf side will be smack in the middle of hurricane season in November. Now that I know that the hurricane season is over by then, I can now look at the Caribbean as well.

Some places I've scouted out include:

● Kauai (Princeville looks really nice but expensive)
● Maui
● Fiji
● Bora Bora
● Cabo St. Lucas
● Nevis and St. Kitts

A couple of important things to note. My sister wants to pick up the tab for the honeymoon, an extremely gracious (but overwhelming for me) gift. She insists on us flying business class the whole way, which is fine since she has airmiles coming out the wazoo from all the travelling she does through her business. So money isn't necessarily the biggest factor...

However, that being said, I don't want to get out of hand with the hotel we stay at because when my sister ends up getting married, I'd like to do something similar for her.

So, does anyone have any suggestions or positive experiences to talk about? Even if it's in a different area of the world then where I'm looking?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Light at the End of the Tunnel

It's always easy to blog about golf when things are going well.

However, when things go bad on the course, the last thing I usually like to do is talk about it. Same thing goes with practicing - why do we always have the tendency to work on things WE'RE GOOD AT as opposed to practice our weaknesses?

But I digress...

When we last talked, I had a big weekend of tournament golf planned. Saturday was the second leg of the Niagara Cup competition, held at Links of Niagara (Willo-Dell). I played out there earlier this year on the Men's Tour so I was at least relatively familiar with the place.

I teamed up with my buddy Gary as we faced two players from Port Colborne. PC was leading the competition after the first leg so it was important that we take as many points from them as possible before our August singles matches back home at St. Catharines.

The format was two-man best ball and things started poorly for us when Gary couldn't get up and down from a trap and I three-putted, both for bogeys, losing the hole. The yips were in full effect. Oh no.

This meant going away from my normal putting stroke to my 'Choke-proof stroke', where I hunch over the ball a la Nicklaus - I don't make as many with this setup but my shoulders control the stroke and I don't yip it at least.

I was able to par the second and Gary made an improbable birdie chip from way off the green on number three to get us back to even in the match. The Port Colborne team came right back with a birdie on the par five fourth to take the hole, as Gary and I both missed our own birdie efforts. We sawed off on five and Gary then made a 10 footer for birdie on six to halve the hole after the PC guy made a bomb from 30 feet. We halved seven and then Gary three putted eight from 12 feet to give the PC guys a two up lead and a guaranteed point for winning the front side. I was unable to birdie the ninth after a nice shot into 10 feet and we were two down heading to the back.

That's when we started to play.

Gary made a birdie on ten to get us to within one. I made a nice par on eleven with Gary out of the hole for the halve and then Gary took hole 12 with a par to get us back to even on the match and 2 up on the back nine. We took our first lead of the match on another great putt from Gary on the 13th and my par on 14 was good enough for another win, putting us 4 up on the back and 2 up overall.

15 was halved and the Port Colborne team pulled to within one hole after a nice birdie on 16. But we were able to close out the win with consecutive pars on 17 and 18, winning 1 up overall and 4&3 on the back; we get 2 out of the 3 available points for St. Catharines in the match and our team won a fantastic 10.5 out of 12 available points on the day, giving us a big lead going into the third and final set of matches in August.

Gary and I didn't play great golf but he was able to scoot around in 74 while I plodded along with a lot of pars and shot 78.

I felt pretty good about my game going to Hunters Pointe on Sunday for the fourth leg of the Niagara Men's Tour. I had no idea what I was in for...

I had a late tee-off time and was in the third-to-last group. It was an overcast day and really windy and that makes Hunters a pretty difficult golf course. I started off with two very solid pars and reached the mid-length par three third startled to find THREE OTHER GROUPS on the tee.

Oh no...

25 minutes later, I hit my tee shot into the bank right of the green and watched my ball get propelled into the fescue. Double bogey.

I came right back with a nice 18 footer for birdie to make the 'turn' (the first five holes at Hunters are on one side of the road, with the rest of the course on the other side) at +1 through five.

Six is another par three and again there was a three group wait. It's pretty tough to get into a good groove when you're waiting 20 minutes to hit golf shots. I was able to finesse my three iron onto the left side of the green but with the pin on the top right, I had to CHIP the shot from the green over the rough to get to the upper shelf.

That didn't go so well. I left it in the rough and was able to get up and in from there for bogey. I three putted number seven for bogey and bogeyed eight from the middle of the fairway with a wedge in my hand to head to the par five ninth at +4.

After driving into the fescue left and squibbing it out, I had 235 yards left to the pin over a huge lake. Figuring I have nothing to lose (which of course is ridiculous), I pull out a three-iron rescue and ALMOST hit it perfectly. Almost being the key word, as I almost clear the water but don't. Double bogey to finish the outward nine and a discouraging 42.

After driving into the fescue left, my approach on the par four tenth goes WAY left into heavier fescue and I'm ready to walk in. I was able to find the ball, hack out and make bogey. The 235 yard par three eleventh was next. It plays into a two-club wind.

Wonderful.

I hit a soaring two-iron rescue to 15 feet and make par but on the par five 12th, I proceed to hit the ball so far right that I can only laugh. I literally hit it 50 yards right of the hole boundary. I'm forced to reload and I'm almost fortunate enough to squeeze a bogey out. Alas, I miss a four footer and take double.

I'm now feeling pretty sorry for myself, sitting at +9 for the day. I finally hit a fairway with my driver on 13, only my third of the day but three putt for another bogey. I also bogey the short par three 14th.

I just want to go home. It's starting to get dark out now - we're about five hours into the round and we're only on hole 15. Brutal.

My carefree attitude about my score was in full effect on 15. I hit a really nice drive but for whatever reason, Hunters ends the fairway at about 275 yards from the tee and has a 40 yard stretch of rough, penalizing good straight shots. So I'm sitting in a horrible lie after a great drive and proceed to hit my layup down the left side of the fairway.

I walk up to see my ball has somehow ended up in a pond just left and short of the green. Half of the ball is looking up at me and half is submerged...

"Who cares", I shout as I approach the ball LEFT HANDED, turn my eight iron over and take my best Mike Weir swing.

SPLASH! Nice follow through, eyes open...no ball.

It's laughing at me, still in the water. I HATE this game!

"Guess I'll drop now."

I take a lovely snowman on the par five, almost eagle the par four 16th (I did birdie!), three putt the 245 yard par three 17th for bogey after hitting a gorgeous 3-iron tee shot and routinely par the 18th for a fantastic 44 on the back and 86 overall.

I end up in a tie for 48th on the day out of the 63 golfers who teed up and now find myself back in 28th place overall on tour. Only the top 30 at the end of the year are exempt for next season and I'm unable to play in the fifth leg of the tour being held at Sparrow Lakes in August.

That means I'll likely be on the outside looking in for the tour's final stop in September at Thundering Waters. I've played pretty decently this year but one bad event cost me. Oh well...no one to blame but myself.

I couldn't have played worse on Sunday but things ARE looking up. I took Friday off work and got to play some free golf out at Legends on the Niagara (Battlefield Course) with Harris. We played the tips, all 7300+ yards on soggy fairways - I literally had about ten yards of roll combined ALL DAY.

Here's the good part. I hit 13 out of 14 fairways today!!! That's definitely a personal best. Hitting 3 and 4 irons into the greens all day, I still hit 8 greens in regulation and had a yip-free putting day going back to my old stroke. I still shot a disappointing 82 but I played MUCH BETTER than the score indicates.

We'll see if the better swing holds up this morning when I play at St. Catharines.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The 'Ole Langley Choke

I was ousted from the Langley Cup last weekend, the club's 0-7 Match Play competition. I lost 2&1 to fellow 4-handicapper Brian but was lucky to even take it that far.

I shot a horrendous 82 while he countered with a relatively solid 78 but obviously score is meaningless in a match play event. I just couldn't make the routine pars necessary to put pressure on him and lost the match when I couldn't make a simple up and down from in front of the 17th green.

Oh well, maybe next year. :(

I got out to East Aurora CC again on Monday afternoon with my buddies Gary, Harris and Dave. It was their first time at EACC and they fell in love with it on first sight, just like Toast and I did. I bettered my score by two shots from the previous visit, shooting 79 but I'm starting to lose the putting stroke at a very bad time.

The dreaded yips have slowly crept back into my hands and I'll have to get some practice time in tomorrow after work to get them out of my system. I've got to get the shoulders working as opposed to the hands - that's key for me. The swing is still out of sorts as well, as I'm having a heck of a time hitting the driver straight now. I just really suck right now.

And here I thought I was due for a breakout...

In other news, our club is hosting the Ontario Women's Amateur Championship this week. I've been able to get down to the club over the past couple of days to catch some of the girls in action. There are some real players out there - one gal shot a 69 today and the leader is -2 through two rounds. Good shooting!

The best story is recent Canadian Golf Hall of Fame inductee Marlene Streit, who made the cut at 74 years young playing mostly against girls a quarter her age. Incredible!

You can follow along at the GAO website
here.

Another big tournament weekend coming up. I'll be in action at Willo Dell on Saturday morning for the second leg of the Niagara Cup. We'll be playing a two-man best ball format for this event and I'm still awaiting word on my partner. My guess is either Andy or Gary - both are great players.

Then on Sunday I head to Hunters Pointe for the fourth event on the Niagara Men's Amateur Tour. I'm currently sitting 18th overall on tour and will be looking for a top-ten finish to solidify my spot on tour for next year. It will be tough the way I'm swinging and stroking right now but I will have to get the band-aids out and do what I can.