Thursday, August 31, 2006

The New Pad - Part One

Here are a few pictures of my new place. We'll start with the outside today and maybe I'll post a few shots of the inside tomorrow.


The first picture is obviously from the front of the house. It's a two-story 'Salt Box' design with a cedar shake roof. Nice birch tree in front but I will continually have to trim the sucker so it doesn't rub up against the siding. It's a pretty wide property at the front (74' wide) and the landscaping is excellent throughout.


Here's a shot from the side of the house looking in the back. There's a nice herb garden right in front and the backyard has a great looking red maple tree that provides a bit of extra privacy. We also have a bolted down gazebo on the lower section of the patio.


This is a picture taken from the backyard back toward the house. The sloping roof is a 'Salt Box' trademark and you can see that the skylights (we have four in total) prove the house with a lot of natural light. You can also take note of the privacy fence on the left which is there for...


The hot tub! It's an eight-seater and will likely provide a lot of therapy after a particularly brutal day at work or on the course! The previous owners really pimped everything up too, putting speaker wire right by the tub and patio so we can have music pumping outside while entertaining our guests. They even installed lights in the stone surrounding the tub and along the sides of the patio that are on an automatic timer in the evening. It absolutely looks great back there at night!

I'll be back with pictures of the inside next.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm Officially a Home-Owner; Niagara Cup Matches; Fantasy Football

We have a lot to cover in today's installment!

The most important news is that I received the keys to my new house on Friday morning and moved in on Saturday, with the help of six of my closest friends. Jacky's mom also came and was great in helping put everything away. Big thanks to Brandon, Deron, David, Jay B, Jay M and Damon for all their help!

The place was absolutely immaculate - I can't say enough about the previous owners of the house. They were actually cleaning when we first arrived on Friday afternoon after receiving the keys and Dave, the husband, was actually in the process of cleaning out and refilling our hot tub for us. They gave us a bottle of champagne and their six-year old daughter wrote us a personalized card welcoming us into our new home. Really nice stuff.

I'll post pictures of our new pad later tonight on the blog.

Sunday saw the third and final leg of the Niagara Cup regionals, with St. Catharines locked in a battle with the Links at Willo-Dell and Port Colborne CC for the rights to advance to the finals against all the other regional winners. Our club had a nice sized lead but the last leg consisted of singles matches, meaning that there were double the amount of points up for grabs. With 8 guys per team, that meant that there were 24 points available to a club that swept the matches so it was still anyone's ball game.

I got a great matchup: Aaron T. from the Links of Willo-Dell was my opponent. I've never played with Aaron before but I actually grew up with him in Niagara Falls and was really good friends with his brother Adam, who was my age. Aaron is quite a bit younger (maybe six years) but he used to always try to play hockey with us when we were younger so I knew him well.

I heard he was a good player so my strategy, as always, would be to try to par him to death and wait for him to make a mistake.

I executed my strategy perfectly but it almost wasn't enough...

I played almost flawless golf to start, parring the first six holes. However, it wasn't good enough, as Aaron parred the first two, birdied the third and parred four, five and six to take a 1up lead to the par three 7th. I hit my first bad shot of the day, hooking it into the greenside bunker while he was safely on the putting surface. I hit a good bunker shot to seven feet and made it for the par but Aaron made a five foot comebacker for his par to continue with the 1up advantage.

The next two holes really set the tone for the rest of the match.

We both drove perfectly on the par five eighth. I was about 244 yards away for my second into a decent wind and decided to lay back around 90 yards. Aaron was only about 220 away in definite 'green light territory' but his lack of knowledge with the course failed him - he decided to layup as well (which really surprised me considering the fact he hadn't missed a shot all day) but wasn't committed to the shot and hit it way right near the trees.

His third shot was a shocker, as he cold shanked it into the trees bordering the third tee. Wow!

He dropped and hit ANOTHER SHANK, this time keeping it in play near the rope tow that helps golfers get out of the valley after putting out on the eighth green.

I calmly knocked my approach on the green and when Aaron didn't hole out his next shot, his sixth, he conceded the hole to me. I didn't even attempt my birdie putt after the concession although I probably should have since there was a skins game going. Oh well...the match was more important.

I finally got my chance to hit first on nine and poked another perfect drive down the middle. However, my ball was in a huge divot and I was unable to make a good strike from 184 yards, hitting the ball right of the green. It left me with a very difficult shot to a pin tucked close to the greenside bunker. Aaron hit his approach to 20 feet so I'd need to somehow get up and down to halve the front side and take a half point.

I opened the face of my wedge and hit a really nice shot but still could only get to within 15 feet of the pin. Aaron was up and I was a bit surprised to see him knock the putt about 3 1/2 feet by. Not a big concern though, as his par putt was straight in up the hill.

I had the 15 foot slider for par and I somehow was able to compose myself and knock that sucker in for the par (with fist pump attached)!

Aaron then unbelievably MISSED his three footer to give me the hole and the 1up decision on the front nine.

Unbelievable!

I finished the front nine with a 36 and nothing but pars on the card. I kept the pressure on...

I finally made my first birdie of the day on the 10th, ramming in an 8 footer to take the 2up lead. We exchanged pars on the short par four 11th but he bogeyed from the back bunker on 12 and my par stood up for a 3up lead. I hit another great drive on the tough 13th and Aaron hit his drive about 40 yards out of bounds, giving me the 4up lead. We both parred the 14th which put him dormie on the 15th tee.

I still was -1 for the day and bogey-free. As Harry and Toast would say, "but of course...it's the end of the year!"

Well, I guess I subconsciously wanted to make things interesting.

I hit a really big drive on 15 again down the middle (I hit 10 of 13 fairways on Sunday) but ended up completely duffing my second shot with my rescue, leaving me about 185 yards away for my third on the par five. I took a six iron and hit it slightly fat, with the ball coming up just short of the green. I wasn't able to get up and down, making my first bogey of the day and more importantly, losing the hole to Aaron's par.

He made the rookie mistake of hitting driver off the 16th tee and almost hit it into the hazard through the fairway. My rescue was in perfect position, 245 yards away. I layed up nicely to about 80 yards while Aaron hit his layup way left.

Cue the drama.

I completely layed the sod over my gap wedge and was stunned when I couldn't find my ball in the rough in front of the creek. There was NO WAY I should have lost that ball but four guys couldn't find it in five minutes. Unreal!

Aaron stumbled to a bogey on the hole but it was good enough to beat my double.

My collar was tightening!

It loosened up considerably when Aaron hit his tee shot straight right into the hazard on the par three 17th. I stepped up and promptly duck hooked my iron shot into the bunker but I was at least safe. I hit a beauty to seven feet while Aaron hacked his ball out of the hazard behind the green. He chipped short, then hit his bogey chip well past the hole and ended up conceding the match to me.

I won the match 3&1 and took all three points available in our showdown. Everyone else on the team followed suit, as St. Catharines took an incredible 20 out of 24 available points to easily win the regional and advance to the finals. Every guy from St. Catharines won his match and garnered at least two points, quite the achievement! We will play the finals at the end of September, likely playing at Beechwood G&CC.

Last night I participated in the 'Trash Talking is a Must' football pool with Harry and his buddies. It's pretty intense, especially considering the entry fee of $150.00. I got the unfortunate draft position of 10th out of 12 teams but I did pretty well, all considering. Let's look at the team:

LEAGUE NOTES -
- $150.00 Entry Fee
- 18 Total Players Drafted
- 9 Starters: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR/TE, 1 FLEX, 1 DEF, 1 K
- 9 Reserves

QB: Tom Brady (NE); Chris Simms (TB)
RB: Ronnie Brown (MIA); Warrick Dunn (ATL); Mike Bell (DEN); Deuce McAllister (NO); Brandon Jacobs (NYG); Jerious Norwood (ATL)
WR/TE: Roy Williams (DET); Joey Galloway (TB); Donte Stallworth (PHI); David Givens (TEN); Heath Miller (PIT); Devery Henderson (NO); Chad Jackson (NE); Marcus Robinson (MIN)
DEF: Tampa Bay
K: Jeff Reed (PIT)

It's not a quarterback league but I got a real good one in Brady with my fourth round pick. I just wanted a guy who isn't injury prone and Brady can turn water into wine with pretty much any scrub. Brady is an excellent fantasy player and will do well for me. Simms will suit up for my team for only one week - week six when New England has a bye. I picked Simms because Tampa is at home against a pretty crappy defensive opponent in Cincinnati in week six; the only other alternative was Mark Brunell from Washington as they play lowly Tennessee but I just hate Brunell and he's having a horrible preseason.

I got Ronnie Brown with my first pick and I'm pretty happy with the choice. This is a running back heavy league so I picked another with my second choice in Warrick Dunn. I'm not so happy with that pick but at least I know what I'm getting with Dunn as opposed to the other guys that were available there like Chester Taylor and Rueben Droughens. I was later able to handcuff Dunn to his backup Jerious Norwood (which is good fantasy strategy) so I'm happy about that. I got good value with the rest of my RB's. Mike Bell is the opening day starter in Denver and Mike Shanahan just loves using unheralded backs in his system so I should be good to go there. I also picked up Deuce McAllister in the middle rounds - he's looked great in the preseason and will likely share the load with Reggie Bush to start the year. I also scooped Tiki Barber's backup in New York, Brandon Jacobs. This is a good pick just because of the fact that Jacobs gets most of the goalline carries in New York and will likely score at least 6 touchdowns this year. I'm really happy overall with my backs.

I'm a bit weak at wideout when it comes to front line talent but I got a lot of depth and phenomenal value in the middle and late rounds. I picked Roy Williams as my first wideout with my third pick. He's got great size and speed and hopefully will flourish under Mike Martz in Detroit. I got Joey Galloway from Tampa (who may not get as many looks with Michael Clayton healthy) and Philly's recent pickup Donte Stallworth, who'll be one of McNabb's main targets once he grasps the west coast system. Givens was a value selection but I'm not a big fan of his. I like the Heath Miller pick - tight ends aren't required in this league but Pittsburgh will likely utilize Miller quite a bit this year as they don't have a lot of options in the passing game with the loss of Randle-El. Henderson from New Orleans gets promoted to the starting lineup with the trade of Stallworth so I love that pick in the 15th round. Chad Jackson from New England is a huge reach, since he's been injured all preseason but if he's healthy, he'll make an impact since Branch is a goner in Patriot land. My last pick of the draft was Marcus Robinson, the number 2 guy in Minnesota. Great value there.

I got Tampa as my defense and they will be a good one - they have a lot of ball hawks and possess a lot of speed on the outside so interceptions and sacks should be plentiful. Jeff Reed will work out well for me at kicker, since I think Pittsburgh's offense will stutter a bit this year and will open up a lot of field goal opportunities.

All-in-all, I'm pretty happy with the team. Let the trash talking begin!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Signs of Improvement

I played a really nice round of golf yesterday and while there's still a lot of room for improvement, I'm not the disaster I thought I was.

It helped that I was playing with Mike and Bernie, who both were playing solid golf themselves yesterday. I was +1 through 16 holes yesterday and was behind both guys. In fact, Mike (who's taking his playing test later this week to become a pro) was -2 at that point and Bernie was even.

It's always great to have everyone feeding off the other.

I unfortunately threw up all over myself as usual, going double bogey/bogey for a 76 but I'm not concerned about the number. I hit the ball great off the tee (9/13 Fairways) and was good enough with the irons to hit 10 greens in regulation as well - great numbers for me this year.

I received a tip from Cam, one of the assistants at my club, and it's working out well for me at the moment. We were chatting about possibly hooking up for lessons when he said "the first thing I'll be telling you is to drop those hands of yours".

What he means is that I've always held my hands high at address (very upright) and it's not doing anything good for my ball striking consistency.

Well, I took that nugget of advice with me to Muskoka and just let my arms hang naturally from the sockets when taking my grip. My first thought was "MAN, does this ever feel FLAT!".

My impression after hitting a few shots was "boy, they are all flying right at the flag"!

So I took the new setup to the course and was very solid in my two Muskoka rounds and even better yesterday, a few loose shots aside. I'll keep working on it - my iron play still needs work but I'm really comfortable right now with the driver.

Maybe I do have a subpar round in me this year! *FINGERS CROSSED*

Speaking of the assistant pro Cam, he got an exemption into this week's Canadian Tour stop in Niagara Falls, the Fallsview Pro-Am. It's a four-day event that's taking place at the Grand Niagara Resort and at Thundering Waters as well. Cam knew that I'd played at Thundering Waters and asked me if I'd mind going out there with him yesterday afternoon to show him lines off the tee and talk strategy.

Sounds good to me!

So we made a couple stops (first to the local Mizuno rep where we were invited into his 'Batcave' to see all the latest and greatest stuff from his company), then to Grand Niagara for registration and finally to Thundering Waters.

I caddied for Cam and pointed out targets off the tees for the first seven holes. It was extremely slow out there so we walked in and grabbed a cart to check out the rest of the holes, with hopes of getting done in time to watch the end of the PGA Championship.

No luck there but at least we saw all 18 holes. I always liked caddying and enjoyed the time out there yesterday with the pros. We just kept to ourselves for the most part but it was cool nonetheless.

Cam opened with a 78 today at Grand Niagara, which places him in a tie for 99th out of the field of 134. He'll likely need to shoot about a 70 at Thundering Waters if he's to make the 36 hole cut. That's a really tough number to hit out there but I can only imagine the feeling of teeing it up in a true Professional Tour event. You can follow his progress at the Canadian Tour Official Website.

Congrats to Cam!

I'll be back eventually with some pics from Muskoka Bay.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm Back...Just too Swamped to Write

I got back into town on Tuesday night but things have been way too hectic at work and at home for me to write.

I had a meeting at the Armenian Hall in St. Catharines on Wednesday regarding my upcoming stag but the guy I was supposed to meet didn't show. Unreal. From there, I went off to ball hockey. My buddy Jay was playing goal for the opposition and he was able to keep his team in the game long enough for them to complete a crazy comeback. They were down 5-3 with about five minutes left and 5-4 with about a minute and 50 seconds left but ended up winning 7-5. I was able to pot two goals and an assist against Jay but it's meaningless in defeat...next time buddy!!!

Yesterday night, my fiance, my mother and I ventured to the Doubletree Resort for our 'tasting'. We got to sample all of the options for our wedding reception dinner and it was a pretty cool experience. We are giving our guests the choice of two entrees: Beef Tenderloin or Salmon. We're also having six different hors d'oeuvres at our cocktail reception prior to dinner, which will include the choice of the two entrees, bread, salad, soup, vegetables and creme brulee. The afterglow will include coffee, tea and two different cakes: the traditional wedding cake and the new fad of the moment, the groom's cake. My hand is sore from writing so many cheques, that's for sure.

Quick notes on my business trip:

  • The Taboo Resort was very nice. Lots of activities on the water were available and I spent the entire day on Saturday on the beach. Very relaxing.
  • We got to go on the Muskoka Steamship for a dinner cruise on Sunday night. We travelled all around Muskoka Bay and got to see all of the cottages of the rich and famous, including Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Really fun night.
  • I played Taboo Golf Course on Sunday morning and they did make changes to the 16th hole, once a par five measuring 450 yards. It's now rightfully a par four and a difficult one at that, leaving the course at a par of 71. I played decently from the blue tees (approx 6750 yards) but made a bunch of doubles on my way to an 82.
  • While 29 players teed up on Sunday at Taboo, only FOUR decided to go out to the TREMENDOUS Muskoka Bay Golf Club. The new Doug Carrick design (assisted by my pal Ian Andrew) has got an off-the-charts 'Wow Factor' going for it, with about 15 elevated tee shots and granite outcroppings galore throughout the golf course. It was in great shape for a new course and it qualifies as one of the funnest tracks I've ever played. There are a few cool short fours (the fourth hole is very driveable) and two fantastic threes on the back nine. The par fives feature devilish putting surfaces - I don't have the scorecard in front of me but I believe the seventh or eighth features a HUGE camelback green that after hitting in two shots made BOGEY! The ninth hole, in my opinion, is one of the coolest holes I've ever played. Words can't really describe it - the only thing I can say is that it's like hitting a golf ball through a narrow hallway made out of granite on the approach. I'll have pictures and a detailed review up sometime soon. Overall, I played REALLY well out there but still was only able to barely break 80, shooting 79. Tremendous...more to come!

Tonight, Harris, Toast and I will be heading to Yanks for a nice pizza and wing feast, followed by our first poker homegame in well over a year. Should be a fun night!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Away on Business

There will be no posts from today through Tuesday next week, as I'm heading away on 'business'.

It's in quotations because in reality, there's only about 4 hours of business conducted during the mostly social convention, which is taking place at the Taboo Resort and Lodge in Muskoka. I get to bring Jacky, which is great because I really don't know many of the people who'll be attending.

I'm definitely playing the Ron Garl-designed Taboo while there and I'm also scheduled to play Doug Carrick and Ian Andrew's new course, Muskoka Bay. I'll report back on both tracks when I get back.

I'll also talk a bit about my experience at the newest course in Niagara, John Daly's Thundering Waters Golf Club.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Disappointment

There is no other word that fits when talking about my results in the club championship this year.

As you know, I was on the outside looking in upon teeing up on Sunday, needing a really good round just to make the cut after opening with a 78.

I started off well enough, making solid pars on the first three holes. But then, in the story of the day, we hit the backlog...

Every par three saw huge waits of up to three groups, making it very difficult to maintain any rhythm. I can't complain because everyone had to go through it but the fact of the matter is that I just have never been able to deal effectively with the long waits.

I finally tee off on the 182 yard fourth and literally hosel it about 110 yards off the tee. I have to make about a five footer just to save bogey. I follow up with another bogey on the next hole and make a routine par on six before birdieing the par three seventh for the second consecutive day to get back to +1. An easy par on eight and a two-putt par on nine allow me to close the front nine in 37 shots.

Okay, let's keep it going!

The 10th is a short par five and I take full advantage, almost hitting the green in two, pitching to about four feet and knocking in the straight putt for birdie, getting me back to even on the day.

I hit a nice tee shot on 11 but hit an AWFUL pitching wedge from 120 yards, missing the green way right. But my short game continued to bail me out, as I almost pitched in, leaving an 18 incher for the easy par.

We hit the par three 12th and find three groups waiting. Ugh. I get to sit and stew on my nemesis hole for twenty minutes...this isn't going to be good...

Twenty-plus minutes later, I finally tee up and make a ridiculous anti-left swing and the ball soars right of the cart path, leaving a next to impossible pitch shot to a tight pin on a green that falls away from me. I try to pitch the ball into the bank but I'm unsuccessful, with the ball coming up short. I then semi-skull my chip shot about 12 feet past the hole but incredibly, I regain focus and make that bogey putt.

Whew. I'm still in this!

I hit a very nice tee shot on the tough 13th and make a good par so I reach the par three 14th at +1 and in good shape.

I hem and haw about clubs, finally settling on a five-iron on the 176 yard hole that's playing into a stiff breeze with a back pin placement. I make a swing that's anything but confident and SHANK THE BALL straight right toward Burgoyne Woods.

I can only laugh as I tee up a provisional and snap hook it left and long of the green.

My buddy Jay, who was carrying for me in the tournament, thought he saw the ball riccochet off the tree but unfortunately, four sets of eyes weren't enough to find my ball on this day. I couldn't get up and down with my second ball, giving me a crippling triple bogey six on the hole.

I played the rest of the round in a daze and was unable to capitalize on a short birdie putt on the 15th then inexplicably lost concentration on a wedge shot from 80 yards on the 16th (it was in a divot but it wasn't a hard shot) and made bogey there. I made a nice save for par on the 17th and narrowly missed a 15 footer for birdie on the 18th, giving me a 77 on the day.

I was the clubhouse leader at the time and had a bit of hope when one of the guys in the next group, who was ahead of me after one round, shot 81 to fall back of me. I'd need one more guy to shoot in the 80's to get me into Monday's final round or have the leader shoot a 74 or worse.

Neither happened, leaving me out of the competition. The cut came at 153, just like I thought it would. My 155 put me in 9th out of 23 guys who played in the flight.

I just want to thank my buddy Jay for carrying my bag this weekend. He did a great job once again. Sorry I couldn't come through for you! Maybe next year!

I find myself at a bit of a crossroad when it comes to my game. I put this blog together with the intention of using it to improve my game by getting my thoughts and ideas down in written form. However, my game has taken a pretty resounding step in the wrong direction...

I know I have a lot on my plate this year but I've come to the realization that my swing just isn't good enough as it stands if I'm to become a better player. I don't feel like I can control my golf ball on a consistent basis, especially off the tee and I'm pretty sure that means only one thing...

It's time to blow the whole swing up and start from scratch.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Quick Round One Update

Can't talk much due to the fact I tee off in about an hour.

I fought hard yesterday but a double bogey on the last hole cost me dearly in a round of 78, the same score I shot in last year's opening round.

Problem with it this year is the fact that there are better players participating this year and my score finds me in a tie for 10th going into today's second round.

Top eight and ties plus those within 10 shots of the lead make the 36-hole cut. I figure that cut line is going to come at 153 or 154 so that means a 75 or 76 will be needed to squeeze through to Monday's final round.

Here's hoping for the best!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Club Championship Preview

It's pretty late and I tee off in about nine hours for the first round of the club championship at St. Catharines.

I'm playing in the open flight once again. I have absolutely no clue how my game is going to hold up this weekend - I haven't played an awful lot lately but I've been pretty consistent, shooting a bunch of 77's and 78's lately. I might play pretty well (74 or better) or I might be mediocre (78-79) but I'd be surprised if I scored poorly (80+).

Does that make any sense?

My buddy Jay will be on my bag for the tournament which will be fun and I have a great pairing tomorrow, playing with Will and Ben, two of the young whippersnappers with a lot of game. Hopefully I can ride their coattails to success.

The top eight and ties plus anyone within 10 shots of the lead come the end of the day Sunday make the 36-hole cut and get the opportunity to play in Monday's final round.

Again, I have no clue what's going to happen with my game. I've had a pretty poor year from a scoring perspective and I continue with my horrible starts almost every round. My putting has been uniformly excellent all year but my driving and overall ball striking hasn't been up to snuff. But you never know if it all will come together.

Let the grinding begin!

I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of round one. Wish me luck...I'm definitely going to need it!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Heat Wave

I don't know if I've ever experienced heat like we had today in St. Catharines.

We hit a high temperature of 35 celsius today or 95 on the fahrenheit scale. If you can believe it, the humidex rating was 50 DEGREES CELSIUS, or 122 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT.

That is simply disgusting.

The silly thing is that I actually kept my promise and went to the club after work to practice. I hit about 40 balls on the range in bare feet (I kid you not...working on my balance a bit) but I was making ridiculously lazy swings in the stifling heat and hitting the ball like garbage.

So I sauntered off to the putting green, hit a few lackluster chips and putts and headed back to the clubhouse.

I likely spent about 45 minutes practicing...I'm done for the year now!!! Just kidding...maybe!

I may try again sometime in the next couple of days and will definitely play 18 on Friday with Harry and Toast if they're up for it. Toast is moving down to A Flight this year while Harry and I will battle the scratch handicaps in the Open Flight.

I'm going to spend the rest of the night studying fantasy football. This league is pretty expensive so I'm going to put in one night of work in preparation for a draft I likely won't be able to make, due to the fact I have the Niagara Cup singles matches on the day they want to run it.

Hopefully I can talk them out of starting the draft so early in the evening. Get on it Harris!!! 8:00pm start time, not 6:00pm!!!