The Bald Truth
Played the new, angrier Cog Hill Dubsdread on Tuesday.
It was quite a stern test of golf.
When I was assigned No. 9 as my starting hole in the shotgun format for the Media Day event, I knew I was in trouble. It's now a nearly 600-yard par-5 through a narrow corridor of trees - the toughest hole on the course.
I turned to the SouthtownStar's Tim Cronin (who literally wrote the book on the Western Open) and said: "I'll be playing it like it's a par-7."
His reply: "OK then, you might manage a bogey."
Or not. I shot a 10.
I won't go into my round's gory details, partly because I stopped keeping score pretty early in the proceedings. No use ruining a beautiful day on a beautiful course by counting all of my, um, birdies. Despite my wayward irons and far too much quality time getting familiar with the nasty bunkers, I enjoyed my afternoon.
Among the changes at Dubsdread: Many holes were lengthened and the bunkers were made far more penal. I thought owner Frank Jemsek simply was trying to Nadel-proof the course, but he assured us that the goal was less dastardly. He wants a U.S. Open in Lemont.
Rees Jones, the architect who oversaw the redesign, believes Cog Hill deserves to host the big event in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, Dubsdread will offer a sterner test for the top pros at the BMW Championship in September. Jones also said the changes would help make the course "more playable and fun for the average golfer."
Hmmm. I hang out with a lot of average golfers, and few if any of them will be forking over the $150 greens fee to play Dubsdread.
As an average golfer myself, I can vouch for the fact that our kind is probably better off playing one of Cog's three other more user-friendly (and far more affordable) courses.
"I don't think so." - Camilo Villegas, defending BMW champion, when asked if his famed "Spiderman" green-reading style would benefit the rest of us.
The Balder Truth
Also in attendance at Cog Hill were former Blackhawks great Stan Mikita and Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks.
Banks was wearing a cap with three Hebrew letters on it. At first glance, I thought the letters were Qof-Bet-Mem. That would have been phonetic for "Kaboom," which would have made sense for Bulls announcer Neil Funk but not for Ernie.
But the Mem looks quite similar to the Samech - the letter that sounds like "s." That made it phonetic for ... CUBS. Of course.
Despite my scorecard woes, I actually had driven the ball well most of the day ... until Banks greeted my group and chatted us up for a little bit. I guess I was nervous, because when I finally took my hack, I hit a grounder that Ernie probably would have turned into a double play.
I'm going with nervousness, because there wasn't a black cat anywhere around.
Thirty-nine years ago Tuesday, Banks hit career homer No. 500 off Atlanta's Pat Jarvis.
Only 490 to go, Ryan Theriot.
THE BALDEST TRUTH
I was in at least one bunker on 13 holes. Several times, I went from bunker to bunker.
What a blast. (Get it? Oh, I'm so freakin' funny!)
Here's the deal: Choose the wrong iron on your approach or misjudge the wind even a little bit, and you're on blood beach without a shovel. Then there are the greens; they already seemed plenty hard, fast and tricky for the pros, but I'm sure they'll be even tougher come September.
Having said all that, Dubsdread was a pleasure to play because of the way it suits the eye and because of the challenge it presents.
I'm grateful that the Western Golf Association and the other fine folks involved with the tournament saw fit to invite me and my media colleagues.
Getting thoroughly humbled is good for the likes of us.