Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hey Tiger: Hire me as swing coach!

Tiger Woods
Former Majors Champion
The Woods Compound
Orlando, Fla.

Dear Mr. Woods:

It has come to my attention that you need a new swing coach (again), and I am sure I would be perfect for the job. Here is my resume:

1985 -- Underwent back surgery to repair a herniated disc. After that, my golf game only improved over the years ... to the point where I often break 100 on public courses now. I'm sure I could improve your game every bit as much as you deal with a bad back.

1996 – Demonstrated great motivational technique while on a Michigan golf junket with former Copley columnist Gene Seymour.

Gene (standing over 3-foot birdie putt): This is just like the one I missed yesterday.

Me: That’s a great thought to put in your mind. Just shut up and make the putt. (He did!)

1997 -- Covered the Western Open at Cog Hill, and my mere presence inside the ropes obviously inspired you to victory.

1998 – Became a columnist and took advantage of the spare time I suddenly had to revamp my swing, turning my fade into a draw. OK, so it really was turning a banana slice into a duck hook, but it still showed an openness to explore different styles. That fall at Mistwood, I used my new form to make 7 pars in an 11-hole stretch, as witnessed by Tim Cronin. You, too, could enjoy that kind of consistency.

1999 – Made a downhill 25-footer to birdie Medinah No. 3’s famed second hole on PGA Championship media day. Had the ball not gone into the cup, it probably would have ended up in the lake. Later parred 12 and 17 - all part of my nifty 101. You have to admit, not many pros are capable of shooting a 101.

2000-08 – Regularly contended for third place in weekly golf games organized by myself, Phil Arvia and Teddy Greenstein. As a bonus, I got to drive back to Chicago in rush hour. Those 2-hour slogs built my character and proved my resolve.

2000 – Birdied consecutive holes at The Merit Club during U.S. Women’s Open media day. Given that I didn’t make anything better than a bogey on the other 16 holes, this showed my ability to rise to the occasion.

2001 – Playing the 16th hole at Mill Creek Golf Club in Geneva, Ill., with three fellow golfers on the tee box and four more standing near the green, I yanked my tee shot into the water. I then re-teed and hit a big hook that landed on the far right side of the green, bounced several times and went into the cup on the left side of the green for that rarest of shots: a hole-in-3! Although one of my playing partners, Gene Chamberlain, carded a birdie - meaning I didn't even have honors on the next hole - this demonstrated my ability to respond to adversity.

2003 -- Beat Nick "Woosie" Pietruszkiewicz by a stroke on the front 9 at Buffalo Grove Golf Club. So what if he beat my by 13 strokes on the back 9? I showed that for a couple of hours, if I'm playing my best, I can outplay a good golfer playing his worst.

2005 -- Playing Pelican Point in Gonzalez, La., the day after a Bears-Saints game - and less than three months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans - I scored an 81, my personal best for a "grown-up" course. I started with four 6's but then went par or better on 10 of the next 12 holes. The stretch included a career-high six straight pars. It also included a chip-in birdie; those familiar with my short game might argue that was rarer than my hole-in 3 back in '01. Even though I finished bogey-bogey to ruin my bid to break 80, I don't know how you or any pro could look at such an achievement and fail to be impressed.

2006 -- Birdied No. 18 at River Oaks (a.k.a. Fuddruckers National) to win several dollars - more than 1, less than 10 - off of Arvia and Greenstein. I know you like to gamble when you play, and I definitely will give you a run for your money ... if you give me enough strokes ... 18 per side should do it ... or maybe 24.

2007 -- Played 108 holes in 72 hours in Michigan with Tony Pellikan and Tom Chodzko. Talk about toughness and resilience!

2009 -- On consecutive days while golfing in Phoenix, I saw a coyote, a roadrunner and Alice Cooper. You, too, could benefit from my keen powers of observation.

2010 – Following my move from Chicago to Charlotte, I began a three-year stint working in customer service at country clubs - first River Hills, then Ballantyne.

During this time, I practiced hard to get rid of my trademark draw/hook. Now, I have no idea which direction the ball will go once it leaves my club, which speaks to my spontaneity and sense of humor.

I also routinely gave playing tips to members and their kids, the most effective being: “If you want to be any good at all, watch me and then do things the exact opposite way.”

2011 -- Started drinking beer again, a must when dealing with the likes of you.

2012 – After cutting the corner with a long drive and dropping a 5-iron within 2 ½ feet, I made the putt to eagle the 490-yard 11th hole at Ballantyne CC. This tale of my only career eagle surely would inspire any golfer to greatness, so I will be happy to recount my heroics weekly. Or even daily, if you insist.

2014 – Stopped working at Ballantyne CC to concentrate on landing a job as your swing coach because I knew it would be only a matter of time before you blamed Sean Foley for your problems.

So how about it, Mr. Woods … hire me, employ my proven What Not To Do swing techniques, and start winning majors again!



Monday, August 18, 2014

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

The worst part about vacations is that they have to end. As I write this, Robbie is back at work and I am getting ready to go grocery shopping, pick up our held mail and handle a stack of bills that accumulated in our absence. Ugh.

Still, we had a great trip to visit Katie in Seattle and to chill out with our forever friends, Elizabeth and James DeVault, in Park City, Utah.

The trip didn't start very great, as our Southwest flight to Seattle on Aug. 4 was canceled due to mechanical problems. Every 20-30 minutes, an employee went on the intercom to say, "The mechanic has not yet arrived," or "The mechanic just arrived and is assessing the situation," or "The mechanic is now trying to determine if we have the necessary parts to remedy the situation," etc. Finally, after about 5 hours at the airport, we learned the flight was canceled and everybody lined up to receive alternate transportation. 

They wanted to put us on a flight early the next morning. We would have had to gather our luggage, call for the shuttle to take us back to the remote lot where we parked our car, drive 40 minutes home, get as much sleep as we could, wake up at 3:30 a.m. the next day, go back to the airport, park the car, check the luggage, go back through security, etc. It was not an inviting solution.

It dawned on me that I had enough American miles to book new flights and, sure enough, there was one leaving in a couple of hours. Because we were booking on short notice, they charged us $75 each for the right to use our miles. Plus, because we weren't flying on Southwest, they charged us $25 each for our two bags. So it was $200 PLUS 25k miles. But at least we wouldn't have to leave the airport.

Naturally, THAT flight was delayed by about 3 hours. By the time Katie picked us up at the Seattle airport and drove us to her apartment, it was 1:30 a.m. - Seattle time. Meaning 4:30 a.m. for our tired bodies!

Fortunately, getting started was by far the worst part of our vacation. We had a great time in the great state of Washington ... and did so without even sampling their newest legal product.

Robbie and I at the top of Rattlesnake Ledge, 
part of the Snoqualmie National Forest. 
We had amazing views of  Mount Washington, Rattlesnake Lake and 
Chester Morse Lake, making the 2-mile climb worthwhile.

While in Seattle, Robbie and I celebrated our 31st anniversary. 
Doing so with Katie made it extra special. 
She even treated us (mostly) for our great dinner at Cutter's.

We also got to meet Katie's boyfriend, Ben. 

Hmmm ... same name as her brother, same hairline as her father ... a shrink's delight!

Later in the week, we strolled through Pike Place Market, took a whitewater rafting trip - I won't say who fell out, but her name starts with an R! - ate well and drank merrily.

After five fantastic days with Katie, we said our farewells and flew to Salt Lake City. There, we met up with Elizabeth and James, our longest-tenured married friends. Elizabeth and Robbie met shortly after we got married and moved to Madison, where they both worked in a bank's student-loan department. James was going for an advanced degree in economics at Wisconsin and I was in the early stages of my AP career. We've been close ever since, and we try to get together once a year or so. For a long time, the families had mass gatherings, but now that our kids are on their own and the DeVault kids are mostly grown, it's usually just the four of us.

Why Park City? Good question. We had a timeshare week to use and that was the best place we could trade into. It was a pretty mountain area, and we could see why it's popular in the winter. Our Marriott resort had a lot of amenities, and the area was beautiful in the summer, too. We mostly chilled out but did a few more active things.

Here, Robbie and I (and James to the left) are at the Homestead Crater, 
a cavern with mineral water that is at a natural 90 to 96 degrees. 
The picture is fuzzy because we were treading water to try to stay in one place.

Robbie climbs aboard Buttercup for our horseback ride at Antelope Island State Park.

Poor Joe drew the short straw and had to carry me.
I ate so well on the trip that I think I gained 5 pounds. 
I don't know for sure; I'm too chicken to step on the scale! 

Here we are... the Four Horsepeople of the Apocalypse!

Antelope Island State Park is home to hundreds of free-roaming bison, and we saw dozens of them. We also saw a few antelope ... unless they were mule deer. We're still not really sure which. 

The park also borders the southeast part of the Great Salt Lake. I had been to Utah three times - for the 1993 NBA All-Star Game (where my assignment was to cover Shaq's appearance as a rookie) as well as the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals. Despite all that time there, I had never even gotten a peek at the Great Salt Lake. So this time, I made sure I not only saw it but experienced it.

This photo of Robbie and I provides an accurate account of how massive the lake is. 
We only waded up to our knees because, frankly, the water was filthy!

The other major activity we did in Utah was a tour of the Mormon temple grounds in Salt Lake City. We weren't allowed in the temple, but we viewed it from the outside and got to go into a few associated buildings. It's a massive complex, and we learned that more than 60% of the state's population belong to the church. The tour was interesting but I was less fond of the prosthelytizing. 

The rest of our vacation was spent sunning at the pool, relaxing in the hot tub and eating well.

Oh, and playing games. When we get together, Elizabeth, James, Robbie and I play a lot of games - board games, card games, trivia games, etc. OK, so we're not the most happening couples on the planet ... we still have fun. 

On this trip, the ladies discovered a new passion - table shuffleboard. Did I say passion? Maybe addiction is more like it. Elizabeth actually went online to price a table for their house. I think she concluded that it would be too big for any room other than their bedroom, and James wasn't thrilled about that idea!

One day, the table was covered and had a note saying it was out of commission because somebody had broken it. We took a look and saw it only had a minor flaw, one we could fix temporarily with the folded-up cover of a pizza box. 

As we gathered near the elevator to go play, pizza box in hand, I said, "Yep, we're four rule-breaking bad-asses." 

Four 50-somethings setting their own rules so they could play table shuffleboard ... it doesn't get much more bad-ass than that! We laughed about that remark for days, with Elizabeth saying she could just see a Saturday Night Live skit based on the idea. I think it could work, with Will Ferrell returning to play me, of course.

"Don't mess with us ... we're bad-asses ... we're heading for the shuffleboard room ... we've got a pizza box and we know how to use it!"

Our trip wrapped up Saturday and we went our separate ways - Elizabeth and James back to Easton, Pa., where he is an economics professor, and us back to Charlotte. As always, it was sad saying goodbye but we'll have bad-ass memories to last us decades.

For some reason, flights from Salt Lake City to Charlotte were outrageously expensive, so a few months back I decided to use American miles to book the flight. Regular reward seats weren't available, so I said, "What the hell," doubled the miles and treated us to first class. It had been a long time since I had gotten an actual meal on an airplane, and this time, because of our plane change in Dallas, we got breakfast AND lunch! Not bad, either.

An egg "scrambler" with cheese, veggies and potatoes, 
fresh(-ish) fruit and a warm banana-nut muffin. 
I've had worse breakfasts, I can tell you that.

Our flight was on time, there were no problems at all, and boy was Simmie happy to see us!

I tried to upload a video of Simmie going crazy as soon as she saw us, but Blogger wasn't accepting it. So this photo of her on her favorite resting spot - the landing where the stairs take a turn - will have to do. Even though she looks like a puppy here, this was just taken a few weeks ago. Like Robbie, Simmie looks much younger than her years!

Upon our return, we also got to meet our new next-door neighbors, David and Jean. The Burleys, the fun family who lived next door for our first 3 1/2 years in the neighborhood, have moved to be closer to the school their three sons attend. We'll miss them but are happy they sold their house to such nice people!

Though no longer on vacation, we plan to enjoy the rest of our summer. Here's hoping your summer has been great, too.