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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ballyneal Golf Club - Holyoke, CO


One Ballyneal Lane
Holyoke, CO 80734

Architect: Tom Doak
Par - 71

Excitement Level – 12/12
Difficulty – 9/12
Cost - NA/Private
Memberships – start at $50,000, but will increase. Call Ballyneal for more details.
Design – Seven stars (all ratings out of seven)
Conditioning – Five stars (the course is not yet open and is still growing in. Grand Opening is 9/9/2006).
Natural setting – Six and 1/2 stars
Value – NA
Overall rating – Seven stars

For ten years, pilgrims who have made the journey to the Sand Hills of Nebraska have been rewarded with some of the most authentic links golf on Earth.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Golf Immortality For Black Mesa's Eddie Peck, Ballyneal surrenders first ace

HOLYOKE, CO - Life sure looked good through Eddie Peck's rose-colored glasses today. After setting down his trademark Connecticut wrapper cigar and taking that Iron Byron swing of his, Steady Eddie, owner of Black Mesa Golf Club outside Sante Fe recorded the first hole-in-one of his life. He aced the 5th hole, a 171 yard par-3 with an 8-iron.

What a moment. Adam Clayman, our group's madcap commentator called it early that this shot was dead on. I had my camera ready and snapped Eddie's finish. Then everyone says the old "Go in! Go in!"

And then it disappeared...and the roar ensued.


Eddie smiled just like he does every single golf hole...broadly. Eddie has a holy golf soul. He took it in stride. The rest of us however...

Hell, I made Phil Mickelson's Masters leap look downright athletic. I haven't jumped that badly since grammer school. It was a mutated Jumping Jack.

But wait! There's more!

It was at BALLYNEAL. Ballyneal is the latest design by Tom Doak, the architect who designed Pacific Dunes, Cape Kidnappers, Beechtree, The Rawls Course and Sebonack (the course that opened last month between Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America.)

But wait! there's more!

It was the first ace ever recorded at Ballyneal.

Eddie will forever be known as the guy who got the first ace at, arguably, one of the 25 best courses in the entire world; a rugged, hurly-burly, shaggy bear which roller-coasters chop dunes among the sand hills.

The first hole-in-one at the golf course. What a trophy. The witnesses to this historic event were myself, Tony Korologos, Hon. Tom Callahan and Adam Clayman.

But wait! There's more!

The official opening happens September 9. So ratchet up the epic factor yet another notch because he got the ace playing a course still yetto hold it's public grand opening.

I acquited myself quite admirably, thank you very much by the way. I made a sandie out of the soon to be famous "E" bunker, where the green is shaped like an E and the negative space is a deep nasty bunker. "Damn, there's some fireworks going on today" said Hooked on Golf's Tony K. Tony had a great day too, putting lights out and carding a blistering 76 (5-Over the par of 71).

Finally, my 96 foot putt across the infamous 12th green won me a round of drinks from the members.

Fireworks? Ballyneal is thermonuclear. Run, don't walk. With scissors if you have to.

Photo: The E green at 7 at Ballyneal. Pretty interesting shape. Supposedly, Doak had wanted to build this one for a long time and finally got someone to give him the OK. See what great things happen when you let the architect push the envelope?

Monday, August 28, 2006

New Cobra driver, Colorado Golf and Bowling For Soup

So the golf hammer of justice was minorly delayed when Tim Hartnett of Engh Golf did his best Kim Jong II when it came to figuring out everyone's handicaps. (Then he became Joe Lieberman/John Roberts when it came to helping his partner.) Apparently my 15 handicap and Tony from Hooked on Golf's 3 are entitled to only eight strokes when playing Fossil Trace Pro Jim Hajek and himself (a 6 playing to a 10). Tim's clucks like a broody old hen while riding Hajek like Secretariat.

Anyway, yours truly rolled in some putts and Tony played tough as nails on the difficult layout at Pradera on his first time out. But Jim Hajek was too much eagling the first hole and playing -3 for the first six holes. We fought back cutting a five hole deficit to three, but then Hajek pitched in from forty yards away to win the match. Tim's contribution was wisecracking as usual. Jim's eleven year old son Brian not only played a terrific round (95!), but saw his first rock concert and knew the names of all four Bowling For Soup rockers AND all four guys in Led Zepplin.

Anyway, I consoled myself by getting a Cobra 460 CC Thor Hammer of a driver weapon and promptly hit 10 of 14 fairways in todays afternoon round at Red Hawk Ridge. Tony and Eddie peck had great rounds at both Red hawk and Fossil Trace, highlighted by Tony's 75 at RHR!

Ballyneal tomorrow. Those two words speak volumes.

BFS rocked the Ogden Theatre with Army of freshmen, Punchline and Lucky Boys Confusion. Highlights included Punchline coming out and playing Ohio and Smells Like Teen Spirit with the boys and everybody coming out for the amazing double encore of Life After Lisa and I Wanna Be Sedated. Amazing. My favorite moment was watching Jim Engh mosh with his son Brian during "The Last Rock Show" in the "family" section of the arena with the rest of the band's extended family. Watching little Brian and Bailey beaming while chatting up the band was heartwarming. It was their first rock show of their lives and they danced like old veterans. Sign 'em up!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Golf Hammer of Justice poised in Flemmapalooza match

The crenellated battlement mesas of Castle Rock, Colorado take center stage for tomorrow's matches between the extended Jim Engh design team family and this author's trail mix of Bowling for Soup rock band rock and rollers and golf course design critics.

Meanwhile hail only slightly smaller than golf balls interrupted the day's practice round at nearby Red Hawk Ridge. The sky turned an eerie green before howling winds, torrential rain and the aforementioned hail drove everyone fro the course to the safety of the 19th hole.

Team Rock took the opportunity to jet over the ridge to Pradera, iridescent jewel that it is - sight of the team challenge to scout out several tricky holes, such as the short, but cunning 311 par-4 10th, the enormous risk-reward par-5 7th and, of course, the mighty 18th. Team Engh was snug in their beds early...except for those raging madly at the racetrack cheering on the speeding schoolbuses and trains caroming around the devilishly dangerous figure-eight circuit.

School bus races? Why not just go to the rooster fight? The hammer of justice looms and does not suffer chumps lightly! And if the mighty golf hammer is "momentarily detained", well then we all go to the concert at Denver's famed Ogden Theatre and dance.

Bowling For Soup and golf course architects. Two great tastes that taste great together.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

In Memoriam: Mr. Littwin, my Deerfield Academy English teacher

My heart feels a little empty tonight. A great light has gone out. I learned today of the passing of my English professor from Deerfield Academy, Mr Tedman Littwin.

Yet I owe Mr. Littwin so much more than just a mere remembrance as an English teacher. Many of my accomplishments in life are a house built on his foundation. Indeed, his was a towering achievement, taking an ordinary kid from Utica who was clueless and awkward and molding him into a young man ready, hungry for success in college. Because of Mr. Littwin and other humble, patient teachers, ugly ducklings become swans.

Junior year when I took British Literature with Mr. Littwin my favorite stories came to life and my writing (and imagination) went to another level. I still re-read Dr. Faustus and MacBeth to this day, recalling Littwin's brilliant "Great Cosmic Egg Theory" that MacBeth is driven to evil because he cannot have an heir. I still read a great amount of Gothic Literature because he made it so interesting.

I also remember long nights at my IBM Selectric pounding out the weekly three to five page paper that formed the basis for all Deerfield grads' solid writing skills and vibrant imaginative prose that soars to new heights. Writing at Trinity was a breeze. Because of Mr. Littwin, I had the basic writing skills to write outside the box, yet keep organization strong and transitions smooth. Still, Mr. Littwin gave me free rein as a writer. Follow the basic rules, but take chances to stand out.

He also never lost faith in me. He was my corridor master in my senior year, guiding me with patience, immeasurable time and good advice. I returned his kindness by teaching basketball to his young son Tyler, then maybe five or six. I remember with joy the day "Tyler beat me." He and Tyler even gave me a congratulations card and a carnation for my lapel on graduation day. Tyler said "Cragulations" as he handed to me. I think his eyes were as misty as mine are now.

Deerfield teachers are unsung heroes. I owe everything I am to my three years there; my writing ability, my tenacity, my fearlessness. While I was there, I was merely average, but merely average at Deerfield is still a world beater. It was those papers I wrote every weekend and the long hours of study and responsible allocation of time that are my cornerstone. Still, I have neglected to thank so many of them as the years have passed.

I regret never thanking Ross McGlynn for his pep talk to me my sophmore year about not letting people get me down. Thirty years earlier, McGlynn (as he liked to be called) taught my cousins Robert and Jamie. He called me "Young Flemma."

I still fondly remember Mr. Brush teaching Latin and coaching cross country, Mr. Hindle in math class and soccer practice ("All Hail the Czar!") "Reality Russ" Durgin making us write an essay about the wide stride of BJ Wills as he strode across the quad and him having intellectual debates with one of the PG guys about existentialism. Golf with Mr. Boyle and basketball with Mr. Graney. Slam dunking one off a bench for a staged photo - remember guys? From sophomore year? "Jumpin' Jay Flemma slams one home in recent IBA action." Mr. Hodomarski telling everyone about the game I won with two free throws after time expired. All the hard lessons I learned about how silence equals integrity and how to get along as an only child thrust into a family with 31 older brothers.

I remember sophomore year on senior day when - as the waiters came out with dinner - sharp eyed Mr. Danielski shouted "Oh my God for the first time in my fifteen years we are having lobster!" I remember the airplane flying over campus bearing the message "Day off Thursday - Love and kisses REK."

I still have the picture of me shaking hands with Mr. Kaufman as I got my diploma. I still laugh as I hear Fitz Flynn at the dining hall mike after mystery meat night leading us in the second greatest Deerfield cheer ever:

Gimme an R! E! A! L! F! O! O! D!

Fitz: What do we want? Deerfield: Real Food!
Fitz: What did we just have?!

Silence...then uproarious laughter. The Deans of Students actually called Fitz's parents to express their loathing for the act. I dont think they got far at all. Imagine you getting a call about your son form the Dean of Student..."What did he do? He led a cheer saying the food was bad? And you're bothering me for this?" My fiorst reaction would have been, "well, what did they serve?"

I love ya Deerfield, but Fitz was right...the food was weak;)

By the way, the best cheer of course was the simplest - "Beat Choate, Beat Choate, Beat Choate..." I also remember our hall making the best banners ever - "Choate, the K-Mart of prep schools" and "Cho-T, go home!"

I remember making a last minute save to preserve heavy underdog senior soccer's miracle 4-3 win in double overtime over Choate at Choate. Mauricio Barberi and Laurence Schelke scored three of the four goals. We carried our coach, Aussie Mr. Ginns off on our shoulders. He apparently had never seen that before and he screamed "Hey! Lemme down you bloody penguins! Lemme down!"

Our motto is "Be Worthy of Your Heritage." It's appropriate in these sad times when so much time, energy, and money is spent avoiding responsibility instead of embracing it; using it to transmogrify you, galvanize you into a rock.

All those memories wash over me now in a nostalgiac wave. I'm overwhelmed by it. It's as bittersweet as graduation. Later tonight before I go to bed, I'll hum the Evensong and the Alma Mater, which I remember by heart even though I sing them once every two years. That's what Deerfield does for you. It makes you. I Thank God for my time at Deerfield.

But Mr. Littwin, I never thanked you. It was so wrong of me. I wipe a small tear from my eye and say a prayer for you and your son Tyler and your whole family. You did it sir. I am writing from the heart. I break lots of rules and make it gripping anyway. Finally, in some small way, I have become worthy of my heritage. Via con dios.

Mr. Littwin deserves a few days of mourning. I'll write again from Colorado on Saturday.

Fall Tour 2006 - Golf in Colorado, Nebraska, Indiana, Thank you to lifesavers

Here's the breakdown for the Fall tour. I'll be reporting live from three different areas of our great golf nation.

Part 1: Denver - Red Hawk Ridge, Pradera, Fossil Trace - The "Jim Engh" leg of the tour. Happily, he's been building in a more expansive area of the country now, so people are getting to see his work. His design team will play a one day team challenge against my crew of golf scalliwags from Bowling For Soup and some of my architecture expert buddies. Smack talk from my side has been extensive. We'd do well in a shouting match against Maryland's Potomac Cup team. Tony Korogolos told everybody on Hooked on Golf we were gonna "clean their clocks" and I've been hectoring Jim himself about the looming "Golf Hammer of Justice."

I can hear myself on the tenth tee now..."It was always my plan to trail at the turn...thus deepening Jim's eventual humiliation..." Anyway, his hossenpfeffer, Tim Hartnett (excellent architect in training I may add!) tried to run some funky jazz past me about "you better bring sunblock 650 cause you're gonna get LIT UP!" but that's just Tim being a jive sucka.

Part 2: The "Sand Hills" leg - Ballyneal, Dismal River, Wild Horse and maybe Iron Horse.

Part 3: - The "Brickyard" Leg - Brickyard Crossing, The Trophy Club, The Fort

Tour starts Saturday.

In an unrelated matter, Ernesto the Prediction Iguana, who doubles as firm security around here was dead on when he called Tiger winning with -18...that was impressive.

Now, some thank yous are in order:

1. BIG thank you to Sandy at The Rental Co., Car Agency in Forest Hills, NY (718.353.6848). Sandy is a HUGE golf fan and a long time reader who helped me out of a helluva scrape when Brian form B&B Auto Body in Bedford Hills, NY screwed up fixing my car and I was stranded with no way to get to Bayonne G.C. for media day. Sandy, you saved my bacon!

2. big ups to a new clothing design label I really dig here in NYC called Seize Sur Vingt (pronounced "SAY Ser-VANT," it means 16 and 20). Alex and company are making a terrific new line of polo-style shirt under a new brand called "UBNY - United Boroughs of New York." These shirts are Egyptian Cotton and were the talk of the Potomac Cup - especially the line I wear with the UBNY logo on the right breast and a different "freedom fighter brigade" on the left breast. The black shirt I wear commemorates Corsica's independance form Spain. There's one for the Faroe Islands, etc. These are a great line. You can see them at www.16sur20.com. Tell 'em Jay from Cybergolf and Golf Observer sent you.

3. Finally, you must go to Nemacolin Woodlands resort and spend three or four tranquil days there. Go in and shake hands with Dennis Clarke, director of Golf when you're there. Tell him I sent you. Now, on the way to and from NYC, its a long drive. Happily there is a great Jacuzzi Suite at the Best Western in Shippensburg, PA. Again, call General Manager Kenny Mehta and tell him Jay the golf writer said the Jacuzzi Suite was mac daddy and you'll have a great over night place to chil and avoid that 6-1/2 hour drive all in one piece. The BW is right off 81 South and the phone is 717.532.5200.

Have a great golf trip!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sweet Virginia! VA squanders gargantuan lead, rallies late to win 19.5 - 18.5 over Maryland in Potomac Cup

FARMINGTON, PA - Never, ever, EVER, pop the champagne early.

The Boston Red Sox learned that the hard way in 1986 against the New York Mets and the Virginia team can within a whisker of making the same mistake and surrendering the biggest comeback in Potomac Cup history.

With a 14.5 - 9.5 lead going into today's 14 singles matches and needing merely five points to win a third straight Potomac Cup and fourth in six years, the singles matches fluctuated around the break even point - 7-7 - for most of the day. Maryland surged as high as 8.5 - 5.5, but leads were worthless all day as the singles matches saw the largest number of swings between individual games the whole weekend.

But as most matches approached the latter half of the back side and with Virginia winning at least four and even in four more Steve Czaban made a call he almost regretted. Spurred by the assembled media, Czaban ordered the Cup filled with not champagne, but candy. Czaban sought to finally return a running jibe of Team
Maryland who received many handicap strokes - jokingly referred to as "Candy" by Maryland Captain Jeff Sheehan. Sheehans players marked balls with M&Ms and tossed Junior Mints to their opponents on tee boxes before matches.

"The idea was too eat candy out of the Cup just to stick it in and twist a little" said a relieved Czaban after all was said and done. When the call was made to the pro shop to make ready the trophy, staff asked if the candy should be opened and placed in the Cup. "Yes" said Czaban, even though he still meeded two more points to secure the win.

And then the comeback began. Maryland tied the matches twice and briefly hald the lead before bowing late.

Losing big all day, Maryland's Chris Johnson made three straight birdies to tie his match with Virginia veteran Jim Flynn. An elated Johnson won outright on 18 and through his arms skyward in triumph. "It was such a terrific comeback, I feel no
shame whatsoever in losing" said a truly sincere and gentlemanly Flynn. "He played so well on the last holes, he really deserved to win." Ron Thomas, who blew a lead to Czaban as late as 14 rallied over the last holes to scrape out a win. John Rhodes won the match of his life, besting seasoned amateur competitor Ross McIntosh of Virginia 2&1.

It seemed the curse of the champagne was about to lay another tombstone in the graveyard of overconfident favorites.

Victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat by the most unlikely of figures. Although the score in matches already finished was 18.5 - 13.5, every other flag on the board but one was Maryland red. The fate of the Commonwealth rested on the shoulders of Cup rookie Scott Inman, locked in a fearsome battle with firebreathing and inspiring Maryland co-captain Pedro Carrasco. Known to his teammates as "Speedy Gonzales" for his rapid fire chatter, Carrasco had rallied his troops time and again all weekend, leading by example and crafting a 2-1-1 record in the matches until the singles.

Undaunted, Inman calmly rolled in a short putt on 15 and closed out the match. Ever the sportsman, a smiling Carrasco was the first to congratulate him.

The humble Inman, who later said "It was my first rodeo and I'm just grateful I didn't get bucked off," was named the tournament's most outstanding player - called the Hardy Award after the Nemacolin Resort owner Joe Hardy whose Mystic Rock course hosted the three-day matches. In his first cup, Inman was 3-1-1 overall record for the weekend and sank the Cup winning putt, enabling him to come and claim the Cup from Resort Director of golf Dennis Clarke in the presentation ceremony.

"We have nothing to hang our heads over" said an upbeat Sheehan after the loss. "We dug ourselves a hole, but we got out of it with pride and hard work. Every point is crucial when you need them all and we just needed one too many."

The upbeat tenor was echoed by fellow Maryland teammates John Rhodes and Tom Bender. "We have alot to be proud of. We're going to come back and win this thing. Next year begins tomorrow."

Virginians Vance Welch (3-1 record this year), Bill Polen, Chris Huemmer, and Doug Stump also won the crucial matches to enable Virginia to reach the 19.5 points goal to win their third straight Cup. The 19.5 - 18.5 final score ties last years 18.5 - 17.5 result for the closest Cup in tournament history.

Pictures: Top: Victorious Team Virginia celebrates with the candy filled Potomac Cup. Below: Wave that flag! Wave it wide and high! Bill Polen is wrapped in the Virginia flag while Scott Abell and a Potomac Cup fan signal Virginia's triumph.
Virginia was propelled to victory by a virtuoso performance in the Saturday morning best ball matches where they outscored Maryland 5.5 to 0.5. Maryland won the Sunday singles 9-5.

Potomac Cup live final day coverage on WTEN Sportstalk 980 - with Jay Flemma

FARMINGTON, PA - A leaden slate sky greets the Potomac Cup organizers as they arrive at the media center for the Sunday morning singles matches. The Cup will be awarded today, rain or shine, but sporadic showers will interrupt the proceedings more than once. Arriving even before resort staff, early moring radio shows covering the event are bantering about the Sunday pairings. "Maryland has an uphill battle, but I'm still a little bit nervous" Virginia captain Steve Czaban says candidly.

Czaban's misgivings may be overkill. Virginia holds a a commanding 14-1/2 to 9-1/2 lead with fourteen points left in today's singles matches. With seven scratch golfers scattered throughout the pairings and two seasoned amateur competitors a the anchor -South African ex-pat Ross McIntosh and Vance Welch - Maryland must play over their heads through the entire roster to close the gap.

After the two squads split the Friday doubles matches 6-6, Virginia found another gear and took 5-1/2 points out of 6 in the Saturday morning best ball matches to surge to a five point lead. The teams splits the six Captain's Choice matches.

"We put ourselves behind the eightball with those morning matches" Maryland Captain Jeff Sheehan says, bantering with his Virginia counterparts on the "Sportstalk 980" radio show as players being to filter into the parking lot. "But Czaban made the same mistake the Europeans did in the 1999 Ryder Cup saving his best for last. I sent out my best guys early to try and close this gap quickly. And they get lots of shots and Virginia's early guys will be fighting that uphill. Par today is our friend" Sheehan says with both a smile and sincere determination. Sheehan has led by example, winning both matches in which he played and chirping in the Virginian's ears at every oppurtunity.

Czaban and McCaa both take umbrage at this author's prediction that they were underdogs in their matches - to Ron Thomas and Al Aldana respectively, but even Czaban admits his putting has been deeply suspect. "When it comes to putting, Czaban is a choking dog" jibes Sheehan starting the smacktalk all over again, this time over the air. Nevertheless, at this writer's insistence, Czaban later headed over to the practice green to do the Phil Mickelson three foot "Circle of Death."

Talk then turned to the Mystic Rock course setup. Its not your normal polite plain Vanilla comments, even though Director of Golf is partaking in the discussion. All involved in the tournament, from media to players to organizers agree, Mystic Rock offers something for everyone. Golf Course architecture experts love the course for its alternating shot pattern requirements and great routing. "No two holes run in the same direction and all four par threes play in different directions" notes Clark. McCaa, Flynn and I agree. "The greens have alot of contour and those chipping swales around the greens would make Donald Ross proud." McCaa says with a frustrated smile. "The adventure is just beginning" Flynn adds.

Indeed, the chipping swales and devilish greens may keep the matches closer as average players have the option of putting or bumping to get close to the pin. That';s the beauty of Mystic Rock, there is a right side to miss and a wrong side to miss and strokes can vanish in a heartbeat.

Rain pounds down outside ten minutes before the first tee time for the Sunday singles that will decide the Potomac Cup. Maryland players are shooting pool in the "Gentleman's Locker Room" at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort's Mystic Rock Course (which is bigger than many pro shops at daily fee facilities). Virginia Players are either watching the early morning PGA Championship coverage or preparing for when the weather moves through. "We're gonna let it all hang out today" says Jim Campbell energetically. He may be sitting on an easy chair with his cap on his knee, but he is ready. "I wanna go out there right now. I know my opponent [Bill Mullikin] is a great player, but we are an even match, so turn me loose." "We are absolutely gonna win echoed Doug Stump.

Virginia is in the driver's seat. Virginia looks focused. Virginia has Maryland scrambling to survive. But now comes the time to close the deal.

Czaban himself can lead the charge. He tees off first match of the day against the colorful and confident Ron Thomas. While Sheehan fired a clarion call to open the matches by teaming with co-captain Pedro Carrasco for a rout win, triggering a 4-2 lead, but Czaban can fire the shot that signals the end. Then in matches 3-5 Virginia's sends out three even-keeled pressure hardened veterans, Doug Stump, Jim Flynn and Chris Huemmer. The matches stand a good chance of being over even without Virginia anchors McIntosh and Welch firing a shot.

Maryland's best chances come in the middle matches. The heart of the Maryland team, Jason Masri, a rookie having a solid first Cup and veteran Chick Hernandez preceed Al Aldana, Jeff Sheehan and Pedro Carrasco. "If the top of the order can survive, the heart of the order is solid" said John Rhodes optimistically. "Then its up to Brad [Hankey] and I."

VIRGINIA 14.5 MARYLAND 9.5 with 14 points left.

SUNDAY PAIRINGS (w/Handicaps and singles records)


(C) Steve Czaban (9) Ron Thomas (0)
Bill Polen (7) Tom Bender (11)
Doug Stump (2) Chris Johnson (13)
Jim Flynn (6) Jeff Dame (7)
Chris Huemmer (3) Michael Kurtz (14)
Scott Abell (4) Jason Masri (3)
Dave Gudinas (3) Chick Hernandez (6)
Adam McCaa (1) Al Aldana (5)
Brian Mitchell (9) (C) Jeff Sheehan
Scott Inman (1) Pedro Carrasco (6)
Jim Campbell (14 Bill Mullikin (14)
Frank Romano (0) Terry Norell (14)
Ross McIntosh (0) John Rhodes (0)
Vance Welch (0) Brad Hankey (3)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Furious rally hurtles Virginia to lead halfway through Potomac Cup

Maryland talked the talk early, but Virginia walked the walk late, riding gritty, clutch back nine performances by Adam McCaa, Vance Welch and Ross McIntosh to stage a furious rally and seize control of the Potomac Cup at the halfway point. With afternoon matches teeing off just after 3 PM, Virginia holds an 11-1/2 to 6/1/2 lead in this, the sixth annual golf battle between the states.

“We really need to do some work in the afternoon Captain’s Choice matches to be in position to make a move tomorrow in the singles” said Maryland Captain Jeff Sheehan. “We have some great leaders on this team, but we are being outplayed right now. There is a lot of talent on the other side.”

Maryland’s captains have led by example. Sheehan and Assistant Captain Pedro Carrasco opened the matches with a clarion call that thundered across Western Pennsylvania, trouncing Virginia co-captain McCaa and Jim Campbell 5&4. Maryland team members fed off the energy, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and looked to run away with the matches.

It was a precision jackhammer attack that lasered through the opposition and filtered down through the entire roster. Maryland newcomers Bill Mullikin and Terry Norrell won their morning match 3&2 and fellow newcomers Jason Masri and Brad Hankey routed Virginia’s more experienced team of Vance Welch and Doug Stump (career combined 14-10). Even much maligned Michael Kurtz (overall 4-8 record) - who weathered blistering heat from Virginia players who said “get him some sunscreen cause he’s gonna get lit up” – won a stunning victory over Superbowl winning Redskins running back Brian Mitchell and scratch golfer McIntosh

With Maryland’s rookies not only getting a taste of the competition early in the matches, but savoring their first victories and with the bottom of the order holding their end up, Maryland looked poised to dominate. “We were lucky to avoid losing five or even six” said Virginia Captain Steve Czaban.

But Virginia absorbed the body blows, riding experienced Cup players and gutsy play by its co-captain to surge to a tie at the end of day one and take command after the Saturday morning best ball matches.

McCaa and Scott Abell provided the catalyst for the run that surged Virginia to the lead, defeating Maryland marquis pairing Hankey and Masri.. “Scott helped me make a great par at the par-5 11th in the alternate shot yesterday” said McCaa with an almost grateful smile. “Scott is a rock for us. It gave us our first lead since the first hole. Then he hit a great shot on 14 from under a tree that couldn’t have been more than four feet off the ground and ran to the green saving us a much needed par.”

Then the scratch amateur competitors put the hammer down and brought Virginia into a tie by day’s end. McIntosh and captain Czaban (combined records 22-8-4) defeated Ron Thomas and Chick Hernandez 2&1. Amateur competitor and co-captain Vance Welch teamed with Jim Flynn for a 7&5 win over Tom Rhodes and Al Aldana (10-5 combined). As the sun set Friday, the matches were deadlocked 6-6.

Captain Sheehan’s morning strategy of paring players with their qualifier teammates which worked so well in the morning was abandoned. “I wanted to get guys a chance to play with some of the other teammates and see what new chemistry might develop. It may have made things a little tougher in the alternate shot format, but I thought the strokes we were getting might offset the unfamiliarity” he noted sourly.

It worked in only one match as Carrasco and Mullikin ripped through Virginia’s Doug Stump and Scott Inman. “Mullikin was a good partner. He worked well with me and we were able to execute well as a team from early in the match” added the colorful and affable Carrasco, known to his friends as “Speedy Gonzales” for his rapid fire chatter on and off the golf course.

“We better do something fast” added Marylander Ron Thomas. “The site of these donkeys posing for a victory picture makes me wanna puke.” His wasn’t the only acidic comment. “Four of these Virginia guys have radio shows (Czaban, McCaa, Mitchell and Flynn) and we will have to hear it for a year if they win” added Hernandez.

The Virginians took the ribbing in stride – mostly ignoring it - and surged through the Saturday morning Best Ball matches 5-1/2 to ½. Four of the matches were closed out before the 17th hole. Chris Huemmer and Jim Campbell led off the morning with a 3&2 upset of Hernandez and Rhodes setting the tone for the bloodletting. Team cornerstone Welch then teamed with Bill Polen for a 7&6 victory. Both McIntosh and Czaban also won matches in routs, paired with Abell and Stump respectively.

But such is the nature of this event, where 28 ordinary Joes are transmogrified into battle ready, tonka tough, rock ‘em sock ‘em robots, trading golf punches with reckless abandon and tireless passion. After all is said and done, win or lose, they go drink together. Only hockey can claim such comeradery as a handshake ceremony follows every bloody seven game playoff series.

Perhaps the best testimony to the comradery of the event occurred at the close of the Friday matches. With all six matches decided at or before the 17th hole, all twenty-eight players and one black clad, goateed journalist teed off in an impromptu twenty-nine man group en masse on the 18th hole and then swarmed in fourteen carts up the fairway in a winner-take-all, one-club challenge. With the sunlight rapidly fading and chatter in two different languages echoing though the fairways, “it looked like a giant swarm of salmon surging upstream” said Virginian Jim Campbell. “It was one of the most exhilarating experiences in my golf career.” “It looked like a runaway golf cart marathon” laughed another casual observer. “They looked like an army swarming over the battlefield, carts, clubs and guys everywhere yammering away. It was the most organized chaos I ever saw.”

84 Lumber Classic venue Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Resort hosts the Cup matches this year. The course also hosted last week’s Pennsylvania State Open. Media day play for the event showcased quick greens (11-11.5) on the stimpmeter and thick, well watered rough. Still, the wide fairways offer plenty of room off the tee, while shaved chipping areas offer short game masters multiple options greenside. Bump and run, pitch and check, flop, pitch or putt are all viable from around nearly every green.

The course has clearly lived up to its reputation as the premier resort in the Northeast. “This is a classic Pete Dye design with a lot of interesting contour in the greens and it’s in the best condition of any course I’ve played all year” said Virginia player Francesco Romano.

Friday, August 18, 2006

2006 Potomac Cup - Maryland not intimidated by Virginia's deeper roster


For a man starting seven Potomac Cup rookies right out of the gate in the Friday morning best ball matches, Maryland captain Jeff Sheehan is unconcerned. “We’re gonna be in their heads. They may have more experience, but we’re getting shots to even things out. There’s a lot of candy we’ll be getting this weekend and we’re gonna let them know that at every opportunity.”

Sheehan conceived a novel way to remind the Virginians. “Candy” will be everywhere – literally. “We’ll be marking our balls with M&Ms. Some guys will be handing opponents Reese’s pieces before the matches tee off. With every shot they take, they’ll see a reminder of the shots our higher handicappers will be getting.”

The intimidation doesn’t stop there. Maryland eschewed their normal red and white for a tough all black “third jersey” look. They have been loose and jocular, high-fiving each other after the national anthem. They are sending a clarion call from the opening ball as Captain Sheehan and Assistant Captain and team cornerstone Pedro Carrasco lead off the morning matches. Maryland 2-handicapper John Rhodes even disrespected former Washington Redskins Super Bowl player Brian Mitchell, who starts in his first Potomac Cup for Virginia. “I’m playing Mitchell this morning? I feel sorry for him. You can’t tackle birdies, can you?”

The strategy has not been lost on Virginia Captain Steve Czaban. “We have depth 1-14 through the roster, but yes, those shots will help keep them in their matches. On paper we may have an advantage, but this is going to be a very tough Cup”

His team seems to have gotten the message. Quiet confidence and steely resolve powered them during the team meeting last night. “They are going to be mad after blowing a four point lead on the last day last year” said Virginia’s Chris Huemmer. Huemmer is playing in his first Cup after missing out at a qualifier Last year by a whisker. He and his partner each took a soul-scarring 9 on an easy par five opening hole. A mere bogey would have vaulted them to the team. “This is redemption for us.”

Still, the team is not taking anything for granted. “This is a strategic course where lots of shots can swing very quickly, so we’ have to stay focused and pick each other up and be positive” echoed Assistant Captain Vance Welch.

Welch will be a critical player for Virginia. “He is one of the best match play guys in the region” said Czaban. Welch brings and 8-2 overall Cup record into his morning match. He and 2-handicap Doug Stump will be the anchor of the six morning matches, paired against Jason Masri and Brad Hankey, a 4 and a1 handicap respectively, but both Potomac Cup rookies. Ross McIntosh (3-1-1 overall) Adam “Signboy” McCaa (a 7-7-1 record and a dead ringer for the portly commercial actor) and Jim Flynn (8-6-1) also have strong career records in the matches. In a pinch, Czaban might call his own number. His 15-7-3 overall record has a huge advantage over Shelley’s 8-15-1.

Two morning matches of Potomac Cup rookies may well set the tone for the whole weekend. Virginia rookies Scott Inman and Huemmer face Maryland rookies Thomas Bender and Jeff Dame. In the next match, Virginia’s Bill Polen and Dave Gadinas were specifically paired to counter Maryland’s Terry Norrell and Bill Millikin, who play together as a team frequently and have won several big regional handicap tournaments.

While Sheehan not only played his rookies early to calm jitters and “give ‘em PT” he also kept teammates from qualifiers together so they would have an additional comfort zone. Czaban eschewed this theory, instead pairing teammates with similar length off the tee.

Six best ball matches in the morning will be followed by six alternate shot matches in the afternoon. Tomorrow six two man scramble matches replace the best ball format. Fourteen singles matches end play Sunday.

84 Lumber Classic venue Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Resort hosts the Cup matches this year. This course also hosted last week’s Pennsylvania State Open. Media day play for the event showcased quick greens (11-11.5) on the stimpmeter and thick, well watered rough. Still, the wide fairways offer plenty of room off the tee, while shaved chipping areas offer short game masters multiple options greenside. Bump and run, pitch and check, flop, pitch or putt are all viable from around nearly every green. The course has clearly lived up to its reputation as the premier resort in the Northeast. “This is a classic Pete Dye design with a lot of interesting contour in the greens and it’s in the best condition of any course I’ve played all year” said Virginia player Francesco Romano. Romano has a career 5-4-2 record for “The Blue.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A River Runs Through It: Potomac Cup Matches Fuel Maryland - Virginia Rivalry

Editor's Note: Cybergolf is covering the Potomac Cup matches wall to wall this weekend, with additional reports here. Golf Observer will also be linking every day to the coverage of the matches and pairing draws.

We'll also be covering the PGA Championship from Medinah this weekend, but you already know the buzz for this week - 1) Can anybody beat Tiger? No; 2) What about Phil playing with him in the same group? That did loads for Nick Faldo; 3) Why will Tiger win? Because Medinah has flat huge greens, favors brute length over strategy and he won there before. See everybody from Augusta next spring...

So, without further ado:




Fox Sports Net broadcaster Steve Czaban has never been a shrinking violet, but in heating up an inter-state rivalry and taking the battle to the golf course, Czabe (as his friends call him) has become even more of a champion to the average sports fan.

“When I was growing up in the DC area, it was all about what side of the river you were on, Maryland or Virginia. There is just an innate, deep-rooted competition and resultant bad blood between folks from “The Commonwealth” [Virginia] and “The State” [Maryland] says the affable but mischievous Czaban. “My goal was to provide the weekend amateur player with not only a chance to play in a Ryder Cup style event, but to play for pride. In this case, pride for whatever side of the river he hails from.”

Now lets be honest here – the goal was also to fuel competitive fire and state rivalry with loud golf bragging rights and chest thumping. Stir the pot and do something for Joe Six-pack? That’s Steve Czaban; the pulse of the Great American Sportsman (that’s “Hominus Sporticus Americanum” as Czabe says).

With those dual goals in mind, the Potomac Cup matches were born in 2001. Each year, hundreds of hopeful DC area amateur golfers play their way through two grueling qualifiers in the hopes of landing one of eight at large spots on each of the fourteen man teams representing either Maryland or Virginia. In order to improve the chances of mid to high handicappers, entrants – playing as two man best-ball teams - play the qualifiers with the benefit of their handicaps. The survivors head off to a first rate golf resort for a three day competition modeled closely after the Ryder Cup matches - two days of two-man team competition and a final day of singles play.

As the years have progressed, the tournament’s renown has grown significantly, creating not only a genuine interstate buzz preceding the matches, but generating new economic partnerships for the matches. “Relationships with manufacturers and vendors created sponsorships and also provided things for the players like balls, hats, uniforms and bags” said Jeff Sheehan of tournament corporate sponsor Pros and Hackers Magazine. “I get goose bumps when I think about how this has taken on a life of its own and become one heck of an event.”

Sheehan’s goose bumps had better subside in a hurry. He is also the playing captain of the Maryland side which has dropped the last two matches to the Virginians. This year will mark the sixth battle between Maryland and Virginia amateurs. Virginia holds a 3-2 lead in the series and won last year’s Cup in a squeaker 18-1/2 to 17-1/2. Gambling experts presently give the edge in this year’s matches to Virginia as well, based on their greater depth 1-14 through the roster and since more players have Potomac Cup experience than on the Maryland side.

Still, email chatter from the Maryland players shows them remarkably loose on the eve of the matches, discussing such minutiae as the pros and cons of all black uniforms, who’s the dorkiest dresser (Michael “The other team could make trouble for us if they win” Kurtz seems the consensus pick according to his teammates), and which team members should sleep with one eye open for fear of late night hi-jinks.

The Virginians however are mellow and closed mouth. Czaban, who also captains “Team Commonwealth” and has never been known to give three scoops of unflavored yogurt for a quote, was tight lipped and respectful about the opposition. “There’ll be plenty of time to talk later.”

The participants are as varied in their personalities as they are in their handicaps. Some players have serious golf pedigrees. Vance Welch, playing in his third Potomac Cup for Virginia, also played in the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links. He actually quit his job to compete. John Rhodes of Maryland beat Tour Pro Notah Begay by one shot at the 1997 U.S. Open Qualifier. “Yeah, he has won four tour events since and I sell mortgages” he quipped glibly.

Such is the lunchpail ethos of many a Potomac Cupper, as for every Amateur qualifier, there is also one high handicapper. Bill Mullikan and Terry Norell- an 18 and 15 handicap respectively – edged out three time Maryland team members Robert Ingram and Sang Trinh at one of this year’s qualifiers. Ingram, a mid-80s player, is no stranger himself to Potomac Cup drama. Derek Vandertang sank the Cup clinching putt against him last year to secure Virginia’s successful title defense. If history is any guide this year, it will again be a higher handicapper who determines the outcome.

Excitement is especially high this year as the famous Mystic Rock course at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. The course frequently appears in various magazine’s “Top 100 you can play” lists and hosts the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic, won by the likes of David Toms, Robert Allenby, Vijay Singh and John Daly. The course conditioning looks to be especially good as last week it hosted the Pennsylvania State Open and the 84 Lumber Classic begins in one month. Pete Dye designed the layout over rolling, rocky terrain.

“Nemacolin was a no-brainer for a host” said Sheehan. “They looked me right in the eye and said ‘We’re going to make those guys feel like they just played in the Ryder Cup.’”

While there won’t be any “Parade of the Wives” or black tie glitz, the tournament is unique for its successful blend of true state-line rivalry and accessibility to mid to high handicappers and has deservedly grown to national significance. After all, it’s not every day that “Everyday Joe” can suddenly play his favorite game for the greater glory of his home state. It’s like your college rivalry all over again. “The Potomac Cup?” asks Vance Welch, “It’s the biggest event of the year for us.”

Is Kimberly Kim the next Michelle Wie?

So Steve Czaban has this to say about Kimbwerly Kim and Michelle Wie:

"How ‘bout that Kim Kim? You know, Kimberly Kim, the 14 year old Hawaiian who won the US Women’s Amatuer last weekend?

Oh, didn’t hear much about her? Wonder why. I mean, SHE’S ONLY 14!!!!

Funny how the YOUNGEST EVER winner of the Women’s US AM, gets virtually no media bump, even though Miss Rolex never won that event herself. Not at 14, not at 15, not at 16.

The media hype machine has spoken loud and clear. We only have space on the “shelf” for ONE teenage golfing phenom. And her name is Michelle. And that’s all we are selling. Now everybody else, please go away."

Just three thoughts today. Why not give Paula Creamer/Morgan Pressel/Natalie Gulbis a shot one time? Why not give the winner of the Women's Open a bid to the Men's Open? Why not give the LPGA Championship winner a big to the PGA Championship?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Darren Clarke mourns passing of his wife Heather

***Click here for my piece on Clarke and the 2006 Ryder Cup***

Four news items today.

1. The golf world sends its sympathies as Heather Clarke, wife of popular European Tour player Darren Clarke passes after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 39.

Clarke had been a long time strong finisher in British Opens before bursting on the scene in America after drubbing Tiger Woods in the Finals of the 2000 Accenture Match Play Championship final match. At the time Clarke was so portly, popular sports analyst Jim Rome
famously quipped "He ate his lunch, Tiger's lunch and Tiger today."

Clarke's rotund physique, fondness for fine cigars and beer and seemingly unflappable demeanor when facing golf's most intimidating player made him an instant household name and "everyman" favorite.

Clarke rode the popularity to new heights. He dropped significant weight and became known for having a pint with fans and otherwise interacting genially with crowds at tournaments. He was a cornerstone of the 2004 Ryder Cup team that bent over backwards to win hearts and minds of American fansa t the sometimes-too-competitive Ryder Cuop matches at Oakland Hills.

Clarke further cemented his popularity with everyone in the golf industry with a show of gentlemanliness and responsibility rarely seen in today's win at all costs world. When a rain delay forced him off the golf course after driving into heavy rough, Clarke returned the next day to find his ball had been moved to a more favorable position. Where the night before had he played the shot, he would not have been able to reach the green and faced a sure bogey. The mysterious movement of the ball resulted in a clear path and easy lie - a sure four maybe a birdie three.

Clarke chipped out sideways anyway. His noble and sporting gesture enamored him throughout the golf world.

2. Car manufacturer Volvo confirmed it is to sponsor November's New Zealand Golf Open at Gulf Harbour.

Volvo will be a supporting sponsor of New Zealand's marquee golf tournament, after signing a three-year deal with New Zealand Golf. The deal also covers all other national and provincial events managed by New Zealand Golf over the next three years. Under the deal, Volvo will be the "official vehicle of New Zealand Golf".

It is the second major sponsorship announcement by golf officials within a week, after Blue Chip was announced as the naming rights holder to the New Zealand Open last Tuesday.

3. The Potomac Cup coverage of the vicious "Maryland vs. Virginia" amatuer grudge golf match begins Thursday night with the draw and parings and a look at the competitors.

4. Golf Observer, Tony Korologos Hooked on Golf and Cybergolf will also be covering the Flemmapalooza matches between the "Rockers" of Bowling For Soup (including yours truly) and Jim Engh's design team. "The buzz" is widely rampant that "The golf hammer of justice looms" over Jim Engh, but he seemed unfazed at last report, relaxing comfortably at his summer home in Idaho. (Read: Black Rock Golf Club!) After all, he lives in a good neighborhood.

The match wil be played Sunday August 27th at The Club at Pradera near Castle Rock, Colorado. Pradera (as she is known to her friends) was a finalist for Best New Private course last year and claimed two Jazzy Awards - one for best new private design and runner up for best golf hole (number 10)

Picture: Captain Jay Flemma and his lieutenants, Gary Wiseman (l) and Chris Burney (r) of Bowling For Soup celebrate a great round at We-ko-pa in Scottsadale and plan the impending "Invasion of Denver" against vastly superior forces.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Fall Tour 2006 - Flemmapalooza

Fall tour is scheduled for Colorado, Nebraska and Indiana. I'll be filing live reports from Pradera, Sanctuary Club, Ballyneal and Dismal River on the private side, and after a warm up round at either Fossil Trace or Red Hawk Ridge, it'll be off to Wild Horse in the Nebraska Sand Hills before jetting to Indiana for Brickyard Crossing and The Trophy Club.

One of the highlights will be the Bowling For Soup concert the night of 8/27..after Jim Engh's golf design team plays a match against Bowling For Soup at one of Jim's courses.

The pic is from Pradera, number 16. Jim's house is second from the green.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Geoff Shackelford and E.M. Smith of SI on Michelle Wie and her caddy

Geoff Shackelford has an excellent short piece and link to E.M. Smith's S.I. article on Michelle Wie and the unceremonious way in which her caddy was fired.

I'll just say this. All people face difficult situations and duties in their lives. It is how they handle themselves in those situations by which they are judged.

If Michelle had grace and character, she would have taken this opportunity to have a heart to heart chat with her caddy. Someday, BJ and her mom are not going to be there. Here was a chance to show the world some true mettle - maturity beyond her years - something we see in her talent, but not often in her.

But when you are "only 16," have a publicity army calling the shots for you and get whatever you want, responsibility frequently gets postponed.

As a lawyer who represents talent - some under the age of 18 - I have seen too many examples of overly protective parents ruining their children's career in so many different ways. Usually the problem is they try to live vicariously through the child, but overprotectiveness is a close second.

Also one of the biggest problems that our country needs to solve is how to move away from this culture we've enabled which stresses avoiding personal responsibility and enables "victims." Floyd Landis comes to mind immediately.

As another example, some of the professional entertainers I represent have the mettle to handle tough issues head on in a businesslike, if misguided way. But this is always preferable to "Well I hire, but someone else fires."

For once, at SOME press conference, I would like to hear Michelle say "I made a mistake" or "I played poorly" or "I should have done that differently." But I see so litle of the real Michelle. Instead I hear the voice of the handlers and it sounds like alot of nonesense, doubletalk and evasion.

Maybe the wrong person got fired this week.

You know...the PGA Tour is not going anywhere...and there is always Q school too.

I wonder effect what this rather unseemly event will have on her free passes to tournaments? I guess much depends on her performance in the Evian European Masters and the 84 Lumber Classic.

Michelle could have so many more fans. All she would have to do is be herself, be a little more realistic and candid. Instead a sixteen-soon-to-be-17-year-old finds herself a polarizing figure in the center of a firestorm.

Is it really fair to a 16 y/o to place them in such a crucible? Think back to when you were 16. I wasn't irresponsible, but I sure was a teenager. Yes, we have to be sensitive to that, but it is not unfair to expect Michelle, who wants to shoulder history, to also elevate her personal dignity and social conduct too. Something has to give here, because right now I see the pressure mounting. God forbid she becomes burned out like Jennifer Capriati. Michelle's a young woman at an important crossroads here. The lesson she learns now about character and responsibility will affect her for years to come - and DEFINITELY will affect her career in the immediate future. Yes, lots of people have alot of money riding on her, but are they thinking long term?

That's another problem our society has been sweeping too much under the rug lately.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Resort to see heavy tournament action in next few weeks

Pete Dye's Mystic Rock course at Nemacolin Resort is about to get heavy tournament play in the coming weeks.

This weekend, the resort plays host to the Pennsylvania State Open Championship, the biggest state tournament of the year. PA PGA representatives are delighted to have their showcase event at one of the state's premier golf destinations. The course will play to a par-72, and a staggering 7,511 - almost as long as Medinah will play for the PGA Championship next week. Many players find the course similar in its natural setting and design to Dye's work at nearby Bulle Rock in Havre De Grace, MD, site of the LPGA Championship. Rounds at Mystic Rock usually cost about $185.

Next weekend, the resort hosts one of the most interesting, prestigious and unique amateur Ryder Cup format tournaments, The Potomac Cup. Pitting two teams of tournament winners - one from Maryland and the other from Virginia, the three day event has feuled a vicious rivalry between golfers from "The State" and "The Commonwealth" and draws hundreds of applicants to qualifying matches each year. Tournament director and Fox Radio Sports Broadcaster Steve Czaban noted, "We are thrilled to have the event at a tour stop. It will make it that much more exciting for the participants and the course promises to be in fantastic condition. This is shaping up to be the best Potomac Cup ever."

I'll be covering the Potomac Cup matches live for Cybergolf with bonus coverage here and at Golf Observer.

Finally, September 11-17 the resort hosts the PGA Tour's 84 Lumber Classic. Past winners include popular stars John Daly, Chris DiMarco, Vijay Singh and miracle winner last year Jason Gore, who captured the hearts and minds of fans everywhere - especially the beer and chicken wing crowd - with his gutsy play at the 2005 U.S. Open, his graceful demeanor, "aw shucks" smile, humble family and rotund physique.

Media frenzy will be at fever pitch that week as Michelle Wie, who had her agent give her caddie the news he was terminated, will start in her sixth attempt to try to make a cut in a men's event in the USA. We will also play in Switzerland in the European Tour's Omega European Masters. Wie received special exemptions both times. The European tour is the fourth different tour on which Wie will compete - the others being the Asian Tour, the PGA and the LPGA. Wier finished tied for 26th in the British Open and never broke par in a single round at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's.

PGA Championship Memories - John Daly, 1991

If not for a staggering sequence of events, John Daly would never have even been playing at the 1991 PGA Championship, let alone winning the event like a bolt out of the blue. AFter seeing his huge drives, it was the patrons and fellow players that were thunderstruck.

After failing twice to qualify for the field, Daly was listed as the 9th alternate. As of Monday of the tournament week, he had as good a chance of playing in his first PGA as he did of winning a chance to fly on the Space Shuttle. Then all sorts of chaos paved Daly's road to the miraculous.

1. More than 10 living past champions...all eligible to play, chose not to play, leaving room for some alternates;

2. The first alternate, Jumbo Ozaki skipped to "heal from an injury." The injury in question was never confirmed or explained.

3. Roger Davis passed to play in Europe instead.

4. Ronan Rafferty cancelled to be with his wife who was expecting.

5. The head professional at the host club is entitled to a slot, but this year Jim Ferriel declined saying "I have other priorities...like six merch tents and 400 volunteers to manage for a major championship."

6. Mark James w/d to play in Eyrope and solidify his chances of making the Ryder Cup team.

7. After talking with officials about how long and difficult a "monster" Crooked Stick could be, Lee Trevino - a two time champ - w/d saying "You can keep your Monster."

8. Marco Dawson, as yet unqualified, had only to hold off the challengers for one round of the Buick Open the week before, which he led by 3 on Sat night...he shot 74 and fell to 10th, missing his chance. The winner notified the PGA of his intention to play that Tuesday.

By this time, 3 of the alternate spots had opened.

9. Bobby Gilbert w/d, giving his place to the 4th alternate.

10. On Wednesday, after 2 days of practice, Paul Azinger w/d with a shoulder injury. At this point daly, standing as fourth alternate at that time, drove to Indianapolis arriving at midnight Thursday morning...without ever seeing the course for a practice round. All the next events happened as he drove to Indy. (AS HE DROVE!)

11. Nick Price, also expecting, w/d when word got to him his wife had moved closer to birth. His place went to 6th alternate Bill Sander. Sander declined, so Mark Lye got the invite.

12. Lye declined citing lack of a practice round. The slot was offered to Brad Bryant, who bagged saying "I have been playing lousy and see no need to spend another two days in the rough."

Daly arrived. Daly started Thursday morning cold as last night's pizza.

Daly won...without the benefit of any practice or prior knowledge. Amazing.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Floyd Landis stripped of Tour de France title, steroid doctor sentenced, Justin Gatlin may be next

Now the test results are infallible. No excuses, no re-dos, no third tests, it's official.

Floyd Landis had plant-produced testosterone added to his body when he made his now infamous charge in the last stage of the mountains that "catapulted" him to his short-lived victory in the Tour de Fraud.

Here's how the test works. Testosterone created by a human body has a unique Carbon signature. Testosterone from synthetic sources (i.e. made from plants) has a completely different Carbon signature. Also, natural testosterone production declines sharply as synthetic testosterone is added to the body. Landis' sample showed elevated testosterone levels of synthetic testosterone - testosterone with a a completely different Carbon signature to any human body. Correspondingly, his levels of natural testosterone (with the unique human Carbon signature) were markedly low.

He's done, he cheated, hang him from the city walls.

In a related matter recently, the "steroid doctor" who provided for several of of the NFL's Carolina Panthers was sentenced. As reported in several news outlets:

James Shortt, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally prescribe steroids and human growth hormone to members of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, has been sentenced to a year and a day in jail. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped 42 other related charges against Shortt, charges for which the maximum penalties were five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

I can't wait to see the names they got from his files. Can you imagine? We'll have another Jason Grimsley sized dose of paranoia going around the NFL. Of course the confidentiality privilege applies, but in lower courts, that gets shot to hell every day in cases involving prdinary citizens. I especially am disappointed that they get admitted as some sort of evidence in Family Court deputes, but for right now the more pressing global issue is this one: It will be interesting to see if the privilege is successfully defended here where athletes are thge target. If so, that means ordinary citizens once again have less rights that our most precious natural resource, the professional jock.

In another related matter, my friend and legal eagle colleague Cameron Myler of Frankfurt, Kurnit Klein and Selz, is representing sprinter Justin Gatlin, who was just stripped of his world record.

Finally, I must take my good friend and colleague Steve Czaban to task for his weekly column here, where he basically says we all should accept steroids and cheating as part of the game. Then he asked the question:

"Bonds and company were forced to change their tactics only once the gasbags in Congress got involved. Until that point, the players all knew guys were using "stuff." The union made sure to keep all the pee cups on the sidelines. And the owners went back to counting the gate.

In other words: What's the problem?"

Start here: Edmund Burke famously wrote "the best way for evil to succeed is for good men to stand by and do nothing."

Using performance enhancers and banned substances is cheating. Sports are meant to be fair: fair for the players, fair for the fans (especially the kids), fair for everybody betting on the game. (Wanna see the gambling industry shut down? Rig everything with cheating. Everyone will be too scared to bet.)

No, sports are a metaphor for life. Sully sports by cheating and unfairness and we all lose.

Next, there is a reason most of these drugs are banned, they have terrible unpredictable side effects on people's health.

Finally, by giving the athlete's a pass, you enable young kids to take the same risk. For every "great athlete" there are 100 kids who didn't make it. You are either making huge money as an athlete or you're everybody else and the temptation to put these horrible, pretty much expirimental drugs in their body is huge.

Do you really want your son taking a drug that is meant to increase sterility in cattle? Or how about human growth hormone? Do you want your daughter taking testosterone derived from some obscure plant from the South American jungle? You sure wouldn't want her taking refined coca from an obscure plant from the South American jungle, I know that. But is there really a difference just because one might help an athlete get bigger stronger faster and the other won't? At what cost?

I'm sure Czabe and I will debate this in the future soon, so stay tuned.

That being said, I'll play nice and link to one of Czabe's all time classic summer pieces here. I won't spoil the surprise, but the Chris Berman jokes are epic.

Friday, August 04, 2006

New Look at Golf Observer!

Hat's off to Sal Johnson and the rest of the Golf Observer crew for launching the newly designed site. Now it's easier to move around and find the tour and player stories you want. Moreover, such features as Course Observer and Biz Observer will keep you up to date on new courses and sports licensing and business deals.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Private Bayonne similar to excellent, public Arcadia Bluffs

One Lefonte Way
Bayonne, NJ

Architect: Eric Bergstol
Par: 36-35=71!
Excitement: 10/12
Difficulty: 7/12

Design: Six stars (out of seven)
Natural Setting: Five and 1/2 stars
Conditioning: Six stars
Value: NA/Private, $125,000 Initiation
Overall: Five and 1/2 to Six stars

Eric Bergstrol is a real estate developer in the Tri-state area who founded a small, reasonably successful but expensive "trail" of daily fee courses including Pine Barrens, Twisted Dune, Pine Hill and Branton Woods. The courses were all solid designs, but were in the $125 range, $85 at twilight and after a few years, have been forced to consider becoming private or semi-private.

After years of waiting in the wings and studying the work of his architect partners in his projects, Bergstol designed Bayonne himself, as he puts it "in the same vein as the great links of the UK."

Normally when an amateur tries his hand at designing, amateurish mistakes are numerous and readily apparent. However some of the greatest courses in the world are by first-time or one time architects - Pine Valley by George Crump, Riviera by George Thomas, Caledonia by Mike Strantz and Bandon Dunes by David McKay Kidd are the miracle examples.

Bayonne may not rise to their level, but Bergstol did a fantastic job overall and even though the course caters to much to the rich and privileged and even though it is unnatural and a faux links, Bergstol got many important details right and built a course which is great fun, tremendously interesting, varies with the capricious winds
and has a collection of truly excellent greens.
Bayonne, built on the shore in Jersey on the site of a landfill is strictly private but is a triumph nonetheless as the best design in the city.

Advanced points:

1. To shoehorn a goodly sized course on a tight, 128 acre parcel of land, Bergstol "terraced" the fairways and built a huge, towering dunescape to separate holes from one another. He trucked in 7.5 million cubic yards of sand to frame the holes, then planted 15 different species of native grasses and vegetation.

2. The routing takes us in every conceivable direction, to the sea, to the scenic church steeples, to Manhattan and to just dunes, dunes, dunes.

3. The greens are wildly undulating and have great character. 13 is a favorite, a severe modified Biarritz with chocolate drop mounds to boot.

4. Like most advanced and talented architects, Bergstol is not a slave to the doctrine of framing and there are a handful of fascinating blind shots and shots over bunkers in the fairway.

Why it's not a true links:

1. Too many forced carries to greens eliminate the ground game on all but 5-6 holes, especially the par-3s.

2. The course does not yet play firm and fast.

3. The "redan" hole is really not similar to either the one at National Golf Links of America OR North Berwick. Its actually might share more in common with an Eden hole. It is a truly interesting hole nonetheless as the green is hidden from the teebox (it's severely elevated and the green size is concealed, extending toward the back).

In short, this is excellent work for an amateur. It was also a towering achievement getting it done in the first place in the doldroms NYC can be for golf course planning or renovation. Play it if you can, you won't be disappointed, rookies and architecture experts all. Its greatest import architecturally speaking is the excellent use of twerracing to fit the course in a relatively small area with only one MINOR glitch in the routing, a tee shot crossover at two holes.

One last thing, for those of you who can, run don't walk to Arcadia Bluffs in MIchigan to play a public access course on Lake Michigan similar in achievement design-wise and with great greens.

Top photo: 8th at Bayonne
Bottom photo: Fifth green biarritz at Arcadia

Golf becomes bad "Land of the Lost" episode

Tom Wolfe was right, "You can't go home again." Here's what happens when you try.

Did you ever watch Sid and Marty Krofft shows on Saturday morning as a kid? The programs they show on "Boomerang" now? Remember "Land of the Lost?" ***cue music and singing Marshall Will and Holly...on a routine expedition...met the greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeatest earthquake ever knoooooooooooown...***

It's a live action show where the dad and son and daughter end up in a prehistoric world where they live in a cave, get chased around by Grumpy the Dinosaur, Alice the Allosaur and the "Sleestaks" - those primitive lizard-man troglodytes: see picture above - and the whole story is how will they get back home.

Anyway, that's what it was like going to the hinterlands of upstate New York. Time travel...to the golf age of dinosaurs - loud, primitive, and full of wild animals and longing for home. The name of the COURSE is withheld to protect the innocent.

First, meet Alice the angry allosaur. She's the woman behind the snack bar counter. It's 8AM and she's frying a pan of meatballs. The line behind me is three or four people long and she's just watching the sizzle like an aged version or Jay and Silent Bob...or is that Beavis and Butthead. After several "ahems" and "hi theres," - a good five minutes - she turns around and says...


"You'll just have to wait a sec...nobody interrupts me for my balls!"

...and we were expecting this woman to serve us food.

Anyway, then she finally takes my order for toast, juice, pepsi and a side order of bacon. Then the slow dance begins...go in the back, get the bacon. Open the package, get the plate, get a utensil, turn on the grill, find another pan, "your taking me away from my balls you know," slide the bacon in the pan.....one.....slice.....at.....a.....time....., cook bacon.

"Say, while the bacon's cooking can I please get that soda? Or the juice which ever's easier."

"And burn your bacon?! I'd never hear the end of it!"

After the bacon cooked, thats when she went to work on the toast...open the bread, get out one.....two.....slices...put in the toaster. Then a new dance started - while my bacon was getting cold - she's poking and prodding the toaster as if its not working. Well six or seven minutes MORE go by and we're no closer to toast or bacon or my drinks, let alone the three people behind me who didn't even place their orders yet. I saw her pull out two uncooked slices of bread...finally when she turned up the dial, they began to cook.

As she hands me my soda I asked for a lid (behind the counter, unreachable to patrons). "Boy you just want everything today!" I took perverse delight in pointing out that I also needed a straw now that my drink was to go...fast...AS IN TO THE TEE BOX NOW! She roared like a wounded Allosaur.

Then there was Grumpy the Tyrannasaur, a foul, uncouth, ill-mannered, ill-bred little cave troll who bellowed loudly in the restaurant the following pearls of wisdom:


I couldn't keep my mouth shut and just said. "He did give us Augusta National, you know..." He replied:


By now, I'm furious and horrified by this guy, which brings me to his henchmen, cronies, whatevers, the Sleestaks. Sniveling, fawning, barely human, these sub-chumps (or is that uber-chumps?) are eating this up with a mix of guffaws, snorts, sniggers and adoration.

Then I get stuck behind a FIVESOME of these Sleestaks, including Grumpy for 13 holes. THey yelled, they took five years to putt out every two footer for fourteen cents, they railed against whatever and they scurried like rodents when I hit into them...oops...on thirteen, damn those blind approaches. Oh well. Yes the wrath of the Golf Gods is terrible to behold, but those of us mortals can stand up for the game's integrity too.

Calgon, take me away!