A Passion for Learning: Tony Manzoni

Tony Manzoni SM

I can’t remember if it was 2008 or 2009 when I first met Tony Manzoni. I know I was in the desert on a golf junket and that I had picked up a local desert golf magazine that had an article on Tony that alluded to his swing theory. The article was pretty sparse, and didn’t really get to the essence of what Tony was saying, but there was just enough there to pique my interest.

Soon thereafter we met but it was years, many years, in fact, before our book, The Lost Fundamental, saw the light of day. Those many years have now flipped by as the days and weeks and months and years of the calendar are destined to and now my friend, Tony Manzoni, has moved on.

Tony battled cancer over the last few years. He fought the good fight and fought it with optimism and good humor but in the end cancer or the fates or God in heaven ended the game and now we are all left to face the world, and especially the world of golf, without him.

Yes, he had played alongside of the greats of our game.

Yes, he taught golf to movie stars.

Yes, Frank Sinatra was godfather to his daughter.

Each of these are undisputed facts but what they don’t convey is what truly matters about Tony Manzoni. In the end, as great a teacher as Tony was, as fine a player as he was, his real calling in life, his real gift, was as a lifelong student of golf.

Of course, Tony was an amazing player in his own right.

Of course, Tony coached his College of the Desert team to no fewer than five state championships.

I had the good fortune of working with Tony on his concepts many times over the last decade and each and every time I met with him in person, or when I spoke to him by phone, his mind was always on the game.

Once, I met with him in his office during a time when we were feverishly editing one of the final drafts of our book. I was reading the book, out loud, to him while Tony silently read his copy of the draft.

I was watching his hands as he read but I couldn’t figure out why he was moving them as he was..

Then I realized what was happening. Before we had gotten into the edits I had mentioned the premise of an article I had read concerning the action of the wrists during the golf swing. The writer said that only the left wrist truly hinged while the right wrist merely shifted right to accommodate that hinging action. What I was seeing was Tony working his hands to see if this was true or not.

After a while, Tony looked up and me and said, “You know, Paul…that’s absolutely right.”

Perhaps this is the final and best lesson of a true master of golf. Learning never ends. Part of being an expert is having an open mind to different ways of experiencing golf and also to explaining it. Tony had this gift. A part of it gave him the ability to relate to his young students at College of the Desert though he was many years their senior. It was easy for him because Tony was always learning, just like his players.

Tony has only been gone for a few days now but I already miss him dearly. My own golf game will surely suffer for his absence but my life will always be enriched by the echo of Tony’s ongoing presence and his passion for golf and learning.

I am proud to count Tony Manzoni as a friend and I was honored to work with him on the mission of bringing his knowledge to more and more of those who love our game.

If you would like to read more about Tony’s storied career you can read his obituary in the Desert Sun here.

 

 

 

 

A Passion for Learning: Tony Manzoni

An Interview with Carter Penley of Penley Sports

Penley with logo

Readers who are familiar with my writing know of my fascination and respect for US manufacturers of, well, pretty much anything. The commercial forces of the day seem destined to make the US ever more of a consumer and ever less of a builder every year. Those who continue to choose to make their products in the US are now a hardy few who must enjoy the manufacturing equivalent of swimming upstream,

Carter Penley of Penley Sports is a guy like that. He and his company are dedicated to producing their product one at a time, right here in Southern California. Not only that, but Carter is on the production floor every day, ensuring that each shaft meets both his design and manufacturing criteria. It’s also interesting to me that Penley places a good deal of his design focus on amateur players rather than tour pros. Aren’t the pros good enough? Don’t they enjoy the lion’s share of the benefits of most technological advancements anyway? I’m truly honored that a true legend in the golf industry has taken the time and expended the effort of an interview.

Paul Cervantes: When it comes to the golf industry, most players seek the latest in technology. What materials and / or technological innovations do you see on the horizon for premium golf shafts? Will these new materials benefit the average player or will most of the rewards be to the “better” and tour players?

Carter Penley:
Materials are primary to the design of golf shafts as is in all products that incorporate CFE (Carbon Fiber Epoxy) and is the primary driver in the design solution and DSO (Design Service Objective).

Technical innovations not only incorporate materials but require knowledge of and the analysis of the entire lay-up schedule to calculate the compressive/loading strength to perfect the best geometric shape to generate to most efficient load path from tip to butt of the golf shaft.

The advantage of CFE is the freedom of design it affords the composite engineer over metals.

As for on the horizon I am focusing on several design criterion. Number 1 on the list is to incorporate new/exotic materials to enhance playability for all levels of player, 2nd is a quasi-monolithic laminate schedule to advance a more stable performance platform and 3rd is geometry.

As mentioned above my designs tend to lean more toward the average player more than the touring pros. In reality the touring pro being the much better player (usually) is not my first choice for testing because they are so skilled that if there is a problem / defect in a design that in a couple or so hits they will pick up on the problem right away and correct for it and say it plays OK or good, well, that gives me a false positive, therefore I may put into production a less than perfect golf shaft.

In aerospace, testing is performed to fail structures, not to pass them.

Paul Cervantes As a follow up to the first question, how do you equate technological advancements in available materials and innovation to the importance of design and manufacturing precision?

Carter Penley:

As for equating the importance of technological advancements / designs I rate my most critical analysis requirements for me are as follows; laminate schedule analysis represents ~ 50%, materials represent ~30% and ~20% for geometry calculations. Manufacturing processes and fiber alignment although not listed above, to me are critical to the overall analysis for quality and performance of the Penley product(s) and is another reason why I manufacture all my shafts in the USA.

I firmly believe that I need to be in the plant and on the manufacturing floor each and every day to insure all product is manufactured exactly to my design and quality level.

Paul Cervantes: Penley shafts are made in San Diego under your supervision. What are some specific shortcomings that come from overseas manufacture. How much cheaper is it to make shafts offshore?

Carter Penley:

In my opinion the major short comings of overseas manufacturing is control of the manufacturing processes for the Manufacturing Engineer and Quality Assurance Inspector to have the ability to make corrections instantly on the floor during a manufacturing run before hundreds or thousands of bad product is shipped to the customer(s).

Prior to a full production release as a part of my quality assurance program I will, especially for new product, require a 10% pre-production run. The pre-production run is to provide a baseline to verify that the full production run will meet and or exceed all specifications of the shafts physical and mechanical properties. After which all production runs will be subjected to a 10% AQL.

When it comes to the cost of producing product in the US versus offshore it is of course much less expensive for a host of reasons. Primarily are labor cost; particularly in Asia, which I have heard that maybe are as much as 90% less. When NAFTA came along and the large shaft manufacturing companies ran to Mexico, hourly wages were $2-$3/hour and the manufactures on this side of the border just 20 miles north of Mexico were paying $12-$15 / hour.

Secondly the overhead cost are also much less approximately 70% -80% or less than we were paying on this side of the border and the same for facilities and utilities.

Thirdly, last but not least are the state and federal rules, regulations, permits, taxes, fees and a plethora of never ending environmental regulations and won’t even attempt to go into comparing the labor law regulations and conditions! This alone can eat up a good 15% – 20% of your profit compared to off shore companies where most of the above cost is little to non-existent in most overseas countries.

Paul Cervantes: What is your opinion of the practice of many major club manufacturers that install shafts that look like the “retail” version of a shaft but then label it with a “designed for” designation to differentiate it?

Carter Penley:

Decorating shafts specifically for an OEM club company is not unique per se. I have done that for many club companies but my shafts are my designs only, and what you see in that club is the same as all the other shafts I have in my finished goods inventory; the only difference is the shaft they buy from me may have their name on it, but will say “Powered by Penley.” These shafts in our Part Numbering System’ (‘C’ Code) are referred to as private label product. The only difference, if any, is the base coat color and the decoration.

I never sold a private label shaft line to any OEM that said “Designed for or by Ping, Titleist or whomever” that I did not design from the ground up and did not meet my design and engineering standards; that would tarnish my reputation, and would be somewhat duplicitous. My name is worth more to me than the money.

If the original shaft manufacturer did not put their name or mark on the shaft then I would think that the statement “Designed for or by Ping, Titleist or whomever” may indicate that it is different than the original retail product, unless it was actually designed by the “whomever” which in my opinion would be highly improbable.

Obviously the main driving factors for cost are materials and labor. The first item would be CFE. Purchasing a lower grade, reduce the CFE layup schedule per design requirement also resulting in less inspection / QA time.

In my opinion all the above cost saving items are usually done at the expense of performance/quality. But when the question of cost versus performance / quality is broached the general response is: “We make a million clubs a year and if I save one dollar a club that’s another million dollars to our bottom line.” A club builder who worked for a well-known golf component company also added to the statement, “Besides most golfers can’t play good enough to tell the difference anyway.”

Paul Cervantes: Let me extend the question a bit with an example…

Let’s say there’s a shaft you can buy from your local club builder called the “Long & Straight” for $275.

But, when you go to buy a new driver you see one that has a version of the “Long & Straight” installed BUT it also says “designed by ping, titleist, or whomever” that looks like retail version yet the entire driver costs only $299.

So, the questions would be:

1) Are the two shafts really the same or did the shaft manufacturer make two versions of the shaft?

2) If they’re different, how are they different and how do the changes affect performance?

The fear would be that the club company would use the cache of a “$250” shaft to sell their driver yet the actual performance of the shaft would be less since the design and construction are different (lesser) than the retail version.

Or, the retail and “designed by” shafts really are identical which would mean the retail version was wildly overpriced.

Carter Penley: 

To further the thought you are putting forth there are several advantages for the club companies to use a well-known branded shaft. One of which is of perceived quality and or performance which obviously enhances the club companies marketing, promotion and sales success in which the club company can capitalize on the shaft companies claims mentioned above without any consequences of their puffing/hype reflecting on them.

I have seen some extremely high priced golf shafts and this subject has been noted by others (for example, John Muir’s Clubmaker Report Do You Need a $700 Golf Shaft?(4/18/2018) and I’m not sure how they got to that price but maybe they have arrived at that price legitimately, but in my opinion I don’t see how anybody could justify that price. Possibly they know something I don’t?

A second advantage is that the larger offshore shaft companies have is deep pockets and very large marketing budgets and this is not missed by the club companies because they too gain from the benefits of their marketing budgets which basically helps the larger offshore shaft companies close the deal and in some cases consequently eliminating the smaller independent companies.

Third is cost, which should be #1. This is the major item that really contributes to their bottom line and the smaller independent shaft companies take the biggest beating here again when club companies want to cut cost.

My basic business philosophy is not to criticize or make disparaging remarks about my fellow Made in the USA competitors whether it be pricing and or quality / performance of product. But I can give you some input that may influence cost at some shaft companies.

How they apply or place value is their sole decision and in some cases in my opinion they will push the envelope.

  1. Material cost, labor cost and overhead cost are of a few and they come with mark-ups and yield analysis, this is where most cost get inflated.
  2. What price will the customer bear?
  3. Greed.

In my opinion these three items are a few of the major price drivers beyond design and performance criteria; not necessarily in this order.

Paul Cervantes: Aside from cost, is there any advantage to steel over graphite when it comes to shafts for irons? Do lower swing speeds and high total club weight shift the balance back toward steel at all or should we all be moving toward graphite in all of our clubs?

Carter Penley: 

The short answer is no. There is no reason why a graphite (CFE) iron golf shaft cannot perform as well or better than steel iron shafts.

In the mid-late nineties I observed that many high school and college golf teams and a few PGA players were also playing graphite irons and realized that sometime in the near future that graphite would soon be more popular on the PGA tour and I wanted to get ahead of the curve.

I began a graphite iron design project and designed a set of graphite irons in the late 1990s / early 2000s. The first cut was called the Power Iron System, the Design Solution took ~2 years and ~$200K, and I was now ready to fabricate the first prototype set. The DSO consisted of the following, a full set of iron shafts (1-10) perfectly matched with progressive CPMs, descending torque values, and an internal weighting system that I had to develop that would yield a constant swing weight throughout the entire set no matter whose iron heads you installed and all shafts were precut to length ready to install with no tipping required and came in two weight sets 105g and 115g to start, but the design envelope could accommodate 135 grams plus.

All testing was very encouraging and went well but my partner(s) decided to put the company up for sale against my wishes and without my consent. At that time I pulled the plug on all ongoing projects including the Power Iron System.

Despite all the turmoil I had this burning desire to see how good my theory / design was. I arranged to build two sets for two very well-known PGA tour players both of whom had won major PGA events I believe one had won ~20 major wins the second player had 2 major wins and neither one had played with graphite iron shafts, I believe, but for sure I know that one of them had never played graphite iron shafts. With both playing the ‘Power Iron System’, one won a major event at his second or third event out and the other player won his very first event! So far looks like graphite iron shafts are up to the task!

It is my belief that graphite irons are still a viable design and is on the PGA’s horizon, at least still on my horizon. It also appears that my design was far enough ahead of today’s designs that it still is my opinion they can be successful and I plan to bring the Power Iron System back again?

Paul Cervantes: As a designer, what are you working toward in the next generation of Penley shafts?

Carter Penley:

Currently we are working on the marketing and sales distribution of our latest designs the ET2 Pro-Series, ET3 Quasar, Hybrid HH2, and Platinum Fairway woods. All incorporating the newly developed TBAR™ (Tip to Butt Aspect Ratio) theorem.

TBAR™ algorithm has been 5 years in development primarily a manufacturing process yielding the tightest tolerances in today’s golf shaft design bringing to the golf industry the best performing golf shafts, matched by no other golf shaft manufacturer.

See ‘TBAR™’ white paper on Penley web site Penley Golf Shafts ‘TBAR™, part 1 thru part 6.

T-BAR™ White Paper

Also on the drawing board for the near future are:

Q.M.I.T. (Quasi Monolithic Integrated Technology). My hypotheses is that a common defect in the structural design and physical properties which is inherent in tapered tubes because of the traditional geometric shape of the golf shaft. Basically this fault is more prevalent in drivers and also exist in irons too, creating an uneven offset load path that currently cannot be avoided. This affects all level of players to some degree and often leads to the compounding of their off center ball strikes (miss-hits) and also can cause erratic ball flight which will cause the player to start second guessing their swing technique and or lose confidence in their long/short game. If my working hypotheses is correct and proves out it will cause a paradigm shift in today’s golf shaft design for years to come!

A second generation project will be under study soon and is referred to as the Black Magic project and basically consist of a combination of exotic materials that exhibit unique micro mechanical property advantages over the more commonly used materials used in today’s golf shaft.

I’m looking at these materials to primarily design the next generation long drive (and future Penley tour level golf shafts) that will have a much more robust load bearing platform to withstand the ultra-high butt to tip load path and radial torque loads generated by today’s top long drive pro. In 2005, Scott Smith set the world record at 539 yards in an official LDA competition using a PENLEY shaft. His record still stands today. Look for 600 yard drives soon!

 

An Interview with Carter Penley of Penley Sports

An Interview with David Edel of Edel Golf

edel
David Edel Applying his Craft

Paul Cervantes:

It’s been a while since we’ve touched base. In that time a lot has happened at Edel Golf. You’ve relocated from Oregon to Texas. You’ve added a lot of variety to your putter and wedge offerings and really stepped it up when it comes to irons. Tell me a little about the ups and downs of the move and the development path of the new Edel clubs.

David Edel:

Moving to Austin, Texas was a huge move for Edel Golf, my family, and for me on a personal level. I love the Oregon coast as it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. However, running a golf club business on the Oregon coast was very difficult. Moving to Austin centrally located Edel Golf where travel was so much easier and being in a vibrant growing town centrally located between Dallas, San Antonio and Houston gave us a base to expand and grow the brand.

Another factor that made a huge impact was finding an investment group which was based out of Austin at the time. This investment group invested much needed capital and strategies that helped grow other revenue streams other than our base product line of putters. We started making wedges within the first year after moving to Texas and, through that process, we were able to develop and move into the iron category. Having once been involved with Henry Griffitts, I saw a huge opportunity in the iron market that was not being implemented with the large OEMs, not to mention the increase in bottom line revenue as a result. We knew the metal wood market would be difficult to compete against large OEMs that put millions into R&D, but also knew that we could be a force in rest of the bag with in-depth fitting systems and bespoke made irons, wedges, and putters.

Paul Cervantes: 

I was intrigued to see that Edel has branched out into Single-Length irons. How did that come about?

David Edel:

As a result of machining our own iron heads, a unique opportunity arose with Bryson Dechambeau, who at the time needed to have a custom made set of single length irons and wedges. Bryson had played my putter since he was 11 years old and once he moved to Dallas to attend SMU our relationship blossomed to help him with his special needs. At the time, he was a talented player but I didn’t really see at the time his interest in single length to go where it went. I merely was trying to help a talented young player get the proper equipment to achieve his goals. What happened was a complete surprise to everyone, and I think for him as well. Not that he didn’t think or believe he could do it, just that the 2015 season was truly magical by winning the NCAA National Championship and the US Amateur. His efforts showed that his idea to play single length, which had been done before with Tommy Armour’s EQL single length clubs of the late 1980s, had teeth.

Based on Bryson’s achievements, and the knowledge obtained from trying to make the best possible club for him, gave us the foundation to take our club knowledge to develop the most sophisticated single length fitting model and product line the industry has ever seen. His efforts proved that single length could work for the best players in the world, and moved the concept from a gimmick to reality.

Single length isn’t without its issues, most of which are more mental than physical. Mental…meaning the golf industry and its players are reluctant to change. Overcoming the physical issues are nothing compared to mental change needed for players to take a great idea to implementation. It is understandable…people have been playing years with variable length golf equipment, so moving to a one-swing, single-length concept at face value seems like a huge change. It is actually not, and only simplifies an already complicated game.

Cobra Golf’s entrance into the space was a good thing for us. It showed that a large OEM believed enough in the concept to validate its merits. They also applied much need marketing that small companies like Edel Golf can’t afford. The downside was a result of a rush to market with a non-fitted product that gave many their first attempt at one-length as they call it to be less than effective, especially in the 5, 4, and 3-irons. I knew with such a new and industry-changing concept, if it wasn’t fitted without a superb fitting model and product line, the movement would have its issues. Fortunately for us, we accomplished our goal of a great head design, coupled with Paderson shaft advanced composites and truly great golf club was born.

Paul Cervantes: 

I was also impressed to see how much work Edel has done to evolve your putter line. How would you sum up the advances you’ve made?

David Edel:

One advancement came about during our move to Texas was our Torque Balance putter concept that evolved into a superb putter fitting model. Torque Balance or toe up tech was a concept I developed as a result of creating a teaching aid that I thought would help golfers with over acceleration issues. It was an adjustable ball bearing system that would allow the putter head to rotate about the shaft in a 360 degree manner. If the player over accelerated the putter, the face wold rotate open and make the ball roll to the right. What I found out astounded me; putters we were making were very difficult to keep from rotating open due to the design and MOI. So, it hit me right between the eyes that regardless of my fitting process I could assemble for the player to aim and weight the putter correctly, this hidden monster of face rotation was a real problem.

Testing other putters that professed face-balance, also showed that the implied warranty wasn’t truly face-balanced. For this reason we developed a new fitting system based solely around Torque Balance or Toe UP, which was industry changing, and gave us a technical advantage over our competitors. The difficulty was making a putter that was toe up without looking funky, something I believe we accomplished.

Another inclusion to our putter line since moving to Texas was our special relationship with Pixl face insert technology. Pixl inserts are 91 hexagons with a special carriage to hold them in place, provides us the largest sweet spot in the industry. This proven technology makes the sweet spot larger because these individual Pixl’s act as independent sweets spots making off center hits roll farther than a solid face.

Paul Cervantes:

You know I’m kind of a wedge freak. Just think of me as Lee Trevino without the game. Edel seems to treat bounce differently than other companies. What have you learned that can help the average player’s wedge game?

David Edel:

Our wedge tech has also been transformative to the industry. With the help and collaboration with famed instructor Mike Adams, we developed a wedge fitting model and product line that changed the narrative for the industry. We developed concepts around a wedge with the center of gravity in the middle of the club, where at the time almost all wedges due to their design had the CG towards the heel. We did this by shortening our hosel, and scalloping heel weight and redistributing the weight more towards the toe. We created four grind patterns with heel, toe, trail, and leading edge bounce relief that made the club very versatile for different playing conditions. We developed a unique groove pattern that moved the grooves towards the toe, placing those grooves to the middle of the CG and the total face width. Making all three centers in the same spot. Another advantage to our wedge model was a 25 shaft model that allowed the fitter to change flight and spin numbers to offset launch conditions and spin values that were the result of the new groove changes implemented by the USGA and R&A. As each shaft has different weight values, coupled with length requirements each head would be hand ground to ensure proper swing weights. Our research concluded that low bounce was not advantageous for players, and through countless fittings, higher than industry standards were needed. We developed a bounce system based on width and angle to help the fitters and players achieve optimal turf interaction. So when the industry is moving to lower bounce numbers, we went the opposite direction with our average bounce being the 18 to 26 range, which may sound alarming, but is neutralized by the correct width. We were fortunate to have In Gee Chun win the USGA Women’s Open, and The Evian Masters plus countless other international events. Also, Hoo Joo Kim won the LPGA’s Pure Silk Classic.

As a result of our understanding of bounce in wedges, we applied the same attention to our iron fitting model. Since each player is unique with regard to angle of attach and lean conditions, the most important angle besides lie, was the angle of the bottom of the club that is directly being influenced by the ground. We were the first company to implement bounce angle concepts to all irons, ensure that each player would have perfect turf interaction relative to their motion. Since the shaft in a huge engine to value of the club and as a result of each shaft having different gram weights, we developed an iron that could be hand ground to achieve optimal swing weights without having to add lead down in the hosel, changing the CG. The heads are also uniquely designed to have centered CG which was not talked about until recently.

Since moving to Texas, our clubs have been involved in winning four USGA titles, two on the Web.com Tour and one on the Champions Tour. Currently we have five players using putters on the PGA Tour, and two on the Champions Tour which is quite an accomplishment for a small company. With that said, what we take a lot of pride in the large stable of quality fitters that have made huge a huge impact on the golfers of all abilities to make long-term changes in their games. Tour support is important for the sole fact it validates to the general consumer that your products are good. Our philosophy is we treat everyone as if they were a tour player. We don’t make a club different for a tour player than we do for an average player trying to get better. The concept is no different and when people are spending hard-earned money and time dedicated to playing the game, deserve nothing less than an excellent process and product bespoke made for them. We take great pride in being a steward of the game, upholding tried and true techniques, philosophies, and quality manufacture which over time will ensure our place in the industry, regardless how big we are.

Paul Cervantes:

Thanks, David…I’m looking forward to checking out your latest putters and wedges.

Edel Golf

An Interview with David Edel of Edel Golf

A little pitch

Pitch shot pine mountain club BW

I think this was taken during the last round of golf that three of my brothers and I played at Pine Mountain Club in 2017.

Though the grasses on the course go dormant some locals play all winter long. But I think it’s better to give the course time to recover between Thanksgiving and Springtime.

The real frame was full of color of course but for some reason I liked this better in this rather severe black and white processing done with Silver Efex Pro.

The wonderful colors of Spring will be all around us when we start our 2018 season in a couple weeks. After battling a bothersome shoulder injury that pretty much gutted my entire 2017 golf season, I’m finally ready to tee it up again.

A little pitch

My Golf Lesson with Roger Gunn

Yup, another oldie, this time from back in 2007. No, I never did qualify for the US Amateur Public Links. Coulda, woulda, shoulda…

PC

Sorry that I couldn’t come up with a more clever title and that I had to resort to a cheap take off of a miserable movie called My Dinner with André that I hope never to see again. I know you’ve all come to expect more from me. Anyway, taking a golf lesson is a lot like going to the dentist: No one goes because they want to.

I never had any delusions about becoming a great player. My own playing ambitions are really pretty modest. I want to hit the ball solidly and I would like to qualify for the US Amateur Public Links. To do this, I’d have to shave enough strokes to get my handicap down to the mid 8s from the mid 10s.

But, I digress…

My game fell apart right around the time I got divorced, though I cannot be sure of any direct association. The horrors came on fast and hung on tight. Out of nowhere I lost my backswing. It almost felt like someone else was taking the club back for me and not the way that I wanted. It felt like the top of my back swing got lost in the woods and it quickly became impossible to find a way to start the down swing toward the ball with any kind of flow. That’s a lousy feeling. Once your back swing is lost it takes so many corrections to re-simplify that which has become all too complicated for the result to be a solidly struck ball.

Amazingly, some balls were hit solidly. Still, the entire event became so convoluted that swinging the club had become a genuinely painful process. Playing a round was possible, but not enjoyable. Practicing,however, was impossible. The feeling of physical madness that had contaminated my full swing was quickly making its presence known in simple practice swings, and shorter shots. At times, I could even feel it during chips and long puts. I kid you not…

Part of the problem is that we tend to muddle on. Golf imparts an odd mixture of fatalism and optimism. Players really believe that they can figure out their flaws but somewhere in the depths of their souls they know that other, possibly more serious, problems will always be lurking nearby.

Finally, and out of desperation, I tried a couple lessons. I was looking for someone who not only knew the golf swing but also had the conversational skills to clearly convey what he knew and also to understand what I was saying to him. So much of my life is about words yet I know that words can often get in the way. Still, words are indispensable tools in both golf and life.

I took lessons from two local guys. One is something of a local legend and the other is a humble pro from a local executive course. The legend was useless though I say that with no rancor. He was simply a guy who had decided long ago that he was going to give every golfer the same prescription. He had found his nectar and poured it freely.

The second guy was a gem of a person, though he just couldn’t get me going in the right direction. We could have talked for hours about golf and life, he was just such a fine and genuine guy. Somethaing about the evil move that had taken root in me just escaped him. He could almost see what was going on but it just couldn’t find a way to address it. It was frustrating to both of us. He really wanted to help and I really wanted to be helped. Still, he is a man that I happily count as a friend and a really good teacher of the game.

For months I tried to dissemble my swing in the backyard. I learned some interesting things. I learned that a comparatively weak left hand (the hand itself not my left hand grip) made me tend to open the blade far too quickly on the way back. I learned this when I realized that if I tried to hit chips with my left hand only I would usually shank the ball. When I focused on keeping blade square, just few inches longer, I developed a whole new feeling for the position of the left hand as it moves away from the ball. I also learned that my balance had been compromised and I have started to work to increase my lower body stability and regain as much balance as I can.

Still, I gradually became aware that the basic fault was far too ingrained for me to beat it by myself. My greatest fear was that the fault would become a permanent effect and that I’d be just another guy with a game shattering fault who just scraped it around. I had heard about Roger Gunn quite a bit over the years. He’s about my age and played a lot of competitive golf in the Los Angeles area. Roger has taught PGA Tour players and Hollywood types but would he be up to the challenge that I brought to him?

Roger teaches out of Tierra Rejada in Moorpark (you can read my review of the course elswhere in the blog) which is one of the newish breed of let’s build a golf course on a mountain type of courses that have become so prevalent in Los Angeles County over the last decade or so. Whatever your take on Tierra Rejada as a course, the have an excellent practice facility. I met Roger out there last Friday morning and I was very impressed with my lesson and with Roger.

After we shook hands and began to chat, Roger took an informal inventory of my bag. He took stock of clubs and their condition and examined their faces and soles. He reminded me of a doctor who asks you what you did over the weekend while he looks into your ears. Of course, I had to present a dissertation on my problem that would have bored lesser pros to tears but Roger listened intently and that meant a lot.

Gunn
Roger Gunn teaches at Tierra Rejada Golf Course in Moorpark, California

Finally, the fateful moment arrived. I have hit the ball like this for so long that I have almost gotten used to it, but it stills feels lousy and the balls flies without verve or purpose. I half feared that I would hit a couple OK and that it would throw him off the scent. I needn’t have worried.

After just a couple swings Roger began to speak about the importance of plane and path. Of course, I head heard and read the stuff he was saying a thousand times before. But, Roger gave a few simple examples that brought the essence of the problem to me clearly. For the next few minutes we worked on a very basic correction that involved him guiding the plane of my back swing. He reiterated that without the proper plane and path issues like tempo were irrelevant. His efforts allowed me to feel where the top of my swing had to be so that I could freely get the club on its way back to the ball.

A real strength that Roger has is to doggedly stay on point. When I asked him whether it might be helpful to work on my transition, he gently reeled me back into the issue of plane and said that if the plane was right the transition would take care of itself.

After my lesson with Roger I felt more than a glimmer of hope for the first time in a long time. I had a simple issue to work on that was basic to my swing. I also had an idea of how I had gone so far astray. It is well known that we all learn to play golf differently. Roger combines clear verbal instruction with an amazing ability to get to the most essential problem first. It would have been great had I found Roger a long time ago. I could have been on my way back to playing the way I know that I can a whole lot sooner. That said, golf is a lot like life. Sometimes we have to suffer through things for a new and better path to be clearly revealed. I’d like to thank Roger again and recommend him to anyone looking to rekindle their passion for the game. I’ll be working with Roger again soon.

I need to make up for lost time if I’m going to qualify for the USGA Publinx!

My Golf Lesson with Roger Gunn

Andrew & Benji take on The Dakotas Tour

How can it be over six years since I wrote this; impossible! Still, reading it again reminds me of writing it and makes me want to drop AVL to see how he’s doing.

Cheers.

PC

 

In 1996 Tiger Woods said, “Hello world,” and things haven’t been the same since. Before Woods ever put a tee into the ground as a professional he’d been made a multimillionaire by Nike and Titleist. For the first time, far more of a player’s income was going to come from sponsorships than tournament winnings. A new world order had arrived and golf almost instantly expanded into a truly global game.

Since then, we’ve said hello to a bunch of mini-Tigers like Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Ryo Ishikawa. What each of these players have in common (along with a lot of game) is a massive corporate support mechanism. Each is as much a brand as a player. Fowler actively cultivates his image and look on his website by asking, “Love my look?” His Cowboy-orange and flat-billed cap are tools helping to set himself apart from the rest of the khaki-clad PGA Tour crowd. And, while it would be easy (if a tad cynical) to say most great players have yet to set themselves apart by winning,

I don’t want to create the impression I don’t like this crop of young, corporately well-connected, players because for the most part I do. It’s just that I also enjoy following the kind of player who lacks such deep-pocketed support. It’s important to understand how many players come to professional golf in anonymity and with significant hardship.

It’s well known Ben Hogan failed on the PGA tour at least once before finally breaking through. Before succeeding, he was down to his last bit of cash, $86 from a war chest of $1400. He had promised his wife Valerie (who was driving with him from event to event) that if he didn’t earn a check in the next tournament they would take what little money they had left and make their way home to Fort Worth, Texas. The morning before the tournament, the Hogans awoke to find their Buick stripped of its rear tires and wheels, its rear axle propped up on rocks.

Hogan got a ride to the tournament and ended up winning $385. Hogan described that check as the biggest one he had ever seen and he was quite sure it was the biggest he would ever see in his entire life. It’s impossible to imagine that Hogan sponsored by Nike, given millions of dollars before he had ever put a tee into the ground in a professional event. Hogan is a reminder that for every Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler there are thousands of aspiring players who come up another way; a much harder way.

Jim Von Lossow came to professional golf in a way much closer to that of Hogan than of Fowler or Woods. Jim’s an old friend of mine and some years back he told me of his time on the PGA Tour. He was only 20 when he left Seattle for California and his parents had no love for the idea of playing professional golf. Jim’s quest to play on tour was one he faced largely on his own. He ended up on tour for a few years and even played alongside some storied players like Tom Kite and Jack Fleck. Though Jim didn’t make many headlines while on tour, his journey led him to become a PGA instructor, the first putter manufacturer to mill heads from 303 stainless steel and now one of the most respected club fitters in the country.

It’s no surprise that Jim and his wife, Susan, have two children who grew up excelling at golf; their daughter, Hannah, and son, Andrew. When it came to Andrew, Jim hadn’t realized how good he’d gotten until Andrew and his friend, Eric Benjamin, shot back to back rounds in the low 60s. This got Jim thinking and he and Susan decided to stake Andrew and Benji enough cash to cover a summer playing The Dakotas Tour. “When I was coming up, I didn’t have the support of my parents when it came to golf,” Jim told me. “So, it was important to me that my wife and I give Andrew and Benji whatever help we could.”

Toward the end of July, Andrew and Benji loaded Andrew’s 1997 Toyota Camry and headed east toward Bozeman, Montana. Bozeman would serve as the duo’s home base for their summer on The Dakotas Tour since Benji knew some folks there. Andrew & Benji missed the first eight events of the 2010 Dakotas Tour season. These tournaments were played in cities with names like Okoboji, Iowa. Obscurity is common in professional golf. A serious golf fan might be able to name 50 PGA Tour players but there are 125 exempt spots. Add the players on the Nationwide Tour, the Canadian Tour and all the myriad other mini tours and we’re talking about serious obscurity. Galleries consist of friends and family, but more likely no one at all. Testing one’s game on a tour like the Dakotas was a strong reminder that golf can be a very solitary game, especially for aspiring professionals like Andrew & Benji.

Still, this is a duo that’s pretty comfortable with obscurity. They’ve even created their own organization to promote it; The Northwest Obscure Golf Association. Andrew & Benji came up with the name when they were forced to admit that to play as much as they needed to play to sharpen their games they’d have to play on some of the area’s scruffier courses. So, for two months of summer in 2010, Andrew & Benji tested their games against other aspiring professionals. They played some golf, they drove a lot of miles and had a lot of fun. At the end of the summer, they both agreed it had been the best one ever.

Obscure

After arriving in Bozeman, Andrew & Benji drove about 700 miles for a one day Pro-Am at Wild Oak GC in Mitchell, South Dakota. For the next few weeks, Andrew & Benji teed it up twice in Yankton, South Dakota at Fox run and then at the open qualifier at Hillcrest Country Club.

Which open? The Bobcat State Open at Fargo Country Club, of course. Notably, the state animal of South Dakota is the coyote, so go figure. Jim Von Lossow had told me what good players his son Andrew and daughter had become, but it was Andrew’s humble blogging that drove home just what fine players he and Benji are and at the same time what a difficult undertaking they were attempting.

Andrew’s first blog entry:

Benji and I played a practice round at Fargo Country Club. It was a nice day, around 80 degrees with a slight breeze. The forecast for tomorrow is calling for wind and sun. I tee off at 8:20am while Benji tees off at 1:20pm. 

The greens are very firm and fast. The key to approach shots is staying below the hole and taking one club less for the ball to run up to the pin. This is a very Northwest-style golf course so Benji and I feel comfortable playing here.

Here are a couple pics from today at the Fargo Country Club…

AVL
Eric Benjamin

To the casual reader, I’m sure these photos simply look like two really good players teeing off. But, when I look at them I’m trying to imagine if Andrew & Benji felt differently when they put the tee in the ground. They were doing what they had done thousands of times before, but they were doing it for a very different reason. Their ability, their pure joy in playing the game and their newfound drive to play golf for a living, had taken Andrew & Benji to this very unusual place.

I once watched Nick Price in one of his first tournaments on the Champion’s Tour. I had sought him out before he teed off to tell him how much I enjoyed his book, The Swing, which had come out a few years earlier. Nick Price was as kind and gracious a man as his reputation would suggest. There were a few people who watched him tee off, but by the 3rd hole his gallery had all but vanished. It was a perfect, glorious day in Southern California and one of the best players in the game was playing a competitive round of golf in almost total solitude.

That was an odd event. It was the first day of a tournament that had been moved from one course to another and attendance would be light until the weekend. But, that day reminded me what a lonely and isolating game professional golf can be. As I walked with Price I marveled at his rapid-fire swing and the dead-solid sound the ball made when he struck it with an iron, and I felt a little sorry for him. I know…Price wasn’t really alone, and was certainly not lonely. Still, live professional golf very often doesn’t always bear as much similarity to the game we see on television as we might expect.

Andrew & Benji were taking their first steps toward becoming a colleague of Nick Price but I’m sure they didn’t see it that way. They were and are good friends who wanted most of all to have their best summer ever. While they were at it, they would measure their games against each other and against the games of the other players with the same mission.

They both knew it wouldn’t be easy:

Day 31-33

Day 1 of the Bobcat North Dakota State Open:

Benji and I both shot 75. I played in the morning and made the turn at 3 over and shot even on the back. 

For Benji’s round in the afternoon the wind picked up and baked out the greens. He hit a flagstick from 190 yards and the ball then went into the water in the greenside hazard. In the last 3 tournaments, Benji has at least hit one flag per tourney. His round also lasted 6.5 hours. 

Day 2:

Benji shot 70. He played solid but just had one bad hole. He was punching out from the trees when his ball caught the trunk of a tree sending it into the hazard. Benji missed the cut by 2.

For myself, I shot 81. Made the turn at 3 over again and knew I had to make some moves if I wanted any chance of making the cut. Instead the round went the other way.

We are leaving North Dakota today and heading to Milbank, South Dakota. We will drive three hours and play a practice round at Pine Hills Golf Club for a one-day Pro Am tomorrow, August 30th.

We are looking forward to playing a new course and teeing it up in another tournament.

For 7,000 miles, Andrew & Benji chased the little white ball across the Dakotas and into Montana, going all the way east to Iowa for the Tour Championship. They were like the golf equivalents of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, hopping from town to town, staying at KOA campgrounds. Playing golf was the reason for their trip but I will bet it was the trip itself they’ll remember most keenly. As another Cervantes once wrote, “The Journey is better than the inn.” In an era when people are brought together over vast distance by technology, it’s even more important to venture into the expanse from time to time. I’m sure Andrew & Benji would agree.

Koa AVL
Koa Benji

I wondered a lot about Andrew & Benji and their dream of playing golf for a living. In fact, when I started working on this story, I wasn’t even sure they really wanted to play the game for a living. So, I talked to Andrew about it.

Today, Andrew Von Lossow’s day job is studying Design at Eastern Washington University where he’s on schedule to graduate in 2013. He told me about the reaction of his fellow students when he tells that in his spare time he’s a professional golfer. Not surprisingly, they don’t quite know what that means. When most people think of the word professional, they think of doctors and lawyers, not golfers.

When asked to describe his game, Andrew said, “My strength is ball striking. I can hit high long irons and from there I have good confidence in my other irons. My chipping and pitching are works in progress. Same with my putting; I am a streaky putter I can really get it going when I am on. When I’m not, it is a lot of two putts and the occasional and dreaded 3 putt.” He’s clearly a guy who believes in his game and has done a lot to develop it from working with a number of teaching pros to enhancing his overall fitness by following a rigorous fitness regimen developed by the Titleist Performance Institute.

As ever, golf is a game of making three shots into two shots any way you can. The different mind set of the truly fine player is revealed when he says, “Once I make one birdie, I feel I can string them together. The more birdies I make, the more unaware of my score I get because I get caught up on the next shot to make the lowest score possible.” Poor players don’t think that way. A couple good holes is more likely to make them protective than confident. Andrew clearly has the confidence to go low when the opportunity comes his way, as he did by finishing 5th and winning $800 in the Gallatin Valley Open.

He wrote about the event and the end of his first pro tour:

Back Home

What a journey it was out in the Dakotas. Benji and I both agree that this was the best summer we have ever had. Benji had some great finishes in tournaments while I was enrolled in the school of hard knocks in the tour life. What I learned was very important for becoming a better player. Golf is not easy as we all know. 

The last tournament, The Gallatin Valley Open, I came in 5th shooting 72-68. The first day I shot 4-over 40 on the front nine and I took some experience from my previous tournaments and shot 4-under 32 on the back nine. The next day I shot a bogey free 68 to make a move up the leader board to cash my first professional check.

I’ll bet Andrew’s closing 68 felt so easy. At the same time, I’m sure that front nine 40 must have had him doubting that he was cut out to play professional golf. The ability to turn off those doubts and salvage par says a lot about his resiliency. Still, it must be extraordinarily difficult for an aspiring professional to measure his game, until the heat of professional competition gets turned up. Then it becomes easy, if potentially confidence crushing. There are so many good players today. As sure as I am that the best players of eras gone by like Nicklaus, Hogan and Ballesteros would still be amazingly successful players today, I’m equally certain the depth of quality players is greater today than it’s ever been.

No one needs to tell Jim Von Lossow about the difficult challenge that lay ahead for his son. There is surely no way to tell whether Andrew will be able to make a living playing golf. But, that’s not really the point. In golf and in life, outcomes are never assured. All we can do is make our best swing, go find the ball, and do it all again.

Today, Andrew & Benji are continuing to hone their games in preparation for their next trek on tour. They’re sure to have plenty of birdies and their fair share of bogies when they do.

Their best summers ever are just ahead.

Andrew & Benji take on The Dakotas Tour

Two Strokes or Loss of Hole: Playing Golf with My Brothers

I confess to having been damned by my own poor play for the last year.

Strike that; for the better part of the last two years, maybe more, I’ve lost track.

The reasons for my uninspiring play include poor driving (lots of pulls), lackluster iron play and balky putting. The only point of reliability has been my short game. I have a deft touch from 60 yards and in. Give me  tricky shot to a back pin from a thin lie and I’m likely to get it close. Go figure.

Of course, no one gives a shit about a good short game. We all just want to hit the ball solidly when we want to, but few of us can do it.

Two of my brothers (they’re twins, in fact) have been retired for the last year or so. This has resulted in a lot of golf for the two for them. They play twice a week, usually at a dried out carcass of a golf course north of Mojave in the high desert. The course is called Tierra Del Sol and it must have been something back when it first opened in 1969. Now, it’s just a big, sprawling burned up golf course with bad greens. They dump gallons of water on it, which mostly serves to creates little lakes around the cart paths. Delightful.

tds
A few feet off the 5th fairway at Tierra Del Sol

Tierra Del Sol is a hell of a long way from me, so I don’t play there often. And, when I do, I usually swear that it’s the last time. So, when I realized that my Monday promised to be slow one I thought of playing golf with my brothers, Tom and John, but hoped I could convince them to play somewhere else.

pano
Looking toward Soule Park’s clubhouse with the Topatopa Mountains in the background

The somewhere else was Soule Park in Ojai. I call it the antidote for Tierra Del Sol. It’s a really fine course that was renovated by none other than Gil Hanse (designer of the 2016 Olympic course in Rio) back in 2005. Soule Park is an honest, straightforward course that tells you clearly where to hit the ball and where to stay away. The greens can get very fast and some of them have oodles of slope and break. It’s easy to have putts get away from you. Just ask me: Today, I had three birdie putts explode in my hands resulting in par putts that were nearly as long.

After one of those blazing birdie putts got the better of my short temper, I pulled a 7-iron on my tee shot on the par-3 3rd hole. I ended up pin high but twenty five yards left with a nasty hardpan lie. Now, I have to confess something here; I like to walk and my brothers like to ride. So, Tom got to his ball in the left bunker right about the time I got to my ball. I could see what was happening. He either didn’t know where I was (possible, but not likely) or he knew where I was and figured since he’d gotten to his ball 5 milliseconds before I did he would do the right thing and play ready golf.

I did think about yelling at him. “Hey, asshole, get the fuck outta my way!” He would have moved, too, and sheepishly climbed out of the bunker that entombed his ball. But I didn’t. I decided silent seething was the better play. So, I watched as he slammed his first shot into the face of the bunker, then as he skulled his second shot mere inches below the first and while he semi-skulled his third into the bunker on the other side of the green. I could see his twin John bravely putting out as the third shot whizzed past his head.

Like I said, my shot was wildly hard. The last thing I wanted to do was watch Tom’s act and then be rushed when it came time to hit it, but that’s just what happened. After he dutifully raked the now crater-filled bunker I rushed my shot and it too found the right bunker. By the time I got to my ball both of them had putted out and I scooped my ball out of the bunker with a rake. I had to decide if I was going to say something. I almost didn’t, but I did. “OK, I’m telling you something, asshole. For the rest of this round we’re going to play in order. The player who’s furthest from the hole is going to play first. Fuck your dumb-ass ready golf.” Unfortunately, I was so mad I kind of told John rather than Tom but both of them heard what I said. At least there was no chance of me being misunderstood.

I don’t know what drives these guys to play (or try to play) at the pace they do. Today, we played 18 holes in three hours and fifteen minutes and I was walking. Somehow, someway, extreme pace of play became a kind of nearly existential imperative for them.

Me? Even though I prefer to walk most people think I play at a very fast pace. I’m not much for practice swings and I read my putts quickly. What I do like to do is grind when it comes to par and occasionally even bogie putts. I don’t take any longer to read them but they matter to me, even if I’m not keeping score.

The lads are prone to putting with the flag in, carelessly swiping at bogie and double-bogie putts and a whole host of other putting etiquette no-nos. On the short par-4 8th hole, Tom had a very lengthy par putt. I had a much shorter chip from just right of the flag and I don’t recall where John was. One thing was certain. The flag was unattended when Tom hit his putt. It was a 40 footer at least. It wound its way up the hill, swung down to left and gathered speed as it approached the hole. Clack! It hit the pin dead center and tumbled into the hole. “I made a par,” Tom sang out as he retrieved his ball from the hole. Now it was my turn to play the asshole. “The hell you did. What you made was a two-stroke penalty. What do you think about that? Ha!”

Now the funny thing is this; on both occasions, when I scolded Tom on the 3rd hole and again when I denied him his par on the 8th, I felt like my father. I could hear him (absent the four letter words) telling Tom the very same things. It made me wonder about the roles we play and the reasons we play them.

I’m still wondering.

We played the 9th hole uneventfully. But, when we got onto the green Tom was again left with a very long (even longer than the one on the 8th) par putt. I had a shorter putt for par and while I was marking it I saw a ball roll by. It was Tom’s par putt, rolling, yet again, toward an unattended pin. I mean, I get it: He was a long way from the pin. But, he hit the putt so quickly and apparently the thought of asking John or me to tend the flag never crossed his mind. Miraculously, Tom’s putt was tracking beautifully. It hugged the green without even the slightest of hops and began to break a few feet short of the hole, the ball ending up just an inch or two behind the hole when it stopped. “I almost made another par!” “Nope, what you almost made was your second consecutive two-stroke penalty.”

There was plenty of irony for everyone.

I have likened playing golf with Tom and John to feeling like a character in a Hunter S. Thomson novel. There’s an aspect of the experience that’s undeniably akin to an odd kind of bad trip. They’re been described by friends and relative as, “kind of in their own little world” and “not much into the camaraderie of the game.” But, neither of those observations, though accurate, really get to the heart of things.

Their preternatural motivation to play quickly for the sake of playing quickly is their first problem. Nobody likes to feel like they’re playing golf slowly. It’s a slow game by its nature since it’s played in the very largest of ballparks. But, when you think about it, if you enjoy playing golf why would you want the experience to be over any faster than it has to be? I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know why the balance between playing at a good steady pace and playing just as fast as an electric cart can propel you is so elusive to them, but it is.

Their other problem is an old favorite; failure to communicate. The damnable use of a golf cart brings out their worst. One of them is constantly leaving the other one somewhere without the right club or leaving the cart somewhere the other one doesn’t want it. The odd thing is that their lack of communication doesn’t mean that there isn’t chatter, and a lot of it. In fact, they frequently ask me questions while the other is trying to make a shot. I, of course, stand mute until the shot has been attempted. But the effect is to quell the usual give and take of on-course conversation. They are both wholly imperturbable. They have made obliviousness into a kind of art.

They managed to toss me into their oblivion twice over the last two holes. I was to blame also, believe me, but I was really mad at them. On the 17th hole I hit a solid drive but it left me an angle to the green that included a big-ass pine tree and a eucalyptus just to make things interesting. Rather than taking my medicine and playing to the left of the green, I decided to hit a fade (horrors). I hit the ball flush but added a touch of push to the fade and right after the ball reached its apex, it caught the highest branches of the pine. Damn.

I saw it hit the tree clearly, but I never saw it come down. As soon as the ball hit the tree, Tom and John’s cart was off like a rocket. I walked back and forth where I thought the ball could have been but no ball. To the uninitiated, one of the few genuine benefits of a cart is the ability to search for a ball over a large area. The problem was that the only cart on the 17th hole was parked near the green where, again, the boys were putting out.

The ball refused to show itself and I was seething yet again. I kept looking but somehow the ball had disappeared. The ball should have been easy to find. There was only short green grass and burned-out hardpan in the area. I slung my bag over my should and walked to the 18th tee to try to cool off. Right before I got there, Tom calls over to me. “Where are you?” I didn’t look back, I just said, “I have no idea.” and walked on.

Somehow, unbelievably, I repeated a variation of this feat on the 18th by hitting a low shot toward the green for my 3rd shot. Tom and John again sped off right after I hit the ball. They were walking around in the area where my ball should have been but rather than keep an eye out for it, they both set about with hitting their shots while I did my back and forth searching-for-a-ball act.

Now I was really burning. I thought to myself that playing with Tom and John was like playing with strangers who don’t like me. But, as soon as I said this to myself I realized how wrong that was. I’ve been playing golf with strangers for well over twenty years and even though I’ve been paired with some oddballs I have never played with anyone who didn’t think to offer help in finding a ball. Then again, my brothers aren’t strangers.

But, it’s important to say that it’s not that they don’t like me. It’s not like they’re trying to make a difficult game more difficult than it needs to be. They’re not uncaring, they’re not unkind, they’re simply oblivious to things an ordinary player would find obvious. And, I don’t have  a fucking clue as to why this is true.

I am walking toward the 18th green with these thoughts coursing through my brain. As I drew closer to the green Tom asked me, “Where are you?”

Without a word, I tended the pin for first him and then John. As I put the pin back into the hole I thought to myself, I cannot do this to myself any more.

We drove in different cars and I got to my mine first and drove off toward the Ojai Beverage Company where we like to have a beer and a burger after we play at Soule. The amazing thing is that we had a fine time. We talked about beers and politics and manufacturing jobs. There wasn’t so much as a hint of tension (and there never is). Those are  good times I’m not willing to give up. What the twins lack as playing partners they more than make up for as dining companions. The challenge for me is to enjoy those times while avoiding playing golf with them. So, that’s what I have decided to do. I figure that once or twice a month I’ll drive out to meet them in Lancaster at Kinetic or up to Ojai to hang out with them at the OBC. That’s a plan I can live with. Just know that if I play golf with them again someone will get hurt and it won’t be me.

18th
The 9th at Soule Park just before sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Strokes or Loss of Hole: Playing Golf with My Brothers