The Best Week of the Year!

There are MANY things a PGA Tour pro can do that I can’t. 

For example, I can’t hit a gorgeous, high draw that kicks into second gear halfway to its’ target, hits a green 340 yards away and stays on the putting surface 10 feet from the flag for a “routine” eagle.  I also can’t get up-and-down from greenside bunkers 50 or 60% of the time…consistently sting my short irons within 10-15 feet of the hole and expecting to get up and down from inside 100 yards half the time, or better.

These are the kind of things I dream about doing on a golf course…but they’re simply not in my skill set. And after many years of failed attempts, I’ve come to accept that (at least most of it, anyway).

Well, hang on a second.  Now that I think about it, it’s not that I can’t do those things (except the drive, of course), it’s just that I don’t do them…or at least don`t do them consistently.  I guess the ability is there, somewhere, deep inside me…but how it comes to the surface every 10 or 15 or 80 rounds is a complete mystery.

So, there you have it…the Pros can do things I can’t.  Big, startling revelation right?

After the Texas Open this past weekend, I discovered there’s one more thing I can add to that list…and, to be honest, it’s one that I’m not at all unhappy about not having in my arsenal; shooting 16 on a par 4.

Again, it’s not that I’m incapable of doing that…I just never have. 

Up until last Thursday, I’m sure Kevin Na would have said the same thing…with a quick roll of his eyes and a wry, “AS IF!” grin on his face, if he were ever asked, “hey Kevin, you ever shoot a 16?`

But no more.  I’m sure you’ve read about the carnage on the 9th hole at the AT&T Oaks Course.  You’ve probably even watched the video.   I did.  I didn’t want to, but curiosity got the better of me and then, even though I really wanted to, I couldn’t avert my eyes. 

The poor bugger! It was like watching the slow-motion train crash we’ve come to know as Charlie Sheen, freefalling from tenuous grip on reality over the past few months…but with a golf club.  One bad decision, after another, after another…lather, rinse, repeat…let the weeping begin.

Even when I was starting the game, I’m sure I never wrote a 16 down on my card.  Oh, it’s entirely possible that I might have shot one once…but lacking the proper knowledge about penalty strokes and golf rules in general, and forgetting to count diligently in a mental fog of slashes and confusion meant that the dreaded 16 never made it onto my score card, one way or another.  

Oh yes…and I guess it’s worth mentioning that I wasn’t a Pro with years and years of lessons and top-calibre experience under my belt either.

‘Nuff said.

Were there any train crashes or bad decisions from your fearless forecasters with their picks as well?  Well, before this gets any more morbid, let’s see just how dismally my daughter and I did with our forecasts for last week’s Tour stop.

The Texas Open

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Adam Scott T23  $      52,257 Bobby Gates T15  $          90,055
Geoff Ogilvy T23  $      52,257 Richard S. Johnson W/D  
Spencer Levin Cut   Michael Thompson Cut  
Bo Van Pelt T59  $      13,392 Jhonattan Vegas T44  $          19,840
This Week’s Total    $    117,906 This Week’s Total    $        109,895
Season Total    $ 6,088,436 Season Total    $     2,673,889

No 16’s on either one of our scorecards…but definitely no aces either.  And who woulddathunk that of all of our picks last week some randomly-selected guy named Bobby Gates would have come out on top of the group?  (My apologies Bobby…no offense intended)

Onward and upwards folks.  Onward and upwards.

Actually, this week I’ll be moving onwards and slightly downwards. Not in terms of my picks (I hope!), but in terms of geography.

That wonderful, magical time of year is suddenly upon us…and on Wednesday morning at the crack of yawn, I’ll be joining about 140 other frost-bitten Canucks as we literally stampede our way across the Canada-US border and invade a secret golf destination deep in Northern New York.  (And I’ll be at my super-charged Canadian best, having taken my son to see Rush the evening before for his birthday.  Like his old man, Rush is #1 for #1 son, by a long shot)

It’s our big, annual golf tournament…and you can bet every cent you have that the entire field will be jam-packed with guys who have been sporting that Charles Manson “Helter Skelter” look for the past 2 or 3 months, who have a ton and a half of pent-up golf in their systems and will be doing their utmost to play as hard as they can (on and off the course) to flush the effects of this craptacular winter we’ve had out of our systems once and for all (more snow the past 2 days here!!!)

The course we play at in this event is magnificent.  The listing of events over 5 days of play is fun and diverse and challenging enough to make even the most discerning golfer happy. We play Scrambles, Shambles, Skins, The Long-Drive contest (full contact in front of the entire field – no pressure!), Closest to the Hole on 4 simultaneous launching pads, Tombstones, Shoot-outs, Hidden Partners, Pink Balls and on and on.  And the prize table literally groans with a collection of booty that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  It’s as close to playing in a professional calibre golf tournament as I’ll ever get.  And I love every second of it.

And the local people are absolutely wonderful!  The resort staff is top drawer all the way.  And even though we take over their entire course for one of the first weeks of their season (which could rightfully be considered a shooting offense in many parts of the States), the members actually come from all over to act as voluntary Marshalls and have some fun with `the boys.` After hours, the bar and restaurant are literally jammed with locals who come out every year to party with those `Crazy Canadian Guys.”  Even the stores in nearby towns have it on their schedule and stock up on special stuff when they know the big date is coming up.  We`re treated like royalty every second we`re there!

It’s pure magic folks…and I’ve been counting the seconds since…well….since the last one ended.

As I get older, I have to admit that the actual golf took a back seat a number of years ago.  Don’t get me wrong, in the weeks leading up to this event I practise like an absolute lunatic, so I can play the golf of my life.  (Unfortunately I seem to be a “range pro” and my game mysteriously never manages to clear customs!) And when I’m on the course I’m doing my absolute best to play well and win some of the abundant cash and prizes that are available. 

It’s just that the collection of stuff I come home with after the week is over is no longer the yardstick I use to measure a successful outing.

No, for me the very best thing about this tournament is the opportunity to reunite with old friends, roll back the clocks 15 or 20 years and enjoy 4 or 5 days of side-splitting laughter and camaraderie.  As we’ve gotten older, become parents, moved to various parts of the planet, had brushes with mortality (which a few in the group have sadly lost at far too young an age), gotten more all-consuming jobs and all the rest of that stuff that makes life “too busy,” this is the one time every year when we can all get together. 

And, knowing full well that time is precious and we’re all on the “back nine” now, we make it a priority to do just that. 

As soon as we leave New York each spring I look forward to doing it all over again…and spending more time with the boys: Svenny from G`Town, Jesper from DutchyLand, Oloaf and Nils from Kenora, Jabby from BC, Harrison and Pokey and per Ulrik and Yosh from Toronto, Mats and Fergie and Glennis from Scarberia, Toban from Winterpeg, FB and King Billy from Montreal, Yims and Herbie and Alex and Mel from Ottawa, Scotty Dog from New Jersey.  (Names have been changed to protect the moderately innocent).  We now have about 20-24 in our little group and every guy is a lifer!

The golf tournament, while excellent in every way, is a glorified, glorious backdrop for us.  It’s the glue that brings us together and provides the set-ups for so many legendary stories we’ve created over the years…the ones we’ll never forget..and will probablybe re-counted one day at our funerals.

Many years ago we decided to have our own little tournament within the tournament…and promptly split ourselves into two equal (and equally ridiculous) factions: The Scots and the Hooves (Scandinavians).  When we gather, it`s a battle royale for the cash and a year`s worth of bragging rights…and it`s a classic confrontation in every sense of the word.

Every year, around the first of November, it starts.  A random e-mail fired off by one of the guys gets things going…and before you know it, it`s morphed into a full on scud-launching session of non-stop hilarity and bravado.  We announce the matches in a carefully orchestrated series of scuds in the weeks leading up to the event…followed by more major volleys of bravado and one-upmanship from the herd.  By the time the actual tournament rolls around, everyone is wound up to a feverish pitch.  I`m probably vibrating right now from the excitement…I’m just too exc ited to notice.

I really hope that all of you reading this have a tournament like this that you go to with your friends.  If you don’t, then do yourself a favour and start one now.  It doesn’t have to be anything outrageous in terms of courses or prizes or events.  It certainly doesn’t have to be 5 days.  But it does have to be an event you and your friends recognize for what it is…a rare chance to get everyone together at least once a year, every year… and then commit to.

I promise you, it will be one of the happiest decisions you’ll make. 

And so, as I finish up my laundry, pack my bags and go over my “to do” list for the 15th time, I’ll pause to give you my picks for the upcoming Heritage.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll let you know right now that I won’t be seeing a second of the action from Harbour town.

Derek’s Picks – The Heritage

Boo Weekley – Several weeks ago I was prompted to finally drop my narrow-minded embargo on guys names Bubba and Bo…what the hell, I guess the time has come for me to complete the Trifecta and completely reject my old, stupid ways entirely.  You can’t judge a golfer by the name, stupid!

If ever there were a guy who should be on a fantasy list for a particular tournament, Weekley is it this week…just like Davis Love III was way back when.  He loves Harbour Town…and Harbour Town loves him.  T12 last year, T13 in ’09, won in ’08, won again in ’07.  Who else has a better record on this track in the past 4 years?

I admit he hasn’t exactly been lighting the Tour up so far this year, but if anything is going to provide the impetus for Weekley to get his season on track, I think it will be stepping onto the first tee at Hilton Head this week.

Luke Donald – Simply put, there really aren’t many players on the planet who are hotter than Donald right now.  He’s only played 4 events in North America…and his worst finish so far is 10th at the Honda.  The others were all HUGE tourneys; 4th at Augusta, 6th at the WGC Cadillac and 1st at the WGC World Match Play.

How could you possibly not have him on your list right now?

And, for any doubting Thomases in the crowd, if his recent performance doesn’t seal the deal for you, then consider what he’s done in Hilton Head.  T3 last year.  T2 in ’09.

Donald is pure gold in this one.

Aaron Baddeley – A few years ago it seemed like he was poised to become the “next big, young star.”  Then, for whatever reason, his game just fell off our radar.  2010 was pretty unspectacular.  He did manage to keep his card last year…but just by the hair on his chinny-chin-chin (does he even shave yet?)

Thankfully for the many fans of “Bads,” he seems to have returned to form in a pretty big way this year…and he might just be on the verge of taking a big step up into the golf stratosphere if he can keep it up.

With top 10 finishes at Pebble Beach and Houston, plus a win at Phoenix, Baddeley has signalled to the rest of the PGA Tour Pros that he is indeed “back.” 

He also has some great recent history at the Heritage to fuel the happy thoughts; top 10 in 2007 and 2nd place in 2008.  This might just be the week when he could put on that gawd-awful tartan jacket and really live up to the nickname Johnny Miller pinned on his years ago; “Dresses Baddeley.”

Matt Kuchar – I’ll fess up and admit that I originally wrote Rickie Fowler’s name in this slot.  I mean, he has to “click” sooner or later doesn’t he?  No seriously…I’m really asking…doesn’t he?

Then, recalling the several times I’ve been burned by picking him, I had a sudden change of heart and decided to go with, what I consider to be, a surer thing; Matt Kuchar.  You watch, this will probably end up being Fowler`s big breakthrough and I`ll be having some major trader`s remorse this time next week.

Kuchar was the player on tour in 2010…and he hasn`t failed to keep his major momentum going so far in 2011.  He`s racked up five top ten finishes so far this season, including a couple of top 5`s at some of the year`s biggest events.  Unfortunately, one of those events was not The Masters, where he got off to a good start, but fizzled pretty quickly.

The only thing missing from his resume this season is another win.  I think he has a good shot of correcting that situation this weekend in Harbour Town.

And now that I`ve had my say, it`s time to get back to the laundry and last-minute packing for the big tourney.  But before I do, let`s see what my darling daughter came up with this week on the dartboard:

D&D`s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard)

  • Joe Durant
  • Derek Lamely
  • Mike Weir
  • Mark Wilson

And that`s all for this week folks.  Have a great week and enjoy the tournament.  I won`t be anywhere near a TV set, so let me know if I missed anything good at that other tournament.

Fingers crossed that karma doesn`t bite me in the ass…and I don`t come home with a 16 on my card!



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