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The Best Show Not on TV: We Need a Fourth

8/27/2007 0 comments
As I mentioned at the tail end of one of my recent posts, I submitted an idea for a golf reality show to the Golf Channel. Here's a summary of the show:

IDEA SUBMISSION FOR THE GOLF CHANNEL
“WE NEED A FOURTH”

I have a great idea for a new reality show for the Golf Channel. It's called 'We Need a Fourth'. For years, I've been playing golf with the same two guys: Jeff (aka Jefe) and his brother Jim (aka Jimbo). Every year we go on one of those break neck, 36-54 hole per day golf binges. However, we've never been able to find anyone who's both a) crazy/stupid enough to join us and b) meets our very stringent and specific criteria in finding a golf partner.

Finding a decent golf partner can be harder than finding a spouse, and is very similar in its ups and downs to the courtship process. We need your help, and I think it would make for great television. Jeff is a British-accent away from being the next Simon Cowell. He's been called the George Costanza of his generation. He's extremely prickly when it comes to playing partners -- I'm his best friend and have been disowned multiple times for even the slightest transgressions. Jeff once took a 3-month road-trip sabbatical to play all the best courses in the country.

Jimbo is a little more laid back, but he cherishes the purity and traditional values of the game. He's a school teacher who has worked in the golf industry and has seen it all. He knows what works and doesn't work.

Besides being the brains of the operation, I have a grip-it and rip-it mentality on the golf course and for life in general. (For more insight into my maniacal mind (as well as details on some our recent golf trips), I urge you to check out my blog at: http://wegoblogger31.blogspot.com/search/label/Golf

We have different personalities but are driven by a common goal to experience as much of the quality golf that this world has to offer before we die. To that end, Jeff has played over 320 different courses (fueled by his road-trip) in his 34 years. I'm 33 and have played over 280 courses. Jimbo is 35 and has played 170 courses. Our course lists (yes, we keep them in our wallets) are skewed towards the best public and resort courses in the country (and some in the world), but also include courses we played at local muni's while picking up the game as juniors.

So that's the background. Here's the format: Every week you have 12-15 wannabes. We track the guys as they are coming to the course (do they use the bag drop, do they change shoes in the locker room, how are they dressed, how do they look on the range, etc). From first impressions, we 'draft' nine guys (three guys each) who make the first cut. However, the contestants aren’t initially aware that we are the ones deciding their fate. We’d play the part of the average contestant in the first round and will be selected as part of the 12 that make the first cut. We each take a group of three ‘real’ contestants out for first nine holes, with the intent of finding one guy each to move on to the back nine. The decisions can be made at any point throughout the round (guys could be cut after the first swing, after failing to tip the cart girl or even the first wrong glance at Jefe, whatever). Imagine a contestant’s surprise when the guy he thought he was competing against is the guy telling him to hit the road. On the back nine, the three finalists play together with us in one big group, and we collectively decide the winner at the end of 18 holes. Again, contestants can be eliminated for any reason along the way. The winner gets to go immediately on a 3-day golf weekend with us to some golf destination. You can stop the episode there or track the weekend as well, which would end in a decision by us whether they make the cut to the finale (and also allows the show to highlight a different golf destination every week). After 9+ episodes of these first round events, you bring back all the winners for the finale, which follows the same format until we have the grand champion, who gets to go with us on a two-week trip to some ultimate destination like Scotland, Ireland, Bandon, etc.

Like I said, I think this would make for some great television. Please let me know if you'd like to explore this idea further.

Thanks for your time,

Jim Colton


This idea is gold, Jerry, gold! Seriously, this would make for some very compelling television. Everybody who plays golf knows how hard it is to find a good golf partner. And once you find them, you don't give them up. Essentially the show would be a cross between the Bachelor and the Apprentice. Not a bad combination as far as reality shows go, right? Well, apparently the programming department at Golf Channel doesn't agree. Here's the form letter I received last week:

"Dear Mr. Colton,

Thank you for your idea submission to the Golf Channel. We appreciate the effort you have made to suggest a concept to enhance our channel.

We have considered [Note: Insert Show Name Here] We Need a Fourth and feel it would not currently be of sufficient interest to enough viewers. Therefore, we are not interested in any further development in this area at this time.

We will keep your informatio in file and be in touch with you should an opportunity with your submission arise.

We greatly appreciate your interest in the Golf Channel.

Sincerely,
Programming Acquisition and Development
Golf Channel"

Ouch! The first 'bong' letter I've received since trying to find a job out of school 11 years ago. I guess the Golf Channel couldn't find a home for a show like this amongst all those infomercials and fantastic episodes of 'Fore Inventors Only' (is anybody watching this?). Even their bread-and-butter Big Break is growing a little long in the tooth. The truth about the Big Break is you either have it or you don't. Some hottie who can't make the cut on the Futures Tour ain't going to make the cut with some sponsor exemptions just because she beat out 10 other girls who can't make the cut on the Futures Tour. And unlike musicians were you need to get a few breaks and meet the right people in order to get discovered, for golfers if you have the talent, you can make it. You don't need a 'big break', you just need mad game. Plunk down the $10,000 or whatever and go to Q-school or enter your USGA Local Qualifying.

Oh well, I may be a lot of things - husband, father, banker, golfer, blogger, fantasy basketball guru, college basketball ranking guy / quasi-bracketologist, but I guess reality TV star isn't one of them. Maybe the Golf Channel could see right through the idea for what it truly was: a thinly veiled attempt to get some free golf at some of the best courses in the world. It was worth a shot. In any case, I fully expect them to tweak my idea and come out with their own version of this show in the near future.

Albuquerque Golf Trip, Days Three to Five (Last Man Standing Wins)

8/12/2007 0 comments
Day Three: Black Mesa

Day Three was the longest day on the golf trip. The alarm was set at 4:30 am for a 5 o'clock departure for Black Mesa Golf Club, which is about 25 minutes north of Santa Fe and an hour twenty minutes from our hotel in Albuquerque. Know many people willing to get up at 4:30 am to play golf? This is perfectly normal behavior for us.

Fortunately, Black Mesa is well worth it. We passed at least a dozen different casinos on the way up, until we reached the destination that can best be described as the middle of nowhere. The holes at Black Mesa carve around and between the mountains, and designer Baxter Spann did a great job utilizing the unique rock formations into the design. There is really nothing surrounding it. It feels like you are playing golf on the moon.

You will definitely enjoy the scenery but you may not enjoy the course as much the first time you play it. There are multiple blind shots and some holes that seem a little over the top at first. But you simply need to play it more than once. Black Mesa is one of those courses that just keeps getting better each time you play it (a la the Old Course at St. Andrews). You start to figure where to hit it (and more importantly where not to hit it) and where to bring your approach shots in to best attack the pin locations. The one complaint that I have against Paa-Ko Ridge is that the fairways and greens are too soft. The greens there are severe, but you can't really use the slopes on the approaches. Black Mesa plays firm and fast...it's very much like a links course that happens to sit in the mountains at 5,500 feet of elevation.

The nice thing about appreciating the course more as you play it is that your score will likely improve as well. The course seems brutally tough the first time, but it's downright user friendly upon a second look. The first round, it looked like I was headed for another disastrous day. I had multiple three jacks on the sloped greens (basically any time I was on the wrong slope it was an auto three putt). I gave a bunch of other strokes away and shot 87. The second round I shot a 75. Hard to believe it was the same guy.

Two rounds just wasn't enough. Jefe and I were determined to play more, so we jedi-mind tricked the guy in the pro shop to let us play another 18 for free. Jimbo wasn't thrilled with the decision made without him (apparently the first of many). He played great the first two rounds (79-77), but had hit his limit. He reluctantly played the front nine of the third round before bowing out. Jefe and I had decent rounds going so we left him at the clubhouse in a wake of dust as our cart peeled off for the 10th tee.

Something clicked with Jefe and he turned into a birdie machine. He was seemingly on the stick on every hole. He played well in the second round with four birdies, but was derailed with a desert-induced 10 on the 17th hole en route to a disappointing 82. He had five birdies in the third round, including some sweet redemption on the same 17th en route to a tidy 75. It was the start of something big for Jefe. He kept rolling 'em in, and my wallet kept getting lighter and lighter. I had implemented a bonus structure into the skins game, and it was definitely working against me.

All in all, it was a great day at Black Mesa. We were the first ones in the parking lot in the morning, even before the pro shop attendant. And everyone had already left for the day when we finished. Jefe and I probably could've squeezed another nine in before dark, but Jimbo would've likely disowned us.




First ones to arrive, last ones to leave



First tee at Black Mesa...blind tee shot



Looking back at the clubhouse from the first green



Jefe tracking Jimbo's tee shot from the perch on the 2nd tee



Really cool 2nd hole, a short par 4



First time I ever took a picture of a cart path



The short par 3 4th, hole set right of the base of the mountain. Very cool.



Another blind tee shot...this time it's the fifth hole



Par five sixth hole, with the driveable par 4 7th in the background



This is why we call him Jeferiano, after Seve. He's the king of recovery shots. Like Seve, he also shoots in the high 70's on a good day.



The aforementioned 7th hole. The only complaint was there was little room for a lay-up. Everything in the fairway slopes down into the bunkers right. Jimbo hit it into the same bunker three times (made bird from there the first time). From now on, call it the Jim Tang bunker.



Another cool little par 3, this one is the 11th.



The extreme uphill par 16th. In the third round, Jefe and I both drilled out drives the little chute where the fairway narrows to about 12 yards wide (shocking, I know). You can see a rainbow in the background.



Love the scale here. Jimbo walking up to the 16th green.

Day Four: Twin Warriors

In all fairness to Twin Warriors, I think we were all going through a little Paa-Ko and Black Mesa withdrawal. Whatever followed was doomed to pale in comparison. Twin Warriors is a desert course just north of Albuquerque, connected to a Hyatt resort. It's definitely not a typical resort course though, it plays at 7,700 yards from the tips and 7,300 from the next set up. At one point, it hosted a Nike Tour event or something like that, and it's easy to see why. The course is just big and mean. The front nine is mostly 450+ yard par 4's, and the challenge comes from having to hit long irons into big, rock hard greens. The front nine is a grind. I don't mind a challenge, but this was not exactly my idea of fun.

Plus, the front nine has two holes with the strangest design flaw I've ever seen on a quality golf course. Despite most of the holes on the course being very isolated, the sixth and seventh run parallel to each other with nothing but three deep bunkers in between. The sixth goes left of said bunkers with desert left. The seventh is a long dogleg left with desert left. However, the optimal line off the sixth tee is to bomb it over to the seventh fairway. The green angles right-to-left with a bunker front left. I took one look at the hole and the limited landing area on the left and took aim right over the bunkers. My drive went in the rough to the RIGHT of the right fairway, and I had a perfect opening to the green. On the seventh, you want to go left over the desert, but most golfers slice and bail right. We witnessed this first hand, as we had to duck for cover behind our carts when we were playing the sixth. It was like a shooting gallery on those two holes.

The back nine has a lot more variety and interest than the front, with a couple shorter par 4's to mix things up and some nice holes that play along the ridge of the rock formations. One ranger was quick to praise the stretch of 14-15-16 as three of the most beautiful holes in the state, but in all honesty it wasn't more visually spectacular than anything we saw the previous day. Twin Warriors is by far the most expensive course in the area, with an unlimited play rate of around $140. At that price, I don't know why anyone would pick it over Paa-Ko at $80.

We were fortunate to meet up with this guy Andy who I met through the discussion forums on golfclubatlas.com (the definite site for all things having to do with golf course architecture, with participation by some of the top architects in the country). Anyways, Andy moved to Albuquerque at the beginning of the year from South Bend, IN. He keeps a course list and he loves the River Course at Blackwolf Run, so I knew right off the bat we would get along swimmingly. The only downside is that he went to Notre Dame, but I can let that one slide. Andy was barely keeping score and probably didn't play as well as he'd like, but it was clear that he was a pretty good player. On 18, he bombed a drive that had all of our jaws dropped...a laser about 320 dead into the wind.

I began the day with a birdie on the par 5 opening hole, but it was downhill from there. I had a bad case of the low duck hooks and bogeyed or double just about every hole on the front nine, shooting a 43 that had me questioning why I even left the state of Illinois. But after 10, I settled down and played the rest of the holes one under to come in with a 79. Jefe kept us his solid play and grinded out a 38 on the front, but had a disappointing 41 on the easier back nine to come in with the same number. Jimbo struggled with the length on the front but still played well, shooting a respectable 81.

We grabbed lunch and headed out for our second tee time at 1:20 PM. The course looked wide open so we relished the opportunity to burn around in three hours or less. And that appeared to be the case as we cruised through the first six holes in an hour or so. Jefe and I love speedy play and we were both cruising at one under at the time. Then we hit the Great Wall of China. We caught up to a twosome that was stuck behind two slow foursomes. There goes any semblance of rhythm and timing. I knew my round was doomed. We went from a 3 hour pace to a 5+ hour pace in a heartbeat. On the par 3 9th, it was at least 25 minutes before we got to hit our tee shots. I laid down in my cart and took a cat nap. At the turn, I even had time to go into the pro shop, plop down on the couch and watch about 15 minutes of the PGA Championship.

Later on in the round, we could see the rest of the back nine from an elevated tee box and determined the culprit was a foursome three groups ahead of us that was almost two full holes behind the group in front of them. I know you're wondering...where were the rangers? Aren't they the ones tasked with keeping the pace of play up? Well, the rangers were out there in full force. But I guess their responsibilities are limited to handing out cold towels, filling water jugs and filling divots with sand. When Jefe pressed the ranger on the 12th hole whether there was anything they could do to speedup play, his response was to hop in Jefe's cart, check out the GPS and say, 'You're not behind, your cart says you're 10 minutes ahead!' Of course, just three holes prior we were 27 minutes ahead, but apparently that was beyond his grasp. I tried to make it as clear as day for him, yelling 'It's taken an hour to play the last three holes!' His response: filling in more divots with sand. Just another chapter in Jefe's storied history of run-ins with rangers and starters (that morning, the old-timer on the first tee gave us his 8-minute scripted starter routine, including a very detailed description of the functionality of the GPS systems. The morale of the story is, whenever a starter asks 'have you played this course before?', just do yourself a favor and say 'Yes'.)

The slow play sapped what little fuel I had in the tank. I was basically going through the motions the last 12 holes, making bad bogeys on 7-10, 16 and 17. On 17, I hit a great drive in the fairway (amazingly, only my fifth fairway of the day) and had 76 yards left to the flag. I even took the time to measure it up with my laser rangefinder. But a funny thing happened between the time I got the yardage and made my swing. I swung my lob wedge like it was a full-swing shot (I hit my LW 115 yards). About half way through the swing, I said to myself, 'WAIT, IT'S ONLY 76 YARDS!!!' and tried to put the brakes on the downswing. The result...and 85 yard shot over the flag and over the green, leaving me with no chance at an up and down. This is what 10 hours in the sun will do to a guy stupid enough to wear a black shirt.

Thankfully, I managed to save par from the bunker on the last hole (sand saves...the only category I would lead for the week, simply because I probably had twice as many chances) to escape with a 77. Jefe mastered the front nine again, this time with a 36, then scrambled around the back nine to shoot an impressive 75. I don't know what's gotten into the guy. Jimbo was about as sapped as I was, but two birdies in a row on the back salvaged a 42-38 80.

With its unlimited play policy, our original itinerary called for 54 at Twin Warriors. But the agonizingly slow second round and the lackluster course made it an easy decision for us. None of us even considered teeing it up for a third round. When we pass up free golf, you know it's saying something.




Only documented proof that the three of us were in New Mexico together...here on the 18th tee at Twin Warriors.


Day Five: Sandia

Saturday at Twin Warriors was moving day. Jefe managed to close the gap on Jimbo heading into the final round. In our cumulative mini-tournament, Jimbo's lead was trimmed from 10 down to 3 strokes. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was still 12 strokes back. But overnight, I had the number 67 in my head. In a feeble attempt to lift my spirits, Jimbo continually would tell me, 'Just wait. Sandia will be right up your alley. You're going to tear it up'. I even started to believe him. Sandia is definitely the easiest course on our itinerary. The fairways are wide and the slopes feed the ball back into play. Even though I've never shot better than 71, in the shower in the morning I was convinced that 67 was a realistic number.

And it looked like it might've been a possibility as I sat in the middle of the fairway only 70 yards from the hole. Right up until the point where I skulled my approach over the green and made bogey. The dream died a short while later after I bogeyed the second hole. By the fourth hole, there was nothing to do but go for birdies and work on swing changes, grasping for some shred of self-worth that would keep me playing the rest of the summer (and keep from withdrawing from the US Mid-Am Qualifier in three weeks). For the most part, I simply played the role of Flag Boy and tried to stay out of the way of the actual good golfers who made the trip.

Sandia is an okay, but at end of the day pretty unspectacular golf course. As mentioned, it's pretty wide open off the tee. The greens are even more rock hard than Twin Warriors (yet the fairways were soupy). The greens are pocked up with unfixed ball marks simply because the ball doesn't ever end up with 50 feet of where it lands, even with wedge or less. The highlight of the day was a rattlesnake that darted across the 13th fairway (and let out a nice rattle once provoked). Up until that point, I hadn't heeded my five-year old son's advice to watch out for rattlers and other poisonous lizards. We didn't think anything of going into the arroyo fishing for lost balls (no wonder we found so many). The next hole I hit my drive through the fairway and into the junk and after finding it, I couldn't pull the trigger on whacking it out. All I could think about was the snake that could be lurking behind the bush next to my right foot.


Do you mind if I play through?


As for the golf, there was simply no stopping Jefe. It took him awhile to get used to the firm greens, but once he got the speed down he was back to his old self. He shot 40 on the front to Jimbo's 41 to close the gap to two strokes with nine to play. But Jefe turned it up a notch, made the clutch par saves and closed with a couple of more birdies on the back. It got to the point where it was a shock when he didn't get up and down or make a putt.

140+ holes of grind began to wear on Jimbo, and in the end he was signing up for the same Stick-A-Fork-In-Me Support group that I had joined two hours earlier. If you find a pro V1 right in front of the greenside bunker on the 18th hole at Sandia, it's more than just a $4 golf ball. Jimbo left a piece of himself with that ball, and it represents the last shot he'd hit in 2007.

The trip ended quietly and fittingly, with a tap-in by Jefe for 75 and yet another sand save for par by me. In the end, the man in the ridiculous looking five-day old 'stache was the only one left standing. Jefe simply played better as the trip wore on, made the clutch shots and saves when he needed them most. Congratulations to Jefe, your 2007 New Mexico Invitational Champion. I'll be ready for Michigan next year.




The man in the moustache at the end of the trip. Your 2007 New Mexico Invitational Champion.

Albuquerque Golf Trip, Day Two (From Bad to Worse)

8/09/2007 0 comments
I've officially hit rock bottom. Still reeling slightly from my late round collapse at UNM yesterday, I came into the day at Paa-Ko Ridge with a renewed sense of optimism. Until I three-putted from 30 feet on the first hole. Then three-jacked the second hole. Then went the first 12 holes without a single par, en route to a still hard-to-fathom 47-44 91, my highest score in a long, long time.

I followed it up with a second round 45-44 89, proving that the first round wasn't a fluke. I really do suck.

Two extremely frustrating rounds didn't deter me from enjoying (or at least respecting) Paa-Ko Ridge. It's an incredible golf course. Out of the hundreds of courses that the three of us have played, Paa-Ko is a consensus Top 20. Not a single weak hole on the entire original 18 (the new nine is a half-notch below but there are some memorable holes. Paa-Ko is simply relentless. It's open off the tee, but the challenge begins with the approach shots. The greens are well-guarded by deep, deep bunkers, and the greens have some wild tiers and undulations.

I should've played in the buff because the course fully exposed me. For 36 holes, I didn't feel comfortable over one single shot. That's a scary feeling and a recipe for disaster. Screw it...I don't even want to talk about it anymore. Bring on Black Mesa.

Jeff and Jimbo (and everybody else who played Paa-Ko today) fared a little better than me, but it was tough for everybody. Jimbo went 82-89. Jefe went 84-86 to take the overall lead by one stroke (as well as the skins lead by 10). Jefe also took the lead in most mulligans taken on the first hole, with a career tying five before finding the fairway.

Enough about our lackluster golf...the true winner was Paa-Ko Ridge. So here are the pictures.
































Jefe's moustache, day two

Albuquerque Golf Trip, Day One (Live from the Pull Out Couch)

8/08/2007 0 comments
Greetings from the La Quinta Inn and Suites in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico. Day One is in the books of our annual golf binge, this year were in da ABQ. One round down, four more days and at least eight rounds to go.

Surprisingly, we had to come to New Mexico to beat the sweltering heat of Chicago, where the 95 degree temps and matched by the 95% humidity. I can't imagine what it's like in Oklahoma for the PGA Championship. Let's just hope that Mickelson doesn't wear any light colored shirts this week. It was 85 and sunny here, no real humidity to speak of despite it being monsoon season.

Travel went off relatively smoothly without a hitch. The highlight of the day was when all three of our golf bags came out of the oversized baggage claim chute. Instead of my usual business travel by style (United Premier, short-term parking, Economy Plus, etc.), I was slumming it with Jefe and Jimbo in econo-parking (Lot G at O'Hare, the one that you have to take the bus that takes you to the lot that has the tram that takes you to the terminal. They spend billions to expand O'Hare, but they can't shell out to extend the tram another 500 yards? Anyways, shlepping the luggage and sticks to the American terminal was enough to work up a lather. Next year, we're taking a limo and flying United.

I've known Jefe for about half my life, yet he still never ceases to amaze me. I learned a lot about the guy today. First of all, the dude is becoming more and more afraid of flying, which adds more credence to my claim that he's a 45-year old woman trapped in a man's body. Unfortunately, I was sitting next to him, which meant I would either probably have to hold his hand or he'd vomit all over me. Then on the way to the gate, he drops this bomb on us: "I'm going to try to grow a mustache this week." Dead serious. It took every ounce of energy for Jimbo and I not to collapse on the floor in laughter, but hey, we're going to support him all the way on this one. I even committed to tracking his daily progress here on the blog. Here he is day one:



Thankfully, Jefe did okay on the flight (although he was too antsy to watch Anchorman with me). There was no hand holding or vomiting. But he did manage to spill his Diet Coke (like I said, 45 yo woman) all over the place, including my brand new Golf Magazine that he had just borrowed (btw, I walked the length of the terminal to find a Hudson News that had the brand new September issue).

Our first round of the trip was at the University of New Mexico Championship Course, which is a great course to either start or end the trip, since it's literally right next to the airport. It's probably a half-mile from the car rental place (yet it took us 20 minutes to get there...even with a GPS device. Don't ask). UNM is a quality course with an old-school feel to it. No bag drops, cart boys, annoying starters, etc (all of which we can gladly live without). UNM feels like the course that you played at growing up, but it's a stern test and a very nice course. Not blow your socks off great, but very solid. The course has character. Most holes are pretty tight off the tee with the fairways sloping to one side or other. Most of the time your hitting your drive down from an elevated tee, then your approach back up the hill to a tightly-guarded green. A lot of the holes, especially on the front nine, run back-and-forth parallel to each other, with arroyos separating the holes. The middle of the round gets a little monotonous with tough par fours, but that's only a minor complaint. The greens were very smooth and have a lot of ridges and plateaus. If you weren't on the right tier, you were probably hosed. But find the right tier, and you were rewarded with a relatively straight putt.


First hole at UNM provides a view of downtown Albuquerque

Overall, we're stepping things up this year. First off, we're all playing pretty well this year, so the golf should be pretty competitive. To that end, we decided to put a little skin in the game this year, playing high-stakes skins for a quarter each (double for birdies). Usually if we play for any money it's disastrous, so we'll see what happens. We've also got all sort of fancy new equipment between the three of us, not only a few new clubs but all sorts of gadgets, ipods, video cameras, etc. I even made a special New Mexico playlist for the ride. We don't mess around. This is just a coincidence (I swear), but we all have matching black Ping Hoofer Vantage bags (great bag, by the way. Mine is actually black and gray.) A new twist this year - we decided to keep track of our stats, and we bought some poster board to keep tabs on our progress here in the hotel room (yes, we are dorks).



Out of the three of us, Jimbo was the most ready to go on vacation, simply to get away from it all. The poor guy's been trying to sell his house for months and he just had a deal that fell through (after multiple extensions), so it's now back on the market (anybody out there want to move to Romeoville? Let me know). Anyways, thanks to the extended mortgage payments, Jimbo declared that this will be the last we'll be seeing him on the golf course until 2008. New Mexico is his curtain call.

So, it's probably no surprise that Jimbo came out of the gates with guns blazing. He was nice enough to open up the flood gates early by birdieing the first hole (that's $1 towards that mortgage), probably the easiest hole on the course. Jimbo wisely laid up on the par five to 100 yards (his strong suit), while Jefe and I went for the green in two (and missed) and failed to get up and down out of the same bunker. Jimbo followed with pars on 2 & 3 to earn skins there as well.

As for me, maybe it was the jet lag or the bag of gummy worms that I ate -- I'm not sure which -- but I started out par-double-double. Fantastic! It looked like all hope was lost, especially when I pulled my drive on the 6th hole well right and into the arroyo. From 189 yards out, I needed a miracle and somehow managed to knock a 7-iron stiff to 5 feet. The hole was worth 3 skins and I doubled it up with the birdie putt. Ch-Ching! Then on the next hole, a beastly 465 yard par four uphill achd into the wind, I rolled in a 30-footer for bird from the fringe. Ch-Ching, Ch-Ching!

The birdies were flying, because Jefe hit the best 5-wood I've ever seen him hit on the 8th, a brutally tough 240-yard par 3 that was also in the wind. How he hit that 5-wood so far, I don't know. Must be the elevation change. Anyways, Jefe rolled his in and was off the schnide. Nobody was going to go back to Chicago empty-handed.

Then to top it off, I birdied to the par 5 9th as well. If you didn't know any better, you would've thought that we were actually good golfers. Don't be fooled. Front nine: Jim 38 (10 skins), Jimbo 38 (4 skins), Jefe 40 (2 skins).

The back nine looked like it was going to be more of the same for me. I parred the tough 10th with an up and down from just off the fringe. Then I knocked it stiff on the par 3 11th for yet another birdie. I had visions of 6 birds and a 72 dancing around in my head. After 12 holes, I had a comfortable five stroke lead on both Jefe and Jimbo.

'Comfortable' is what they said about Sergio's lead at the British Open. And we all know what happened there. It's fitting that I referenced Carnoustie, because my finish was vintage VanDeVelvian.

It actually all started on 12 even though I parred the hole. I missed my drive way left, but found the ball after a lengthy search and knocked it on in regulation with lob wedge. Up until that point, I had been driving the ball well without giving it much thought. Then 12 hit and I was starting to worry about what was wrong with my swing. The natural reaction is to overcompensate, so I yanked my drive on 13, had to take penalty and made bogey. 14 was worse. Much worse. 14 is a par 5 that is definitely a birdie hole. Except when you duck hook it into the arroyo. I found my ball but only advanced it about 50 yards with a 6-iron. In the arroyo again, I hit a solid 6-iron, but not really knowing where the hole was I hit into the tall grass. Tried hacking it out with pitching wedge, but again only advanced it 30 yards or so, this time into the rough. My sand wedge shot then had the audacity to hit the one sliver of branch from this old dead tree, dropping down into the fairway. My next shot from 75 yards was just short of the green. 2 putts later and that's how you make a snowman my friends.

Two over for the first 13 holes. Three over for the one hole I just played. You gotta love this game! I was optimistic that I could bounce back like I did on the front, but the driver was still a mystery and things didn't get much better. Somehow, I went from staring 74-75 in the face to bogeying the last hole to shoot 80 (from 195 yards out laying one on a par five). Apparently the curse of Alex Coe lives on (and travels cross country).

One other twist that I failed to mention before...this year our hotel room actually has three beds. Thankfully, I don't have to share a bed with Jefe anymore. Actually, it's two beds and a pull out couch. We decided that high-man gets the pull-out. The final tally for round one: Jimbo 79 (with birdie on the last), Jefe 79, your truly: pull-out. At least, I lead the skins count with 14 (Jimbo has 8, and Jefe has 7). I think I'd gladly trade the $3.25 for a real bed, although I don't plan on staying here long.

Day two is at Paa-Ko Ridge for 36 (or more). It definitely should be one of the highlights of the trip. Look for more details, more stats and more pictures tomorrow. Stay tuned.

(Even) These Guys Are Good, A.K.A. the Curse of Alex Coe

8/06/2007 1 comments
Alex Coe single-handedly ruined my golfing summer.

Granted, I've never met Alex Coe. He could be the nicest guy in the world. But one on clear, sunny Monday in late May, Alex completely turned my golf world upside down.

On May 29, 2007, Alex Coe cooly and calmly dropped a 62 at my home course Prairie Landing during Monday qualifying for the Nationwide LaSalle Bank Open. Sixty-freakin' two!!! That would've eradicated the course record by three shots, except that Keoke Cotner, Jakobus Ross and Ryan Vermeer came in with 64 and Miles Maillet came in with 63. A 65 would've merely gotten you into a three-way playoff for the last two spots.

Never heard of Coe, Cotner, Ross, Vermeer, or Maillet? My point exactly. These are guys that don't even have status on the Tour's farm system. A lot of these grinders travel cross country in their cars from site to site hoping to beat a hundred plus other hopefuls just for a chance to get into the regular event. The LaSalle Bank Open, with the highest purse on the Nationwide's schedule ($135,000 to the winner), acts as a pseudo major and draws the most interest among qualifiers. They actually have two qualifiers, with 14 spots up for grabs. Of the 14 whom qualified, only four actually made the cut (Cotner finished T-18 and made $8,500). Alex Coe followed up his record-breaking round and went 78-65 during the actual tournament to miss the cut by three strokes. The average payout per qualifier? $1,114 for the week. Considering travel costs, caddie expenses, etc...that, folks, is a tough way to make a living.

Sixty-two!!! I've played the course at least 100 times, and I can't even fathom anyone shooting 62 on that course. It's not like Prairie Landing is exactly a walk in the park. 6,950 yards, Course Rating 73.2, Slope 136 from the blacks. Imagine topping the course rating for a scratch golfer by over 11 strokes.

Before June 10th, I considered myself to be a pretty good golfer. Granted, I have no illusions that I am anywhere near the level of a professional golfer, but Coe's 62 definitely knocked me down about one million places in my estimated Sony World Ranking. My personal best at PL is 72 (I cringed at the fact that the average score of the field was 70.98!). I've had rounds where I've had 8-10 solid birdie opportunities, but I generally only convert on a few of them. Coe just lit it up from beginning to end, and he didn't even birdie the 18th hole, a par 5 which played at a 4.89 stroke average.

I actually forgot about the qualifier until a few days later, and checking the results on a Thursday morning completely ruined my day. I thought to myself, man I'm going to go out that afternoon and just start firing at the flags. Unfortunately, the day I made this self-proclaimation, it also happened to be the windiest day of the summer. My score: 82, and I played pretty well given the conditions. I saw the Head Pro while I was out there and asked him about the Monday qualifier -- he said conditions were absolutely perfect - zero wind (an extreme rarity out there) and in his opinion, the course was set up too easy. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel better, but perfect conditions or not, you can't really discount any 62 unless it's at a pitch and putt.

So, Coe's 62 has haunted me all summer like a bad ex-girlfriend. I feel like my game is coming together nicely, and each round I'm optimistic that THIS round might actually be THE round that I have a breakthrough. And I even manage to show glimpses of brilliance for 8-9 holes. But for whatever reason, I just can't seem to put it all together. In my most recent round, I parred the first seven holes hitting every green and fairway, somehow played the next seven holes eight over (it's still a blur), nearly aced the 14th hole, birdied 16, then finished with an 'X' on 18. Unbelievable. Any more rounds like that one and I'm going to be a certifiable basket case.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to try to do something about it. Despite being previously allergic to a) driving ranges and b) getting up before 6:30 am, I've unleashed my inner-Vijay and have started waking up early to get in some practice before work. We'll soon see if all this hard work will pay off. Tomorrow, we're heading off to Albuquerque for our annual golf binge. 9 rounds, 5 days. Will I break the curse of Alex Coe? Stay tuned and I'll keep you posted on all of the action. Good, bad, or otherwise.

[Note: Speaking of golf binges, recently Jeff, Jimbo and I came up with a great idea for the next big reality show for the Golf Channel. I officially submitted the idea to the Programming Department last week. I can't share any details, but I guarantee you it would make for some great television. I'm not optimistic that anything will come out of it, but you never know.]

 
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