Announcing My Book: One Divot at a Time...

12/11/2009 0 comments
As I mention in my last post honoring my grandmother (please read if you haven't already), I have been working on putting together my blog excerpts and other golf stories into a book. I am thrilled to announce that "One Divot at a Time... (Diary of a Full-Fledged Golf Addict, Volume 1)" has been published just in time for the holidays and is now available for $12.95 in paperback or only $1.99 on Kindle at (look out Sarah Palin and Dan Brown, I'm gunnin' for you).

The reviews are rolling in:

- "It's not total crap." -- Kyle H., California
- "A fine bromance." -- Tom D., New York
- "The best golf book I've ever flipped through." -- Joe M., Iowa
- "When did I become JC's whipping boy?" -- Jimbo T., Illinois
- "Better than half the junk my friends recommend for our book club." -- Lissa W., Illinois

A few more reviews, hopefully less tongue-in-cheek:

- "I'm not sure how you did it but you managed to make reading about virtual strangers playing golf quite entertaining and fun." -- Steve D., Virginia
- "Once I opened the book I couldn't put it down." -- Scott S., Colorado
- "My wife asked me while I had such a funny look on my face, and I told her, 'This book is about me.'" -- Jason H., Kansas
- "Rarely did a chapter go by where I didn't feel like I was reading about myself." -- Tim B., Tennessee
- "Hilarious! It's Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore and Tin Cup tied together in paperback. Minus the stupid love affair between Kevin Costner and Rene Russo." -- Ron C., New Jersey

If you've spent any time on, you know that it revolves around the golf adventures of Jim Colton and his closest buddies, Jefe and his older brother Jimbo. We've traveled all over the world and have played many of the best courses around. But more than just a review of courses and a report of the birdies and bogeys, I've tried to relate to the issues that nearly all golfers face:

- Trying to juggle golf with the demands of family, career, friendships and finances
- The love/hate relationship with this maddening game
- The ebb and flow of the marriage-like relationship between golfers and their closest buddies
- The crazy characters you meet along the way

I hope that at some point over the last four years, I've been able to strike a chord with you, my golfing brethren. If it's not abundant clear already, I love this great game. Probably a little too much (okay, way too much). I'm a full-fledged golf addict and there's not much I can do about it. But I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one out there.

If you've followed the blog, you'll enjoy recalling trips to Bandon Dunes, New Mexico, Northern Michigan and Colorado/Nebraska, all hopefully tieing in to common themes listed above. Plus there are new adventures and background information that never made it to the Internet (including one chapter that was "too hot for tv"). If this is your first time on this site, check out the Foreword by Jimbo excerpted below. It provides a lot of the context to the book and the inner-workings of our 20-year golf relationship.

So I urge you to check it out. Pass it on to your buddies or give it to them for Christmas (buy two on Amazon or combine it with one of the books on the right such as Anatomy of a Golf Course by Tom Doak and you'll qualify for their free shipping). Post a comment below or shoot me an e-mail at and let me know what you think. Who knows, maybe we'll find ourselves golfing together down the road. We're still (constantly) looking for a fourth...

p.s. While we're on the subject of Christmas, if there's a list of Top 10 signs that you might be a golf addict, this has to be on the list: You use bag tags for Christmas ornaments.

Foreword by Jimbo Tang

Clearly, my rate of speed was far greater than what any 12-year-old on roller skates should be traveling at. The blacktop driveway raced beneath me. The blue sky above was a blur. I made a tight turn to the left and suddenly my house loomed before me. I thought to myself, “What have I done? My brother and I are going to die.”

My brother Jeff, a.k.a. “Jefe”, and I had a theory. The last 40 feet of our driveway, just in front of the garage door, was made of concrete. The rest of the shared drive was blacktop, and it stretched up a hill a good 150 yards to the neighbor’s house. We noticed that when on roller skates the concrete slowed us down significantly, as opposed to the smooth blacktop. An important scientific question was then posed: if we climbed to the top of the hill and skated down the blacktop driveway, would the friction created by the 40 feet of concrete stop us before we smashed into our house? There was only one way to find out.

Being the older brother by a year and a half, I went first, with Jefe launching himself not far behind. Halfway down the hill, I knew something was terribly wrong. I had never seen speeds like that in my short life. As I rounded the corner, I instinctively knew the concrete wouldn’t stop me. I flung myself off the blacktop and onto the lawn, narrowly avoiding a tree and wooden fence. I had aborted our scientific endeavor.

Lying in the grass, I turned, fully expecting Jefe to take the same rational course of action. Like me, Jefe was moving at a blinding pace. Unlike me, he kept going. I watched, horrified by the spectacle, but also fascinated. What would happen to my kid brother?

Jefe approached the house, the concrete barely making a dent in his speed. The garage door was open and our mom’s car was parked inside. With outstretched arms, Jefe managed to maneuver himself to the side of the garage door, where he slammed directly into the house. Remarkably, Jefe was unhurt. Three things immediately became clear:

1. Our “blacktop to concrete friction transference theory” had been proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be false.
2. Jefe was a madman.
3. He had something I didn’t have.

And so it went that way for much of our childhoods. I was willing to take risks, do crazy things, go to extremes, etc., but Jefe always went one step further. Especially when it came to golf. I loved, and still love, the game. As a kid, I played almost every day in the summers. But Jefe wanted to play all the time – rain, snow, sleet, freezing temps, early, late, any time of the year – it didn’t matter. The kid was beyond passionate about the game, much more so than I. We still played rounds together, but it was clear that Jefe needed someone more like him. He needed someone who was willing to skate full speed into a house without flinching.

Enter Jimmy “Utter Butter” Colton. (If you ever see JC swing a club, you’ll know why I call him “Utter Butter”). Not surprisingly, in his mid-teens, Jefe got a job at a local mini-golf course named Stone Creek. There, he met Jim Colton, who also thought working at a putt-putt course was the pinnacle of life. And just like that, Jefe had met Robin to his Batman, Barney Rubble to his Fred Flintstone. Jim Colton was, in effect, the Jefe of Geneva. Or, perhaps, Jefe was the Jim Colton of St. Charles (at the time, Geneva was essentially a neighboring backwater town to St. Charles). The two clicked instantly.

Jim Colton was the same age as Jefe, on the golf team like Jefe, played pick-up hoops like Jefe, and like Jefe, did everything at full speed always going one step beyond. He was, and is, a nut. Both were excellent golfers. Both are ultra-competitive. Both had an extreme dislike for, and a propensity for getting into trouble with, authority figures at golf courses. They had a mental list of everyone that had ever crossed them. They believed that Chili’s was fine dining, that Dairy Queen was perfectly acceptable for a first date and that golf was the very fabric that held the universe together. As expected, the two became best friends, thick as thieves. They hung out together, had bloodlust matches after closing at Stone Creek, and of course, played golf with one another anywhere and anytime.

Golf meant playing anywhere from the local goat track to eventually some of the finest courses in the country. They took a road trip to Augusta National for a Masters practice round. They set up a makeshift driving range in the 10’x12’ dorm room they shared for two years at the University of Illinois. Eventually, each stood up in the other’s wedding and watched each other start families of their own. Just like Snoopy and Woodstock, the bond was unbreakable.

Fast forward ten years. After an odyssey of my own which included time in Australia, the start of my career, and the beginning and end of a tumultuous six-year marriage, I returned to the duo of JC and Jefe. Not much had changed. They were still hypercompetitive, golf-crazed lunatics. However, it was no longer a duo. It was now a triumvirate. The Triumvirate.

Golf trips ensued to places like Georgia, Alabama, and Michigan. Wisconsin, New Mexico and points beyond. While on these golf binges, Jim and Jefe had the innate ability to sniff out any DQ within a 20-mile radius. Without fail, we visited. There was also the uncomfortable nightly ritual of having to watch them climb into the same hotel bed. Undoubtedly, it was after a day of 36 holes where they lobbied for 18 more.

It was clear I wasn’t like either of them. And I was more than okay with that. I quickly realized that I had become the voice of reason – the only sane mind in the room. When left to their own devices, this sort of behavior was acceptable. But today, approaching mid-life, they had different responsibilities: wives and kids, mortgages and burgeoning careers. I decided that it was my job to get these two guys back to Illinois in one piece. Someone needed to save them from themselves.

It was around this time that Jim began to chronicle these events and experiences on his blog. He wanted to capture, if possible, the joys and frustrations that a life in golf inevitably fosters. He wanted to share the funny stories and the unique characters met along the way. Mostly, he wanted to explore the friendship of the Triumvirate through golf. These rough sketches eventually evolved into the handsome volume you now hold in your hands.

Not long ago, Jim asked a group at Ballyneal to provide one word that best described him. Both Jefe and I were up first and instantly responded with “obsessive”. Having thought about that response for some time now, I realized I was wrong. A much better word, a word that truly captures what he is all about, is “passionate”. He is passionate about what matters to him: his wife and kids, his faith, his friends and golf. I trust that you’ll see that passion throughout these pages. I have no doubt that if Jefe and I had known Jim on that day from our childhood with the roller skates, he would have rolled right down that hill and seen it all the way through. That is just who he is.

The First Round/The Last Round

12/03/2009 1 comments
2009 has been a strange year with a lot of ups and downs. The stock market is up big, yet over 15 million Americans are still out of work. Barack Obama went from "Yes, we can!" to "Maybe we will." Tiger Woods blows a major on Sunday for the first time and it's a distant second to his most newsworthy item of the year. And on a personal level, my handicap index soared, my number of rounds played hit an all-time low and the Ballynizzle Cup sits on Jefe's mantle on not mine, yet 2009 has been the best in terms of memorable moments, quality golf courses played and friendships formed.

With that in mind, I guess it should come to no surprise that in a year where I played such revered courses such as Ballyneal, Sand Hills, Crystal Downs, the Kingsley Club and Harbour Town, a recent eight-hole round that took 2 1/2 hours to play would be far and away the highlight of my golf season.

On a warm Tuesday afternoon at World Woods in Brooksville, Florida, I played golf for the first time with my entire family - my wife and our three kids. For our two youngest, it was their first 'real' experience with the game. It was truly one of the best times I've ever had on a golf course, and I hope it's the first of many rounds together. But in an even more bizarre twist, it was a round that I wish had never happened. I wish we had spent Thanksgiving week at home in cold and dreary Illinois instead of the warmth and sunshine of central Florida.

The memorable round came on the heels of one of the worst weeks of my life. Six days earlier, my Dad called and before he could even finish "Hello," I knew it wasn't to ask me a fantasy basketball question.

"Your Nana passed away this morning."

A couple things you need to know about my Nana. First of all, she was one of my favorite people on Earth. Second of all, you wouldn't be reading this blog if it weren't for her.

My love of golf comes from my grandparents. My grandfather, who passed away 13 years ago, was an avid golfer. He was a lefty, a Pirates fan, a golfer, a successful businessman. He was even on the board of directors of a community bank that was eventually gobbled up and is now a small part of the bank I now work for. Essentially, my grandpa was my role model and I figured if I could follow in his footsteps, I wouldn't be doing too badly for myself.

One of my earliest memories with the game was when I was four- or five-years-old. My parents were taking my older brother and I to a local parade and for some reason they stopped by the local muni to see my grandparents right as they were about to tee off. I took one at the golf course and decided, "Forget the parade. I want to check THAT out." A golf-a-holic was born on that day.

Golf slowly replaced baseball as my passion as the years wore on. I played in high school, almost every day in the summers while I was in college, and golf eventually became a huge part of my identity. When I was a freshman in college, my grandparents hosted my buddies Jefe and Wego and I for a week of Florida golf over spring break. World Woods, which had just opened, was the main event. It was the first of many buddy trips. And the first of many occasions where I brought friends down to visit Nana and play World Woods. My friends just called her Nana, which was fitting because she treated them like family. I wrote a blog post in February 2007 about my last trip to Florida and a day of 36 at World Woods.

A mild heart attack and a botched bypass surgery about twelve years ago effectively ended Nana's golf career and slowly led to her demise, but her love for the game never waned. She loved watching it on television. She loved railing on Tiger Woods. I loved defending him (after the events of this past week, I'm afraid to admit that she's a much better judge of character than I am). She loved hearing about my golf adventures and always asked about Jefe, Wego and others. When I made my hole-in-one in 2005, she was the first person I called.

Although Nana couldn't log-on to the Internet if her life depended on it, she was an avid follower of my blog. I'd print out the entries and send them to her. She was convinced that I had missed my calling. She encouraged me to keep writing. Knowing that she was getting a good laugh despite the increasing pain in her legs drove me further. Essentially, the blog served two purposes: 1.) to make fun of Jefe and 2.) to make my beloved Nana laugh.

To that end, I had the brilliant idea of putting these blog excerpts and other golf stories into a book, which was going to be her 85th birthday/Christmas present (one of the disadvantages of having a birthday five days before Christmas...the dreaded combo gift. My wife and her family try to stretch this concept to its very limits despite the fact that my wife's birthday is in February and mine is in October.) I had been working feverishly the last three months to get it ready and published before the holidays. All was going as planned until I got that call from my Dad. I regret that Nana never got to see the finished product, although every word was written with her in mind. If others enjoy it, that's just icing on the cake (it's now up on amazon. Check it out here.)

Just hours after I heard the sad news, I received a promotional e-mail from World Woods. I showed the offer to my wife, noting the irony. She said, "We should take the kids out there to honor Nana and Grandpa." Reason number 5,456,832 (and counting) that I love my wife. The wheels had been set in motion.

For some strange reason, we decided that driving to Florida was the best option. You have to understand that the Colton's have never spent more than three hours in the car together. We had talked about taking the Great American road trip as a family in 2010, but it hadn't made it past the conceptual stages. Driving 1,150 miles to Florida with a seven-year old, five-year old and a two-year old (and an impatient 36-year old) was definitely a trial by fire. At the time, however, it seemed like a better, cheaper alternative than booking last-minute airfare and battling crowds at the airport during the week of Thanksgiving.

So at 5:15 a.m. on cool, clear Saturday morning, we piled into our packed GMC Acadia (one of the finest packing jobs of my young career. Five suitcases and four sets of clubs condensed into two golf bags, plus enough snacks to feed a small army) and headed south to Atlanta, where we spent the night at my cousin's house. From there, it was another full day getting down to Central Florida. All in all, the drive was extremely pleasant and went a hundred times better than anybody could've expected. And while I have the floor, I'd like to take this opportunity to personally thank the guy who invented the DVD and the guy who first thought of attaching one to the ceiling of a car. Real men of genius, indeed.

[Note: we drove back straight from Orlando on Thanksgiving Day, celebrating Thanksgiving at a Cracker Barrel in Chattanooga. I was in the zone the last five hours driving through Indiana and Illinois. The 19-hour drive was quite possibly the crowning achievement of my life. There's a good chance that my tombstone will read: "Devoted father and husband. Obsessive golfer. Mediocre writer. Once drove straight from Orlando to Chicago in one day with three kids in the back." It helped that there was NOBODY on the roads. At one point, driving north on I-294 outside of Chicago, we were the only car within sight. I felt like Will Smith in I am Legend.]

Another big help to the long drive was having a five-year-old daughter who always keeps you on your toes. We never know what Madelyn's going to say next, only that she's going to say something. Here are some actual conversation starters, each completely out of the blue:

- "Jordan, say you owned an ant farm."
- "Do manatees go to doctor's appointments?"
- "Hey, I found a piece of cracker in my belly button!"
- "I'm thankful for my family and they're thankful for me!"

The funeral service was Monday morning, followed by the burial. I went up to the podium during the service and stumbled through some notes that I had jotted down, mostly about fond memories of Nana both growing up as a kid and more-recently while on those golf trips. But more importantly, I wanted to relate just how much she meant to me -- how she played a huge role in what kind of father, husband and person I am, or at least aspire to be.

I've been extremely fortunate to have faced very few trials, turbulations or tragedy in my life. I was 23-years old and less than a year out of college when my Grandpa passed away, and while he meant just as much to me as Nana, I don't think I was old enough to really appreciate the gravity of the situation. With the perspective of time and having a family of my own, Nana's passing hit a little closer to home. It was the first time in my life that I really grieved. And I must admit, I'm finding the grieving process to be extremely fascinating in its complexity. In one 12-hour period I bounced around like a pinball between the following extremes:

- obvious sorrow and lots of tears over the loss of a loved one
- laughter from recalling the fond memories (and from looking at old pictures of my family from the 70's. Nobody rocked the wide-collar/crooked bowl haircut combo better than the five-year-old Jim Colton.)
- regret over not doing enough, not calling enough and not visiting enough
- joy from knowing she's no longer in pain and is in a much better place
- fear of the unknown and the weight of our mortality
- gratitude for having a wonderful grandmother and great friend
- reflection over the meaning of life, my spot in the universe and questions about my legacy
- smiles shared between distant relatives that I hadn't seen in years
- the bizarre empty feeling of entering Nana's house and not seeing her in her blue recliner.

That's enough to make your head hurt, which is exactly what happened to me. I had a massive headache on Monday afternoon from the roller coaster of emotions. Even a couple weeks later, I sit at my desk in front of my computer, just like any other day, with the only difference being the strange feeling that I might burst into tears at any given moment, but never do.

Tuesday was family day. We took the kids to the local wildlife park in the morning with my folks and some of my cousins and checked out the alligators, manatee and other native animals (very cool place, but when I came here as a kid, it was a privately-owned exotic-animal attraction. They used to feed the gators with whole chickens on a clothesline, and the gators would leap out of the air for them. Lu the Hippo is the lone holdover...she turns 50 next year.) From there, it was straight to the golf course.

One quick plug for World Woods. It is simply one of the best values for quality golf in the country. You have to check it out. Sure, it's in the sticks and there's little to no nightlife in the area, but if you're in it for the golf, you can't do much better when planning a long-weekend with your cronies. One detraction has always been the lack of quality accomodations nearby, but they have rectified that by recently opening some villas which are less than five minutes from the course. We actually stayed in one of the villas for the funeral and I would highly recommend it to anyone. It's a great fit for a group of four or more guys coming down for a golf binge. The cost during our visit was around $180/night for a two-bedroom unit, perfect for our family of five. Plus staying on-site gives you the benefit of discounted greens fees (only $40-$45 per person, including lunch, during our stay -- an absolute steal).

We thought about just hitting up the par-29 Short Course, but in the end, I wanted to play Pine Barrens. The course holds so many good memories for me, plus I had no idea when I would be back in the area. In all likelihood, this would be my last round at World Woods for a long time. The course looked beautiful, greener than I had ever seen it and very mature, like seeing your kid brother all grown up. Basically, my wife and I played most of the holes, either Jordan or Madelyn would play up from the middle of the fairway and all five of us would putt in to the hole. By the time we all reached the first green, I had a huge smile on my face. This was just what I wanted. This was just what I needed. This was what golf was all about -- chasing the white (or orange or pink) ball around while spending time with the people closest to you.

The quality of the golf left a lot to be desired. There were a lot of shanks, whiffs and worm burners...and not just from the under-10 set. My wife, who has a lifetime fairways hit percentage of over 97%, was spraying shots all over the place. I guess it's hard to concentrate on golf when your maternal instincts are focused on making sure your two-year-old son doesn't take off by himself in the cart.

Speaking of Luke, he probably wondered what the big fuss was all about -- he'd simply plop his ball down 12 inches from the hole and tap it in, a la young Tiger on the Mike Douglas show. What an easy game! Despite no more than 20 minutes of naps over two days, little Luke was loving every minute of the golf. Everytime we stopped the cart, he was looking to get out and grab a club. What's that saying about the apple and the tree?

Luke was an ideal playing partner as well. On the 2nd tee, he brought over a sleeve of golf balls and dumped them out on the tee. After my drive (a 200-yard low screamer), he brought me one of the balls and encouraged me to re-tee. Are you taking notes, Jefe? Later in the round, he reacted to the thwack of one of my drives with an, "Oh Yeah! Daddy!" and as my wife was teeing off, he rooted her on with a "Go Mommy! Go Mommy!"

My wife and I somewhat surprisingly both found the green on 'Gator Bait', the par 3 3rd hole over water. It was probably the first time in my life that I didn't deposit any 'bait' in the pond. Not knowing what to do with myself, I took out another ball and made my contribution. My kids had a hard time believing me when I told them I did it on purpose.

On the risk-reward, par 5 4th hole, I called my son over and let him in on a little secret. "You see that deep bunker in front of the you want know what it's called?" I asked. Cleaning it up a bit, I whispered, "The bunker is so nasty and gnarly, they call it the Devil's Butt!"

Jordan's right in that seven-year-old wheelhouse where butts, farts and gross stuff are the highest of high comedy, so his eyes lit up. "Can I go tell Mom?!" he asked, then ran over to share this little tidbit with her and then his little sister. They all got a kick out of it, especially when my approach shot landed smack dab in the middle of the hazard.

"Daddy's in the Devil's butt!" Madelyn said.
"It stinks down here," I joked.

I proceeded to hit one of the best bunker shots of my life, just clearing the tall front lip of the bunker and rolling the ball up the front of the green. My seven-foot par putt was right in the jar, a butt save and a beauty.

We lasted until the 8th hole, where I had everybody tee up from about 100 yards and play it in from there. The rains came as we were putting out and everybody ran for cover, which was probably a good thing because I was primed and ready for a group hug and dorky Rockne-esque speech on the great attributes of the game. Who knows...even without the speech, maybe my kids will be hooked like I was when I skipped the parade to hang out on the course with my grandparents.

Now if you'll excuse me...I think I'm going to burst into tears.

Be a Tiger...No Thanks

12/01/2009 0 comments
I was recently quoted in an Jay Flemma's A Walk in the Park golf blog.

Fan and blogger Jim Colton wrote on one well-trafficked Bulletin Board, "He portrayed and sold an image of devoted father and family man. Remember those sappy family pics with his kids and the dogs jumping all over them, everybody smiling wide as can be? I was happy to believe it because I wanted to believe it. Like I wanted to believe in Michael Jordan. So I’m disappointed that he was exposed as a fraud. So best of luck getting your 19+ majors, Tiger. I wish you well. I don’t think I will root for him like I once did. In the end, I think he’ll have his 19+ majors, a bunch of money, a girlfriend half his age and not much else, similar to how his buddy MJ has six rings and is now a punchline. I wouldn’t trade places with either of them. 'Be Like Mike', 'I am Tiger Woods'. No thanks."

And to think, I was extremely concerned for Tiger's safety on Friday when the news broke that he was in an accident and was in serious condition.

Be a Tiger
This definitely puts a different spin on Accenture's long-running 'Be a Tiger' campaign. A lot of the ads are high on the unintentional comedy scale, the jokes and potential parody ads kind of write themselves.

Somebody want to mock this one up: This brain 0%; THAT brain 100%

GPW: Blast from the Past

11/09/2009 0 comments
I couldn't let Jimbo's fledgling Golf Pic of the Week ( have all the fun. Here are some ol' pics from the archives. Remember the days when you had to develop film and hope for the best? I have an old briefcase full of pictures -- probably 35 rolls of film and these are the only decent ones in the whole lot. Unlike the 'High-Quality Golf Pictures' found over on GPW, these pics aren't that great (and I apologize for the red-spot on each one. If you think I'm rescanning all of them, you're crazy.) Hopefully, I can make up for it with 'Semi-Intelligent/Snappy Commentary'. Enjoy!

You may not recognize him without the Nike hat, but that's me with none other than Eldrick 'Tiger' Woods. This is at the Masters in 1996 after the Tuesday practice round. Twelve months later, Tiger would be lapping the field in his epic 'win for the ages'. But in this pic, he's just a kid from Stanford lugging his own bag off the putting green (he wasn't the only one skipping class that day...I was in my last semester in school and decided to road-trip down to Georgia for a few days with Jefe). Imagine trying to get a picture with Tiger today? First, he's got the blinders on at all times, so he would never even see you in the first place. Second, Stevie would take your camera and beat you over the head with it.

By the way, I don't think either Tiger or I have ever looked worse in a photograph. Part of me hopes that Nike sends me a cease and desist order.

This is hands-down the best picture of the Triumvirate, circa 1998 on the 3rd Hole at Whistling Straits. That's a good-looking crew. Notice my XXL red-grey Tiger Woods golf shirt? I got that in 1997 at the Western Open -- the same event where we got the famous shot of him walking down the 18th fairway wearing the same shirt with the gallery swarmed behind him. I must've played well with this shirt because it became my 'Go-To' shirt for any meaningful round. Trust me, it will become apparent in a second.

I remember this day was August 9, 1995. World Woods, Rolling Oaks. I would pay good money to have this head of hair back, but the shirt can stay in the 90's. I'm amazed that my clubface looks five degrees open at the top. The same pic today would show a clubface that's 10 degrees closed.

Here's a pic from our first ever golf trip. My buddy Wego is teeing off at World Woods - Pine Barrens in 1993. We were there for spring break our freshman year in college, thanks to the generosity of my grandparents who live nearby.

I'm only posting this picture from the trip because I couldn't find the one I was looking for. I have a great pic of Jefe hitting on the 8th Hole at Rolling Oaks, with Wego digging in his pocket for a quick breakfast ball.

Here's my father-in-law Ken and I at Whistling Straits in 1999 (the last time I've ever played the Straits...what does that tell you about their $400 greens fees?) Ken's giving us the 'I can't believe my daughter's marrying this bozo; I guess I have to be nice to him' face. Ten years later and his face still looks the same!

The 'utter-butter' swing, as Jimbo calls it, hasn't changed much over the years. This is at Blackwolf Run Meadow Valleys, I'm going with 1998.

Kemper Lakes, 17th hole on September 3, 1999. This is the day before my wedding day, with my buddy Charles, younger brother Jason and Jefe. My bride-to-be was playing also. My brother and her friend rode along and the nice folks at Kemper Lakes decided to charge them a $30/per person cart fee for the privelege. And yes, I birdied the 18th hole -- my last hole as a bachelor. It's been all downhill since. The golf, not the marriage.

If flagstick javelin were an Olympic sport...I'd be the hometown favorite in Chicago in 2016. Oh wait...

There used to be a par 3 course just north of the loop. I can neither confirm nor deny that I chose my first apartment because it was on the 23rd floor and it offered a view of this golf course.

Jefe and I at the 16th hole at World Woods Pine Barrens, circa 1999...the first of many ambigously matching shirts (unintentional, I swear). There isn't a water hazard on this hole, we were treated to a torrential downpour in the middle of the round.

Here's my beloved wife on the 13th hole at Whistling Straits in 1998. This picture is significant not because of the hole or the course, but because it's the only documented footage of her ever missing a fairway.

A tough lie at World Woods. I'm pretty sure Jefe instituted the Shooter McGavin "Play it as it lies. I hit it off Frankenstein's fat foot." section of the rulebook.

Jimbo on the 8th Hole at World Woods Rolling Oaks. Normally, I would take this opportunity to take potshots at my blogspot competitor. Likely it would be something about his hair, his swing or the fact that he's probably hitting 4-iron on this 145-yard downhill par 3 (only because hybrid clubs hadn't been invented yet). But I'm going to take the high road.

December 2009 Update:
I dug up some pics from St. Andrews in 2000. Enjoy! My wife and I both worked in London for a six-month stint before we had kids. The day after we arrived in London, we were on a flight to Edinburgh to head to the Home of Golf. Unfortunately, the Old Course was closed because Sean Connery was having some sort of celebrity pro-am there, but we played the other Links Trust courses.

The cool part of the Old Course is that it's essentially a public park -- a public park that doubles as one of the great golf courses in the world. People mill around, walk their dogs, take pictures on the Swilken Bridge, etc. Try that at Augusta National.

Remember how Jack milked two British Open farewells on the Old Course, in 2000 and again in 2005? Here's my impersonation of his first farewell.

Undeterred, we went back to St. Andrews a month later for my birthday. We finally got to play the Old Course, but had to do wait outside in 45-degree temps for five hours in order to do it. I promptly double-bogeyed the first five holes.

My wife was paired up with three American hacks about three groups after me. She waxed all three of them. Here is Sue teeing off on the famous Road Hole.

Sue got up and down from the Valley of Sin. See all the people milling around just watching the golf action? My wife got a polite golf clap when she holed her 10-foot par putt. My rampant Middle-Child Syndrome kicked in at that moment, wondering why I got no credit for my routine par 30 minutes earlier.

St Andrews Club Championship

10/13/2009 0 comments
I had the pleasure of watching my best friend Jefe compete in the championship flight of the St. Andrews Club Championship earlier today. Not the Old Course at St. Andrews, a.k.a. the Home of Golf, but the Lakewood Course at St. Andrews in West Chicago, IL, what we affectionately call the Other Home of Golf. We're still not exactly sure what possessed Jefe to enter the tournament, perhaps he was looking for another piece of hardware to balance out the Ballynizzle Cup that's currently sitting on his mantle. Or maybe he's trying to get tournament tested because he knows I'm gunning for him in 2011.

The prestigious Club Championship is a two-day, 36-hole event played on both courses at the Jemsek-owned (the family behind Cog Hill) facility. Back when Jefe used to work at a thing called an office building, he played this course many, many times on his way home from work. The course is pretty pedestrian but is priced right, has the two courses so you can usually get out and has one of the best practice centers in the area.

I originally planned to loop for Jefe, but for reasons that remain a mystery, the club didn't allow caddies for the tournament. So much for the St. Andrews lineage. You could take a cart, no problem. But caddies were a no go. So instead of lugging Jefe's bag around for 4 1/2 hours, I did the next best thing by following him around with my new camcorder for 4 1/2 hours. Big brother Jimbo also showed up to provide support, which strangely manifested itself in snarky commentary. Jefe had two more spectators following him than all other competitors combined. Eventually, the Bears game won out over brotherly love as Jimbo left after the 11th hole. And then there was one.

Even without the bag on my shoulders, I tried to do my best to help. When Jefe started to convert the pin sheet's green depth and yards from the front to the pin into a +/- from center, he could see my eyes light up at the opportunity to solve some math problems. 'You want to do this for me, don't you?' he asked. I can't help myself. And after whizzing through the numbers, Jimbo and I took the opportunity to leave some inspirational messages on the pin sheet for Jefe to find later:

'Go Get 'em'
'Take a Dead Aim'
'Win One for Bernie'
'Try not to 4-Whack'

Jefe shot 83 in the first round on Saturday and stood ninth out of 15 contestants. The leader was at 74. We conferred Saturday afternoon over the phone and decided that 66 was 'the number' he'd need to shoot on Sunday to have a chance to win. Never mind the fact that Jefe has never shot better than 72 in his life; we were both supremely confident that there was a 66 out there with his name on it.

After it became crystal clear that Jefe had not suddenly morphed into Camilo Villegas, we had to resort to the next best thing: Addition by Subtraction. The idea came after one of his playing partners (a dead ringer for PGA Tour pro Jerry Kelly) sprayed the ball all over the place for the first seven holes, blamed a recent ACL injury and ended up going in on the 8th tee. Then one of his other playing partners played from the wrong spot after his ball stopped against a rake in the bunker. If Jimbo and I could help get him DQ'd, that would be two down, only 12 opponents left to go. A couple phantom lost balls from the leaders and suddenly Jefe would be back in the thick of things. 'It's like I tell my daughter,' I explained to Jefe. 'It's not how you win. It's that you win.' An important lesson for all the kids out there.

Check out part one of the two-part video. No, I didn't purposely edit out all his made putts. It's not that I'm above doing that, it's just because he didn't make anything on Sunday. But even with no contribution from his short game, he still shot 39 on the front and put himself in good position to move up the leaderboard.

[Note: Because the golf action was less than non-stop excitement, Jimbo and I took the opportunity to catch up, plan our 2010 golf trip, make fun of Jefe and his playing partners and save the FedEx Cup all in one morning. You might think that we have no lives, but that's a jam-packed schedule. I had to take a nap when I got home.

So here's the plan to save the FedEx Cup. Play the Tour Championship with the Top 30 as normal, but instead of playing for points to crown the winner, play to determine the 'Final Four' that goes into two rounds of match play (still at East Lake). Make the points such that the winner of the stroke play portion and the playoff leader going into the event (Tiger) both can finish no worse than 4th, so they are in the Final Four. This year's Final Four would've been: Tiger, Phil, Stricker, Furyk. You're telling me you wouldn't watch that?

A couple key advantages:

- Like playoffs in all other sports, it's survive and advance. Play your way in, win your head-to-head matches and you rightfully win the Cup.
- No silly points manipulation and updated standings and scenario. Much simpler and more compelling for the casual golf fan. No 'Phil wins the battle, Tiger wins the war.'
- Cool 'Final Four' moniker that would obviously stick and would give Dan Hicks plenty of ammunition leading up to the matches.
- Perfect balance between season, playoffs and championship. The automatic 'top 5 win the Cup with a victory' rule is a step in the right direction, but why should somebody like Sean O'Hair sneak into a FedEx Cup win just by winning the last stroke-play event? Just like March Madness, Cinderella stories are great, but it's much more compelling if Cinderella stares down Tiger in match play head-to-head and takes him down.
- The argument against a match play finale is that WGC Match Play event usually leads to some non exciting finales, but that's all but eliminated with sticking with the Final Four. Plus wouldn't it be cool to see guys playing match play with $7 million riding on the match)? You don't really get this when Tiger has to finish tied for third or better to guarantee the Cup.
- There's never been a real good Tiger vs. Phil match-up in any significant event. That could've happened this year under the match play scenario, and it would've been enough to elevate the FedEx Cup's status along the lines of the Players Championship (instead of an end-of-the-year money grab).

Of course, this all makes too much sense so given the PGA Tour's track record, it'll probably never happen.]

Part Two

The video really speaks for itself. Jimbo took off after the 11th hole, so Jefe would have to do without big brother's snappy commentary. Filling in was Jefe's playing partner Ron, who felt the need to comment on Jefe's shot from the second it left the club until it finally stopped. After years of playing with Jefe, I know the quickest way to get under his skin is to Mouth on Ball him. "Get your mouth off my ball," Jefe muttered under his breath after multiple MOB violations.

Going into the day, Jimbo and I half-jokingly stated that the primary motivation for Jefe signing up for the tournament was not the hardware or the $300 prize money, but the opportunity to make some new friends and potential golf buddies. With partners like Jimbo and I, can you really blame him? Most of the guys in the tournament were guys who all knew each other, having played together as part of the early morning permanent tee time set. Based on Ron's cheerleading skills, he'd likely welcome Jefe into his regular Saturday morning foursome with open arms.

But poor Ron was trying a little too hard. Turn up the volume on the Part 2 video and you can hear him talking to Jefe's ball constantly. The best example was on the 18th green, when Jefe hit his chip through the green. "Turn right. Turn right. Turn right. Turn right. Hit that piece of wood..."

I was only mildly threatened by Ron's presence (although I did feel the need to put him in his place by informing him that he had taken an illegal drop back on the front nine. He was forced to take a 2-stoked penalty, although he still won low-net with an impressive 78.) Jefe's frustration with Ron on the back only added more fuel to his lackluster play. Jefe limped home down the stretch and double bogeyed three of the last five holes to finish with a 86 and a 9th place finish.

And that's the key difference between golf partners and golf buddies. After years of playing with Jefe, I know when to needle and when to comfort, when to root and when to just shut up. Golf buddyship is very similar to marriage, you have your ups and down but eventually you find that rhythm. And when you find a good one, you do everything in your power to hold on to it. Jimbo is a great golf partner but he was born without a filter. And he's got the older brother thing going on so he's a little more brazen in his commentary. Case in point...after Jimbo left to watch the Bears game, I kept him updated with constant text messages. On the 17th hole, Jefe bounced his approch shot off a slanted cart path about 30 feet in the air and over the out-of-bounds fence. This led to the following text exchange with Jimbo:

Jimbo: Make sure you remind Jefe I birdied 17 when we played a couple years ago
Jim: Cart path O.B. on 17; do you still want me to remind him of your birdie now?
Jimbo: Since I am not there...yes
Jim: r u sure?
Jimbo: On 2nd thought, maybe not

Despite the disappointing finish, Jefe left St. Andrews saying he would definitely play in it again next year. You can bet the same two spectators will out be there again, assuming Jefe actually tells us when it is.

The Kingsley Club Photo Tour

10/03/2009 0 comments
Back by popular demand, here is another one of Tim Bert's exclusive photo tours. This one features the Kingsley Club in northern Michigan. The Kingsley is a personal favorite of Wegoblogger31, although I'm not sure if anybody enjoys it more than Tim.

You can see my 2008 write-up of Kingsley Club here.

Ballyneal Before & After

9/30/2009 0 comments
A friend recently sent me a set of pictures from early on in the construction stage at Ballyneal. Mouse-over the image to compare the before and after. These guys are good!

12th Hole

13th Hole

9th Hole

14th Hole

15th Hole

TheWalkingGolfer.Com Walkability Ratings

9/18/2009 0 comments

Fellow golf blogger, golfblog100 participant and future golf buddy Rob Rigg, a.k.a. The Walking Golfer, just launched an ambitious project to provide Walkability Ratings on all of the golf courses in the U.S. He's still looking for participants to help fill out the ratings. Check out for more details. Here's the scale he uses:

The Walking Golfer Course "Walkability" Rating Scale Green - Course is Walking Only and/or an easy walk for any golfer
Yellow - Course is a manageable walk for most golfers
Orange - Course is a tough walk for any golfer
Red - Course is essentially unwalkable
Ugly Asphalt Gray - Motorized Carts Only

One other thing I'd like to see is courses that have the cart fee embedded in the greens fees, i.e. they charge you for a cart whether you take one or not. I hate that! Also, courses that are Cart Paths Only would be another helpful indicator.

Great work, Rob!

Diversity Day

9/11/2009 0 comments
It's no secret that I love Ballyneal. I love (and need) the wide, rolling fairways. I love the large, wild greens. I love the firm and fast fescue turf. I love (and need) the absence of a single hazard or out-of-bound stakes. I love walking up, down and around the dunes. I love everything about the place.

Now picture a course with 25-yard wide, tree-lined fairways. Imagine overhanging trees guarding grainy, relatively flat bermuda greens that are less than 30 yards in diameter. Imagine out-of-bound stakes on both sides of most holes. Imagine a cart-paths only journey through a dead-flat swamp. You know me well enough by now. Does this sound like something that I would enjoy at all?

You may have figured out that the course is Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC. Harbour Town is the site of the PGA Tour's MCI/Worldcom/Verizon Heritage Classic, which usually follows the Masters each year. The Heritage is the most polarizing event on the tour schedule. A lot of tour pros call it the favorite course they play all year. Other pros (*cough* Tiger) avoid it altogether. If you look at the list of Heritage champions, you'll notice two things. A lot of major champions have won here, starting with Arnold Palmer winning the inaugural event in 1969. Irwin, Miller, Nicklaus, Watson, Zoeller, Faldo, Langer, Love, Norman, Stewart, Price, Cink, Leonard. That's a pretty impressive list. The second thing that will immediately jump out is how many repeat winners there are in this event. Davis Love III has owned this event with 5 wins and 11 top tens. Hale Irwin won the event three times, including a remarkable 23 years between his first (1971) and last (1994) win. Stewart Cink and Boo Weekley are among the recent two-time winners. [Tom Kite is second to Davis Love with 10 career top 10's in the event, but never won. I'm not sure why, but this little tidbit cracked me up.]

Never has the term 'horses for courses' rung more true than at Harbour Town. The guys that like this course and tend to perform well are the shotmakers -- guys that can work the ball in either direction and possess great precision with their irons. Harbour Town is not your typical PGA Tour bomber's paradise. In other words, guys not like me. I don't think I'm a horse for any type of course these days, but Harbour Town is the one course most likely to turn me into glue. I can't even hit a pitching wedge straight anymore. How am I supposed to land a 170-yard shot on a green the size of your living room? That's probably the main reason (that and the exorbitant $220 greens fees) that I have played just about every course on the island in three previous trips to Hilton Head but have avoided Harbour Town like the plague. There was no chance that the course and I would get along.

But a funny thing happened in the Lowcountry. I enjoyed the course tremendously, even if it is the anti-Ballyneal. I remembered why I liked Pete Dye so much. Love him or hate him, you have to give him props for getting golf course architecture out of the doldrums of the Robert Trent Jones, Sr-driven 1940's and 50's, a.k.a. the Dark Ages. And if there's one thing Dye is good at, it's thinking about angles of attack. Nowhere is this more true than at Harbour Town. Simply being on the fairway is not good enough. Often you have to be on the correct spot (and when I say spot, I mean a 8-yard wide strip) of the fairway. And while the greens are by far the smallest on tour, often you can only hit to one quadrant of the green. Even on these small greens, a change in the pin placement has a dramatic shift on what you need to do off the tee.

In a year where my success is not measured by fairways hit, but in drives simply kept in play, I was doomed for sure. I stocked up on Pro V-1's in the pro shop. I practiced 3-irons on the driving range. I sent a letter to all area homeowners warning them to stay out of their backyards and apologizing in advance for any broken windows. With all those white stakes, triple digits was well within the realm of possibility. When our playing partner offered the opportunity to hit a mulligan after my first tee ball, I declined. It was a solid drive by my standards, even though the ball hit a tree and ended up in the pine straw only about 180 yards off the tee. Chances are my breakfast ball would've been much worse.

Most of the blame for my 18-month long slump can be placed on my driver. My short game is actually probably stronger now since it's the only chance I've got. My iron game is not quite as sharp as it was two years ago, but it hasn't been too bad. Recently though, my irons have gone south as well. At Harbour Town, I was hitting some awful iron shots. My first solid full iron shot was a six-iron on the 6th hole, but that still ended up in a greenside bunker. Meanwhile, one of my playing partners, Chuck, was putting on an shotmaking display with his irons unlike anything I've ever seen. Distance control is imperative at Harbour Town, and Chuck was almost always pin high, within 15 feet of the hole. Unfortunately, he rarely ever scared the hole on any of his multiple birdie efforts until rolling in a six-footer on the 14th (This was the same hole that my tee shot immediately headed for the water that borders the entire right side of the hole. Then we got up to the green and realized that the ball was actually in-play on the far side of the hazard. So bad, it's good.)

Thankfully, the short game was there to bail me out. I knew things were looking up when I made a 10-footer to save bogey on the first hole. Chipping or putting bailed me out from disaster multiple times. On the short par-4 ninth hole, I duck hooked a drive into jail far right, hit gap wedge through a four-foot wide gap in the trees to 30 yards short of the green, then hit a nifty flop shot to four feet past the hole and made the putt for an all-world par save.

On the back nine, I thought my luck had run out on the 15th hole. After a decent drive and a hooked second shot that hit a tree and bounced back into play, I chunked a routine 7-iron dead left and into the water. The par 5's are definitely scoreable at Harbour Town and I had just capped off playing the three of them 5-over par. With the famous closing holes coming up, breaking 90 was now in doubt.

The 16th hole is a 95-degree dogleg-left par 4 that wraps around a giant bunker (you may remember Stewart Cink taking an agonizingly long time removing every surrounding grain of sand on this hole when he won the Heritage in a playoff. It was a waste area back then. They've since changed it to a hazard thanks to Cink's antics.) I stepped up to the tee with the ill-advised idea to hit a fade around the corner, but ended up bombing it dead straight to the far end of the fairway. In my only other good drive of the day, I was trying to hit a big fade and hit it dead soild and straight. Maybe I'm on to something.

So there I stood in the middle of the fairway with lob wedge in my hand in a rare, green-light opportunity. This used to be my wheelhouse. Instead, I flubbed my approach shot short of the green. So much for birdie. But then I putted from off the green, up the slope to the back-right pin (on these greens, back right means no more than 8 paces beyond center), and the ball curled sharply right-to-left as it approached the hole. Could it be? Yes! The ball struck the flagstick sharply and dropped in. Sweet manna from heaven…a birdie! I am a short-game wizard.

After a relatively routine up-and-down par on 17, I stepped up to the tee of the famous Lighthouse hole just hoping to find dry land. The dichotomy of the 18th is that it is by far the most recognizable hole on the course, but it is dramatically different from the rest of the course. After trying to negotiate 25-yard fairways that actually play narrower, you close things with the widest fairway on tour. Although it's still no bargain. The wide part of the fairway juts into the Calibogue Sound and if you manage to avoid the water left and the condos right, you'll be left with a long-iron approach to an amazingly small green (seriously, you won't believe how tiny this green is.)

In the distance, I could see a guy on the observation deck of the lighthouse watching the golf action with binoculars. I had Chuck videotape my drive with my iPhone. I couldn't disappoint my loyal fan base (not counting my three kids, the number now stands at four: Jefe, Wego, still-in-the-honeymoon-stage Wyatt and this dude on the lighthouse.) I stepped up and ripped one -- the patented, low draw made a return visit! Good to see you again. Where have you been?

I still had 190 yards into the green, chose six-iron and said my prayers. I hit a solid shot (two in a row!), but did what many golfers do on this hole by bailing out right of the green. I was pin-high about 15 yards right of the flag, had a little mound that I had to negotiate with my chip shot. I struck the ball as intended, the ball landed on the downslope of the mound and scooted right at the hole. The ball clanged the flagstick and dropped in. Birdie! I felt like DL3, who chipped in here in 2003 to force a playoff en route to yet another win. Where is my ugly red tartan sportscoat? I gave my new lighthouse buddy a big thumbs-up but he doesn't respond. I guess he was just dolphin watching the whole time (fanbase back down to three), but it doesn't matter. You can't wipe the gleam off my face, knowing full-well that I had just gained a stroke and a half on the field (and four strokes on my father-in-law Ken, who made a mess of the hole.)

I whipped out my phone and had the following text message exchange with Jefe:

Jim: birdie-par-birdie finish at HT!
Jefe: Nice. What about the other 15?
Jim: birdie-par-birdie finish at HT!

Truth be told, the stellar finish gave me a 83, which sadly is my second best round of the year. Remember when I used to write about shooting 72's? It seems like eons ago. But none of the matters now because…birdie-par-birdie finish at HT! It was the perfect way to end an enjoyable round on a course that I never thought I would like.

So maybe that's the moral of the story. One thing I learned from recently compiling and launching the (gratuitous plug alert) Golf Blog 100 is that there are lots of different ways to define greatness when it comes to golf courses. And different golfers can have completely different criteria and both be right. Let's celebrate diversity. My goal with the Golf Blog 100 was to collect a wide-range of opinions from a diverse panel of well-traveled, passionate golfers and combine the results into an overall ranking that best represents this collective view. Harbour Town ranks 58th in the U.S., and after playing it, I can't really disagree with that combined assessment. One problem I have with Golf Digest's Top 100 is they dictate the exact criteria and weights that make a golf course great. They explicitly don't ask their panelists for an overall rating, pompously assuming they know the exact formula. Seems strange that they trust 900 panelists enough to assign a value to a nebulous concept such as 'Shot Values' but don't trust them enough to know whether overall a golf course is good or not.

My round at Harbour Town cemented the fact that there is no one formula. What makes Harbour Town great is a completely different set of values than what makes Ballyneal one of the best golf courses in the world. Ballyneal gives you the freedom to choose any number of ways to get the ball close to the hole and then challenges you on each and every putt on the green. Harbour Town dares you to hit certain types of approach shots to get close to the hole. If you can pull it off, you are rewarded with a relatively straightforward putt. In both cases, you'll eventually be asked to pull off a shot or two that you're less than comfortable with. Other than the birdies, my most memorable shots at Harbour Town were a low pitching wedge with 40-yards of hook on it on the 12th hole, a 9-iron approach on the front that was the perfect trajectory under one large branch and over another and that gap wedge on the 9th out of jail. I can guarantee you none of those situations would occur at Ballyneal.

So, does this mean that I'm going to go home from vacation and immediately join Medinah? Probably not. But that doesn't mean that I would automatically hate the course or couldn't see the merit in somebody liking it.

To prove that I haven't completely switched allegiances (and to prove that Tom Doak may need to file a restraining order against me in the near future), the next day on the beach I decided to build a sand-replica of the 7th Hole at Ballyneal. Now I know why architects like building courses in sand. Check it out below (Note: I'm about to head out again, armed with multiple pics and topographical maps to see if I can improve on it. The sad thing is you don't know for sure whether I'm serious or not.)

I probably know what you're thinking, because it's likely the exact sentiment that Jimbo sent back after I e-mailed him and others the picture that afternoon.

"Frankly, I am worried.

I realize you have a deep love for Ballyneal and Tommy to the D.  When you first joined Ballyneal, I thought, good for you, you are following your passion.  The excessive purchasing of Ballyneal paraphernalia; mostly normal.  Shortly after joining, when you talked about Sue possibly painting a Ballyneal mural on your office wall at home; I just chalked that up to your quirky (obsessive) personality, and thought nothing more of it.

Ah, but what a slippery slope you find yourself on.  Referring to Tommy to the D as your new "BFF"......the impromptu trip out to Ballyneal at the end of September.....the endless stream of posts on GCA, the blogs, the midnight phone conversations with Wyatt all about Ballyneal.....All red flags.

And now we have beach sand reconstructions of the 7th at Ballyneal, done in disturbingly accurate detail.

I ask, where does this madness stop?  At what point is it enough?  If things continue down this darkened path (and I see no evidence to lead me to believe otherwise) I fear one day you'll find yourself sitting with your family at dinner, Sue attempting to tell you about her day, your kids eager to share their adventures, and YOU will be hunched over, grossly absorbed in reconstructing the 4th hole at Ballyneal from your mashed potatoes.  ".....Just how big is that blowout on the right side of the fairway?  And the elevation of the green.  How severe is it?  Sue, can you pass the mashed potatoes?"

A grim and bleak future indeed.  Jimmy C, I say this, because I love you; you need help.  Granted, none of the recipients of this e-mail are qualified to provide that help.  We all have our issues.  But that doesn't mean you cannot be saved.  There is still time for you.

Your Friend,

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