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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 amazon.com (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 wegoblogger31.com, 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 jcolton31@gmail.com 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. What...would...you...do?"
- "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 green...do 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%
 
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