I just wanted to post this open letter to commend you for your incredible performance in Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Not just because it was one of the best crunch time playoff performances I've seen this side of Lebron's 25-in-a-row against the Pistons. And not just because you seem like a decent dude, an athlete whose picture I can put up in my son's room without regret -- something exceedingly rare these days (I have a pretty poor track record in picking athletes to root for: Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods. If you turn out to be a jerk, then I may just stop watching sports altogether.)
No, I need to thank you for a reason completely unrelated to hoops. If you hadn't put your teammates on your back down the stretch Game 5, I wouldn't have played 36 holes at Ballyneal yesterday.
You see, my good friend and die-hard Nuggets fan Wyatt Halliday (cool name, huh?) convinced me to fly out to Denver for one of the home games in the first-round series between the two hottest teams in the Western Conference. It promised to be an epic series; like many others we were convinced it had to go seven games. When the series schedule was released, Game 6 was really the only option that worked in my schedule. Wyatt graciously booked me a flight and we prayed that the series would make it that far. The plan was to fly-in early Friday morning, golf down in Colorado Springs with our buddy Matt (a.k.a. "The Package"), hit the game, play another round in the Denver area and fly back to Chicago Saturday afternoon. A perfect, 30-hour golf/hoops binge.
After your Thunder went up 3-0, I was put in the awkward position of openly rooting against my second favorite team in the league. Thankfully, Russell Westbrook decided it was a good idea to hoist up 30 shots, including 0-7 from 3's, essentially gift-wrapping Game 4 to the Nuggs. What's up with that guy? He does realize that he is the point guard, right? And part of his job description is to get you the ball, right? Am I crazy for thinking that there are potential alpha-dog issues on your team -- ones that could be your downfall this year and might just, maybe-could lead to a Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson for Russ and Kendrick Perkins trade this offseason? Or is that just me trying to come up with a better alternative than Howard in Lakers purple-and-gold after he inevitably demands a trade this summer?
Speaking of Game 5...did you notice that British Open champion and former world number one player in the world David Duval was at the game and sitting in the front row in the baseline? I wouldn't blame you if you didn't recognize him, considering he looks more like an accountant or math teacher than a professional athlete, plus he was clapping traditionally instead of doing that odd, two-handed winding fist pump thing he pulled out at the 1999 Ryder Cup.
On cue, the future former-Thunder point guard was doing everything in his power to make sure I'd get to see you play in Game 6. Then the world saw the lightbulb go off in your head, when you realized a) "hey, I'm the best player on the court" and b) "this is my (insert expletive) team". In one four-minute flurry, our brilliant golf/hoops plan was up in smoke.
Well, you don't crawl your way up to five rungs below lower-level banking senior management without knowing a thing or two about contingency planning. Our Plan B was to just to head straight to Holyoke. Well, not exactly "straight"...as driver Wyatt missed the first exit and later missed the country dirt road you need to turn onto to get to Ballyneal. Bear in mind, he lives in Denver and has made this same drive four times before. Matt started calling him "OnStar" from the backseat.
KD, I'm not sure if you've ever touched a golf club. With your 6'11" frame and 7'5" wing-span, I'd love to see you try. If you have the bug, then you'll get the following four paragraphs. If not, then just skip to the end.
Ballyneal was still the six days from officially opening for the 2011 season. Hence, we were literally the only three people on the golf course. I can't understate just how cool it is to play on a world-class golf course and have the place to yourself. The euphoria is probably something similar to what you experienced carrying the U.S. team to the World Basketball gold medal last summer.
The course was really green from a lot of rain that week, but also still played firm and fast. The fescue turf is amazing. The greens were much slower than normal, but they are still getting them ready for opening day. When we pulled up, it was 70 degrees and blue skies. After experiencing one of the worst April's in Chicago-history, it was great to see to reunite with the sun again.
There was virtually no wind when we teed-off at 11:30. By the time we reached the tee box for the par 5 4th hole, it was really blowing. And it got progressively stronger and stronger throughout the day. The entire second round was played in a four-to-five club wind. With gusts up to 45 miles per hour, it was the windiest I had ever experienced. Given our early-season sea legs, the second round was a death march. Matt said he felt like he had just gone 12 rounds of a title fight. For the first time, I openly wondered if I could really walk 108 holes in one day. "So, I gotta do this times three?" I asked the others, moments before my orange hat flew off my head mid-swing.
Even with the wind, it was a great day of golf. I was quickly reminded why I love the game when trying to manufacturer shots to combat the brutally tough conditions. One example was on the 17th hole, which is probably the toughest par-4 on the course for me under normal conditions and a true par 5 1/2 when it's into the wind. After a mediocre drive and a full 5-iron, I was still approximately 80-yards from the front of the green. Just eyeballing the shot to the back-right pin position, one that would've been a stock lob wedge for me most days, my first thought was 8-iron. Then I quickly realized that 8-iron wouldn't have been enough. So I pulled out 7-iron and hit the purest mid-iron of my life. Man, I smoked that thing. The ball started about 20 yards left of the green, drew-in and rode the wind and landed 25-feet left of the pin. Never had I been so proud of making bogey.
KD, enjoy the pictures of Ballyneal below (it's a pretty sweet place). After you lead the Thunder to a title in a 7-game series against the (ugh) Heat, I'd be happy to host you, your brother, and that strange neighbor kid that Nike paid to stalk you out there. It's the least I can do after the gift you gave me this week.
|On the 16th tee|
|2nd shot to par-5 16th hole|
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