In addition to the newsletters I’ve published over the years, I’ve also done some promotional work for various businesses and reasons. This was a flyer I put together for a fundraiser at Simi Hills Golf Course, where I learned to play at 46-years-old. This means I’ve been playing golf for 26 years, which I have a hard time believing. Of course, when I became a first-time, adoptive father at 55, it definitely put a cramp in my style and I’m only now reaching a point where I think I might have time to play and practice a bit more frequently. Not sure I’ll be able to afford it, though.
Category Archives: Golf
I just came across this picture, which was taken at Sherwood Country Club, in Thousand Oaks, California, about month after my 50th birthday. I had been golfing less than four years at the time. I was not scheduled to play in this tournament. In fact, I was actually working as a volunteer.
My job was to stand at the gated entrance to the club to see who had arrived, as they would have to check in with the guard before they could proceed. I would then radio ahead so people could have all the correct names of who was arriving and could both address them properly and provide them with name tags and goodie bags. Toward the end of the arrivals I got a call on the radio.
“Rick. Did you bring your clubs with you?”
“Of course I did. I always have my clubs in my car.”
“Well . . . you might have to play. Hang on and I’ll get back to you.”
Might HAVE to play? Oh, please, please don’t throw me in that briar patch! I knew the base fee for this tournament (it was a fund-raiser) was $750, which was a major reason I hadn’t even considered for a pico-second picking up a club. Never mind Sherwood is a rather exclusive club and I’m hardly an exclusive person. I was beyond excited.
Shortly afterward I got the call. Come on down. We need you to fill out a foursome. Needless to say, I hightailed it to the clubhouse, prepared to play a course I had never even dreamed of playing. When I arrived at the clubhouse I was told there were no more carts available and, rather than driving the course, I would have to walk. However, they replaced the cart with a caddy. Although I hadn’t been playing for all that long, I’d never considered having someone to carry my bags and help me decide on how to play the course.
Unfortunately for me, the guy I got was pretty new to the course and really didn’t know it that well. If I recall correctly, he even cost me a stroke or two because he didn’t know what wasn’t visible on one of the holes. But, he also carried my bag and raked traps, etc. Regardless, I got to play one of the more exclusive clubs in the world . . . for free!! And it included everything that came with a paid spot; loot bag, snacks (Dole played a major role in the food side of the tourney), and a damned good meal after playing. I think I shot in the low nineties, though I don’t remember perzackly. It was, after all, over 22 years ago.
I wasn’t sure if I could “re-blog” one of my own blogs using WordPress’s “Press This” widget, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve also updated this post somewhat. I added the flier depicted below, which I found in a box I’ve been holding onto for entirely too damned long, and made some minor text fixes.
One more thing. The situation I wrote about in the original post I’m re-blogging (six years ago yesterday, btw) has likely gotten worse. At best, nothing much has changed.
It’s no secret I have a complicated relationship with the game of golf. Not so much with actually playing it (though that’s a bit of an issue as well, having to do with injury and becoming a father) but more with the history and cultural positioning of the game and its adherents.
Golf has never been a game “of the people”. It can’t be played on the street on in a sandlot. There’s no such thing as a pickup game of golf. It takes up a lot of space; generally fairly expensive space as well. If you figure a starter can get out a foursome onto the course every fifteen minutes, then during the longest days of the year, it’s still only 256 golfers per day. Hardly a huge contingent of users. I’d wager an average-sized park, which likely takes up less than one-tenth of the acreage a golf course requires, provides recreation for more than that number.
So, let’s essentially agree golf is somewhat exclusive, even elite in some ways. And, rather than belabor the point, check out this article in Ebony magazine from 2016. It may still be fairly exclusive, but it’s also quite lucrative, considering how many people play.
However, all this is merely setup for my point, which I will now address. I was watching the final round of the 3M Open yesterday (I still record most golf tournaments in case I want to watch) and noticed something that has always amused me somewhat. I’m referring to the names of many of the players. There are a lot of them who have what I think of as rather strange, somewhat hoity-toity, names.
I’ve looked at the elite players of other sports and there just aren’t names like many of these. And, I think I’ve figured out what makes a lot of them stand out. Many players have first names that are generally used for last names, e.g. Johnson, Mackenzie, Davis, Grayson, etc. Here’s a list of the ones that stood out to me the most, taken from the PGA’s FedEx Cup rankings as of today.
What this has to do with race and class, I will leave to y’all to suss out. I’m not interested in making too fine a point here. I merely wanted to share this minor bit of trivia that has stood out for me. Besides, doing a truly good job of opining on diversity and economics would require more time than I’m willing to put in at this moment. Also, this is the first time I’ve tried to put some sense to it. It likely won’t be the last . . . as I’ll likely refine my thinking over time. I’d be happy to hear what you have to say.
PS – I only used American players (with—I think—one Canadian).
Below are some of the names I’ve noticed.
Charles Howell III
Davis Love III
My father took up golf late in life and he wanted me to golf with him. I was 15 years old, which means he had to be about 38. He wanted me to golf right-handed, but I was a dominant southpaw and I refused to do it. Reluctantly, he got me a left-handed beginner’s set of clubs. I even took lessons—if memory serves, I took one lesson from Cary “Doc” Middlecoff at what was then called The Joe Kirkwood Jr. Golf Center . It was on Whitsett Ave., just North of Ventura Blvd. It’s now called Weddington Golf & Tennis. Read the second paragraph at their website’s home page for a little history on the site.
My golfing did not last long. At 15 I had started to surf, which seemed so much more challenging at the time. Besides, golf was for old men and surfing was a young person’s sport. I gave up golf, though I hung on to the left-handed beginner’s set of clubs the old man had purchased for me. I even used them once-in-a-while to hit a bucket o’ balls.
Fast forward 31 years. I had been working at Rocketdyne for maybe three years. My first year I was a “job shopper”—a temp—working on the FMEA/CIL* document for the Space Shuttle Main Engine program, in anticipation of a return to flight after the Challenger disaster. I then was hired in as a full-time employee, working in the Fight Ops team. I was fortunate enough to be in the Rocketdyne Operational Support Center (ROSC) when Discovery lifted off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39 on September 29, 1988.
I had helped design the layout and overall configuration of the ROSC, and being there for that launch was my reward. I didn’t know enough about the operational parameters of our engines at that time to understand exactly what I was looking at that morning, but the room was filled with displays showing engine performance as Discovery lifted off and ascended on its approximately 525 second flight to LEO.
That evening a bunch of us went to celebrate the successful launch and our nation’s return to space flight. We were elated . . . to say the least. We went across Victory Blvd. to a restaurant called Yankee Doodles. Somehow, I got into a conversation with the person who turned out to be the Manager of the SSME’s Program Office and, once he found out what my role had been (and that I had a Juris Doctorate; a Law degree) he offered me a job. After some discussion with my current management, I decided to take it.
It wasn’t long before the team I was now on decided to have a golf tournament, and they of course wanted me to play. Not because they knew anything about my golf game (how could they?) but because they needed warm bodies to show up on the course, as well as pay for the round, prizes, and food. I was reluctant; after all it had been over 30 years since I’d actually played and, in fact, I don’t believe I had ever played on a full-size course.
I decided to give it a try. I don’t remember what I did for clubs because, by then, I had rid myself of that old beginner’s set. I remember going to Simi Hills Golf Course and hitting some balls. Honestly, I can’t quite remember where that first tournament was played, but I know I got hooked . . . bad. I had my uncle’s friend make me a set of golf clubs and I began practicing with a vengeance. I cobbled together a newsletter for the course, filling it with ridiculous and comedic stories. I showed it to the General Manager and told him I could do that for them every month.
He told me to go ahead and, shortly after, I was hitting as many balls as I wanted on the range and, a bit later, going out on the course with the GM and the Head Pro – getting tips and playing lessons for free. I eventually was able to play for free as well, as long as I didn’t try to abuse the privilege by playing during peak hours. Within a fairly short time I had my index (similar to handicap) down to 12. I was well on my way to becoming a single-digit handicapper, but it was not to be.
I started having back and hip pain and, even with going to a Chiropractor and seeing my doctor about it, nothing was helping. Little did I know what was coming. Just before New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1999, I had an attack of sciatica that had my wife calling 911 to have me transported to the nearest hospital. I was on crutches for a month, and a cane for two months after that. I still experience numbness/tenderness in my left foot and don’t expect it will ever entirely heal.
Fortunately, I eventually found Robin McKenzie’s wonderful book, “Treat Your Own Back” and, after religiously doing the stretching he recommends, for weeks, I was back on the course and healing rather nicely.
Now, I don’t remember if it was before or after my back problems, but I became good friends with one of the professional golfers at Simi Hills, and he was involved with a company called Golden Tee. They had opened up a practice facility at Moorpark College and were planning on building a new golf course in the hills just below the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library here in Simi Valley.
As you may surmise from the graphic I’m including in this post, I had a really sweet deal with Golden Tee. Unfortunately, the guy on the left of this picture (his first name was Paul; I don’t remember his last name, and I think he’s moved on to that 19th hole in the sky. Suffice it to say, things got real ugly. I found the record of a court case where Golden Tee sued the Ventura County Community College Board . . . and lost. Actually, I think it was right around this time I experienced my bout of sciatica and, shortly thereafter, decided (along with my wife, of course) to adopt our first child . . . but that’s another story.
* Failure Mode and Effects Analysis/Critical Items List
This past Saturday morning my friend and former colleague, Steve, picked me up and we headed North for our little US Open adventure. We went up Interstate 5, here in California, to Santa Nella and the second of the two Pea Soup Andersen’s restaurants (the other being in Buellton, though some incorrectly think it’s in Solvang).
We chose to stay at the Best Western hotel associated with the restaurant as it wasn’t too far from Pebble Beach and because it was reasonably priced. We couldn’t say that for many of the rooms available much closer to the venue. We checked into the hotel, rested for about a half hour, then had dinner at the restaurant. We both had a bowl of split pea soup (how could we not?) and a salad. The salad was excellent and came with some pretty tasty onion rolls and butter.
After that we had found a brewery in nearby Los Banos, which we wanted to try out and taste some of their craft brews. As it turned out, Saturday night was their monthly comedy night and we got to enjoy five comics, all of whom were quite entertaining. It was interesting being in a fairly small town, far away from any large urban area, and spend time in one of their establishments with all the locals. If it does nothing else, it reminds one of the ubiquity of our culture. Not entirely, but the overlaps, when viewed alongside the dissimilarities, are faskinatin’.
After a decent night’s sleep—my Fitbit tracker told me I slept 5.5 hours, and my goal is usually 6 hours per night—we headed out, our destination being the campus of Cal State University-Monterey Bay. From there we boarded a bus for the final leg of the journey. During the day I walked 18,189 steps, equivalent to 7.88 miles, and climbed the equivalent of 41 flights of stairs. Needless to say, that’s a fair amount more exercise than I’m accustomed to doing. I’m glad I did it, it was a fun day, and I’m paying for it today – as it was pretty hard getting out of bed this morning.
I took a few pictures with my iPhone Xr and I’d like to share a few of them, with a little explanation of each:
This isn’t a WordPress theme designed for showing lots of photos, but I’m going to share a few from the drive.
Finally! I think I ordered the tickets for tomorrow’s final round of the U.S. Open, at Pebble Beach, at least eight or nine months ago. The day has arrived and we left Simi around 12:30 today, after a quick lunch at Mod Pizza. We drove up in Steve’s brand new Ford Edge, taking the 5 North to Santa Nella, which is somewhat East of Gilroy, which everyone knows is the garlic capitol of the world.
As we drove North I was pleased to see there are still some carpets of wildflowers dotting the hillsides, and I managed to snap this photo of some poiple flowers somewhere between Mt. Pinos and Tejon Pass.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve traveled this route and, even though descending from the Grapevine into the San Joaquin Valley portends a fairly boring drive for the next few hours, I’ve always enjoyed this part of it.
As a young man, I must have hitchhiked up and back from the Bay Area dozens of times; many of them were up the 99, before the 5 was completed. The first few years after completion, the 5 was faster, but depressingly boring. Here’s where those two roads diverged in a yellow field.
We passed this raceway, which we at first thought was the Buttonwillow Raceway, but it turned out to be the Kern County Raceway Park. It seems, from the highway, like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but the map shows it’s actually not far from Bakersfield. In case you didn’t know it, Merle Haggard was born in Oildale, a small town just North of Bakersfield. Back in the late sixties, I spent a week in Oildale one day, but that’s another story involving a school bus and an anti-war demonstration in San Francisco.
The two cups of coffee I had for breakfast, and the beer I had at lunch, finally caught up to me and we had to make a pit stop in Kettleman City.
According to Wikipedia, “The San Joaquin Valley has been called ‘The food basket of the world’, for the diversity of its produce. Walnuts, oranges, peaches, garlic, tangerines, tomatoes, kiwis, hay, alfalfa and numerous other crops have been harvested with great success.”
Steve and I had no trouble identifying grapes, corn, and cauliflower, but I originally thought these trees were almond trees. However, after a reverse image search, we’re pretty sure these are pistachio trees.
We arrived and have checked in. We’re watching the end of the 3rd round. As soon as it’s over, we’re walking across the parking lot to have dinner at Pea Soup Andersen’s. After that, we’re heading to the Paraiso Brewery in Los Banos. Tonight is comedy night.
I’m hopeful I can capture some of the beauty of the course at Pebble tomorrow. We’ll see.
Tomorrow, Steve (my former colleague, great friend, and gym partner) and I are heading up North for the final day of the 119th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, California. We’re going to head out a little after noon and hightail it up to either Santa Nella or Gustine, CA, both of which are East and a wee tad North of the Monterey Peninsula.
I have been to Pebble Beach once before, about 18 years ago. We went to the AT&T and stayed in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where I purchased a boar bristle shaving brush that is as lush and comfortable to use today as it was when I first purchased it. Wasn’t cheap, but I have no doubt it will last another twenty years, which is probably longer than I’m going to last, as I’ll be 92 by then!
I’ve seen a few nice courses in my life; even played a few of them, but I’ve never played Pebble. It is, however, surely one of the most beautiful places on Earth. One of my enduring—and moderately painful—memories of that tournament has to do with the pictures we took. Upon returning, we took our photos to Costco for processing. Back then photos were all just left in their envelopes in a big box on the counter and people were free to rummage through the box and find their own photos. Unfortunately for us, someone found, and took, our photos. They never returned them. I’m hopeful I can get a few pics this time around, though there are plenty of wonderful pictures available, so it’s no longer terribly important to me to have photos . . . unless it’s a selfie with Tiger or Phil in the background.