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Tag Archives: Golf

119th U.S. Open

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.

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Thirty Years Gone – My Old Man

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Thirty years ago today my father suffered his fourth, and final, heart attack. It happened while he was undergoing the insertion of a Swan-Ganz catheter to monitor the functioning of his heart subsequent to his third heart attack. He did not survive the procedure. While I don’t have a truly eidetic memory, I am cursed with a reasonably healthy ability to picture things in my head. My memory of that night haunts me to this day.

The last time I saw him, he was being wheeled out of his hospital room toward the catheterization laboratory at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Panorama City, CA. The man who had brought me into the world, who had carried me in his arms into my bed when I’d fallen asleep in the car,  who protected me, and who had — despite his disappointment and distress over many a choice I made in my crazy-ass life — stood beside me and sacrificed much for me, was scared. I didn’t like seeing it then and I don’t like remembering him that way now.

My old man was old school. Born in 1924, he would have been ninety on November 7th of this year.  He was the fourth child in his family; the first born in the United States after his mother and three older siblings were finally able to flee from the Ukraine and join my zeyda (grandfather in Yiddish), who had emigrated eight years earlier and finally saved enough money to bring them to Chicago. His name at birth was Isadore Edward Wladovsky and he was raised on the South side of Chicago, where he attended Washington High School.

He did not graduate, choosing instead to join the U.S. Navy when he was in his senior year. He had turned seventeen on November 7, 1941, one month before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He completed boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. I don’t know a lot about his service, other than he was on at least one Murmansk run; a very dangerous voyage through the North Atlantic bringing supplies to the Russians via the port of Murmansk. He also wrote and drew cartoons for the ship’s news bulletin. I used to have faded, crumbling copies of some of them, but they have either disappeared or are in a box somewhere in my garage. The highest rank he achieved was Radioman 3rd Class. I remember a short vacation in San Diego when I was in my early teens and we went down to the docks to view one of the ships where they were providing tours. We were standing alongside the ship and he was able to use his knowledge of Morse Code to read what one of the Naval vessels was signaling to another.

Arctic Circle Crossing Certificate

This certificate was given to each man aboard the William H. Webb upon crossing the Arctic Circle

Every father has a chance to be a superhero for a while and mine was no exception. When he carried me in his arms as a toddler, I was invincible, and when he tucked me into bed I was safe and secure. He was the strongest man alive as far as I was concerned and he could do just about anything. Once he even convinced me, after demonstrating the fine art of blowing smoke rings (he was a Pall Mall man at the time), that he could create a smoke piano. To this day I swear I saw all 88 keys on that grand piano!

Unfortunately, time burnishes off the luster of perfection and, more likely than not, children realize their parents are — much to their horror and consternation — merely human beings; flawed, imperfect, and capable of making mistakes.

Such was my experience. I’m not sure when it happened, and I’m reasonably certain it had as much to do with my rebelliousness as anything else, but the day inevitably came when I suddenly realized how “stupid” he had grown. After that, we didn’t get along all that well for a long time. Part of the problem, no doubt, was my father’s very conservative upbringing and his propensity to criticize and seldom praise. I was expected to excel and when I didn’t, there was hell to pay.

He had a quick temper and, in today’s world, I’m reasonably certain he would be, at best, a candidate for anger management. He was quick to strike and, when he did, it was frequently with the back of his hand. If I fell to the ground to avoid the blows he wouldn’t actually kick me, but he’d push me around on the floor in frustration. To be fair, it didn’t happen often and I never suffered more than bright red hand marks on my back or – sometimes – my face. My mother often came to my rescue, screaming at him to leave me alone. He once took a swing at by brother, who ducked, and ended up hitting the youngest son of a neighbor of ours. That didn’t go over too well and I think he was so mortified he decided it was time to stop with the corporal punishment.

I also think he was haunted by the many fitful nights he spent aboard ship in the North Atlantic, knowing they were being shadowed by a German Wolf Pack and could be torpedoed and sunk at any time, a fact made evident by the ships around his that suffered such a fate. Survival in those waters was very unlikely and I can’t imagine it was easy to get any real deep sleep. On those occasions my mother would ask me to wake him, I learned very quickly not to be within striking distance, as he came out of his sleep as though General Quarters was sounding.

Despite our troubled, angry, and frustrating relationship we loved each other and, thankfully, in the two or three years prior to his death we were enjoying a growing closeness — even a budding friendship. We had worked together in the business he started, which transformed from Ladd Meats to Edward Ladd & Sons, my brother having joined it years earlier.

He took up golf late in life and became a scratch golfer. He wanted me to golf as well, but the grief he gave me over being left-handed (I tried to learn right-handed, but just couldn’t get comfortable with it) and the proximity of the ocean, where I had learned to surf, doomed that venture to failure. I didn’t come back to golf until I was 46, nearly a decade after his death. I have few regrets in my life, but one of them is never having played a round of golf with the old man. I drove him around in a golf cart many times, but never played back then. Shortly after I started playing, I went to Porter Valley Country Club, where he had been President of the Men’s Club one year, and had played there a couple times a week for many years. They still had his picture on the wall and gave me a cart to drive around the course, which I did, trying to imagine him playing each hole.

We buried him in his favorite golf clothes, clutching his favorite putter, which we believe he would have liked. I’ve been told the groundskeeper at Porter Valley lowered the flag at the Club to half staff when he learned my father  had died. I think it choked me up more than any reaction I heard about.

Eddie Ladd

The Old Man at About 50

After he died, I can’t recall how many times something good would happen to me and I wanted to let him know, sure he would be proud or excited for me. Anyone who has smoked and quit knows the feeling of absentmindedly reaching in one’s pocket for a pack of cigarettes, only to discover there’s nothing there; then remembering you’d stopped smoking. That’s how it felt – only worse – when I wanted to share something with my dad, and the realization he was gone would hit me. The hole in my heart dropped down to my stomach and it took a few minutes to shake off the hollow feeling it brought.

About two or three years after his death, I dreamed I ran into him on a cliff overlooking a beach. I don’t know where the beach was, but in the dream we spent the entire day together, exploring caves, sharing a meal, and talking. We talked about my life and he assured me he was fine and happy to see I was doing well. I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t believe I was really talking to my father. However, I do believe I was putting a few “ghosts” to rest by dealing with some of the unfinished business from my perspective; some of the things we never got to do together. It was the best dream I’ve ever had and I remember it to this day. Not in great detail, but definitely in terms of how it made me feel.

He left little of material value, save a moderate life insurance payment that went to sustain the family business, which provided for our mother and our sister who was, I believe, just entering her last year of High School or who had just graduated and was still living at home. I got a piece of jewelry and some clothing, some of which I kept for many years afterward. I still have the pendant, which was custom made for him by an old friend of mine. One of the non-material things he left me was an ability to recognize absurdity and the willingness to comment on or satirize it. He also had lots of silly sayings the family still refers to as “Eddieisms”.

He was a hard worker who was able to move from behind the counter of a small deli in the Grand Central Market, to owning a small truck with which he would purchase and transport distressed merchandise to some of the poorer markets and butcher shops in and around L.A. He was a peddler, once the “broken hot dog king” of the City. He had a wonderful singing voice and many times, during the shows our temple, Valley Beth Israel, would put on for the congregation, people swore he was lip-syncing to Sinatra. He wasn’t. Most everybody he knew loved him and, true to the stormy nature of our relationship, I many times referred to hm as a “lovable asshole”.

To say I miss him would be both an exaggeration and an understatement. I don’t think about him every day. It serves no good purpose and I have a life, a wife, and two young children who still depend on me being with them every day in many ways. Nevertheless, he will always be a part of my life and there are numerous times when I think of him. I would give anything to be able to tell him how much I love him and how much he remains a big part of my life and who I’ve become.


Who Needs Progress Reports?

Brain in light bulb

Working Out Loud – What a Bright Idea!

I recently posted a little bit about a presentation I gave entitled “The Crowd, The Cloud, and Working Out Loud”. One of the examples I’ve always given when explaining the value of working out loud (sometimes referred to as “Observable Work”) is that of eliminating monthly progress reports. Most anyone who’s had to do these knows how time-consuming they can be and how much of the information meant to be conveyed by them is lost or distorted as it moves up the corporate power structure.

The whole idea of working out loud is to make the things we’re doing more (and more immediately) visible to those who need or can use such information. In this way, less fidelity is lost in translation and useful  information and knowledge are available quicker than with conventional methods, which generally take more than a month before they get filtered, rehashed, and finally communicated.

At any rate, I am currently working on a short introductory paper on the usefulness of an Earned Value Management System (EVMS) and, in doing so, I was searching through some of my old papers, etc. I came across a status report I sent to my managers at what was then called Boeing North American, Inc. – Rocketdyne Division (part of the Boeing Defense & Space Group) on October 1, 1999. Interesting, the subject is “August 1999 Status Report”, so it looks like information lagged even further behind than I have been thinking.

The sections of the report are Accomplishments, Issues, and Performance Improvements. In each of the first two sections there’s some serious stuff being addressed regarding our effort at the time to complete 10 High Pressure Fuel Turbopumps for the Space Shuttle Main Engine. I find it somewhat fascinating to read this stuff after almost 15 years have passed.

However, what really stood out for me is the final entry under Performance Improvements. As I have indicated, I’m not a big fan of status reports . . . and here’s what I had to say in that section:

Probably lots of little things. Nothing significant I can remember. Oh! I’ve started using a 7-Iron again to chip around the greens. I chipped in for a birdie on number 10 at Simi the other day. That was an improvement.

Although I have no specific recollection of writing that bit of important information, I am not surprised. Clearly, I did not take the authoring of status reports any more seriously back then than I do now. Neither should you.


The Pleasures of Walking

For almost a quarter century I have spent my life planted behind a desk, working and playing with computers and the online (Intra and inter) world. I exercised once in awhile but, for the most part, was content to delude myself into thinking exercising my intellect was sufficient. I knew it wasn’t true, but there was so much to learn and so many things to do, I just couldn’t get off my ass and get the exercise I needed.

This is not the entire truth. Shortly after my 46th birthday, I was summarily drafted to play in a golf tournament being conducted by the Program Office where I worked. I reluctantly agreed and decided it might be best to prepare — that is go to the driving range and hit a few balls — something I had only done once since I determined golf was for old men back when I was 15 years old.

I played in that tournament and within a short while found myself returning to the range on a daily basis. I was hooked. So I got some exercise — I stretched, swung, and walked a fair amount. I did almost every day, sometimes all day, for a few years. You can walk a lot playing 18 holes of golf; as much as five miles (if you play what they call “Army” golf — left, right, left) and I liked to carry my clubs.

Unfortunately,a few years later a crippling attack of Sciatica put a giant crimp, and an indeterminate hold, on my ability to play the game. That was followed shortly thereafter by a decision to adopt, which pretty much ended golf for me. So, for the most part, I’ve remained behind a desk.

Last month, with the entry of our oldest to middle school, which now makes it necessary for our girls to be taken to schools separately, I made the decision to walk our youngest to school each morning. I purchased some walking shoes online, downloaded an app to my phone for keeping track of my walks, and set off to change things a bit.

I should point out I’m now 66 years old and all those sedentary years don’t just drop off in the face of moderate activity, like they used to in . . . say . . . my thirties. Nevertheless, I’ve been pretty diligent and, save for Thursday mornings when I have a Rotary Club breakfast meeting to attend at 7:00 am, I’ve walked my daughter to school every day.

We pass by a flood control channel, populated by this forlorn basketball, every day. I've named it Wendy and now think of her asWilson’s cousin. On this day she was accompanied by these two ducks, who my daughter decided would be named Molly and Junior. I doubt we'll ever see them again, but it was good to see some life in the channel.

We pass by a flood control channel, populated by this forlorn basketball, every day. I’ve named it Wendy and now think of her asWilson’s cousin. On this day she was accompanied by these two ducks, who my daughter decided would be named Molly and Junior. I doubt we’ll ever see them again, but it was good to see some life in the channel.

The walking is still a bit tiring, even though it’s only a mile I’m covering round trip. What I have discovered, however, is the difference in perception from when I’m in a vehicle. Most of us probably don’t realize it, but when we’re in our vehicles the majority of our senses are either stunted or deprived of input.

We see, but most of the things we look at are related to either safety or arriving at a particular destination. We can’t afford to actually pay attention to much else. We hear, but almost all aural input comes from inside the vehicle, unless someone honks at us or an emergency vehicle approaches, siren screaming. We smell little, save for the occasional wafting of BBQ, hamburger, or other food odors. We touch and taste nothing.

Not so on foot. One of the first things I noticed was the houses and yards of my neighbors. Sure, I’d seen them all before many times, but not with the clarity I’m seeing them now. I hear sprinklers, vehicles, children on bicycles and scooters, crows foraging, and other birds singing. I can smell the grass or even stop and smell the roses (or other flowers), and I can touch and taste anything I feel like, though I doubt I’ll be doing much of the latter.

The point is, walking puts you in the middle of things, whereas driving kind of puts you in a layer sitting on top of things. A vehicle serves as insulation, a cocoon of plastic, rubber, and steel. You can roll up the windows, turn on the radio or CD, and sever all but the most necessary of ties with just about everything around you. This isn’t possible when walking. You walk in the same layer as everything around you. Even the vehicles that pass are an important part, because you have to ensure they don’t impinge on the layer you’re in and end up seriously ruining your day.

Another benefit for me is I get to hold my daughter’s hand on the way and her incessant and zany questioning about my preferences amongst lists of things she will provide for me (“would you rather eat Jell-O or be a Zebra?”) becomes more like a game, and less of a distraction. So this walking thing is clearly beneficial for both of us, in at least two ways. I believe I’m going to continue this behavior. You should try it.


What? Men Are Hugging Each Other?

Jordan Spieth Hugs His Caddy

Jordan Spieth Hugs His Caddy After Winning The John Deere Classic

I used to love baseball. Truth to tell, I still do though I seldom watch any longer. I haven’t since the World Series was cancelled in 1994 because of a labor dispute. I considered that act a stinging slap in the face of the very people whose money the players and owners were fighting over. It was also a blow to all the small vendors whose livelihood depended on the games played in the ballparks in which they labored. It was incredibly selfish in my judgement and I have yet to truly forgive the sport.

This post, however, isn’t about labor vs. management. Nor is it a discussion of the value of sports and entertainment. It’s about something a bit less dramatic but, perhaps, of more general and long-lasting significance. I’ll let you be the judge. I just want to share my thoughts, which come about after this week’s MLB All-Star game (the only baseball I’ve watched all season) and were additive to some I had at the end of the John Deere Classic golf tournament last weekend.

It’s actually a very simple observation, though it may have (I hope it has) tremendous significance historically and culturally. When I was a young man, it was unheard of for men to hug each other (with, perhaps, the exception of the swarm at the mound after a World Series victory). For the most part, men shook hands or slapped each other on the back. Later on, there was the high five, the chest bump, fist bump, etc. All of these were “manly”.

Lately, however, I’ve seen men hug after a victory or, in the case of baseball, even after a particularly important play. The hugs aren’t exactly what I would characterize as warm—as there’s still usually a little backslapping that goes along with them that, in my mind, signify assurance one is not being intimate—but they’re more frequent and less self-conscious. I’m of the opinion this is a good thing.

I think this is important, as well as reflective of a growing acceptance of homosexuality in our culture. I say this because I believe the reason men haven’t been able to hug comes from a deep-seating, acculturated fear of physical intimacy among men; fear that enjoying the sensual pleasure of a good hug somehow puts their masculinity into question. I find this fear a bit ridiculous, but I also believe it’s pervasive. I say ridiculous because, just as being gay is not something one chooses, neither is being straight. Therefore, enjoying a good hug with someone you like and whose company you enjoy and, especially, after an accomplishment you admire, does not mean you are suddenly changing your sexual orientation.

So it’s good to see men becoming more comfortable with hugging each other. I think it signifies a maturity that will, ultimately, result in unthinking and unconscious acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters and is another step on the road to accepting all our fellow human beings, even us atheists.


Golf and Cognitive Dissonance

The 18th at Simi Hills

The 18th Hole at Simi Hills Golf Course – Simi Valley, California

I took up golf at the tender age of 46. My department was having a tournament and they needed bodies to fill up open slots. After a significant amount of badgering, I agreed to participate. To be fair, I had been introduced to golf when I was fifteen. My father had taken it up and he wanted me to enjoy it as he did. Unfortunately, he also wanted me to be right-handed. I’m not. He insisted I would be better off golfing right-handed and I tried, but it wasn’t to be. I felt incredibly awkward and didn’t want to put up with what I perceived to be an inordinately difficult effort to make the switch.

Couple that with the belief (this was back in 1962) that golf was primarily for old farts, and a strong desire to spend time surfing, and I didn’t last long at all. I guess, then, it’s not entirely correct to say I took it up at 46, despite the intervening 31 years before I handled a golf club again. Regardless, I played in the company tournament and spent a little time on the driving range and practice green in preparation. I was hooked—big time!

My uncle offered to have a friend make me a set of custom clubs for a very reasonable price, which I did. I quickly discovered, however, golf can be a very expensive sport, especially when you spend all your spare time hitting balls or playing. I could not afford to keep up the pace I was going at. In order to continue, I wrote and published a newsletter for the course I spent all my time at, Simi Hills. None of the articles were based on anything but my own fertile imagination and conjecture, but the General Manager of the course loved it and asked me to do it on a monthly basis, with real information this time.

In exchange for my efforts, he began allowing me to hit as many balls as I wished on the range and I took full advantage of it, frequently hitting hundreds of balls as I perfected my game. Soon I was invited to play with the head pro and the GM and, of course, it was as good as getting hours and hours of free lessons. I got my handicap down to 12 within a fairly short while, no mean feat for a man who was then pushing 50.

As I increased both my physical capabilities and my understanding of the game, I was soon approaching a single-digit handicap. It was then my wife and I decided to adopt. I wasn’t actually too keen on the idea at first, as I had visions of retirement, travel, and lots of golf. However, the desire to be a parent overcame my (very strong) desire to continue playing golf and, once the process began rolling along, it became harder and harder to play or practice. By the time we returned home with our oldest, in 2002, I was 55 and it became very difficult to fulfill my duties as a husband and father and still have time to play golf.

So, why am I telling you all of this? I still watch golf quite a bit and, lately, I’ve been playing a very realistic virtual game (World Golf Tour) online. Also, I have given a lot of thought to the role golf plays and how it jibes with my world view. I am aware there are numerous arguments for golf being a wasteful, indulgent sport of the rich. I am aware golf courses take up a lot of property for the use of, perhaps, not very many people. My best, somewhat informed, guesstimate is that the average full-size course is used by around 350 golfers a day. That’s not very many compared to the numbers using a municipal park or a National or State park. It surely explains why golf is so expensive, as it is a heavily tended and manicured environment.

Many courses, some suggest as many as 40% in the 1990s, were built as a part of a real estate development, and I’m not even going to get into the place Country Clubs play in terms of the exclusivity and expensiveness of golf. A large percentage of golfers are very well off. I suppose, comparatively, I am one of them. Certainly, when I was still employed in an excellent, well-paying job, I had the money to play a couple of times a month and practice several days a week when I wished.

There are, however, significant attempts to bring golf to the less-than-affluent, Tiger Woods’s “The First Tee” likely being the most prominent. Frankly, I don’t believe golf need be an “exclusive” sport. Furthermore, I think it has values to teach, as The First Tee does, that are difficult to find in today’s hyper-competitive environment found in many other sports. Inasmuch as I started so late in life, golf hasn’t taught me so much as it has reinforced in me many values I find important and useful, e.g. integrity, self-assurance, patience, calm deliberation, respect for others, etc. I also found on the golf course a place where everything else in my life melted away for a few hours. I was able to put my job and my responsibilities out of my head for a while; no mean feat for one such as I.

Tiger thanks a Marine

Tiger Thanks a Marine For His Service

There’s one other thought I had – and this whole post (which is somewhat off the top of my head, though I’ve thought about it a lot) was begun with this thought in mind – that bothers/concerns me. The military has long had a close association with golf (see this USGA history) and I have no problem with this. It does, however, lend even more credence to the belief that golf is exclusive because, historically, it has been primarily the Officers who had the time and money to play. That may be changing, but my goal isn’t to analyze the development of golf inside the military. What I am interested in understanding is what it means that every golf tournament now seems to have members of the military ceremoniously tending at least one flag on the course – generally the 18th.

I find myself wondering if this doesn’t, in some small way, signify our becoming more and more a military culture and also, given our penchant for honoring our armed forces for serving, yet never questioning how and why we ask them to serve, if this isn’t a bit backwards. What does it say about us as a society that we don’t seem to question how our military is used, yet now (post-Vietnam) bend over backward to thank them for their service? How do we justify asking them to do what many believe is not in our best interests, yet feel a heartfelt “thank you for your service” is somehow enough to justify our cavalier attitude toward the forces behind their service and sacrifice?

This leads me to other questions, such as are we becoming a sort of Sparta by proxy? Are we a nation that uses its wealth to prosecute wars that are unnecessary and only serve the interests of the truly wealthy and powerful, simultaneously insulating the average citizen from the sacrifices and costs involved? Are we asking the members of our armed forces to kill, fight, and die for no other reason than to preserve our position as the world’s largest consumers of natural resources, then showering them with just enough pomp and circumstance to obfuscate the ugly and horrific reality?

This is where I find cognitive dissonance. As I watched the end of the Greenbrier Classic yesterday, there were two service members tending the pin on the 18th. I am pretty sure I’ve seen this at just about every tournament I’ve watched this year and it seems as though it’s been only recently this has happened regularly. I really love golf as a sport, though I do wonder where it fits in the overall cultural milieu I live in. I hate to see it used as a propaganda tool but, truth to tell, I’m not sure that is what’s happening. What do you think about this? Am I crazy; being too ideological; reading too much into a genuine expression of gratitude? The dissonance is killing me.


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