Four true stories per my friend Bobby

This weekend, I was reminded of an old friend Bobby. I was a client and friend of Bobby and his team. Four poignant stories come to mind about him or his team. I should mention Bobby was a good golfer. I once witnessed him make five birdies in a row en route to a seven under par 65. But, that is not one of the stories.

Bobby told me of the time he was playing in his club championship. Telling the story, he was down two holes heading into the 16th hole. He birdied the 16th and 17th holes to tie and then stood on the 18th tee. He then proceeded ls to top his shot into the lake. One friend shouts and accepts money from another saying “I knew he was going to do that.” Yet, the story becomes funnier when he over heard his caddy relate the story about how  “we birdied the 16th and 17th to tie, then ‘he’ hits it into the lake.”

On a more serious note, a tragedy ended well for his friend and colleague. Bobby received a call at night that his colleague’s 54 seat plane had crashed and there were only four survivors. Bobby got the call as the ticket was purchased by his firm. He called all of the hospitals and learned his friend was one of the four. He called his friend’s wife to let her know there had been a crash, but her husband had survived, was hurt but OK.

The friend said he survived because he was calm and followed instruction while others went beserk. Although not an overly religious man, he made his peace. He said the crash was more violent than he could possibly describe and afterward he smelled jet fuel and crawled toward the cold January breeze. He said he felt like he crawled 100 feet, when it turned out to be only twenty.

Then, there is the story about another colleague who was driving along I-85, when a car veered across the median and hit him head on. This was before the wired fence-like structures were erected in the median to prevent such occurrences. They both walked away from the accident as both cars had driver side air bags. Bobby’s colleague suffered only broken knee caps.

Finally, on a more humorous note, another  colleague was working in their office in Greensboro. A friend called him and asked him what he was doing that day. He said he was working and his friend said he needed to play golf. To his “no” response, his friend said you need to play because you are the only member of this club and I have someone who wants to play with you. It turned out to be Michael Jordan. Jordan, eventually played 54 holes of golf, but Bobby’s friend begged off after a very tiring 36 holes.

Thanks for indulging my memories. I actually have a few more Bobby stories, but this will give you a good taste. These remembrances made me smile.

 

Hillary should have heeded Arnold Palmer’s Example

Today, unless thirty-seven electoral college members decide not to vote for the President-elect, Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. We will likely never know officially the extent of the influence of the Russian hacking on the election results, but it had to have some impact at least in my opinion. But, to me there was a key failure by the Democrat candidate that should be noted – Hillary Clinton wanted to win big and took her precious time away from where it was needed most and tried to run up the score.

Arnold Palmer, who passed away this year, could have told her not to follow his example back in 1966, when he was well-positioned to win his second US Open and eighth major golf championship. Palmer is remembered as one of the greatest golfers in history, but also for his go-for-broke style. Because of this style, while he won often, he also fell short when playing it smart would have been the better course of action.

In 1966, at the Olympic golf course in San Francisco, Palmer came to the back nine of the final day of the US Open with a seven shot lead. That number is correct. Standing on the tee, he decided to go for a record victory and continued to go-for-broke. Now, if you do not follow golf, note that rough off the fairway is grown higher than normal for the US Open, so it is very unforgiving if your ball misses the shorter fairway grass. I have actually played this course and can attest it is not an easy one to play, but even more difficult from the rough.

So, Palmer’s swashbuckling style caused him to bleed strokes off his lead at the same time one of the most underrated players ever, Billy Casper started making a few birdies. By the end of the nine holes, Palmer had lost all of his lead and ended the day tied with Casper. The next day Casper was able to be beat Palmer in a playoff denying the latter another crowning achievement.

Why do I bring this up? Clinton decided she had a slim chance to win Arizona and decided to spend more time there than she should have. Where she should have spent her time was in states she should have won, but lost – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. She did not visit Wisconsin at all after the convention, while many snickered at Trump going there. Flying to Arizona is a long flight, so she lost at least a day each time she went, a day that could have been invested in states nearer to each other.

Truth be told, she had a good story to tell for helping the middle class get jobs, a well thought at plan which included investing in our infrastructure and renewable energy industries which are growing at a fast pace. But, she was not there to tell it. So, she gave the mike to Trump, who knows what to do in front of people wanting to be told what they want to hear.

People talk about what a flawed candidate she was and is, but she still won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. She just did not have enough of those votes in states where it mattered to the electoral college. I feel that she could have run a better campaign from the get go. I realize it is easy to say that now, but many said that before the election was long over. The drip-drip-drip of the constant email leaks did not help her at all, as it distracted us from issues and her opponents spotty business record and poor treatment of others along the way. Yet, half of success is showing up and she missed a few places to tell her story.

I am also quite perturbed by those who on November 9th saw that not voting at all and voting for a third-party candidate did a disservice to her efforts to give us some rational governance. Jill Stein’s voters wanted clean energy, so by voting for her instead of a candidate who could have moved us further down the path, we will have a new President whose cabinet is filled with fossil fuel protagonists. As I have said before, if you did not vote or voted for someone else, your voice is less compelling to complain about Trump winning.

So, unless something significant happens in the next 24 hours, we will have a President who will scare the hell out of most of the citizens on our planet and in our country. I hope he does some good, because I anticipate many things that will lead us down the wrong paths. Arnie could have told you Hillary – you should have played it smart.

 

The most important distance

A famous golfer once said the most important distance in golf is the six inches between your ears. I was reminded of this yesterday, as I watched defending Masters champion Jordan Spieth play so beautifully to take a five shot lead going into the final nine holes of The Masters only to get in his own way for three holes – numbers 10 – 12. This is to take nothing away from the winner Danny Willett who played brilliantly and was his own story deciding to play after his first child (a son) was born early and not on the due date which was the day Willett won the tournament.

Spieth made a few bad swings to start the back nine bogey and bogey and then walked to the 12th tee box, a tantalizing short par three hole over water with the water angled back to consume right fading shots. With the frustration from two consecutive bogeys lingering in his head, he proceeded to hit the one golf shot he shouldn’t, fading it too much into the water. That was the first mistake, but was compounded when he dropped closer to the hole rather than in a designated drop area, which was his choice.

From there, he did what many of us less talented golfers do and hit it short into the water again. The next shot wound up in a sand trap and eventually he putted out for a quadruple bogey seven. To his credit, he birdied two of the next three holes, and almost another, which would have made it more interesting had it fallen in the hole. But, when it missed, what little momentum he had regained had ebbed. Willett made five birdies and no bogeys (or worse) on this fine day of golf to win.

The space between our ears is where things are accomplished or not. We all make mistakes and get knocked down. How we react is what matters. In most cases, Spieth has and will again react well. A more famous and equally talented golfer has had this issue haunt him more than others – Greg Norman. On this same course, Norman let a six shot lead slip away and lose to Nick Faldo, one of the announcers in the booth yesterday.  He also has lost in several playoffs, with others making wonderful shots to beat him or his letting his inner voice get the better of him. To Norman’s credit, he has won two British Open titles and numerous other tournaments, but he could have won more major titles except for this albatross.

It should be noted Nick Faldo had this albatross early in his career, but overcame it. The British press can be cruel and called him Nick “Fold-o” as he collapsed under pressure in key tournaments. He later learned how to perform his swing better under pressure and won six major tournaments, evenly divided between three Masters and British Open titles. Like Norman did in other tournaments, Faldo found a way to win when the mistakes were magnified in big tournaments.

I once read an autobiography by the famous Dodger pitcher Orel Hershisher, who was renowned for pitching under pressure. When asked, he said he deals with perfection of the moment. He starts out wanting to throw a no-hitter, and when they get a hit, he tries to throw a one-hitter. He would shake off mistakes better than anyone and concentrate on the next batter. This sounds easier to do than it is. I can attest I found it hard to do this growing up as an athlete. I did find the more I had practiced, the calmer and more confident I felt. So, I was able to handle stress better in those occasions.

But, the real key is how do you respond when you mess up, be it golf, sports or life? Like life, golf is managing your mistakes. Even for the best of pros. Spieth will win more major championships, because he is talented and tenacious. He will also learn from his “thirty minutes of bad shots” as he called it. We must do the same in life. We must be accountable for our mistakes as Spieth did after the round. Because they will happen to all of us, even one of the best golfers in the world.

You have a “towards problem”

Sports competition often provides us with comic relief. The more down time between shots or plays gives more time for one liners and jokes. Golf is ideal for comedy for this reason, especially when you fail more in golf than you succeed which offers fodder.

While golfing with an elderly couple with whom we were paired, my wife was apprised by the gentleman late in the round that he had diagnosed her swing  problem. On the 17th fairway, he quietly said she had a “towards problem.” A “towards problem” she exclaimed. “What is that?” He said, “Your are hitting the ball towards the wrong direction.”

On another occasion, yet another elderly couple played with us. I think we attract them when we play, but now we are the elderly couple. Again, the man said to my wife on the infamous 17th hole he also had diagnosed her problem. As she was all ears, he said, “You are standing too close to the ball after you hit it.”

I used to golf with my boss, who had many one liners, some courtesy of TV evangelist Reverend Ernest Angley. If he hit into the woods, he would say, “Out Satan” or “Be healed” using his best Ernest drawl. If a tree knocked it back into the fairway, he would say “I played it off the tree.” Or, if he hit a ball into the water and it splashed out, he would say, “This game is easier when you know where all the rocks are.”

One of my favorite golfing buddies loved to offer his sayings. When he had a nice swing pattern going, he would say, “That swing was smoother than a prom queen’s thigh.” Another friend when he pulled the ball left, would call it a “Babe Ruth.” When we asked what a Babe Ruth was, he said “Yeh. A dead yank.” Another popular golf saying I think is traced to Lee Trevino, the very funny pro. He routinely hit a nice fade shot, not unlike Ben Hogan. Lee would say, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.”

Some of the sayings are not very flattering, so I will leave those behind. It should not be a surprise when a guy says something that could be offensive. Much teasing can go on when your fellow foursome member tops it, hits it into the woods, does not hit past the ladies’ tee box, hits it out-of-bounds or misses an easy putt. It should be noted, my golf swing created many a comment like this.

But, the funniest line I ever heard on a golf course was by a sassy beverage cart woman. She did not take guff from anyone. One day, she had a stone hanging from a necklace. When our group inquired about it, she said “It is a sex stone.”   We asked what it did to deserve such a name. After sufficient baiting and time, she said “You don’t get it. It is just a f**king rock.”

On that note, I will say sayonara. May you find your golf balls in bounds and on the green ground. Please share some of your favorites, whether they are golf or another sport.