Whiffle: verb – to blow lightly in puffs or gusts; noun – something light or insignificant.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cool Masters Stuff

Golf Digest has posted a couple of very cool interactive features in recent weeks showcasing Augusta National Golf Club.
     The first was this one, which visually chronicles all the significant changes made to each hole since the course was first built in 1934. Look at the difference, for instance, in the par-5 15th between 1934, 1970, and 2011 (click each graphic to enlarge):
     The other is this hole-by-hole virtual tour, which includes a stunning animated "fly-over" for each hole. Just like the stuff they show you on TV, it lets you visualize each hole in a much more sensory way than a two-dimensional map allows. The opening graphic alone (shown below; click to enlarge) in and of itself provides a better overall picture of the course than I've ever seen before.

Are Jack and Arnie ready to hit their ceremonial opening tee shots yet? I can't wait!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I love this story. Obviously, the biggest concern is the health of the new baby involved, but you almost can't help but wonder if the golf gods arranged this whole thing. If you were trying to promote the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Children, you couldn't have written a much better script, a P.R. professional's dream ...
     On Tuesday, March 22, Annika Sorenstam – one of the greatest women golfers of all time – went into premature labor – 13 weeks premature! Due to a condition called placenta abruption, there wasn't much they could do to delay the birth. Fortunately, Annika lives in the Orlando, Florida area, home to the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Children, reknowned for the high-quality it provides to women in Annika's situation. Ron Sirak, who is close to Sorenstam and her family, writes eloquently about the experience. Here's an excerpt:
But the next chapter in parenthood is off to a much more challenging start, one that will be filled with uncertainty for months to come. In the early morning hours of March 21, Annika awoke Mike [McGee, her husband] and told him she was bleeding. After consulting by telephone with a friend, Dr. Matthew Siebel, they knew they needed to leave their Lake Nona home in Orlando and get to the hospital immediately.  

"I drove fast and it was like a blur," Mike told GolfDigest.com. "We weren't sure what had happened and were scared that we may have lost our son. They were ready for us at Winnie Palmer Hospital and immediately did an ultrasound. When we heard his heartbeat we were immediately brought to tears of joy."
     The good news is that Sorenstam and her new little boy, Will, are both doing well, though Will still has many challenging months ahead of him. In fact, his parents named him "Will" because "he's going to need to will himself through this process," Sorenstam said.
     And here's the twist ... March 21 happened to be the Monday prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament ... in the Orlando, Florida area ... which supports, as its primary charity, the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Children ... which just happens to be named for Arnold's late wife. On Sunday, during the last round of the tournament, Annika was able to join the telecast on NBC and talk about the wonderful care she and Will received (and that Will is still receiving) at the Winnie Palmer Hospital.
     Congratulations to Annika and her growing family. Our prayers and best wishes will be with them all as young Will grows bigger and stronger by the day.

You can read updates about Will's progress at Annika's blog, www.annikablog.com.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Seven Years of College ...

... down the drain!
     If only I'd known about places like this when I was 17. Back in those days, I was pretty much clueless about what to do with my life. I ended up enrolling in the local junior college just because I really had no idea what else to do. Golf was my big passion back then, but I wasn't really anywhere near good enough to pursue the only dream I ever had: to become the youngest Masters champion in history. So instead I just kind of floated along the next seven (or was it eight?) years at Parkland Community College and, eventually, the University of Illinois (where I once saw Steve Stricker in the Illini Union).
    Now, I can't say I have any complaints about how things have turned out. I've been very blessed in my life. But if somebody had told me that places like the College of Golf at Keiser University (to cite just one example) even existed, I would have crawled to Florida if necessary to enroll. But I was just too dim back then to realize that there are career paths in golf besides "PGA Touring Professional."
     I mean, just look at the curriculum: classes in "History of Golf: Traditions and Culture"; "Golf Swing Fundamentals"; "Club Fitting and Repair"; "Golf Course Design" (!!!); and "Food and Beverage Services" (I think that means how to drive the beer cart), just for starters.
     The only drawback would appear to be that, as part of your education, in addition to the rigorous classwork and studying, they also expect you to ... play golf! And lots of it. Can you imagine? Students are apparently forced to make liberal use of the area's top-notch courses (with green fees included in the tuition) and world-class practice facility (pictured below), with instruction available from a resident staff of PGA Professionals (also included). Sounds awful, I know.

     I'd write more, but I suddenly can't stop crying for some reason. I just wonder if they have special scholarship programs for middle-aged mid-handicappers trying to learn to play left-handed. (Doesn't that make me a minority?) If they don't, it's probably just because they never thought of it before. A trip to Florida to enlighten them is probably in order.
     Honey, don't wait up! I'll be back in less than 72 (credit) hours.
     Oh ... and will you call the office for me?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tiger and Sir Charles

It has occurred to me recently that two very different golfers are working on swing changes at the same time I am: Tiger Woods and Charles Barkley.
     Tiger's quest is well-documented. He is working on the third major swing change (and thus the fourth different swing) of his career, with new teacher Sean Foley. His struggles are obvious, as he continues to confound the experts with his wild swings between brilliant and ordinary (and occasionally downright ugly) golf. It's been interesting to listen as commentators talk about how he is still occasionally reverting to his old swing habits, especially under pressure. His struggles reinforce how difficult it is to "unlearn" deeply ingrained habits. This is especially amazing when you consider how many hours and resources Tiger has no doubt poured into trying to groove his new swing. He remains very much a work in progress. (A new interview with Sean Foley is here.)
     Charles Barkley's struggles are also well known; even Hank Haney couldn't permanently fix the amazing and amusing massive hitch in his golf swing. So rather than continue to try to fight it, Sir Charles is reportedly (according to numerous sources, including Haney himself) learning to play left-handed. Yes, that's right. Just like The Whiffler.
     His new backhanded swing, however, is apparently not yet ready for prime time, so he continues to play his public rounds right-handed. Meanwhile, he reports that playing lefty has helped him enjoy the game again in a way he hasn't been able to since the full-swing yips first set in.
     Will he be successful making the switch? Based on my own experience so far, my guess is "yes" – so long as he's willing to put in the work. Based on the video evidence below, he still has a ways to go.