Autumn at The Masters

“Going into [the Masters], I really had amazing control of not only my tee shots but my iron shots. And the amount of time that I spent putting, getting a feel for it, and then coming in there on that Sunday afternoon and getting a nice quiet round set the tone for what I did the rest of the week.”

Tiger

“When I go back to Augusta National, just the beauty and the history and the aura around it, it’s just unlike anything that we have in our sport.”

Tiger

“if I’m within six of the lead – I’ve always felt this – if I’m within six of the lead starting the second nine on Sunday, I’ve got a shot at it.

Tiger

The Masters has a new date this year.

Playing seven months later than usual, it’ll still be the same electric Major tournament, especially come the back nine on Sunday afternoon.

I think it’s the first time the renowned Masters event has been postponed, of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. After a little fact-checking, there were no Masters tournament’s played during 1943-1945, because of WWII.

I could build this event up (as if I or anyone needs to), so, I’ll just cut to the chase.

I predict, like last year, Tiger Woods will be crowned the Green Jacket champion. That is, he will successfully defend his 2019 Masters win. Only this time, Tiger will correctly read that line from the Sunday-usual, front-left-pin position and will sink his winning birdie putt on the 72nd hole. 

His final score will be -14. 

With the 2020 Masters around the corner, Tiger will be on the hunt for win number 16 – Major, that is – thereby, eclipsing the all-time PGA Tour wins to 83. Step aside Mr. Snead. 

Interestingly, 84 is the number of times The Masters has been played in its tournament history. Perhaps, win #84 isn’t all that near-impossible for Tiger. I mean, the 2021 Masters tournament is only 5 months away.

Woods (while embracing LaCava on 18 green): “We did it! We did it!”

Tiger

“I had never, ever in all my years of going there and all my years of watching the Masters … heard chanting at Augusta National. I still get goose bumps talking about it. The chanting. The amount of support I had. So many people who wanted to see me do it.”

Tiger

“I had just an amazing amount of e-mails and texts that were flowing in, but I was more surprised the amount of videos of people watching the Masters and seeing their reaction when I hit the shot on 16 or when I made the putt, whether it was on airplanes or in airports or restaurants. I’m out there hitting the shot.”

Tiger

A Fun Summer of Fly Fishing

The author fly fishing the Bow River
Summer 2020

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”

A River Runs Through It

Fly fishing is a new sport I had gotten into this past summer. 

For me, it was just exhilarating being out on the water. Coupled with a new pair of waders, it meant that this time would be that much more enjoyable. 

Being outside in nature’s playground meant the world to me. With a rod and line in hand I was able to just let it go (no pun intended!) My only focus was on casting the fly at the end of the line out into the spacious water I was surrounded by. Then, doing it over and over again.

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

A River Runs Through It

“The cast is so soft and slow that it can be followed like an ash settling from a fireplace chimney. One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful, even if it is only a floating ash.”

A River Runs Through It

Feeling the wind on my face, the force of the under-current, and the release of a loaded line all made each outing worthwhile. The crowning moment would come when I got to see the sunset. Each time, the multi-coloured sky would take my breath away. Equally important, was the glistening of the sun’s reflection dancing on the water’s surface. It was all I could do to stand motionless with the river rushing past me. Other than the previous night’s spectacular display of evening colours, it was the best motion picture I had ever seen! 

“There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of mind.”

Washington Irving

As I reflect on this past summer’s hobby I realize I had learned some important lessons. One was the mechanics of actually being able to cast the fly into the water. And before that was possible, being able to tie some basic knots of the lines and a variety of flies.

I also learned the value of detaching myself from the world and being able to release it all into the open waters, each time I stepped in off the shore. 

I further learned to just be still (hard thing for me to do!) And, to focus on the feeling of the two-to-ten O’clock casting motion and the freeing release that came from each fluid cast. 

I also learned to remove most of the expectations I brought to the stream in hopes of trying to land a fish. The fish weren’t the point. I already knew this going in to the season; yet, I would forgot it many times. So, slowly I had to re-learn this basic aspect of fishing – or of any hobby or sport. 

Most of all, I learned to have fun again by getting in touch with my younger, playful self and allowing him to go there more often. That is, to engage and immerse myself fully in the water as it has always been the primary context of having fun during my childhood. 

I know it’ll soon be time to take out my skis and skates, but already, I am looking forward to going fishin’ next summer. 

Movement

The rushing river at Elbow Falls in Kananaskis, AB

Me thinks that the minute my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow, as if I had given vent to the stream at the lower end and consequently new fountains flowed into it at the upper.

Henry David Thoreau

Us as human beings are created for movement.

We are made to move; to be “on the go.”

Before the pandemic, I had discovered a helpful way to keep myself in good shape, from an internal state: to be actively moving. Since this all-embracing outbreak it has proved to be quite worthwhile. What I am talking about is for me to keep moving forward with the things on my to-do list, my passions and interests, chores that need doing, and errands to run. In other words, to keep moving forward with my life. Not to be busy, per se, just for the sake of being busy; but rather, to keep myself moving and engaged with what’s in front of me in order to keep the natural biology flowing within me.

This is very helpful for me because as I am moving (doing whatever it is I am doing), the movement helps clear my head and shake off any old, rusty, and log-jammed tree-like neurons that are stuck in my brain. Like a walk outside in nature is this effect on my wholeness.

And I crave it – this feeling of de-fogging my own mind. I imagine how this process may look from a 3-D angle: a feel-good hormone is shot through my system, giving way to a clearer ability to think, make decisions with, and attend to solving problems attentively in one sweep. 

In this day and age of mental health concern, movement of any physical kind is primarily advantageous to ourselves. It is how we were created and designed to live: as moving human beings. 

The body is created for movement; and so, we must move. 

Scoreless – con’t

Tower Ranch Golf Club
Kelowna, BC

“Golf is assuredly a mystifying game. It would seem that if a person has hit a golf ball correctly a thousand times, he should be able to duplicate the performance at will. But such is certainly not the case.”

Bobby Jones

These points go to show that only in golf is our character most tested and rounded-out. Like a smooth stone found in glacial waters, having been tossed to and fro in the mighty, rushing waters during spring runoff. After all, whenever any one of us plays this game, the results, both the highs and the lows, are on us – and only us – as we are the ones that hit each shot. No one else hit those shots that we did; therefore, there is no one to blame or cause fault to, except ourselves. Now, if that is not humbling enough, I don’t know what is. This is why I play this great game, always searching for that next whack on the sweet spot and to better understand myself more. Above all, this is why I don’t keep score.

After all, at the end of the day, or a round, golf is just that: it’s just a game. It may be for the best that each of us accepts this, no matter our role in the game: whether a fan, weekend golfer, club member, golf instructor, or PGA Tour professional. This approach would do us all a world of good, not to mention our inner-self, if we would simply remind ourselves of this overall perspective. I know I have to remind myself of this, routinely. I have heard professional golfers, both PGA and LPGA stars, speak candidly about this during post-round interviews. I mean, they’re the pro’s, right?!

I am reminded of this hallowing quote:

How can a game have such an effect on a man’s soul?

The (continual) reminder that the game of golf is just a game can go a long way in loosening its effects on our soul’s.  

Scoreless – con’t

A wild evening walk.

“Every shot counts.  The three-foot putt is as important as the 300-yard drive.”

Henry Cotton

One other facet of this game is it exposes something in our own nature that each of us are most prone towards: that is, taking shortcuts. This inbred quality is inside each of us that has its eyes set on the vain hope of attempting to take the easy way out. Of pretty much anything. Cutting corners or just plain laziness are other ways of putting it. Like not having to teach a child how to lie, if there is an easy way out of something we are experiencing, then we’ll jump at the chance. Who wouldn’t? It’s fundamental – for all of us.

Golf, on the other hand, teaches us not only are shortcuts not permitted, but they simply do not and can not work. Have you ever tried taking a half backswing on the tee box? You would probably notice your drive won’t go as far had you taken a full backswing. Even Tony Finau takes it a little bit past the half-way mark. In the same way you can’t cheat yourself in golf you can’t cheat your way through life. You either discover this or it discovers you.  

Another aspect in playing this game is it straightens-out our own misaligned thinking patterns. We all have these flaws in our headspace and nothing has the power to bring these to the surface more than playing a round of golf. Preferably 18 holes but even a quick nine will suffice. 

In other words, the quickest way to get an immediate assessment of where your thoughts are at and how mentally-tough you think are at any given moment is to put a metal-shafted club in your hands and go for a long, winding walk outside one of Mother Nature’s most innocent and finest-looking playgrounds. Trust me, you’ll see, and the results will be staggering, if not alarming for you. In fact, I think all counsellors and psychologists should prescribe their initial intake patient exam of playing a round of golf. Just the two of them. For eighteen holes. That way, the mind doctor would find out everything they need to know going forward – for the patient and themselves.

The Masters: A New Decade

Untamed Wildness
Photo taken by the author

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, esteemed members of our sport’s greatest game – that’s all of you! – aspiring golfers of all ages and ability, as well as the global, golfing community, it is with great excitement I announce to each of you personally that this year’s Masters is right around the corner – despite being postponed until later this fall. 

This defining tournament comes at a time in our history, in your history, may I remind you, marked by the very first Masters tournament to be played this decade, in the 2020’s. The roaring 20’s are back! Of course they are, a century later, and with that the most prestigious golfing event on the planet as we head into our moments roaring twenties. The landmark scene this grand stage is set upon is our 21st century. 

Like the preceding 1920’s terrific, towering rise, our world and our game – this game of golf – will continue its upward climb. It simply has to and I, for one, believe it will. They say history repeats itself; and for once, this will be in our favour and worthy of a repeat. I believe a tranquil nobility of strength, dignity, and honour will come to enclose this era and tournament, as historians of the game and the world over will come to realize, in hindsight.

I have heard it said that this year and decade brings with it “2020 vision” and I can think of no greater clarity than having this stage set upon golf’s greatest of all stages, at none other than the hallowed grounds at Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia. 

Each year as this tournament approaches I have noticed two things. First, the golf courses that are played on prior to this event (with exception to this year’s pandemic) all seem to start looking like Augusta’s. For instance, the pristinely-cut fairways, giant white sand bunkers, and pine straw looks around the edges of the fairways and greens all give that Masters-appearance. Second, the leaderboards in the events leading up are usually filled with the same names that top the Masters leaderboard, year in and year out, such as Jason Day, Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Zach Johnson, Phil, Rory, DJ and, of course, Tiger. 

Last year before the tournament started I predicted Tiger would win. This year, I predict again that Tiger will not only win and defend his Master’s title, but with his win it will catapult and propel him into a whole new realm of the history record books. By winning here at Augusta, Tiger would break the all-time record of most tournament wins in a career, established by Sam Snead, at 82 professional victories, set in 1965 at The Greater Greensboro Open (in other words, a long time ago.) 

Currently, both Tiger and Sam are tied at 82 wins. Number 83 will happen for Tiger, and probably a few more after that, because, well, he’s Tiger. I’m just saying and hoping it’ll be at this year’s Masters. Can you imagine: what a way it would be to launch this 20’s decade off in major-style in 2020 Anno Domini! But of course, I’m just sayin’.

I also believe that this decade will prove to be a very interesting and upwardly exciting one, in a way that can only be experienced by those of us living through it and those looking back on this historical time period. Sure, it will have its challenges and setbacks, as they all do; but, the enormity in scale will out-do any declines, no matter how they come. 

Now, like most golf fans out there, I’m just waiting for this year’s Masters to resume play. 

Scoreless – con’t

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A Stillness Like No Other

Winter in K-Country
Photo taken by the author on an iPhone XR

 

“I regard golf as an expensive way of playing marbles.”

– G.K. Chesterton

 

From a cerebral perspective, the central point of the game is to get your golf ball in to the hole, using the least amount of shots, and to do this over eighteen holes in a given round. Then, you add up each of your holes, and voila, that’s the number of times, or strokes, it took you to play a round of golf. Robin Williams performed a hilarious improv about the game of golf, where he hones in on the whole insanity this sport often brings to those of us mortals who play it. Feel free to check it out on YouTube sometime.

So, is that it? I mean, it sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right? After all, how hard can this game be? It sure looks pretty easy when I watch it on TV. And, honestly speaking, it feels quite dull and boring when I’ve followed the Pro’s around at tournaments, too. I mean, they drive it out there, far and long, always landing on the pristine green carpet; then, hit their iron shot on to the green; and then, usually get it down in two or less putts. I find myself looking at my iPhone more often than I do actually watching them. At least with my phone, I can respond to texts or restart the darned thing when it doesn’t work.

Of course this game is not easy! It’s not even remotely close to being easy. It’s about as easy as walking from the Milky Way galaxy to the Hubble Deep Field. None of us makes it this far in life without knowing that nothing in life, or in golf, is easy or comes easily – nothing.

For me, the whole point of this wonderful, heart-wrenching game is to grow us as a person. Simply put, golf matures us, whether we intend for it or not. This game grows each and every one of us, whoever so wisely or un-wisely decidedly picks up a club as an instrument of this game and attempts to understand and accept the full range of one’s own limitations and full-on constraints.

Come to think of it, I know of nothing else in life that grows or matures us, more than the game of golf. People don’t. Situations don’t. Relationships don’t. Spouses don’t. Not even our own selves are capable of this growing effect. Golf is a game that one cannot or will not ever be able to fully and completely master, for its results of mastery are completely unattainable. However much of a perfectionist, or recovering perfectionist you may be, perfection in this game is elusive. It’s always fleeting and just when you think it’s within your grasp, for a shot or even a hole or two, it seems to go as quickly as it comes, vanishing into the thin air all around us.

Scoreless – con’t

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Shaw Charity Classic, 2019
Hole 14, Par-3
Canyon Meadows G&CC

 

“I don’t let birdies and pars get in the way of having a good time.”

– Angelo Spagnolo

 

One thing I have learned is that golf is a game – and that’s all it is. It seems to take most of us a very long time to understand this reality. The bottom line is: golf is just a game and it is only a game. Pure and simple. Nothing more and nothing less. Period. 

I know that sometimes (okay, often times) I can forget this important part of the game and this reality-check can feel elusive, like wet sand slipping through my hands as I reach down across the ocean floor and try to scoop some of it up. To me, the scorecard is a distraction. It is just a metric that uses numbers to quantify and objectify what we shoot on any given hole or round. Then we use these very same numbers to analyze and measure our golfing potential. Even the bravest among us enter their scores into a USGA public domain database from which the software rolls out one’s handicap, which for non-golfers, is a numerical value that tells us what we should be shooting on average from any course we tee it up at.

Of course, even that computerized system is set up to make us feel like failures by the index number being an unfair numerical value. It actually tells us what we should shoot – if we shoot the lights out. So, it’s very realistic as you can see. By the very nature of this mega-large database being public means anyone can see the scores we’ve posted, from anywhere. Once in the system, or not, we compare our rounds with our playing partners and others we know, based on that smallish-looking, pencilled in, confined value we give ourselves (not always honestly, I might add) after each hole played, culminating in a total, or final round, score. 

And that’s the problem: the comparison that our “score” so often brings us and each other. This proverbial measuring stick feels like we’re constantly under the microscope with ourselves and the golfing world. So I say, take the pressure-cooker off and let the air escape. Let it all evaporate, like the helium coming out of your mouth after you’ve breathed it in from a party balloon. Simply put, don’t keep score or the score will keep you. Doing so, I think you’ll find the game much more fun, relaxing, and enjoyable; all of which are probably the very reasons you, or any one of us, probably picked up the game in the first place. So go scoreless, not for the sake of the score but your own sanity – and those around you. You might even gain some friends around the track. 

Scoreless

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Teeing Off
Mickelson National Golf Course

 

“Forget your opponents; always play against par.”
– Sam Sneed

 

I don’t keep score when I play golf. 

I mean, I used to keep score but I don’t anymore. This has been my practice for the past few seasons now. I have learned not to keep score over time when I am out playing a round. I have found that things go better, much better, for me when I’m not concerned with the score. I have even been re-introduced to such things as fun, enjoyment, and laughter – which I didn’t know existed when I was too busy counting strokes.

The reason for this is simple: I am simply too competitive and way too hard on myself (with too many self-inflicted, and often unrealistic, expectations) to record, even if only in pencil, what I score after each hole. Thank goodness, at least, the score I do record can be erased, but that never happens as once a hole is done it is permanently etched in my mind and on the scorecard to be added up after the round. 

Sometimes, what I shoot on a given hole makes it easy for me to move on to the next hole, or the next shot (such as when making a par or a birdie); other times, it is much more difficult for me to move on and simply let it go. One of the best remedies I have found is to add up my strokes on a hole mentally, and then to let it go and move on to the next hole. That way, if it was a good hole I feel good and if it wasn’t then I can just put it behind me. In a way, I am playing match-play with myself. In other words, it doesn’t matter what I score on any hole because I get to start again on the next one. This has become really freeing for me, as of late.

Another reason I choose not to keep score is because I don’t enjoy the way I react and respond when things on the golf course do not go the way I had hoped for or anticipated. If I am honest, I seem to be predisposed to taking this game way too seriously when I am trying to score well, or hit a good shot. This approach often leads me to being stuck in my own head and unable to get out of it. And if I am not careful, getting too stuck inside my head can lead to actions I am not proud of. 

I am learning to not take this game so seriously and part of this process is consciously choosing not to keep score. Therefore, since my reactions can get a bit off, I don’t like the effects they can have on the people I am playing with. I know I don’t like it when my playing partners aren’t respectful of the golf course, their equipment, or their mouth when they don’t get the results they were hoping for, so I try to keep this in mind when I am playing my way around a golf course.

The Greatest Roar of Tiger

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Shaw Charity Classic, Champions Tour
Pro-Am – Sept 2019

Photo taken by the author

“To now be the champion. Unreal for me to experience this. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m at a loss for words.”
– Tiger Woods

 

Sunday, April 14th, 2019 

 

It’s official: Tiger Woods has won the 85th Masters. His mighty roar after his final putt dropped on the 72nd hole was a declaration to the golfing world that he is back. Finally! Welcome back Tiger, we’ve missed you.

It has taken Tiger 14 years to accomplish this feat and to break through major number fourteen, to now number 15. Tiger’s run at this year’s Masters was both electric and elegant, all at the same time. 

“I’m just enjoying 15.”
– TW

Tiger is now only three majors off to tie, and then break, Jack’s record of 18 majors. As well, this year’s Masters was his first major win since his 2008 US Open win, in which he endured through an 18 hole playoff (a fifth round) with Rooco Mediate to claim the American Open title. That’s an eleven year drought in which no major was won for Tiger, which I believe is his longest stretch to date. 

Before the Masters tournament began I predicted on Social Media that Tiger would win at -14. He nearly clinched his par putt on hole number 72 and went on to tap in for bogey, to come into the clubhouse at -13. As Tiger himself said afterwards in the Media Centre, “The new green; that…thing should have broke. I hit a pure putt. I remember that putt breaking and it just didn’t break.”

But, who cares?

I certainly didn’t want the win for myself or for bragging rights. I just wanted TW to win and I believe we all felt that way for him. And he did win, and for that I am enthusiastic for him. Welcome back Tiger and all the best as you win your next 3 majors and then, of course, go on to break Mr. Nicklaus’ record for number 19, 20, or more. Well done!!

“When I tapped the putt in I don’t know what I did…I know I screamed. To have my kids there, it has come full circle. My dad was here in ’97; now I am a dad.”
– Tiger Woods

It was emotional seeing him hug his mom and children after his victory, which this moment could only bring back that memory from his first Masters win in 1997 with hugging his dad after he had won by a landslide margin. Now, 22 years later and as he said after the round in Butler’s Cabin, “It has come full circle,” in the sense of giving his own father a hug after he won in ’97 to now being a father himself and hugging his son.

I believe Tiger wanted to win this year’s Masters more than any other, only for a different reason this time: he wanted to win for his children and not himself. His kids were not there during his meteoric rise in the golfing world and all the memorable shots he made to collecting all of the hardware he has. Tiger had come so close to clinching the Claret Jug at the previous year’s British Open, but he just couldn’t get the job done, with having his children there to watch him. Sure, his kids could watch YouTube highlights of their dad absolutely crushing his opponents, and him dominating the various courses he had from the very back tees. They could even have their very own exclusive commentary from their dad, Tiger himself, but they have never seen him do this with their own eyes, or live in action. Now they have. That must have been an incredible experience for them to have witnessed and to have this picture of their dad winning The Masters for the rest of their lives.

“When I was there with my Dad, he shouldn’t have been there that year. He was recovering from a heart attack, from heart surgery. Now I’m there with Charlie. That embrace, it’s just special.”
– Tiger

When this week is over and all is said and done, Tiger’s son and daughter will forever have this major experience etched in their memory, and to draw from, forever. This is why this Masters is so special and unlike any other Major or Masters win. It is the passing of the torch to the next generation; namely, Tiger to both of his children.