Fighting Black Friday

Tinidazole online Nothing like an unintentionally sexist comment to spur a blog post. It’s Black Friday. I decided to opt outside. The golf course is very much the great outdoors, in my opinion. As usual when I’m sitting around thinking about “things I’d rather be doing,” I walk on as a single at my local course…unafraid, undeterred by the likely possibility of getting paired alongside three grown men with preconceived notions of what it’s like to have a lady in their group. “Oh wow…how did you manage to break away and be out here?” This is one guy’s idea of greeting me on the first tee. “Well, I actually get to make my own decisions so here I am!” He chuckled nervously and tried to rephrase the question but there was no way of retracting what was clearly assumed: that I should have family duties or shopping commitments…unlike all the other men on the course. Sadly, I’m accustomed to this type of reception whenever I choose to tee it up without my golf buddies. Even more disappointing is the fact that women, if they double dare to go out there on their own, must tolerate the male-centric culture that accepts all the things that most women generally find gross or offensive. How does that help the game?

Lately there’s been a litany of allegations in the news about sexual harassment and general misconduct by men. I feel bad for the good guys. Women are coming out of the woodwork to declare themselves past or present victims. It’s not new news if you ask me. The spotlight is just finally casting a faint light upon a very pervasive shadow and the burden of proof, unfortunately, is shouldered by the victims…most of whom feel too small and incapable of impacting change. Voices may only be amplified in numbers and if mine is the only one bellowing from the not-so-fairway, so be it. I can only hope others will eventually speak up because I’m certain that my experiences aren’t unique.

Sexism in golf is ubiquitous. Who hasn’t heard the phrase “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden?” Why are the forward tees frequently called “ladies tees” and when is that designation going to die? Perhaps when the USGA finally decides to rate all the tee boxes for men and women? How many penile euphemisms can you name? How is it OK for guys to blatantly dismiss the restrooms and piss anywhere they want??

Today’s comment didn’t necessarily upset me but it somehow triggered memories of offensive incidents that I’ve quietly endured over the years. From unsolicited swing tips to inappropriate ass taps and everything in between…if I allowed these encounters to keep me from getting back out there, I wouldn’t be fighting the fight.

I wouldn’t consider myself a victim today because I’m choosing to continuously stand up against the preconceived notions of women in golf. We’re not all the same. I take great pride in picking up this game on my own accord and figuring out how to enjoy it casually and competitively. I strive to be mindful of my conduct and keep my emotions in check. In my tumultuous twenties, it was difficult to keep a level head. As I’ve grown to realize that I can be the change I want to see in this game, I’ve taken on another level of responsibility that precedes me as an individual. Every time I get to tee it up with people I’ve never met, I consider it an opportunity to change their perception for the better. Kindness and respect are the key ingredients. At the end of our round today, I noticed a difference in my playing partners’ handshakes. It felt more sincere. There was a genuine nod of recognition as we smiled and exchanged salutations. The final comment mattered more to me than the first: “It was a real pleasure to play with you!”

Journey to THE Homeland

Last year, a good dude friend of mine reached out to me to “dangle a carrot.” His 50th was coming up yada-yada. He’s got a group of guys committed to celebrating the half century milestone in the birthplace of golf yada-yada. Seven of them to be exact. “And…ugh…we were wondering if you’d be our eighth.” I paused for a good two seconds. “Have you exhausted your list of guys to invite??” Apparently the guys had already had the debate and somehow my name came up and someone concluded that the only thing separating me from the boys is, “she doesn’t pee standing up.” I should have begged the differ but whatever. Scotland??? I’ve always dreamed of going but never thought about when I would make it a reality. “Um…let me think about it.”

Since pulling the trigger in December and booking my flight, I’ve been mentally and physically preparing. I started to carry my clubs again. I watched my diet. I joined a gym and got fit…leaned out to 20% body fat. I even signed up for personal golf fitness sessions to learn how to exercise the right parts of my body. I wanted to be in top form to endure all the elements of links golf.

Our outbound flight was scheduled for Cinco de Mayo. A day before the trip, word got around that there may be issues with our connecting flights in New York. Thunderstorms. A golfer’s worst nightmare. Efforts to redirect our flights fell through. The guys miraculously made their flights despite delays. I did not. In fact, my departure time from LAX kept getting pushed back…for SIX hours. That included an episode of boarding and deplaning. The situation was so bad that American Airlines lined up complimentary snacks and beverages at our gate. TWICE. By the time I arrived at JFK, all of the possible connecting flight opportunities had flown away. It was nearing midnight. My new connecting flight wouldn’t be until 7pm the next evening. AA wouldn’t put me up in a hotel. Even my darndest teary-eyed-puppy-dog pleas gained no favors. Neighboring hotels were all booked. Overnight baggage storage wouldn’t take my golf bag…which I couldn’t even seem to locate. No one had good, definitive answers for anything. An overwhelming sense of woe-is-me took hold and I completely broke down. WTF. Maybe I wasn’t destined to be on this trip?? Negativity has a way of spiraling out of control. I decided to do what a certain game show contestant would do. I went for a lifeline and phoned a friend. A very good one.

Moments later, I was in a dinky yellow cab en route to a hotel in the financial district of Manhattan. There could be worst places in the world to have an emergency layover. The sight of a comfy bed was definitely alluring but my grumbling tummy overruled the rest of my weary body. I deserve pizza and beer dammit.

Around the corner was a dark and cozy pizza bar which stayed open until 3am. Gotta love New York. Ordered a small pie and Guinness. Since I had been waiting all day for everything, why not wait for my beer to properly cascade? Bartender Ryan lent an ear and after hearing what I’ve had to go through to get to this point, he poured me a shot of whiskey and took one with me. It was a small gesture but it made all the difference in the world. My lifeline. This bartender. The patrons were equally empathetic and embracing. I felt comforted and at peace with missing one day of golf. I slept like a champion.

The next morning, I decided to pay tribute to the fallen at the 9/11 Memorial…a day that changed me forever. I came to realize on that day that we’re all somehow connected. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have felt grief and sorrrow. Immediately after 9/11, I always made an effort to greet strangers, look people in the eye when interacting with them, put the kind in humankind, give blood, be patriotic and salute the flag everywhere I go.

I’m finally crossing the Atlantic to join the guys…some whom I’ve yet to meet. Regardless of our differences or our peeing positions, I’m looking forward to bonding over a common love and respect for the game. I can’t wait to be in the presence of The Old Course at St. Andrews. Perhaps all the pain and suffering I’ve endured will be behind me and the golf gods will show some mercy 🙂

USGA Earns Dishonorable Mention

Controversy doesn’t come close to describing what transpired during and after the final round of the 116th US Open at Oakmont. Try cluster fuck, defined by Google as “a disastrously mishandled situation or undertaking.” If the USGA exists “for the good of the game,” I’m afraid it did the exact opposite during one of the best tournaments of the year.

Before I go any further, I want to congratulate Dustin Johnson on his first major championship. I also want to applaud everyone who competed or even tried to qualify for the most democratic championship in golf. The USGA staged this event to allow anyone who’s willing and able a chance to take the hardest exam in golf. No tour card? No problem! Got game? You’re in! Once upon a time, I tried…and miserably failed to qualify for the Women’s US Open. It was an overdose of humility for me but I’ll never forget the sensational high of being mixed among amazingly talented female professionals and amateurs, all trying to make the cut. This is the stuff that makes the game of golf great.

What happened on Sunday made golf stupid. On the 5th green, DJ noticed his ball move prior to grounding his putter. He notified his playing partner, Lee Westwood, and the nearest rules official. He claimed that he hadn’t addressed the ball and that he didn’t cause the ball to move – either scenarios would have resulted in a one-stroke penalty. The grounds official ruled it playable where the ball came to rest without penalty. Lee Westwood agreed. Play continued. Meanwhile, USGA rules official marinated on the “weighted evidence” and decided to inform DJ on the 12th hole that they’re considering the penalty and that they’ll decide after he finishes. The collective reaction from the universe of people-who-give-a-damn can pretty much be summed up with: WTF?! The erroneous decision was finally made to assess the penalty after DJ completed his round with enough cushion to suffer the ridiculous blow.

More has been written about this awkward performance by the USGA than about any other player in the field, including the new champion. The whole handling of the situation was so bad that the USGA felt compelled to issue a formal statement on their website apologizing for the distraction they caused…never mind their poor decision. In addition, their Executive Director, Mike Davis, asked for a mulligan during a televised phone interview. A mulligan!!! I hate to break it to ya, but nowhere in the 34 rules of golf – that you guys ironically penned – are you allowed a do-over without recourse. While I’m at it, let me restate your own mission:

“The USGA promotes and conserves the true spirit of the game of golf as embodied in its ancient and honorable traditions. It acts in the best interests of the game for the continued enjoyment of those who love and play it.”

Being honorable is a huge part of this game and unlike any other sport, players are trusted to call their own penalties. By choosing to act upon your interpretation of evidence and dismissing the mutual call made by your appointed official, the player, and the playing partner, you’ve done a major disservice to the game and have disappointed those who love it. Let’s also not forget about the plight to grow the game of golf.

Hope Restored

They say love happens when you least expect it. I call bullshit because I haven’t expected it for many years and it’s still as hidden as the loch ness monster. I will say that a good round of golf is possible when you don’t expect it at all. Ever since setting my crazy sights on breaking par, I made attempts at breaking down my swing…only to be blinded by the many nuances of the swing – the grip, grip pressure, takeaway, swing plane, downswing, shoulder rotation, weight transfer, cocked wrist, tucked elbow, bent knees, open hips, shoot-me-dead-already. I sought lessons from my trusted teaching pro friend. I clocked countless hours at the range and on the course…trying to “embrace change” without wrapping my irons around a tree or better yet, my own neck. There were moments when I felt everything connecting beautifully and I would flush some amazing shots but then I would promptly produce some hideous stuff. My game played like Beauty & the Beast without the spell breaking and the beast turning back into a handsome prince. I felt cursed.

I found myself welcoming a break from golf. So when a good friend suggested a road trip through Utah, I was on board. We spent a week bouncing around three National Parks: Zion, Bryce, and Arches. We hiked everyday and I finally had the chance to break into my camping gear. So much fun! Words can’t describe how majestic and sometimes scary nature can be. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I took nearly two thousand pictures and they didn’t come close to describing the beauty. It was a crazy awesome experience and I came back wanting to enjoy golf again. I had no desire to “work” on my game this time. I just wanted to PLAY.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of getting out with two teaching professionals. Needless to say, I was nervous about showcasing my ugly game. The only thing I felt confident about was my driver so when I hooked the very first shot into the trees, I had this overwhelming fear that my worst game was about to show up. I marked a D minus on the scorecard and went on to save an unlikely par. Same thing happened on the second and third hole. Fortunately my putter was performing like a pro! Before long, I was standing on the 9th tee and realizing that I’m still even par despite logging four D minuses and only hitting one fairway. I felt free to swing big on nine and found myself one under par at the turn. Confidence was finally starting to build and I nearly birdied the next hole to go two under. Crazy. I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on…but it kept going on. I went back to even after 12 and the thought of breaking par definitely crossed my mind. As soon as I thought about it, however, I skimmed a drive that went a mere 40 yards. I wanted to laugh because this is the kind of mind fuck that happens in this game and when it happens, you just have to chalk it up to being a golf thing. Nothing more. I was able to control the damage to only one shot. Another bogey on 16 was buoyed by a birdie on 18. When the final putt went down, I felt so much relief and joy for posting a one over round. I didn’t achieve my goal that day but I got close enough to feel hope restored.

In that moment, I thought of Leo Burnett for saying, “When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.” I choose to keep reaching!

National Fun Day

Apparently today is National Golf Day and I’m not outdoors in this beautiful Southern California weather to enjoy a round of golf. I could choose to be bummed out about it or I could choose to recall some fond memories…in no particular order…

  • My first hole-in-one at El Dorado Park on hole #3 (9/7/08)
  • Walking the grounds at Augusta National and losing my mind over how immaculate it is
  • Seeing Tiger Woods for the first time and losing my mind
  • Playing mock golf at Torrey Pines immediately after a PGA event
  • Annika Sorenstam handing me a golf ball with the number 59 (an elusive golf score)
  • Countless rounds of golf with friends and friendly strangers
  • My best & worst round of golf
  • Leisure golf in Hawaii
  • Everything about Bandon Dunes
  • Playing in a Pro-Am event with Chella Choi
  • My second hole-in-one moments before my nephew Jacob was born (1/16/15)

Golf isn’t just about chasing a little white ball around for 18 holes and keeping score. It can definitely be frustrating, but as I reflect upon my past memories, I feel so grateful for everything the game has gifted me. I golf “because it’s FUN,” dammit!

Golf is Like Riding a Bicycle

Harrison_Bike_Down

Meet Harrison, my three-year-old godson. Part angel. Part monkey. He draws is energy from both the sun and the moon…which means he’s always ON…which means I’ve lost my sanity with him on numerous occasions. A year ago, I gave him a balance bike for his birthday but he showed no interest in it. Within a few short months, however, he decided to give it a try. To everyone’s delight, he figured it out almost instantly and was hooked after day one. When asked what he considers his favorite toy, he’ll reply, “my red bike!” Now I dream of the day he gets hooked on golf. It’s hopeful…

He’s had a fascination for golf balls from the moment he held one in his hand. It’s actually rare to see him without one. He’ll ask for it. While riding his bike, he’ll insist on holding a ball in his hand. Not the most practical thing to do as you can see. I got to witness him crash on the pavement today and instead of running to his rescue like a caring godmother would, I made sure to document the incident and capture his fallen golf ball in the foreground. This was my favorite shot of the day!

As a serial golfer and a not-so-savvy cycler, I never thought too much about the parallels…other than the fact that both activities have tattooed permanent sock tan lines. Golf is a lot like riding a bike…but not in the sense of always remembering how to peddle, steer, and balance once it’s been figured out. No, no. It’s more like being perpetually bound to the ugly early stages of learning how to ride. It’ll feel familiar and foreign at the same time. You will experience failure in spades. It’ll be painfully frustrating. You may even cry. But something in you…whether it’s your eagerness, determination, stubbornness, or insanity…is going to get you back on that saddle…especially once you’ve experienced the pleasure of coasting freely on two wheels.

Unfortunately for the game of golf, many beginners choose to abandon their efforts at the ugly early stages. For those who choose to stick with it, golf can be like riding a bike…in the sense of it being an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.

For the sake of clearing myself from the wrath of his parents and the Child Protective Services, Harrison did not suffer any physical damages as a result of my neglect. Good luck pinning any of his psychological damages on me. I’m happy to report that the kid did get back on the bike…with ball in hand. Can this be a foreshadowing of his pursuit for the game of golf? I certainly hope so 🙂

The Struggle is Real

This is a cruel game, y’all. With a personal goal to break par, I haven’t even been able to break 80 since the start of the year. The only thing breaking is my heart! Granted, it’s still only January. Yes, I’m being an impatient brat. No, I don’t deserve any sympathy. I’ll admit…I have the tendency to tune out whenever I hear folks complaining about their swing or their equipment. Golf woes in general are rather ridiculous. It’s part of the game people! Embrace it!!

We wish for all of our shots to go the right distance and come to rest in the desired spots. We pray for good lies and lucky bounces. We don’t want anything to do with hazards and penalty shots. We want to avoid obstacles. We want to visualize the perfect ball path and execute the perfect stroke. We don’t want to buckle under pressure. Making zero mistakes makes us look good and feel good. Does it?

Ironically, golf would be boring without the struggles. It may even be pointless. The pleasure comes from enduring the pain…which is inherent and inevitable with golf.

Yesterday, I found myself missing the first nine greens and failing to save par on seven of those nine holes. At the turn, my playing partner was up four in our friendly match. Defeat sounded quite deafening on the 10th tee box. Something kept me going. I thought of a movie I had recently seen, The Revenant. A line in that movie kept my ax to the grind, “As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe. Keep breathing.” I fought my way back and had a chance to square the match. It came down to my opponent’s last putt on 18. He made it. I genuinely congratulated him on a deserving match. Despite the loss, I felt victorious for not giving up so easily.

In this plight to break par, the one thing I must not break is my spirit. I choose to keep breathing.

An Endless Journey

I dream golf pix

Looking Ahead

I snapped this picture while driving through Shenandoah National Park with my brother. At the time, I wasn’t sure why I felt compelled to have him pull over while I risk getting flattened by an oncoming vehicle. This was exactly what the roads looked like that day. Upon reflection, I feel as though it also depicts the figurative road I’m currently on. The only certainty is that the road shall continue for as long as I’m alive. I must put my faith and trust in it being the road I’m supposed to be on…and keep moving forward!

Ambitions are generally heightened at the start of the year, but my new goal has nothing to do with the new year. I’ve always kept mental milestones of my accomplishments in golf. Over the years, it has become exceedingly more difficult to reach new heights with my game. Now more than ever, I want to set a new personal record. click here for more I want to break par. There. I said it. I also know it’s not enough to simply want something. It’ll require the scary thing called CHANGE, perseverance, mental fortitude, and luck. But hey, that’s what I love about this game…the endless pursuit of something greater!

Of course, there’s more to life than golf but I sense that this personal endeavor will lead to things I could never even imagine.

Happy 40th Birthday, Tiger

The inglorious United States Postal Service must have lost the party invitation you sent me to celebrate the big fore-tee. They mess up ALL the time during the mad holiday season, I swear. Why must you be born between Christmas and New Year’s Day? Moving on…

I have a little confession. People in my circle know that I refer to you as My Tiger. I get that it sounds possessive, but it’s simply a term of endearment. Yes, I’ve stalked you several times at Torrey Pines…most notably at the 2008 US Open where you won your last major despite a broken leg. I braved a solo road trip to Arizona in 2009 to greet you back after knee surgery at the WGC-Accenture Match Play at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain. In 2010, I went to see you at the US Open in Pebble Beach. I watched one of your practice rounds at the 2012 Masters and was completely spell-bound and awe-struck by just being there. No wonder you love that place so much, it’s truly majestic! Later that same year, I went to see you at the Ryder Cup in Chicago at the Medinah Country Club and ended up with heart break when our US team squandered a comfortable lead on the final day. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to see you in competition, but it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped rooting for you.

As a devoted fan, I wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely THANK YOU, Tiger. I will always respect and admire you for what you’ve accomplished and the immeasurable contributions you’ve made in and around the game of golf…all over the world. I would also credit (and sometimes curse) you for drawing me into the game.

The on-going debate on whether you’ll go down in history as the greatest golfer of all time is largely irrelevant to me. Seriously. It’s fodder for the media. I already feel gifted by your unyielding passion for golf and all the sacrifices you’ve made (and continue to make) to be the best you in spite of all the challenges and setbacks…they’re there to build character. I believe your story is still being written and the best ones will come from the many you’ve already inspired.

Since I didn’t go to your party, I wanted to honor your birthday by walking on at Dad Miller – your home course as a freshman at Western High School and where you later docked the Tiger Woods Learning Center – but I heard it was jammed packed out there so I shied away from the crowd. Instead, I played at Mile Square Classic…wearing your signature black and red. There was definitely something special in the air. On the first hole, I split the center of the fairway, flushed my approach right over the pin, and gently dropped a 20-footer for a birdie…an accomplishment I rarely achieve on this particular hole. Beyond having a decent round of golf, I made some interesting connections on the course today. It’s humbling to hear the game whisper to me…to come closer, dig deeper, reach further, and strive to thrive against all odds.

Here’s looking ahead and wishing you another 40 years of awesomeness. Cheers to your physical, mental, and spiritual health and happiness. Cheers to being one of the greatest ambassadors to the game of golf…to being a wonderful father and son…and to remembering how to win again. I suppose your memory had a lapse. Perhaps you messed up on the birthday party invitation and addressed it to someone else instead!