Johnny Headline: 10 Ridiculous Johnny Manziel Headlines You Might Actually See Before Training Camp Opens

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         If you’ve followed the sports news cycle, especially as it’s reported by a certain NFL-manic sports cable channel out of Bristol, you know that you can turn on the TV at most any hour and expect to see a Johnny Manziel story.

         Johnny Football’s ability to make headlines is now only rivaled in the sports realm by pal LeBron James and Tiger Woods. The difference, though, is that those two have actually done something recently to merit the coverage. Johnny, a back-up quarterback in Cleveland who according to the company line isn’t going to play this year, does nothing, or does something, or is rumored to have done something and that’s all that necessary for a story and a sensational headline.

         In that regard, his career has already reached Tebow-esque proportions without him even haven taken a snap in the NFL. On that note, it really wouldn’t surprise me if a headline appeared that read, “Tebow With More Career NFL Completions Than Manziel; Bad Omen?” Ok, that might be one for the Onion, but the headlines about Manziel these days aren’t far from being that absurd.

         Since we’ve got a whole entire month left before NFL training camp, I thought I’d throw a few absurd fake headlines you might see between now and then that aren’t that far from being plausible.

         The gist of these is that the kid can’t win. I don’t completely get it, but that’s the media vibe of Manziel Mania so much so that he finally had to retort, “I really don’t think I’ve done anything wrong” to the latest most ridiculous scrap of news that appeared virtually out of thin air.

         So in that spirit, and David Letterman style, I offer the top 10 headlines about Johnny Manziel that actually have half a chance of appearing in print.

10. Manziel Eats Donut Hole; What Does He Have Against Full-Sized Pastries?

9. Manziel Visits Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame; Country Music Industry Asks What It Ever Did to Him

8. Manziel Spotted Sitting Between Weight Lifting Reps; Work Ethic Called Into Question

7. Manziel 5 Seconds Late for Team Meeting; Has He Already Lost a Step?

6. ‘Hangover 4’: Manziel Drinks a Beer on 4th of July

5. Bottle Caps in Bottle Cap Alley Dusted for Manziel Fingerprints

4. Manziel Looks at Playing Field; Obviously Still Eyes Starting Job

3. Manziel Gets a Dog; Will Cat People Cancel Season Tickets?

2. Manziel Scolds Dog for Bad Behavior; Johnny Hypocrite?

1. LeBron Not Returning to Cleveland; Manziel to Blame

 Enjoy your summer, Johnny. Or least try to.

My Favorite Scene in “Tin Cup”: The 7-Iron Speech

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I meant to time this to the next time the Golf Channel runs a “Tin Cup” marathon, as it periodically does, but the approaching U.S. Open as timing seems just as good a reason.

Besides being the most anticipated tournaments of the year, the majors are just a great time in general to celebrate golf. That said, I’d to like to pay tribute to my favorite scene in the greatest golf movie of all time, “Tin Cup,” which we all know culminated in Roy McAvoy playing in the fictional U.S. Open.

I’ve watched golfers quote this movie, and even sing the songs, verbatim, showing how ingrained into the golf souls of people who love the game “Tin Cup” has become since it was made 1996 with, legend has it, input from Gary McCord, among others.

I’ve never tried it, but I’m sure a debate about a favorite scene in this movie could rage on for hours in the right crowd, and why wouldn’t it? Save from the romantic comedy scenes, what golf scene in this film isn’t iconic and, many times, relatable?

Roy getting the shanks on the range? Tin Cup: “Romes (his caddy), something’s terribly wrong!” What golfer can’t relate to the hopelessness of that? Or Romeo’s diagnosis: “The shanks are like a virus. They just show up.”

There’s the scene of Roy hitting the shot as David Simms’ caddie. There’s Roy knocking the pelican off the post after a bar bet. There’s Simms’ cunning bouncing of his 7-shot down the road to win a bet with Roy. And then there’s the culminating scene where Roy holes out to take a 12 on No. 18 at the Open after refusing to lay up – again.

But out of all that, if you’re telling me I only get one scene to take with me to a desert island to watch ‘til infinity, it’s the 7-iron scene.

The 7-iron scene is where Roy blows up on the course in his first Open qualifier in a dispute with his caddie, Romeo (Cheech Marin), about laying up on a par-5. We all know what happens next: Following Romeo’s lead, Roy breaks all the clubs in his bag – except his beloved and trusted 7-iron.

I believe the dialogue that follows to be the closest thing we have to golf poetry in that it speaks to the misgivings we’ve each had at one point or another about every club in our bag, and our unshakable faith in our 7-iron. You know it’s a day gone wrong on the course when your 7-iron betrays you.

In fact, a trust hierarchy of clubs probably starts 7-iron/putter/wedge … and ends somewhere with your long irons and possibly your driver, depending on how it’s going on the time.

Anyway, besides the sheer comedy and absurdity of the scene (it’s a bit like when Gene Hackman chose to play with four in “Hoosiers), I believe it’s the innate and universal truth about golf clubs that comes out amidst Roy’s rage that I find so endearing about this scene.

So for your amusement, appreciation and study (if you’ve never bothered to slow it down and catch every word) here’s my translation of the 7-iron speech.

To set the scene, Romeo (R in the screen play) and Roy (TC) are standing over Roy’s second shot on par-5, dogleg left. Roy wants to go for the green in two (“I’m going to go over those trees, with a little draw.”) while Romeo is preaching caution (“You don’t need the course record to qualify. You need to practice playing it safe.”)

And thus a golf feud for the ages plays out …

TC: Qualify? I want the course record. Now give me the lumber.

R: You’re not going to listen to me, are you?

TC: Now give me the driver and shut up.

R: You want the driver? (Snaps it over his leg.) Hit the driver, Tin Cup.

TC: I changed my mind. Give me the 3-wood.

R: You can’t clear that dogleg with a 3-wood.

TC: Want to bet?

R: Fine, take the 3-wood. (Breaks it and throws it.)

TC: (To the gallery) Guess I’m going with the safe shot, boys. (Takes the 2-iron from the bag.)

TC: But you know, sometimes I fan that 2. (Snaps it over his leg.)

TC: You better give me the 3. (Romeo hands him the 3-iron.)

TC: And sometimes I catch that 3 a little thin, too. (Snaps it and throws it on the ground.)

TC: I’ve hit fliers with the 4. (Snap.)

R: (Softly implores while looking ashen) Hit the ball, Roy.

TC: I’ve hooked my 5. (Snap.)

TC: I’ve shanked my 6. (Snap.)

TC: I’ve skulled the 8. (Steps on it. Snap.)

TC: I’ve fatted the 9. (Snap.)

TC: I’ve chili-dipped the wedge. (Snap.)

TC: I’ve bladed the sand. (Snap.)

R: Putter? (Handing him the putter.)

TC: Yeah, there is Mr. Three Wiggle, isn’t there? (Snap.)

(Roy grabs the 7-iron with Romeo looking on in disgust.)

TC: Then there’s the 7-iron. I never miss with the 7-iron. (Kicking club debris aside.)

“It’s the only truly safe club in my bag.”

Before Roy can hit, Romeo walks off the course, shouting in exasperation, “What the hell’s wrong with you?!?”

The classic extension of Roy’s rant is that, before hitting the shot, he challenges the gallery: “Anybody want to bet me I can’t par in with a 7-iron?”

Of course, none of Roy’s supporters takes the bet, and Roy proceeds to qualify by playing out with just his 7-iron.

Anyway, most of the scenes in “Tin Cup” will stop me and pull me in when I find this movie at random, but especially the 7-iron scene. For all the reasons listed above, I believe it’s the greatest golf scene ever written not involving a fight with Bob Barker – which is for another blog post entirely.;)

The Midwest – Somewhere In Middle America

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To many people I meet, this would be an answer key

          I’m from Iowa, or as it’s known in California – Idaho. Or Illinois. Or Ohio. Or really any somewhat centralized state between, say, Canada and Texas.

This blog post was inspired by people I’ve met recently from Michigan and Wisconsin who live in California and have had similar experiences to my own. And this is meant in no way to be a complaint about the status quo; it’s simply a statement of fact, one I’ve just learned to accept in my two years now of living here.

You quickly learn native Californians know relatively little about the Midwest, and this applies to some of the transplants to. For instance, someone who moved here from Connecticut years ago introduced me to friends three times one night as being from Idaho. No anyone asked me any potato questions so I just let it pass.

I do the same now when people ask where I went to school. I tell them “Iowa State” and they reply, “Go Buckeyes!” Sigh. That’s Ohio State.

And this is how it goes.

I’ve decided that my part of the Midwest may as well be called the Vowel Belt because people out here seriously could look at a map and not correctly identify Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, etc. Of this, I’m fairly certain.

And truth is, if I was from California, I probably wouldn’t know either. Why would you? Why would you ever leave here?

But that only makes it all the more refreshing when you do run into a Midwesterner out here who does know where you’re from. It feels a bit like homecoming when it happens.

The interaction commonly goes like this: You acknowledge you know where the other person’s state is, and possibly even the city they’re from. You share whether you’ve visited there or not. If you have, you share a story (for instance about going to Wrigley Field if they’re from Illinois). Then you immediately commiserate about how much you don’t miss winter, which leads inevitably to a discussion about how great life is out here. And so forth.

Sometimes it goes beyond that, but that’s the base offense.

Whereas when I meet a Californian and tell them I’m from Iowa, the reply is often silence or a blank stare, but rarely an association. And that’s OK. It just is how it is.

Compared to shoveling snow, golfing in oppressive heat and humidity and the other factors that make people flee life in the Midwest, you would categorize this as little more than an inconvenience.

Life in California is largely a day at the beach. Even when you’re from Idaho.

My Dream Episode of “Feherty”

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Photo courtesy of newsouthfoodcompany.com

I’ve got a post coming at some point about David Feherty and how much I enjoy and appreciate his show “Feherty” on The Golf Channel and how much good I think it does for the game.

In the meantime, I’ve got something that would probably go very well as a follow-up post to that post, but alas the original isn’t written.

One of the rules of writing, especially when you’re stuck, is “Start where you can,” and tonight this is where that is.

My two favorite current television personalities are Feherty and chef Anthony Bourdain of The Food Network and the brilliant CNN series, “Parts Unknown.” I think they’ve got the two most unique and interesting voices on TV, and, in fact, were I to re-cast “60 Minutes,” a show badly in need of a line change, Feherty and Bourdain would be my lottery picks.

I admire and envy them for many things, but one thing in particular: Their ability to be social chameleons.

Feherty is equally adept interviewing people inside the game as outside of it, which is something I don’t think he gets enough credit for. The man has serious range when it to comes to interviewing. He gets more out of the pro golfers than anyone else because they relate to him, but then he can turn around and interview someone like “Seinfeld” creator Larry David and be equally brilliant, using golf as their common conversation piece.

Bourdain uses food to accomplish the same thing, basically, except he does it while traveling the globe and often goes way behind just revealing people to probing poverty, government corruption, oppressed societies and the other socio-economic conditions that plague much of our world. And he just happens to discover a great meal or 10 along the way.

So, to review, Bourdain’s conversational vehicle is food; for Feherty, it’s golf.

I’m normally against a media figure interviewing another media figure, but in this case I’m willing to make a huge exception. I find the potential results of Feherty’s self-deprocating Irish wit meeting Bourdain’s worldly wisdom and New York street smarts simply too explosively great to resist.

But here’s the rub: I’m fairly sure Bourdain doesn’t golf. First of all, while making TV shows, writing books and eating 10 meals a day traveling the globe, when would he have time?

Then it dawned on me how to get them together.

The most famous food in golf is … the pimento cheese sandwich served at the Masters.

It sounds a bit gross, and I’m assured it is, but that doesn’t matter to Bourdain. He’ the modern-day Mikey: He’ll eat anything.

Feherty could have Bourdain on his show at Augusta to review the pimento cheese sandwich – and you don’t think Feherty has a joke about that?  – and then let wackiness ensue from there.

Those two sharing world views, exploring each other’s careers and their somewhat unlikely stardom to both become the respective TV stars of their industries, all which breaking the bread of the famous Masters pimento cheese sandwich? Seriously, forget the Super Bowl. I’m watching this. (OK, I’m DVR-ing the Super Bowl.)

I see at least two stumbling blocks to this: One, the Masters isn’t exactly known for having a sense of humor (Gary McCord is still banned, right?); and I’m guessing you can’t get on the grounds at the Masters without a collared shirt. That might be a tough sell for Bourdain, but considering the current sacrifices me makes for food – the man has eating moss for Pete’s Sake – this one seems small.

So there you have it. I read a story about Feherty last year that says he has an interview wish list for his show that is topped by Bill Murray.

I’m all for that one, but, David, you now have my write-in candidate. Who’s with me?

Cali at Christmas: I Love A (Boat) Parade

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I just wanted to share a quick holiday post going into the weekend about what has quickly become my favorite California holiday tradition: boat parades.

I witnessed my second this week on Balboa Island and it was even more fun than my inaugural boat parade in San Diego Harbor last year.

Coming from the Midwest, I had no idea whatsoever about this bit of California Christmas culture. You see, the Midwest doesn’t have these, seeing as, among other reasons, the lakes and waterways have normally long frozen by now. The best it ever got there was holiday lights tour of high-end neighborhoods in a limo bus. That has its own charm, but it’s not the same, especially because it’s likely 10 degrees out.

With a night in the balmy 60s on Wednesday, we stood on shore and watched a procession of fabulously decorated boats of all shapes and sizes. There were roughly 60 vessels or so, which I’m told pales in comparison to the previous years (and has been going for 105 of them now), but this is all new to me so I don’t have the buzzkill of history in this case.

For 45 minutes or so, we watched a floating procession of Christmas trees, reindeer, Santa and lights, lights, lights! Like houses at Christmas, some boats were decorated modestly whiles others resembled the U.S.S. Griswold. And they came by blaring everything from Christmas music to rock.

I appreciate the investment of time and resources it takes to put this on and will eagerly line up to grab some shoreline space to view it again next year.

White Christmas? Wildly overrated. Water Christmas? Wonderfully West Coast.

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Nemesis Holes, Lesson One

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         When I first started thinking about potential topics for this blog, one of the original ideas on the to-do list was to write about nemesis holes –  you know, those holes that seem to have your number time and time again, or, in the spirit of Halloween, haunt you.

          Well, that introductory post to what I hoped would be a reader-driven teachable series for all of us hasn’t been written yet, but I had a teachable moment on this topic on Thursday so I thought I’d publish this post first to kind of get things started. Consider this a prequel post, sort of like “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings.”

         Anyway, nemesis holes both fascinate and frustrate me, and I had one very notable one (which I’ll write about in a later post) that dogged me for a decade that inspired me to write about this whole concept.

         When I think about nemesis holes, I break them down into two types: There are the ones that prey on a fundamental deficiency in your game (say long irons, or your ball flight off the tee), and then those that are well within your ability yet bedevil you over and over for again for reasons that are unclear and then become purely psychological.

         The hole I’m writing about today falls into that second category.

         I played Eagle Crest in Escondido on Thursday for the first time in months. It’s under new management and the new staff includes two former mentors of mine at golf school.

         I probably played Eagle Crest a dozen times in school and always enjoyed the layout and the overall length of the course. It really challenges you off the tee and then challenges you to make smart decisions on your second shots. I learned a lot about the game, and my game, by playing here.

         One hole that I never figured out, however, and became a reoccurring train wreck for me, was the par-3 7th. The hole sets up like this: 197 yards from the back tees from an elevated tee to a diagonal oblong green, with traps in front and back.

         The hole is pictured above, but what it doesn’t show – and that you can’t see from tee – is a hidden bunker on the right. I know this bunker well because my tee shot has found it over and over … and over. It’s the “Groundhog Day” of golf holes for me.

         Why this happens is beyond me. I can only figure it has something to do with wind, but I can tell you clubbing up or down one has only changed the outcome in that I come up short. I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever hit this green in regulation.

         I played this hole again on Thursday, and this time I was paired with one of my former instructors, Kevin Connole, the new director of instruction at Eagle Crest.

         As we stepped to the tee, I told Kevin of my woes with No. 7 and then, almost on cue, I proceeded to hit a 5-iron that launched low and right and, like a sand-seeking missile, found that same bunker … again to which Kevin said, “Wow, this hole really is in your head.”

         And that’s it. I’ve got such a history with this hole that it is all mental.

         At this point, Kevin switched into Bob Rotella mode and explained how you go about breaking the pre-programmed bogey funk a nemesis hole puts you in.

         “You need to do something, anything, to change your experience,” he said. “That may mean hitting a different club,  playing it from a different tee (if you’re practicing, obviously), or if it’s a par-3, layup and play for a scramble par because that sure beats another bogey.”

         Then he really got my attention.

         “Or it could mean doing something totally illogical.”

         Hmmm, I got a D in Abnormal Psychology in college, but I’m listening.

         Kevin pointed at a bunker to the far left of the green, well past the pin. “Hit it there,” he said. “Try to hit it in that bunker.”

         Part of the illogic here is that a draw is my dominant shot shape. It just never seems to show up on this hole.

         I would’ve needed another club to hit that bunker Kevin suggested, but I stuck with my 5 and swung away. The ball started at the target bunker and then did a gradual, soft fade right at the flag before landing 15 feet from the pin. I took a practice par and gained a new strategy for next time. Thanks, Kevin.

         Anyway, it’s stories and strategies like this that I hope will drive this series. I’ve had other nemesis holes successes with other strategies that I look forward to writing about. Hopefully with a little input, and professional supervision, we can put our bogeys and brains together and maybe all knock a few strokes off our cards.

 

How Caddies Make the Game A Whole Lot Better

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For whatever reason, it didn’t dawn on me until about 10 minutes before we teed off at Sherwood on Monday that we’d have caddies. If it had, I would’ve been 10 times more excited than the 10 times more excited I already was than for a normal round of golf.

Caddies are such a great way to experience the game, and a luxury I’ve rarely been afforded, but one that I think would hook more people on the game if they got to experience it even once.

When you hire a caddie, you’re also hiring a tour guide, a swing coach, a greens guru, a motivational speaker, a cheerleader, a comedian, a personal assistant and more all rolled into one. In my experience, it’s a guaranteed good time, and an always memorable one, on the golf course when you have a caddie.

(And I realize that, for some people, we’re into issues of elitism here and some of people’s other pet issues with golf, but let’s suspend that for a moment, shall we?)

The first time I ever had a caddie was when I played in Jamaica, where Jamaican law requires you to play with a caddie. Our caddy’s name was Devon, and he looked like he could’ve walked right off the course from a 1970s Masters, white coveralls and all.

Anyway, I didn’t totally know what type of experience I was in for with him, but I got a pretty good idea on my first tee shot, which I hooked high into the palm trees on the mountain on the first hole.

Devon dashed off the tee box, shouting, “No worries, mon! I got it! Hit again!”

Cool! Throughout the round, Devon was basically a walking GPS, previewing holes, giving me yardages, reading my putts and at the same time, basically teaching beginner’s golf to my playing partner, all while cleaning our clubs. He balanced it all remarkably well.

Anyway, I recall it being a very relaxed round and so much fun that we went back the next day. And that’s when I hit the shot I recall most.

While playing a long par-3, I carved a 5-wood incredibly close to the hole, or so it looked to me from the tee. Doubt started to creep in though because my caddie, a man with a line for every golf shot under the sun, was silent. Finally, he approached me on the tee, took my 5-wood and handed me my putter.

“They always say the pro walks off the tee carrying his putter,” he told me, making me feel 10 feet tall walking off the box.

It turned out that the putt was much more than a tap-in, but I still saved par, and it was my hole of the trip, largely because Devon made it so.

So when a caddie named Bruce hopped into my cart on Monday, it automatically gave me a good vibe about how the round would go, regardless of the score. And, truth be told, at the beginning, it didn’t go well, but Bruce made that part memorable, too.

On the third hole, I hit a rare slice off the tee and way OB right into the backyard one of the multi-million-dollar homes. As I handed Bruce my club, he provided an interesting piece of course knowledge.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, that’s the backyard of Britney Spears’ old house,” he said.

“Hey,” I replied, “if you’re going to lose a ball, better it be almost famous, right?”

My round turned around on the fourth hole, where Bruce’s read of a tough uphill breaking putt helped me make birdie, and a great golf day ensued from there.

Sherwood was a spectacular, borderline surreal, golf experience for me, and undoubtedly one of the five best courses I’ve ever played. I would’ve enjoyed the day regardless of how I played, but my scorecard probably would’ve looked drastically different were it not for Bruce’s guidance.

I’ve come to think of a good caddy as being like a good personal trainer: they get that 10 to 15 percent more out of you that’s hard to get out of yourself.

That certainly happened on the back nine, where it felt like Bruce had seen me swing enough to that he knew how to club me and what shots to recommend. I hit an uncommon number of good golf shots over those nine holes, but none better than on the last two.

Our next-to-last hole was a 491-yard par-5 with a green fronted by a creek. The play off the tee was to hit the left side of the fairway and let it roll right. I hit my best tee shot of the day and actually carried it past the suggested landing area.

That left me 230 out, prime yardage to get home in two with my hybrid, and Bruce was giving me the green light all the way. And I was only too willing, largely because I’d botched a similar shot on a previous par-5 off a perfect lie.

This lie, however, wasn’t so perfect. It was a bit of a side hill and especially troublesome for me because it wasn’t conducive for the stanch I needed to hit my draw. Because of this, I couldn’t get comfortable over the shot.

That’s when Bruce stepped in and redirected me.

“Take it off the right side of the bridge,” he said, causing me to focus left instead of right.

This created a dilemma. Hitting where Bruce recommended meant playing a cut, an uncertain outcome from me. Part of the allure of playing right was a bail-out area, where I could still recover for birdie if I didn’t completely pull off the approach.

Seeing I was still debating, Bruce provided the closing argument.

“Trust the read, boss. Hit the shot.”

With that, I settled in on the recommended line, and when I planted my lead leg, it felt solid. And I’d now be swinging more with the slope than against it. I was all in. And I fired.

The ball shot out like a pin-seeking dart. Tracking at the hole all the way, it easily carried the creek, hit short of the flagstick and rolled 15 feet past.

“That’s the best shot you’ve ever hit in your life, bro!” Bruce shouted, and high-fives and fist bumps ensued.

On the green, Bruce guided me to a two-putt birdie and later blamed himself for costing me eagle.

“I should’ve backed you off 20 percent on that stroke. You were a little too amped up there.”

No complaints here, Bruce. That was no gimme.

Having pocketed two birdies for the round, I was more than satisfied with my play for the day, but we still had one hole to go – a 146-yard par-3.

The hole was playing longer because the pin was tucked on the back tier. I was thinking of playing safe, but Bruce handed me my 8 and told me to go right at it. So I did.

Six feet. Another round of cheers broke out, making me suddenly feel like I had my own gallery.

Bruce greeted me at the cart by handing me my Cleveland putter and on the green he provided me with a two-word read on the putt. Straight in. And it was. Birdie!

Four birdies in a round is my record, and it wasn’t on a course nearly the caliber of Sherwood. I walked off the last hole on a golf high and ready to play 18 more. But alas we were done, and it’s probably better that way. You don’t mess with walk-off birdies. That was a first for me.

Anyway, a day like that makes you ponder the possibilities for your game. What if I had a Bruce for every round I played? Dare to dream. Friday it was back to the reality of approaches that just miss the green and birdie putts that don’t quite find the hole.

As we parted in the parking lot on Monday, I joked with Bruce that I’d like to have him in an app. that I could just open and point at the course when I needed a yardage, a read, or even maybe just a little comedic a relief.

Only I wasn’t joking. Move over, Siri. I want Bruce.

In Appreciation of Arnold Palmer

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While scanning golf blog headlines today, I came across the news that it was Arnold Palmer’s birthday on Tuesday. He turned 84.

Being a Generation X’r, Arnie’s competitive achievements came before my time, but I’m very aware of his accomplishments and his enormous impact. As a golfer, I’ve most personally felt Palmer’s continuing influence on the game by playing his courses, including Aviara, the only Palmer-designed course in San Diego County.

I most consistently experience Palmer, however, through two TV spots he’s done, one being his voiceover for the “Swing Your Swing” Dick’s Sports Goods Commercial that first appeared this year. The other is the iconic “This is SportsCenter” commercial he filmed in 2009 that still appears regularly, with good reason. I think it’s the best one that has ever been done.

One clip makes me laugh and the other inspires me immensely. As a writer, I’m incredibly creatively envious and inspired by both.

If you’re not familiar with either, let’s do a little recap, starting with the ESPN piece.

The clip is part of a series the network has done for decades that hilariously spoofs life at ESPN by pretending the entire sports world takes up residence in its Bristol, Conn., headquarters, which in a way it kind of does.

The commercial shows Palmer and his caddie walking through ESPN’s cafeteria being trailed by two tray-carrying SportsCenter anchors, Stuart Scott and Scott Van Pelt. In awe, the two men watch as Palmer prepares his namesake beverage, the Arnold Palmer.

Palmer mixes a little iced tea and a little lemonade and finishes it off with a little more tea before exiting the cafeteria with his club-carrying caddy in tow.

Watching Palmer walk away, Van Pelt utters, in a hushed voice, “That was awesome.”

Scott whispers back, “I know.”

The beauty is in the simplicity. Palmer simply has to be Palmer, and he’s brilliant. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out. Check it out.

I have a friend who works at ESPN who posted the day of Palmer’s visit that an alternate clip was filmed. The film crew asked Palmer to chip a golf ball into an Arnold Palmer, and he did it – in one take.

That’s quite a hole-in-one, but he certainly aced the cafeteria scene as well.

“Swing Your Swing” evokes very different emotions in me and impresses me on a whole other scale.

If you haven’t seen it, again, let’s recap. As a montage of golfers swinging scrolls – including one of a cook in a kitchen – Palmer does a voiceover that basically pays homage to golfers everywhere. The script he reads comes across as a heartfelt appreciation for everyone who has ever picked up a golf club, so much so that you quickly forget it’s a commercial.

I remember the first time I ever saw this commercial on the Golf Channel and it stopped me in my tracks. I hit rewind about 10 times to take it all in. If you’ve never taken a moment to appreciate the words, here’s the script.

Swing Your swing…

Not some idea of a swing.

Not a swing you saw on TV.

Not that swing you wish you had.

NO … swing Your swing.

Capable of greatness.

Prized only by you

Perfect in its imperfection.

Swing your swing …

I know … I did.

 

         As the last line is delivered, a clip plays of Palmer swinging in his prime … swing-from-the-heels approach, held-off finish and all. Classic Arnie. And a true original. Check it out.

To me the script is pure poetry and speaks to everyone who’s ever dared to pick up a club and experienced the frustrations of trying to learn this crazy game – and forges ahead regardless.

As one of the many who used to have one of those self-made swings, and, to some degree, probably still does, I relate. As a golfer and writer, “perfect in its imperfection” brings it home for me in the commercial. Eventually, aren’t they all? As Roy McAvoy said in Tin Cup, when it comes to the golf swing, “perfect (is) unattainable.”

But if you’re really a golfer, that never stops you from trying.

So swing your swing, and while you’re at have an Arnold Palmer and toast the man’s continuing contributions to this great game. Happy birthday, Mr. Palmer.

Speaking of Golf and Animals …

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Since we’re on the topic, this happens to be my favorite photo of all time of animals on a golf course. It was taken at Quarry Oaks in Ashland, Neb., which used to be a destination course for my good golf friends and I when I lived in the area. Deer and turkeys are found in abundance here, and this shot perfectly captures, to me, the Quarry Oaks experience. I imagine I’ll be writing more about this place in a future post.

California Golf’s Wild Kingdom: Eagles, Birdies & Sandwich-Stealing Squirrels … Oh My

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On one of my visits to California before moving here, I played Penmar By the Sea, a quaint, wooded nine-hole muni course in Venice.

The thing I remember most about that round is standing on the tee box at the third hole and hearing one of our playing partners emerge from a porta-potty swearing and screaming like a lunatic.

His anger was directed at a squirrel that had climbed atop his golf bag. After the squirrel had been chased off, I learned about the notorious reputation of the Penmar squirrels for golf bag vandalism.

It turns out that, over the years, the squirrels have come to associate golf bag pockets with food and will slash a golf bag to ribbons in seconds in the hopes of scoring, say, a granola bar.

Having previously only played golf mainly in the Midwest, I was totally unaccustomed to such animal antics on the golf course. The closest I’d ever come to such drama was once being chased by a hormonal Canadian goose. Animal interaction in the Midwest is mostly the desired type, such as catching a deer crossing the fairway or spying a wild turkey in the brush.

Since moving to Southern California a year ago, I’ve come to fully realize what scavengers the critters of California’s golf courses truly are. Annoying? Yes. I’m sure that’s the view many native Californians have of such animal hijinks, and I agree. But at the same time, I also still find it a bit amusing and a steady source of good humorous golf anecdotes, such as:

As I often do, I walked on at Arrowood one day and joined a group making the turn. While on the 12th tee box, one of my new playing partners cast a glance of the roof of nearby house and said, “There’s that crow,” before adding a bit bitterly, “and there’s my PowerBar.”

Turns out the crow had snatched the snack from his cart on the first tee – and was now following him in the hopes of scoring more.
Some animals scavenge, while others seemingly make a living by staking out a hole.

Shortly after I moved out, I played the Navy Course in Seal Beach a few times. Each time, a squirrel – I’m assuming the same squirrel – absconded with something from the group.

The most memorable was when I was on the green and noticed my playing partner’s son gesturing in an agitated fashion toward his cart. The squirrel had possession of his gluten-free sandwich, and the kid was understandably upset.

By the time the boy reached the cart, the squirrel was long gone – or so we thought. When we reached the next tee box, I looked back and there was the squirrel, sitting behind a tree eating the sandwich. Remarkably, he had skillfully taken it out of the bag.

On that same hole, I once returned to my cart to experience a squirrel whoosing between my legs.

Some animals adopt a gentler approach. While playing San Juan Hills, my group had two quacking ducks follow us from one tee box to the next, seemingly begging for chips.

Out here, I’m sure these stories can go on for days and I’ve hardly seen the wildest California has to offer. Or maybe these are the least of the problems when you play courses that routinely have signs posted warning of rattlesnakes and mountain lions.

Speaking of signs, I saw one in Portland once that may be along the lines of what Penmar, and undoubtedly a few other area courses, needs. It read: “Mad Squirrel: Protect Your Nuts.”

Or your golf bag. Or your potato chips. Or sandwich. Or PowerBar.

Anyway, newcomers to California golf, consider yourself warned.