Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chad Feldheimer

Ever since I scared the pants off of Chad Feldheimer shooting a 79 and tying his score, Chad has been on a tear. He has been striping the ball and shooting in the mid-70s and flirting with par golf. Chad's pseudonym is based on the stumbling, bumbling Brad Pitt character in the movie "Burn After Reading", but I promised Chad that if he shoots par I will change his moniker to a more suave and debonair secret agent.

For some unknown reason, Chad subjects himself to my golf game every two weeks or so. I think he just likes making fun of me. Given his taunts and barbs, he must know that I have no swag on partnership decisions at my law firm.

Chad claims he is 5' 6" tall and weighs exactly 151.5 pounds. I am not buying it. But he hits the ball a country mile and generally straight down the middle. He is also very good around the greens and putting, although he has taken to the Kramer "in the grip" rule based on the full length of a long putter and sometimes even stretches that a bit. I have recently shamed Chad into walking the course and carrying his golf bag -- the way golf is supposed to be played. He is almost 25 years younger than me and it was embarrassing to see him riding in a cart while I was walking.

This weekend Chad and I played at Southern Dunes in Maricopa, Arizona. The course was set up for U.S. Open conditions because it hosted a U.S. Open sectional qualifier 3 days earlier. I carried Chad around the golf course helping with club selection, distances, pin locations and wind (I might as well have hit the shots for him). He was one over par heading to the par-4, 435-yard 18th hole. He needed a birdie to shake the Chad Feldheimer nom de plume. I instructed him to "hit it straight" on the tee box. His drive was bombed down the middle of the fairway about 165 yards from the flagstick. The approach shot is to a green surrounded on two sides with water with the pin tucked into the corner. Chad had to shoot at the flagstick and make birdie. He pulled out a 6-iron. I tossed some grass in the air and noted that the wind had picked up ever so slightly. Chad then choked and pulled his approach shot left over the cart path into the desert area and made a double-bogey for a 75, thus keeping his ignominious title for another two weeks.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Unfinished Business

This weekend Chad Feldheimer, the Gardener and I headed back to our old standby, Stonecreek Golf Club. The course is in great shape and on Mother's day the internet special was $45 per person and included a sleeve of Titleist ProV golf balls and a drink ticket. The last time I played at Stonecreek I shot my career round of 79 finishing double-bogey, double-bogey and bogey so there was some unfinished business between me and the finishing holes.

Recently, I have been hitting a lot of shots off of the toe of the club. In my last round at Hilton Head, I moved a little closer to the ball and was hitting the ball better. I continued to tinker with my swing this week and I squared my clubface and was making great contact in the middle of the club. I thought my club was square before and now it looks to me like it is hooded in, but I think that is because I was used to the open clubhead. When I hit the ball it was making that nice sound and there was no vibration from off-center hits. My ball was flying at least 10 to 15 yards farther than before and the grass ball marks on my irons were dead center. I hit a number of balls on the very back of the green or over the green that would have come up short before, and on the par-5 13th hole I hit my 1-hybrid from 225 yards and it was 10 yards past the flagstick!

I started the round bogey-bogey-bogey with two 3-putt greens. I parred 3 of the last 6 holes on the front side for a 41 (the front is a par 35). I was never in danger of a double-bogey. Chad Feldheimer shot a 37 and the Gardener shot a 41. There was no one in front of us so it was easy to keep in rhythm. We did have two women golfers behind us who were pretty good players and kept us moving along at a good pace. On the back 9 I heated up and made 5 pars and 4 bogeys for a 40. I did not make any birdies but I was never in danger of a double-bogey. I played my nemesis, holes 15, 16, 17 and 18, in two-over par. It was a rather ho-hum 81, driving the ball in the fairway (or at least on the grass), hitting the greens or fairly close, and two-putting. One area of improvement could have been the par-5 holes. There are three par-5 holes and I bogeyed each of them. Overall, it is really difficult to complain about an 81. Chad shot a 75 with two birdies. He hit his tee shot on the par-3, 227 yard 15th hole into the water and double-bogeyed the hole. The Gardener played reasonably well and shot an 84 with 3 double-bogeys. He made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 9 and 10, dropping two long putts (right after bad-mouthing his long putter and threatening to go back to his short putter).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Jewish Mafia

A few months' ago, my cousin invited me to participate in his Boys' Golf Weekend at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in late April. For purposes of my blog, my cousin's pseudonym will be "Mensch", which roughly means in yiddish "a good person," but really means a person with the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague. Mensch's baby brother's pseudonym could be "Baby Mensch", but instead will be "Jerusalem", which is kind of a play on words of his real first name with a Southern drawl. Mensch took care of all of the logistics for the golf trip. He booked a great house and all of the golf and, most importantly, was in charge of all social gambling, golf and cards. He was open to advice from all comers (and I am sure he received a lot of suggestions) and herded all of the cats from the house to the courses and back again. And he did it all with great humor and a smile on his face.

Mensch and Jerusalem's grandfather and my grandfather came over from Russia in the early 1900s and started a clothing (Schmatta in yiddish) business in New York City. The business was then passed down to our respective fathers. At some point, our fathers decided that someone needed to move down to Mississippi to be in charge of the garment factories and Mensch and Jerusalem's dad drew the short straw. Our families stayed in touch and we always knew what was going on with the other family, but we rarely saw each other while we were growing up. Maybe we would see each other at a wedding or bar mitzvah. Mensch and I went to summer school/camp together one year. But to us sophisticated New Yorkers, Mensch and Jerusalem and their two sisters were always those odd cousins from Mississippi that you could barely understand.

I took the red-eye on Thursday night and met the "Jewish Mafia" at the turn during the Friday morning golf round. There were eight of us, including me (how strange, the correct number for a boys' golf weekend). The group included Mensch's relatives (Jerusalem and me), fraternity brothers and other assorted close friends. The one common denominator was that everyone was Jewish. It was funny listening to good ole boys from Mississippi and Louisiana using yiddish words with a Southern accent (most of which I did not know).

Mensch is the best golfer in the group. He has a handicap index of 8 (although the way he played early in the trip he is closer to a 5!). The rest of the group ranged from a handicap of 12+/- to infinity (a sideways 8). We played 36 holes on Friday (I played 27), 36 holes on Saturday, 36 holes on Sunday and 18 holes on Monday. In the morning rounds we typically played our own ball and in the afternoon rounds we played some type of scramble format. I have no idea what I shot, but I did not play to my handicap. In Arizona, I am used to wide fairways with desert. If you hit into the desert you still may be able to advance the ball toward the green and save your par. These courses are all tree-lined and if you hit into the trees you are typically in "jail" and all you can do is punch the ball out into the fairway. I got pretty good at hitting the punch shot during this trip.

On Friday, we played two rounds at Hilton Head National, right outside of Hilton Head Island. National is a Gary Player-designed course that is very nicely manicured with generally wide open fairways and very playable. We played from the blue tees, which are only 6,160 yards with a course rating of 69.7 and a slope rating of 126. I drove the ball really well and was able to hit a lot of short irons into the greens because of the length of the course. The morning half-round was a warm-up and in the afternoon we played a two-man scramble and my partner and I ended up two-over par and won some of the betting games.

In the evenings we got home around 7:30, cooked dinner on the grill, played cards and watched playoff hockey. I tried to "fit in" and play cards on the first night and I bought my $20 of chips. The other guys knew they had a patsy and their eyes lit up when I asked them to explain the rules of each game we played. On the first hand, which was poker like you see on ESPN when nothing else is on television, I actually had some idea of the general rules. I lost $16! The next hand was complicated but half of the pot went to the person with the highest spade. I so happened to get the ace of spades and won back some of my money. The next game was something like 3/33 and I never did quite get all of the rules. Within another 30 minutes or so I lost all my money and went to watch the hockey game.

On Saturday, we played the Robert Cupp course at Palmetto Hall Plantation (as you can see the course goes all out on its website). The Cupp course is a great layout meandering through the wetlands with fairly generous fairways. If you hit a ball into the wetlands you risk your life trying to retrieve the ball because the alligators are lurking in the weeds (or come right up on the bank). We played from the blue tees in the morning, which are only 6,500 yards, but the course rating is 72.2 and the slope rating is 136 (it is 7.056 yards with a course rating/slope of 75.2/147 from the gold tees)! I shot a 90 in the morning with a couple of triple-bogey maximum holes and two birdies. I was very pleased with my score even though I played like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; half the time I hit the ball in the fairway and was dreaming of birdies and pars and half the time I drove the ball into the trees and was fighting to make bogeys and double-bogeys. In the afternoon, we played a 4-man scramble and I talked my team into playing from the gold tees. That was a big mistake! On the first tee we smelled something burning and it turned out to be one of our golfers burning the morning scorecard. The other foursome played from the blue tees and there were times that we were hitting from 100 yards behind the blue tees. It was a very long afternoon and we staggered home losing all bets.

On Sunday, we played the Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Hall Plantation (ditto for this course website). This course was also a very nice layout playing about 6,600 yards from the blue tees with a course rating of 72.7 and a slope rating of 139 (from the gold tees it is 6,900 yards with a course/slope rating of 74.2/145). The course was not in great condition supposedly due to some infestation, although someone said that the infestation may have been a lack of funds. I continued to falter with my balky driver and was feeling the effects of not enough sleep and not enough game. I went through at least 12 golf balls over the 36 holes. I was hitting everything off of the toe of the club. I lost track of my score in the morning and the afternoon was a disaster for our entire foursome in the best ball scramble. I hate to admit it, but it is the first time I have ever been over par in a 4-man scramble. Among the four of us we did not hit one par-3 green. By the 18th hole we were dragging so badly that we simply dropped a ball in the fairway and tried to played in and still may have bogeyed the hole if we did not take a 12-foot gimme. We lost the 2 nine hole nassaus, the 18 hole nassau and all four of the par-3 closest-to-the pin contests. I tried to shame the other team members into paying for dinner with their winnings without success.

On Monday, I felt refreshed and ready to go. We played Oyster Reef Golf Club. This course was substantially easier than the two Palmetto Hall Plantation courses. We played from the blue tees, which measure 6,440 yards with a course rating of 72.6 and a slope rating of 124. From the gold tees, the course measures 7,018 yards with a course rating of 74.7 and a slope rating of 137. I decided that simple physics dictated that if I move a tiny bit closer to the ball at address, I am more likely to hit the ball in the middle of the clubhead, rather than on the toe. This approach actually worked wonders, although there are always problems when you try to make a swing change on the fly. I hit a lot of really great shots and a few really poor shots. Many of the poor shots were with my sand wedge from tight lies in the fairway and the club bounced into the ball and I hit it thin over the green. I hit a lot of long, straight drives and hit some great approach shots. On the par-3, 168-yard signature hole, there was a 2 club wind and I hit a beautiful 3-hybrid that landed on the green and rolled into the fringe. I made a nice up-and-down for a par. On the 400-yard par-4 8th hole I hit a short drive that stayed in the fairway but the green was blocked by tree limbs. I decided to lay up with a 4-hybrid while our other group was on the green and I hit the hybrid on the screws with a nice draw about 210 yards landing on the green as our fellow Jewish Mafia group was putting. I felt terrible hitting into our other group, but I was psyched about the shot I hit! On the par-3, 165-yard 16th hole, I hit my 6-iron to about 12 feet and sunk the birdie putt. On 18, I hit a great 1-hybrid onto the green from about 210 yards out and made a ho-hum par. My scorecard was schizophrenic. I had two birdies and three exes that were generously scored as double-bogeys. I never did get my final score for the round. I was itching to play more golf, but we had planes to catch.

The trip home was long and tiring (I flew through Detroit!), but I had a great time and hope that Mensch, Jerusalem and the rest of the Jewish Mafia invite me back for next year's Boys' Golf Weekend.