By Bruce Meadows
Another day . . . or is it ???
Is it just me, or does one day start to feel like the day before to you as well. . . with the expectation that tomorrow may feel a lot like today?
And when you have no place you can really go for the most part – at least for those responsible individuals following suggested/mandated guidelines — does your life tend to slow down?
Before the pandemic, there were times I might have rushed to get something done at home or work If I had to go to the store or run an errand, would possibly hurry to finish it so I could move on to the next thing.
But that’s changed, at least for me and a lot of others with whom I communicate. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, taking time to maybe do things right instead of rushing through them, taking time to appreciate things you may tend to not really think about under normal circumstances.
Yesterday I spent the better part of an hour watching hummingbirds feast at our backyard feeder, the energetic birds showing little concern for the problems that affect the rest of us.
I actually enjoyed cutting the grass in our backyard, and my preparation for my annual vegetable garden is taking much longer than usual.
In the hills above our house, I watched deer and rabbits, even a few foxes, go about their business, seemingly oblivious to the world we have come to know as I took our dog Molly Rose for a walk.
She doesn’t know or ostensibly care about the coronavirus . . . as long as she gets her walk, and her breakfast and dinner are served in a timely manner.
This time has given to me, and I’m sure many others, the opportunity to reflect . . . on serious matters and on maybe frivolous things, too.
Seeing how GOLF 707 deals with golf, I wanted to share some thoughts I had about my own relationship with the humbling but often rewarding game.
And I would love to hear some of your thoughts as well, so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My first exposure to the game came when I was in high school and had a job working at a driving range that was located close to my home in Redwood City.
I recall the manager was a somewhat seedy individual named Clyde, who we discovered at one point was spending his free time looking at porn magazines in his tiny office.
Among other things, my job was to drive the ball-picker on the range. It turned out to be a good deal for the range because my friends started coming out to hit balls, usually targeting me in the picker !!!
The cage was in poor shape so driving the picker was not really all that safe, although I managed to avoid being hit.
There was a miniature golf course of sorts in front of the range and I recall it being in really sad shape.
I actually started “playing” golf about that time and spent a lot of time hitting balls on that range . . . the price was right.
At one point I started to venture out to local courses, including Emerald Hills in Redwood City, a challenging 9-hole layout that I figured would have fallen prey to a housing development but it’s apparently still in business.
I also played at a 9-hole course in the middle of a race track, think it was Tanforan in Burlingame although the course – and the track – are history.
My first 18-hole outing was at Crystal Springs in Burlingame, a demanding but beautiful layout then and now. Every time I now drive past the place I have fond memories of good times there with friends.
I got away from the game for a while, mainly because of school, but resumed playing in my early 20s, which seems and is so long ago!
In those early days, I was a poor player, with a slice that defied description.
But, as is sometimes the case, I recorded my first hole-in-one about six months after I resumed playing, bad game and all.
It was at a small course in Cupertino – I was working at the Palo Alto Times then – and I remember the hole was a long (190 yards) uphill par-3.
Took a fairway wood and sent the ball far left – to help make up for what I knew would be a horrendous slice. My friend playing with me insisted later that the ball actually flew out over the parking lot before making a sharp right-hand turn and heading back toward the golf course.
We figured the ball had continued its errant path and would end up somewhere far right of the green. So we didn’t even check the green, just started looking in the weeds to the right.
We had no luck, but my friend, whose ball had actually landed on the green, yelled out to me: “What ball were you playing?”
In those days, I bought cheap golf balls . . . this one was purchased at a local drug store.
I returned to the green, realized the ball in the cup was mine . . . amazing. I was happy but not all that impressed. Not really a big deal.
An older man playing with us got a lot more excited than me . . . said he had been playing for a long time and had never seen an ace. In fact, he got so excited, he left us on the next tee and headed back to the clubhouse.
When we were done and returned to the pro shop, the guy working there had heard about my success from the old guy. He insisted on getting my name so he could send the information somewhere – Golf Digest ??? – that kept track of such things in those days.
Just for fun, instead of giving my real name, I told him to put down “Ace Meadows” and he did.
Ironically, for years after that, I was receiving mail addressed to “Ace Meadows,” which tells you how your information can be passed along.
I continued to play on a fairly regular basis, slowly improving. Played at Palo Alto Muni, Sharon Heights, Los Altos G&CC and other local courses.
After using friends’ clubs or hand-me-down equipment, I realized it was time to buy my own sticks.
My new bride Sandy graciously offered to make the clubs a wedding present, so Dick O’Connor, a sportswriter at the Palo Alto Times, set me up to get a set at Palo Alto Muni, where he was a good friend of the pro.
When I got there one morning, the pro wasn’t working so I talked to one of his assistants. He wasn’t sure which clubs the pro intended for me, but found a set in the backroom and said, “I think these are the ones.”
Not only was there a full set of MacGregor Tourney irons – you know, those blades that few people can hit effectively — but also four Byron Nelson (Nos. 1-4) persimmon woods. Barely used.
The guy said that would be $90, which seemed a little steep to me . . . boy, was I wrong. When he tossed in a golf bag, we had a deal.
The next week, I was playing golf at Los Altos G&CC, paired up with a pair of local doctors. One of them kept looking at my golf bag.
Midway through the round, he asked me about the clubs, where I had found the set, said he had been looking for woods like that for a while, adding “those are beautiful clubs.”
I didn’t tell him how much I paid for them, although I let him use the driver on a couple of holes. When we finished the round, he asked me if I would consider selling the four woods.
I said they were a wedding present from my bride so it probably wasn’t a good idea to sell them. Then he offered me $100 . . . each !!!
My wife and I were not exactly flush financially at the time, so the offer was tempting. But I realized, besides being a bad move for my marriage, that these beautiful clubs were obviously worth more than I realized. Since then they have become collector’s items.
I declined the offer and still have the clubs, although I haven’t used them in a long time, wisely opting to display them in a cabinet for safe keeping. Jim Strong (Strong’s Golf) re-gripped and re-conditioned the clubs for me a few years ago.
Well, that’s enough for now . . . will continue my personal golf history in the next GOLF 707. And as I suggested, if you have some good golf stories, please email me.
A word from other golfers . . .
Windsor pro Jason Schmuhl, an outstanding golfer and a conscientious guy, responded to my last column in which I questioned whether golf courses should be considered “essential” in might of what we’re facing.
“These are crazy times for sure, and I understand the need to try to stay safe and not spread the virus, but closing golf courses, parks etc. doesn’t make sense to me,” says Jason.”Instead, I feel they should give people a healthy outlet and just change the way business is done. Perhaps, no carts, perhaps everyone pays online so there’s no human interaction, perhaps raise the holes, etc. make things as safe as possible.
“But I believe if you take these things away from people during this time that you are doing more harm than good. People need a safe outlet during these difficult times and golf provides this.
I said I agreed to disagree in some ways, and Jason wrote back: “Definitely not trying to say that golf is “essential” I just think it’s something people can do while practicing social distancing. I didn’t agree with closing the parks either, but that’s just my opinion. “
An honest and appreciate opinion, and I’d like to hear what you think, too.
From Tom Isaak, who presides over the CourseCo group, had this to say:
“Tiny item: Completion of bunker renovations at Foxtail North and South have been indefinitely postponed by the City of Rohnert Park as it faces fiscal uncertainty due to impacts of the virus..”
Youth on Course . . .
Youth on Course, a great program designed to get kids playing golf at a very reasonable cost, has continued to offer ideas during the pandemic.
From it’s “Play it Safe” Resource Center:
“The world certainly looks differently today than it did a few weeks ago.
To help our YOC family stay motivated, productive and inspired while practicing physical distancing at home, we’ve curated helpful resources to keep you connected to golf and your community over the coming weeks.
Play it Safe Resource center https://youthoncourse.org/covid-19-resources/
Let’s hear from you . . .
Thanks for your comments, questions and suggestions. I appreciate getting them and would like to get as many as possible. If you have information about anything golf-related, including upcoming clinics, activities, tournaments or sales, let me know. And if you have questions, complaints or compliments about golf in our area, I want to hear them.
If you have a golfer – pro or amateur — you know who you think would make an interesting story, tell me about it and I will take it from there. Having trouble with your game? Let me know what it is and I’ll try to get an answer for you from a local pro.
We would be proud to include you as one of our sponsors – thanks to Bill Carson at Wine Country Golf for his continued support – so if you care to get some details about being a sponsor of GOLF 707, email me at email@example.com
Dear Bruce (or should I say “Ace”?),
Thanks very much for your blog and interesting golf stories. You’ve got a rich background both in the game of golf and the chronicling of the sport at the professional and amateur levels in the Bay Area (and beyond). I’ve always enjoyed the brief conversations we’ve had before or after my rounds at the Fairgrounds (and the fun/entertaining insights you’ve generously shared).
As we all manage our way through this COVID-19 crisis, I definitely miss golf. While it is definitely the most challenging and humbling game I’ve ever tried to play, it represents a source of mild exercise, competition, and social activity that I truly cherish. All the other games that I played when I was younger (basketball, football and baseball) required more “practice” than “game time.” For example, in football, we’d practice 12+ hours per week for a single 60-minute game on Friday or Saturday. And every other organized sport played included a training period, where we would basically focused on just getting in shape and working on fundamentals. For the average amateur golfer, getting ready for golf generally involves making a tee time, hoping for good weather, and making sure you’ve got clubs and enough balls and tees (LOL). Obviously, accomplished/talented golfers devote much more time and effort to this silly hobby (but I don’t include myself in that lofty category). Ironically, during this pandemic, I have more time than ever to practice. But even golf ranges are closed. I am practicing chipping and putting in my backyard and my dog has become pretty good at shagging balls for me (though a few of my Titleists are a little worse for wear — I have a friendly pitbull).
For avid golfers like me, perhaps we can consider this pause in the game an opportunity for us to have a “Spring Training” for the new season (whenever it begins). We can focus on getting into better shape (walking and core fitness). Most of us walk at the Fairgrounds, but I have to admit that I’d gotten a bit lazy at longer courses (opting for an electric cart). Moving forward, whenever I can, I’m going to try to walk most golf courses. That being said, I understand that some folks need a cart to enjoy the game (and it’s an important source of revenue for many courses). Nevertheless, walking is a good thing and it supports the new social distancing mandates that we all should abide by (on and off the golf course). And with a little practice, maybe all of us can get better. The Internet/YouTube offers plenty of drills/instruction we can try during this time of sheltering in place. I know many of my friends will be shocked/amazed to hear ME talk about practice. Heck — even I am amazed that I’m recommending practice. It makes me think of that classic rant by the 11-time NBA all-star Allen Iverson and his views on “practice” (just Google it for a giggle).
Nice reminiscing Bruce. Like in Oregon I think courses should be open, as long as they follow the social distancing rules. Only 1 or 2 players at a time. No flagstick or ball washers. And make sure slicers are paired with hookers so they will stay on their own side of the fairway!