March Madness is back. Having disconnected the cable about a year ago, I had to trek out to the local watering hole to catch the Big East final between my Hoyas and West Virginia last weekend. It was raining something spectacular, and Xianyi and I were hanging at home. I said, “Well, I’ve gotta go watch this game. I’ll be back in two hours.” Wherein I proceeded to one of the many shitty bars that I despise, alone, and sure to run into no one. It’s literally 45 seconds away, and I was drenched when I got there.
Georgetown lost on the final shot, which was some kind of miracle thrown up in desperation, and maybe the ugliest winning shot of any game in the history of basketball, but whatever. We have more Big East trophies than any other team, and this was the first for the Mountaineers. So, well done. Now we move onto the Big Dance.
How you like them Hoyas?
So Tiger’s coming back. Everybody knew he’d never miss the Masters. But why no warm-up tournament? I gotta think Arnie is a little miffed that Tiger won’t be at Bay Hill. My theory is that Billy Payne and the Augusta whitebreads will enforce a strict zero-sex-questions policy in the press tent, and employ plainclothes officers to follow El Tigre around the course from outside the ropes, ready to make an example of any “patrons” who wanna get cute.
The world of Tiger Woods is falling apart, his reputation is dinged and he may end up paying lots of money to one or more women – but at least one good thing has resulted. This is the end of the Church of Tiger Woods movement.
Seriously. You didn’t know about www.tigerwoodsisgod.com? The First Church of Tiger Woods, where they rejoice in “the emergence of the ‘true’ messiah”, was recently renamed by its Pastor, “The Damnation of Tiger Woods.” There you can find several long posts directed at Tiger from the Pastor, who founded the church back in 1996 but has now decided to disband it, on account of Tiger’s Transgressions.
… you might think that such a decision might be difficult. In this case, it was not. Unfortunately, Tiger Woods has made it all to easy to realize that he is no longer worthy of any special admiration.
Check it out soon, because the Pastor won’t be renewing the domain. My favorite part is the photo captioned: “Proud Father looks on as Tiger Woods wins the Masters.”
The annual golfing tradition known as Pros vs. Joes took place recently, and it was not pretty for the Joes.
The pros – Pete and Remy – were looking to avenge their losses in the first two installments of the Fall Finish last year, when Johnny cakes and I destroyed them twice – first at Hackensack, then at Ridgewood.
One of the benefits of being a looper is that you can play top notch courses for free, by virtue of your friendships to the people who run these places. When the fancy clubs are closed to members, there are opportunities for the workingmen to enjoy themselves on the fairways and greens.
This time, sadly, it was more often the rough and the sand for me and my partner. It started off with a bad sign: I lost an entire brand new sleeve of Titleists on the first hole. Two in the water off the tee, and a third, dropped behind the pond, also failed to clear the drink. All day, the Joes won 2 holes, I think. The final verdict was a $36 dollar defeat.
We had a beautiful day for it, though. Late October, leaves changing color, a crisp breeze but sunny skies that meant the sweaters could stay off most of the day. Afterwards, three of us went down to the Hudson Tavern for a kingly feast. The pros were gracious enough to pick up the tab.
Team Portfolio was this close to qualifying for the US Amateur – we were right there through 32 holes – and then, nuclear meltdown.
I have to take some responsibility. In my many years of caddying, with so much riding on the line, I have never made such a boneheaded recommendation as telling Will that 5 iron was the club on the 15th hole.
The problem was my notes. See, Will had almost missed his practice round by driving to the wrong Trump National – he went to the one in New Jersey instead of New York, and so he ended up getting in only 14 holes that day. Hence I was filling in notes during our morning round because it was clear we were going to be around in the afternoon – unlike last year when we got cut at lunch and I went back to Hackensack and caddied for Jim McGovern who shot a heavenly 61 that day.
So when we came around to the 15th that afternoon, just coming off a birdie at 14 and just 2-over for the tournament, club selection was crucial. We were looking at a par-3 playing about 176 with water on the right. Looking back, it’s obvious that 6-iron was the club. The problem was, he had hit 5-iron in the morning and ended up on the fringe a little back of the pin. I was looking at the notes, thinking, we hit 5 this morning, let’s hit 5 again. Well, either there was some wind in the morning, or Will didn’t get all of it, because the 5 in the afternoon sailed over the green, hit some branches, landed on a cart path and jumped out of bounds, effectively ending our run.
Will then hit a provisional ball into the water. We went and looked for the ball and found it OB. He dropped in the drop area and hit a bad chip. Then he 3-putted for an 8. Then he was so pissed he lost his drive right on the next hole. Then he went for the green with a 3-wood and hit it in the water. It was awful to watch. He took another 8. How many back-to-back eights do you see out there?
The funny part was that he had makeable birdie putts on the last two holes and missed them both. He took an 83 for the afternoon, signed his card and we went directly to the parking lot. That was that. We later found out that +3 made it into the US Amateur. He was +2 through 32 holes! We were crestfallen.
The whole drive home we were thinking: what were we thinking? Why did we hit five from 176 out? One reason was the notes. Another reason was that Will was hitting five into almost every green, and he was hitting it damn well. So when we thought it was 5 on 15, we were like, we love 5-iron. It was groupthink on a small scale.
I mentioned to Will that eight is a lucky number in China, and that two eights together were especially auspicious. He said, “Really?” with a note of optimism…
On the Saw Mill Parkway, driving home, we saw a terrible accident involving a burned-out, flipped-over car and miles upon miles of people backed up in traffic. I don’t know about Will, but I was thinking there’s more important things than golf, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.
And we still have the club championship. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be club champ at 20? First match, 9:08 tomorrow morning.
I ended up caddying for Will on Saturday in the first round of the qualifier for Club Championship. He shot an outstanding 35-33 for his own personal best at Hackensack, 68.
He was hitting the ball so well, it was just a privilege to be able to watch it. But to actually play a part in it was an honor. Will and I were really working together throughout, with me providing valuable insight into exact distances to the flag. Will trusted my every judgment, and the swings he was making out there were perfect – he had approaches land between 8 inches and 6 feet about eight or nine times.
He had a 25-footer for eagle on one. Chipped to four feet on two. Blasted out of the sand to 10 feet on three (his first of only two bogeys). Knocked it to 6 feet on four, 5 feet on five, 6 feet on seven, 8 inches on 12, 5 feet on 13 (a rare miss), four feet on 16, 8 feet on 17 (another miss, sadly). He rolled it in from 20 feet for birdie on 15. It was just an all-around fabulous display of professional-level golf. His was the low round of the day by four strokes.
I wasn’t going to carry for him originally. I planned on letting him qualify on his own, leaving me free to make some money on Saturday and then head down the shore that night. Besides, I knew he could qualify no problem and that where he really needed me was in the matches the next two weekends. But I had no ride up to the club to make the early loops – so I took the train and got there in the middle of qualifiying rounds. What was I going to do? Pick up the bag of some random joe against Will just so I could make a lousy 60 or 80 bucks? No way.
But the shore plans remained in effect, which meant I would not be on the bag Sunday. This lead to a little experiment. What would the difference be between Will having me by his side and playing alone off the cart? Although it’s not exactly scientific, with only one round of testing, the result turns out to be: 13 strokes.
Yeah. Boy went out on Sunday morning leading the field by four and ended up with an 81 – a match of cards put him as the fourth seed. No big deal; he’s in the tournament. But the word around the club now is that I am like a natural force of Looper and that, without me on the bag, the Golden Boy Will turns magically into the duffer Bill. As Denis put it, “Thank God you’re going to be out here for him next weekend.”
Friday night’s match was dead even going into the last hole. After an auspicious start for myself, birdieing the first hole while Will doubled, to give me a 7-shot lead (getting five strokes), I managed to stumble, as I usually do. There were a few lost balls. Will, meanwhile, just continued to make pars. We ended up on the 9th tee tied.
I drove the ball right down the center of the fairway, and Will sliced it OB. That pretty much ended it. We couldn’t find his ball and he played his provisional into the trap. Though it was near complete darkness, I absolutely pured a 5-iron right at the stick to about 15 feet. A simple two-putt par, and a vital victory in the Bory Cup matches.
The points are now all tied at 4 each. I need 3 and a half to win the cup; Will needs 3 to defend it.
This year’s competition for the Bory Cup is heating up as it enters its final stages.
Conceived as a ten-match summer event between Will and I last year, the format of the Bory Cup underwent some alterations this year. It also acquired an actual cup (above) to be held by the champion. Will was the inaugural winner.
Rather than ten matches, the event has been extended to a maximum of 14. But it could be over in as little as seven. Each match is worth one point, with a halve awarding half a point to each competitor. The defending champion needs seven points to retain the cup; the challenger needs 7.5 to wrest it.
This year started off more evenly than last year, when Will basically ran away with it. (Though I don’t remember the exact score, as I was not documenting it, I think I only won one or two points). The first match of 2008 was held May 3, right after Will got back from school, and was halved. The second match, which I wrote about for its lopsidedness, was a decisive victory for the elder brother. But in a stretch from late May to the end of June, Will was dominant, with three victories and a halve. Just when it was looking awful, I came back with a narrow victory in a 9-hole match in which Will gave me 5 shots (these matches are handicapped, naturally, since our indexes vary by about 10 shots).
Now the score stands Will 4, Rindy 3. The next match is scheduled for this evening around 6pm, where we will hope to get in 18 before the light closes us out. With sunset scheduled for 8:18, we may only have room for nine. But every match is a match. And with Will going back to school in three weeks, we have to get them in where we can!