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A Day With Pete Dye — A Look Back at a Cold and Rainy Election Day 2000 on the Mississippi Coast

This week, the PGA Championship will be played where the infamous “War By The Shore” 1991 Ryder Cup was played–the Ocean Course at Kiawah on the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina.  Some say it may be Pete Dye’s best work (if not his most demanding).  I had the good fortune to play the course the spring after the Ryder Cup, but that story cannot be posted here yet because the magazine for whom the story is written diesn’t publish until later this month (check back in a week or two because it’s a good read and not for the reason you might think). 

But as I read the many stories about the “evil” genius that is Pete Dye, I am reminded of Election Day 2000 when I and a handful of others were lucky enough to spend a cold and rainy November day in Ocean Springs, Mississippi following Pete Dye around one of his very first 18-hole designs–and one that doesn’t get any attention anymore because it has been shut down for nearly 15 years and overgrown by trees and marsh.  I wrote about the day in the August 2001 edition of “Lipouts” and it is republished below.  I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed spending the day with the “evil genius.”

“A Day With Pete Dye” — By Nathan Crace, Copyright August 2001

It was cold. And wet. And miserable. And I couldn’t have been happier. As I watched the cold winter rain drizzle over the tidal marsh in the distance, it almost appeared that the tall upright marsh grass—turned a grayish-brown from the winter temperatures—was stretching out to meet the rain as it fell from the sky. This was Election Day 2000 and it was also the day I was to meet the man some call a living legend. You could even argue that he has had the most influence on the game of golf of any architect since Robert Trent Jones. I was going to be one of a handful of people spending the day with the Pete Dye regarding an upcoming project on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Pine Island course (shut down since Hurricane Georges in October of 1998) was one of Dye’s first courses.

The course—then named Marsh Island—was built in the late 1960’s for less than what we spend nowadays on eighteen green complexes. The owner felt that having Dye involved with the project again would not only bring notoriety to the Ocean Springs course, but that it was also the right thing to do since he was the original architect—good call.  I don’t really know what I had grown so nervous about as we sat waiting on Mr. Dye to arrive—his plane delayed by the bad weather. I have met a number of “famous” people in my life such as actors, comedians, politicians, and professional athletes, but for some reason I had never been especially impressed by these others—let alone nervous about meeting them. However, meeting Pete Dye was going to be different. This insurance salesman turned golf course architect icon was self-made and time-tested for longer than I had been alive, with hundreds of golf courses around the globe to his credit.

To be honest, my first impression was that he wasn’t as tall as I had envisioned him being from seeing pictures in magazines. In fact, to the untrained eye Dye might even go unnoticed in a large crowd. No flashy clothes or fancy shoes. Maybe I assumed he would take over the room when he walked in like some well-traveled celebrity. That’s not to say he didn’t have the attention of everyone in the room—he did. But it was more like the respect all of the family gives your Grandfather when he prepares to bless the Thanksgiving dinner. Pete Dye is more of the quiet, thinking type than some might assume of a person with his extensive background.

There we were: eight of us trudging through the weather following Mr. Dye across 18 holes of overgrown rain-soaked fairways, along acres of tidal marsh, and through countless puddles of cold water up to our ankles—all on foot because he likes to walk a course. We spent about three hours walking the property and I got the impression that some would have had a difficult time keeping up with the 70+ year-old Dye if he had not kept stopping to admire the views from the course and out across the tidal marsh. Remarkably, he remembered a great deal about the course he had not seen in thirty years, commenting of certain holes that stood out in his mind.

As sunlight began to fade across the bay, about five or so of us decided to get cleaned up and go out for dinner before Mr. Dye had to catch his late flight home that evening. Just as he had been the entire day, Mr. Dye remained conversational and “down to earth” at the restaurant as he shared stories from years of travel and hundreds of projects around the globe. I tried to keep quiet and listen—at first not even mentioning our Indiana connection (both of us having family roots there). I wanted to hear what he had to talk to about and, after all, I can hear myself talk anytime. I learned from my parents at a very early age to take the time to “listen” to the stories of older generations and not just “hear” what they had to say. So, notwithstanding his impressive resume as an architect, I listened. And I learned. And believe me: you cannot imagine how difficult it is to spend a day with someone like Mr. Dye and force yourself not to “pick his brain” at every chance you get. As dinner drew to a close and we all said our goodbyes, we snapped a couple of photos and I ran off into the rain-soaked darkness, climbed into my car, and drove two hours home to my family—appreciating even more the value of time well spent with people worth admiring.


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Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


The Open Returns to Royal Lytham — Eleven Years Later

The last time The Open Championship (or what we Americans call the British Open) was held at Royal Lytham & St Annes was more than ten years ago.  And do you remember who won in 2001?  A world-dominating David Duval.  Of course, much has been written, speculated, and read from a teleprompter regarding exactly what happened to Duval as he plummeted from grace following his Claret Jug win.  Recently, I saw an interview with Duval and it reminded me of an open letter I wrote to Duval asking him, frankly, what happened?  It is perhaps the most honest and heartfelt question from one guy to another: What happened to you?  As in “What happened to you? You use to be an awesome player?” or “What happened to you? You used to meet me at the gym every morning?” or “What happened to you? You used to have hair?”  It’s the type of question one guy asks another guy when they haven’t seen each other for a few years.  It’s not mean, it’s not rude, it’s simply sincere.

When I wrote the open letter in my “Lipouts” column that appeared in some regional golf publications, I actually received some emails and letters from people accusing me of “picking on” Duval.  Some said I didn’t understand him or I should leave him alone!  I’m pretty confident that Duval wasn’t reading “Lipouts” at the time (or now), but I couldn’t understand why people thought that a series of thoughtful questions was mistaken as being “mean.”

Since the Open is returning to Royal Lytham later this month, I thought I would re-publish the original open letter to Duval here and let you decide for yourself.  I’d love to see Duval play well enough to put himself in contention at the Open like he did at the US Open not too long ago.  Maybe we’ll see lightning strike again this year across the pond!

“An Open Letter to David Duval” — June 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Duval:

Those of us who enjoy watching the game of golf played by the best players in the world have banded
together to collectively ask one simple question: “What gives?” To say you have been conspicuously absent from the PGA Tour on the weekends this year would be an understatement at best. Your 145 total after the first two rounds at this year’s Memorial served to bring your string of seven—yes seven—straight missed cuts to an end. Although a pair of 78’s on the weekend put the brakes on your “comeback.” Not too long ago, finding your name on the first page of the leader board was as easy as finding someone with a liberal arts degree serving up a double mocha cappuccino at Starbucks. So again we ask, “What gives?”

I understand that a number of pundits have been quick to explain the demise of your game over the last two years. Tumbling from the number one player in the world to a guy who would have lost his Tour card if not for the exemption that is part and parcel of your 2001 British Open victory. Some say it’s your breakup with your long-time fiancée, others say a lack of commitment. Some even say that you need to decide between snowboarding and golf—a strange decision to have to make. But for those of us who enjoyed watching the seemingly difficult to understand player behind the wraparound shades play the game, we just want to see you back in action.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief following your second round 62 during the FBR Capital Open this
year, hoping it was the beginning of the end of the slump. Your one-under-par finish was good enough for a
tie for 28th place come Sunday afternoon (your best of the year) and seemed to have you poised for a strong finish at the US Open. I guess I don’t have to tell you that +10 didn’t make the cut at Olympia Fields. Then again, I also don’t have to tell you that you have only managed to make 4 cuts in 14 events this year either.

So it comes to this: what can you do to regain the magic that we remember you best for? To be honest, we miss you. You were the man who dethroned Tiger. The player who would give him a run for his money
each week. This generation’s Arnie versus Jack. We understand that a bad back can be more than just an aggravation and make an action as unnatural as a golf swing about as comfortable as bamboo shoots under your fingernails. So taking a closer look at your statistics, here is my humble opinion. You rank in the top 115 in only one major statistical category: putting average (where you rank 29th). Don’t worry about
putting—you have many, many more important areas to work on. Namely, driving the ball. Out of 475
possible fairways, you’ve only found the short grass on 224 through the US Open—ranking 183rd on Tour.
Strangely, you also rank 183rd in greens in regulation. So the driver needs tuning, the irons are off, yet the
putter is working well. Why is this? A certain left-handed fellow Tour player may believe that the demise of
your game is not so coincidently tied to your switch to “inferior equipment.” But we’ll leave that up to
someone else to ponder.

So David—can I call you David? Do your fans a favor and yourself an even bigger favor. Pick up the
pieces, drop in for some range ball time with David Leadbetter, and stop listening to the talking heads who
now pontificate your fate and the reason for it because their games are washed up and they have nothing
better to do with their time. The last thing I want to see is the complete disappearance of David Duval from
the game, only to re-surface twenty years from now as a television commentator/Champions Tour
comeback player after your professional snowboarding career has come and gone. We’ll be watching. And
waiting. A few more rounds like that Friday at the TPC at Avenel and maybe we’ll see you on the leader
board (if not the winner’s circle) by, say, The International? Keep up the comeback, forget the pundits and
most importantly, buy a new driver and get the ball in the hole.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


Why Kevin Na Needs a Mentor to Help Him with his Waggle Woes.

There’s a lot of talk this week about Kevin Na’s “prolonged” pre-shot routine and the subsequent impact on the pace of play.  I can relate because I had a similar issue playing varsity golf in high school and I know other kids hated being paired with me.  In fact, some would walk ahead instead of wait.  But I got over it eventually on my own.  If you remember, Sergio Garcia had a similar problem in 2002 that was so bad he was constantly heckled by patrons at the US Open at Bethpage.  But Sergio got through it and hopefully Na will too.  I wrote a column later in 2002 about how Garcia got over it and I’ve re-printed it here in it’s entirety.  Maybe all Na needs is a guiding mentor…..

“A New Grip on Life’s Lessons”  Originally published August 16, 2002

Pick your target. Set your right foot. Then your left. Double-check the target. Grip the club. Regrip.
Re-grip. Re-grip. Re-grip. Re-grip. Re-grip. Re-grip. Re-grip. If you’ve seen any golf on television
during the past two years, you know where this is going. Sergio Garcia’s relentless habit—we’ll call it a
nervous twitch—of re-gripping the club more times than you can bear to watch before hitting a shot. Any
shot. At the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, it became such a torment to spectators that the less-than cordial crowd of New Yorkers was sure to give him their opinion of the situation. The groans and moans echoing through the massive crowds earlier in the week soon turned to heckling and disparaging remarks about the young Spaniard’s family origins and his superstar tennis pro girlfriend Martina Hingis.

Such a shame. Sure the habit is annoying. It’s almost painful to watch. But I can relate in a different way.
Granted I’ve never played in the U.S Open—or anything remotely close in importance to the golf
world. However, I have had to work my way through a nervous twitch that almost forced me to quit the
game. A twitch that was eerily similar to Garcia’s. Playing varsity golf in high school in Indiana, I developed what others called a “twitchy thumb.” I would take my stance over the ball preparing to swing and stand there twitching my right thumb over the grip—some 15 to 20 times before swinging. It got so bad that my own teammates would ask the coach not to be paired with me—especially in important matches. Why did I do it? When did it begin? No one knew. Especially not me. It’s not as though I wanted to stand there twitching. Nor was I a nervous person. But that thumb consumed my golf game and when I could not stop it, it nearly stopped me. I finally forced myself to get over it—only twitching once nowadays.

So I felt bad for Sergio at the U.S Open and although I found myself thinking to the television “Just hit the ball,” I also found myself wanting to make all of the raucous members of the crowd disappear for his sake. I felt sorry for him because I could relate, in part, to the frustration. He has enough on his shoulders as the one the media has picked to de-throne Tiger without having to deal with a nervous twitch—and the fallout from the fans.

Fast forward to the made-for-television Battle at Bighorn in the desert southwest. Nicklaus and
Woods versus Trevino and Garcia. The cagey veterans had their share of the limelight with a handful of
crowd-pleasing shots and Tiger put on a proverbial clinic of shot making and scoring. But the bigger story
from where I stood was Garcia’s re-gripping—or lack thereof. It had nearly disappeared for the most part, or at least had been severely minimized. “Good for him,” I thought. And apparently, so did Jack Nicklaus.
During a commercial timeout, a camera and a microphone captured an intriguing sound bite for those of us in our living rooms—the type of glimpse inside the game we don’t much get to see. Nicklaus was telling Garcia how proud he was of him to overcome his habit. “It makes me happy to see guys be able to change things to improve their games,” he told Garcia. Sergio was beaming and, with his arm around the shoulder of the greatest golfer to ever play the game, smiled back and said simply “thank you.”

If ever there was a reassurance that he was doing the right thing in getting rid of his nervous twitch, there it was: the undisputed master of the game giving him a lesson in life on changing things within himself for the better.  Not because of pressure from hecklers in an overzealous crowd or sports critics.  That is one reason why golf is so different from other sports we see in modern times. Young stars of the PGA Tour are not being tried for murder or being led from their home in handcuffs by undercover FBI agents. Is it because of the relationship between the veterans and the young guys? Is the difference, in part, because they have someone to turn to when they need help, someone to take them under a wing for some serious one-on-one “father-son” talk in a stressful and “on-the-run” occupation? Someone to learn from because they’ve been there and done that?

Although I cannot verify its authenticity, one of my favorite stories relating to this topic is of a young Arnold Palmer in his rookie year on the PGA Tour. He was meeting veteran player Byron Nelson for a practice round prior to a tournament. They met in the pro shop and Nelson asked the club pro behind the counter what the course record was and who held it. As they made their way to the first tee, Palmer figured Nelson wanted to know the course record because he was going to set a new one that day, but he asked Nelson why he wanted to know who held the record? Nelson replied that if the club pro had the record, he didn’t want to break it. After all, it was the club pro’s course, not his. This is the type of life lesson even the man who would become King can learn from the game of golf. The type of lesson Nicklaus so graciously takes the time to pass on to Garcia and countless others.

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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


Return to Brookhaven (Mississippi) Country Club

Admittedly, it had been a long time since I last visited Brookhaven Country Club (BCC) and even longer since I had played the course.  Too long.  BCC is actually one of the oldest courses in Mississippi and was a nine-hole country club like so many others in the Magnolia State until 1999.  That’s when we were hired to design ten new holes north of the existing course on some newly acquired land and then the following year we turned the original nine holes in eight new holes with more room between.  Sidebar: Bernie Ebbers of MCI/WorldCom fame was a resident of BCC, a member at the club. and he personally financed the renovation back when the markets were rolling along and he was the poster boy of telecom and Wall Street.  How times have changed.  Anyway, there’s a new owner now who also owns a local car dealership and–on the day I returned–the parking lot was slammed.  I soon found out they were all out of carts and I would have to wait 20 minutes for a cart to come back in.  Times are good.

My return to BCC was for a very special reason.  One of the many hats I wear is the golf coach at Simpson County Academy in Mendenhall, Mississippi close to my home.  It’s an opportunity to give some talented kids a shot at becoming better and playing some great golf courses.  We actually have a lot of talent for a small school.  They learn from me and I from them.  And on this day, I had a young man who had qualified for the State Championship as an individual the week prior in the South State Tournament.  He had never seen the course before, so I told him we had to go play it before the State Tourney.  The problem was, I had to go to Florida for a quick trip that weekend.  So following my site visit at Donald Ross’ Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida the day before (that will be a future post), I headed to Palm Beach International for an early Sunday flight, received an enlightening “pat down” from a friendly TSA agent, was assigned a new seat (along with two other people who had the same seat), connected in Atlanta where we had to deplane the second plane due to maintenance issues and wait on a new plane two hours later, and arrived back in Jackson at 3pm.  Cutting the available hours of useful daylight I had planned on having by four hours.

Once we got to the course, I quickly remembered what I loved about BCC.  It’s a wonderful, fast, firm, and fun test of golf.  The self-proclaimed eccentric design features moguls, mounds, native grasses, a splattering of strategic bunkers, and some water–all in a tight package on a great piece of property.  Fairways that suddenly end and transform into rollicking masses of rough-covered moguls before the approach to rolling greens that are surrounded by more swales, mounds and chipping areas than sand or water in most cases keep your radar up while some scallops and roller coaster fairway shaping framed by lovegrass and occasional trees can create some unexpected bounces.  Slopes and banks can be used by the imaginative player as backstops and run-ups while other greens might require a flop shop from one side or a bump and run from the other–depending on the pin placement.

The aforementioned new piece of property that was acquired for the project is a mix of pine trees and open former farm land.  When I routed the course, I intentionally crossed in and out of these areas to mix up the hole settings so one nine wouldn’t be trees and the other open.  The result is an 18-hole blend of four par 5’s, six par 3’s, and 10 par 4’s that adds up to a round par 70.  We knew we didn’t have enough land for a long par 72 and I didn’t want a Mickey Mouse par 72 that sacrificed challenge for lack of length.  I also didn’t want a typical par 70 with only two par 5’s.  So the result is a fun layout that was actually a precursor to how I routed the design of the 6-6-6 routing of Copper Mill near Baton Rouge a few years later.

BCC is what golf should be and what we need more of on this side of the Atlantic: fun and firm and not over-irrigated and searching for imaginary agronomic perfection.  I’ve attached a number of photos from Sunday and the next day during the actual tournament to demonstrate.  Remember, BCC is not wall to wall green and they don’t strive to be.  They were a little drier than usual from a lack of rain for weeks, but the greens were in good shape and I loved it.  If you ever find yourself on I-55 between New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi, take a detour at exit 42 about 30 minutes north of McComb, Mississippi, head east to Highway 51, then north to the city limits where you will find Brookhaven CC on your right.  Take it for a test drive and see what you think.  Don’t waste your time stressing about perfectly green turf and take in the twists and turns of the design.  Get creative with your shot selections and have fun.  And if you don’t enjoy the course and have fun by the time you reach the cape-like dogleg left par-4 18th hole, then you really don’t enjoy golf…you just think you do.

The following photos in this slideshow have been uploaded using the Instagram app for iPhone:

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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


An Eye for An Eye

I spent Sunday afternoon with members of the high school golf team I coach playing a practice round and preparing for the South State golf championship to be held a week from Monday. A lot of things have changed in the 20+ years since I’ve played high school golf. In addition to the obvious changes in technology and the way junior golfers these days know how to use these advances to their benefit, there’s a new piece of equipment that I see more and more at each tournament we play.

Not to date myself, but when I was in high school, the big advance in technology for golf clubs was the Taylor Made Burner Plus metal wood. It looks like a hybrid compared to today’s monster 460 cc drivers, but compared to the persimmon that we were playing at the time it might as well have been the space shuttle. Then came lightweight carry bags to replace the old leather bags we used to lug around and for those who could afford it, there was the balata-covered Titleist Professional ball and the then-new Maxfli HT.

But for today’s junior golfers, the hot new piece of equipment is neither a club nor a ball. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the act of actually hitting the ball or playing a shot. Today every aspiring young junior golfer seems to have a laser rangefinder in his or her bag.

At first, I thought it was humorous to see four golfers walking down the fairway, approaching their balls, and dropping their stand bags to the ground to reach in and pull out the rangefinders. They would then spend a good 10 to 15 seconds bracing their elbows to their chest and holding the rangefinder in front of their face like a birdwatcher spotting some rare yellow-breasted-duck-billed-triple-toed Siamese warbler in order to shoot the yardage to the flag. It was almost like it had become a part of the pre-shot routine. They never gave a thought to a sprinkler head or yardage marker. They didn’t need to–it was all in the palm of their hands.

You would literally see nearly every top junior golfer at some of these events standing there next to their bag like they were spotting for a Navy SEAL sniper–getting the yardage to the target and adjusting for wind. Unfortunately, most of these kids aren’t remotely as accurate as our nation’s finest and this target doesn’t even move or duck for cover.

After watching one of my players routinely fly the green with his approach shots for three holes in a row, I walked up to his bag while he was putting and removed the rangefinder. When he asked me why I was taking it, I told him that I didn’t think he knew how to use it. Turns out I was right.

A little questioning revealed that he wasn’t looking for a yardage marker or a sprinkler head, getting his yardage, and then using the rangefinder to zero in on the target. He was depending solely on the rangefinder and instead of shooting the flag, he was shooting the trees behind the green.

When I was playing high school golf, my goal was just to get the ball in the middle of the green. If I happened to miss it a little bit and it got closer to the pin, I just acted like that’s what I was trying to do. But like so many amateurs who insist on a pin sheet for a normal round of golf with their friends, some of these juniors think they can dial it in like Rory or Phil.

Don’t get me wrong, I want people to hit it is close to the pin as they can. It makes the game more enjoyable and speeds up play. I just don’t think most amateurs are as proficient in their shotmaking skills as they think they are just because they have a rangefinder. They still have to hit the shot and for most people who play the game, walking a yardage from a sprinkler head to their ball to get the distance to the center of the green is just as helpful/accurate as spending the time to use the rangefinder and hopefully picking up the right target.

To test my theory during Sunday’s practice round, I would routinely guess yardages by what I call “ocular engineering” (eyeballing it) and/or using a sprinkler head and my own two legs and then ask my players what yardage they found with the rangefinders. I was always within five yards but that didn’t seem to matter to them and their technology.

This is a sample of but one of many exchanges:
“164 yards,” I said.
“Nope,” was one reply. “161.”

Finally I explained to them that the difference of 3 yards was barely more than the height of the flag stick and if nine feet made that much difference in the way they were going to play the shot from 161 yards out, then they didn’t need to be playing high school golf. It was time to pack away the books and head off to Q school.

Of course I doubt if any of these kids will pack away the rangefinders. And I don’t mind that they use them when the rules permit. I just want them to realize it is a tool to supplement their talent and it shouldn’t become a crutch. They need to use it to verify a yardage and not become dependent on it. And of course if the battery runs out during a round, it’s always nice to know how big a stride in your step equals one yard.

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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Steve Sands vs Ernie Els at the 2012 Transitions

In case you missed it on TV, and I doubt Golf Channel (an NBC partner) will talk about it much, NBC Golf’s Steve Sands’ post-round interview/ of Ernie Els (just after his bogey-bogey finish knocked him from leader to spectator) put the “awk” in awkward. Sands first asked what happened after the drive on 18 and the tone in his voice elicited a puzzled “What happened?” in reply from Els. After a quick explanation of the next three shots, Sands’ follow-up question “Did you have the confidence you could make that putt for four?” was even worse.  And to add insult to insult, it sounded as if NBC cut Els off to go back to live action before he could finish his second answer. I’m sure by now Steve Sands has heard an earful from folks, but just in case you missed it, I have the interview in its entirety here:  By the way, kudos to Els for not giving Sands a boot to the head after the cameras cut away (I assume).

Before Els’ implosion that began on the 17th hole, I wondered “aloud” on Twitter if (should Ernie win) anyone would ask Els how he felt about winning a tournament using a belly putter that just a couple of years ago he called “cheating” and said their use should be banned from golf.  His recent explanation that he would continue to cheat as long as everyone else was cheating and it was still legal does not hold water with me–that’s an excuse nearly as bad as Sands’ interview skills.  However, in the course of two holes, that line of thinking all changed and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 35″ putter in Ernie’s bag at Bay Hill.

For the record, I hope Els gets his Masters invite via a win at Bay Hill, adds a green jacket to his collection of other Major hardware in April, calls Steve Sands (who won’t be working the post-round interviews because CBS covers the Masters), and then hangs up in the middle of telling him how he stuck his approach to four feet on the 72nd hole at Augusta this year setting up his closing birdie to win by one over a group including McIlroy, Donald, Woods, and Mickelson….go get ’em Ernie!

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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Uncategorized


The Missing in Mosa Gap — a short story

The following is a short story I wrote last year entitled “The Missing in Mosa Gap.”  I forgot that I wrote it until I stumbled across it looking through my computer for some other files.  If I recall, my teenage daughter told me I ought to write a scary story and I told her I could knock out a short story in a few hours.  I’m not really sure where the idea came from, but when it was done it scared her (mission accomplished), so it must be minimally decent. This is not exactly a Christmas story, but the setting is primarily in the winter on the American western plains, so the timing is good.  It’s never been published until now, so enjoy!

Download PDF:  A short story: “The Missing in Mosa Gap”

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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


A Story of Thanksgiving…and a 7-iron

One of the best things about my job is that we have a sister club management company (Watermark Golf Management) that keeps me in touch with the operations side of the industry on a daily basis. Earlier this week, a gentleman who is a regular at a course near Jackson, Mississippi that we manage (The Refuge) came in looking for some clubs he had left behind on the range the day before. We of course had them in the golf shop, but I couldn’t help but give him a hard time (because I knew him) about not having shaft labels on his clubs.  I explained to him that all it takes is $10 to label every club in his bag.

For the life of me, I don’t know why every golfer doesn’t have shaft labels with their name, address, and phone number on every club!  At some point, you will leave a club behind somewhere…but I digress.  To make my point, I showed him the old staff bag in the corner that was full of lost and found clubs we had collected just in the past couple of months and none had labels on them. They simply sat there waiting on their owners to reclaim them.

“Like this one,” I explained as I pulled a random Ping 7-iron from the colelction. “If it had a shaft label, we could call the owner.”

As I held the club up to make my point, to my amazement the club did indeed have a shaft label! I asked the staff if anybody knew how the club got there and no one seemed to know anything about it. I stepped into the office to call the owner who resided in Florida and left a message on his voice mail, sure he would be happy to know the club had been found!  I then proceeded to go through the other clubs to be sure no other clubs had shaft labels.  None of the others were labeled.

The next morning as I was driving to work, I anwered a phone call from an area code I did not recognize and heard a woman’s voice on the other end of the line. She informed me that she was returning my call about the lost and found club and that it was her husband’s club. However, I could tell there was a different tone in her voice–seemingly unsure about how the club came to arrive at a golf course in Mississippi. She explained that her husband used to travel to Mississippi on business, but I could sense in my gut that something didn’t add up to her.

Even though I had never talked with this person before, I could tell there was uncertainty in the tone of her voice.  My first thought was that my phone call had landed a husband in hot water for playing golf while he was supposed to be away on business–like so many “closet” business golfers who sneak their clubs away on extended business trips.  I had to ask to clear my conscience.

She explained that there was no problem with her husband playing golf while away on business.  Well, that was a relief!  What had her taken aback what that her husband couldn’t have been playing golf recently in Mississippi (or elsewhere for that matter)….he had passed away five years earlier.

“I’m so sorry,” I said almost relfexively and with a heavy heart.  Any concern of exposing a husband for playing golf when he was supposed to be away on business was now immediately replaced with the burdensome realization that this woman probably felt like she had been blindsided by my voice mail message the previous evening.  She asked if we could return the club to her so that she could give it to their son.  I told her that it was my intention all along to send the club back anyway and I that I would send it via FedEx that very day.  She said thank you, we said our goodbyes, and that was it.

I still do not know how a 7-iron belonging to a man living in Florida who passed away five years ago suddenly showed up in the lost and found collection at The Refuge in Flowood, Mississippi–and chances are, I never will know.  What I do know is that this Thanksgiving, I am all the more thankful for my family and how God works in mysterious ways….thanks to a 7-iron and a woman I’ll never meet.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 


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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


“Lipouts…the best I could do from the first two years” available in paperback!

My new book, “Lipouts…the best I could do from the first two years” is now available in paperback from Moonbay Media. It’s just in time for a special Christmas gift for the favorite golfer on your shopping list (or even some people you don’t like) and a portion of the proceeds go toward college scholarships for for our three children–now doesn’t that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling! And for a limited time, the publisher is offering 20% off your order when you use code NOVBOOKS11 at checkout!

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Posted by on November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized


An Open Letter to Feherty: Intervention Time for Mickelson and Rees Jones

Dear David:

Can I call you David?

I don’t know either man on a personal level, so all I know is what I read in print and online; but it doesn’t take Dr. Phil to see that Phil Mickelson and Rees Jones are having “issues.”  Seems like every time I turn around, there’s a story about Mickelson ripping on a course that Rees Jones has re-designed.  Atlanta Athletic Club during the PGA Championship this year, Cog Hill this week before the BMW Championship, and many others that I cannot keep up with.  Of course, Mickelson always includes a caveat at the end of his routine slams similar to this: “You know, it doesn’t really matter to us because we’re so good….I’m just worried about the everyday player and the members here.”  Like Bill O’Reilly, he’s looking out for you/us.

So who put the burr under Philly Mick’s saddle?  Why does he continue to single out the “Open Doctor” as his target for all that is wrong with modern golf course architecture?  Again, I don’t know either man, but I’d love to ask them…or better yet, mediate a 30-minute sit down made-for-TV.  Or better than better yet, YOU could do it on what would surely be a great episode of “Feherty” on the Golf Channel!

It’s time for someone to step in because the love-fest took a new turn for the worse today when Mickelson not only slammed on Rees Jones’ 2008 re-design of Cog Hill where the BMW is played for the last time this year, but he also named names….of people he’d like to see come in and re-design the re-design.  The following is from ESPN Online here.

Cog Hill left a sour taste last year because the course was in poor condition, the product of an unusually hot summer that was tough on golf courses throughout the Chicago area. Phil Mickelson, not a fan of anything Jones designs, said the shape of the course wasn’t the issue.

He attributed the criticism of Cog Hill to the man in charge of revamping it.

“I know we all wish it had turned out differently,” Mickelson said. “But there was a lot of other guys to choose from that probably could do the job, and maybe if they just start over, it could turn into something special….

“But tee to green and the property, it’s got really great potential,” he added. “I’d love to see Gil Hanse or a Crenshaw-Coore or Kyle Phillips or David Kidd — or guys that really know what they’re doing — come in and create something special here because I think that’s what the family and this facility deserves.”

Guys that really know what they’re doing?  Even normally mild-mannered and reserved Steve Stricker got in on the act:

“They need to get their money back, I guess,” said Stricker, who won at the old Cog Hill in 1996 when it was the Western Open held around the Fourth of July. “It’s too bad what happened here.”

Nothwithstanding the fact that Phil hurt my feelings by not including me in the list of guys he’d like to see renovate the renovation (I’ll get over it eventually), it sure seems like Phil has been going out of his way to go after Rees.  Without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, there has to be something more to it.  A past business deal gone bad, a competitive grudge, or something similar because I just don’t buy that Phil is so personally offended on behalf of members he does not know that he is on the verge of personally attacking Rees Jones each time he plays one of his courses.  Someone [read You] must get to the bottom of this!

Since I know you only slightly more/less than I know Phil and Rees, I’ll send you a tweet to read this and suggest the aforementioned intervention episode with Mickelson and Jones.  Give them 17 minutes to talk it out and then, to close out the show, give Phil five minutes to design a challenging (yet rewarding) risk/reward short par-4 while you give Rees five minutes to hit a lob wedge backward over his head from the back side of a bunker face with his back to the pin and stop the ball within ten feet of the flag.  Now that’s must see TV (for golfers anyway)!

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Uncategorized