Saturday, June 9, 2007

My Final Round

There aren't too many people that I would (a) Drive 60 miles to see (b) walk for 4 hours through the hot sun for and (c) walk 6,596 yards for 4 hours through the hot sun after driving 60 miles to hang with. One of them was playing golf at Bulle Rock today, and even though Paula Creamer couldn't find her putter, it was still a great day for golf.
It started early. I watched a few of the Plus three's tee off - Michelle Wie, Lorie Kane and Brittany Lang, then I headed for the best spot on the golf course; the hill that overlooks the 4th hole, 5th tee, 6th green, 7th and 8th holes. It's a great spot that fills up quickly. I sat up there in one of the few shady spots on the course for about 3 hours, until Christie Kerr's group came by, and I followed them back to the ninth hole. Paula Creamer was set to tee off at 2:22.

It isn't a lot of fun watching the low end of the leaderboard play through. It reminded me of those NASCAR races where cars that crash early come out of the garage with 75 laps to go and run around collecting points while the leaders whiz by. Maybe they should do another cut-down on Saturday? Although, I have to admit to an evil gratification as I watched the standard bearer with WIE 8 walking by. Before she was out of hill-view range, it was WIE 11, and she finished the day 14 over par. Tee hee. She attracted a huge crowd, following her like puppies. I can only imagine that people are fascinated by bad golf. My guess is that she will withdraw from the tournament before Sunday's play begins.
I followed Paula through the course again, and once again encountered her mom, Karen, who amazingly called me by name when she saw me on the second green. Paula was having trouble with the putter, and missed several easy birdie putts. She finished the day 4 under, but could just as easily been 7 under. She also lost a club cover on the 6th tee. It was returned to her on the 15th tee, and she looked like she found a lost puppy. It was a teddy bear that was dressed up like an English Bobby. Colin, her caddy, is British, and she said that he is allowed to have "one thing from England on the bag," and that was it. She patted it on it's furry head and said, "Welcome back." It was the only time she smiled all day. She finished the day tied for 13th, 6 shots off the lead.

The day's booty came at the end of the round. Paula was finishing up while Annika Sorenstam and Morgan Pressel were signing their scorecards. There is an area outside the scorer's trailer that is designated for players to sign autographs after their round. With Annika hanging around, I couldn't resist. All I had with me was my souvenir McDonald's Championship golf ball, which, as you can see, now bears her signature.
Paula's tee time on Sunday is 1:22, but she may be going without me on the cartpath. I'm a little burned out - literally and figuratively. Even with the sunscreen, I'm not sure if my calves can take another day in the sun, my feet hurt and I'm a little tired of driving a groove between here and Havre de Grace. Sunday night's traffic going north toward home might be enough to keep me here. It was balls of fun, though, and I'll go back next year for sure.
I picked up a lot of interesting things about the tour and what an interesting game golf is, especially to see it in person. It is difficult, though, to decide whether to watch one player or one hole. It's interesting to see how different players play the same hole, but also interesting to watch one player through a round and see how she adjusts to the game. I suppose if one doesn't have a favorite player, it doesn't matter, but I couldn't stay at one hole while Paula played through.
If you watched the TV coverage, I'm on it a bunch of times. I'm the little white speck on those aerial shots, standing along the fairway, the tee or the green waiting for Paula Creamer to hit a shot. You probably need hi-def to sort out the details.
There are still a couple of interesting sidelights that I may decide to post, but they can wait until my sunburn heals.

Friday, June 8, 2007

When the going gets tough, they always scream for Mom

One of the principles that America's founding fathers had in mind when they drew up the Constitution was that we would be a nation of laws and not a nation of men. Of course, this stems from the country from which they came. Royalty places itself over the commoners and as such, they get preferential treatment in adjudicating cases. As it is with so many other issues, the principles set forth in 1776 become irrelevant when placed in current society. You would have to be naïve to think that we are all treated equally in life, but sometimes the issue is so outrageous that even the most hardened and cynical among us have to scratch our heads and wonder, WTF?
Paris Hilton was taken from a courtroom screaming and crying Friday, seconds after a judge ordered her returned to jail to serve out her entire 45-day sentence for a parole violation in a reckless driving case.
"It's not right!" shouted the weeping Hilton. "Mom!" she called out to her mother in the audience. Hilton, who was brought to court in handcuffs in a sheriff's car, came into the courtroom disheveled and weeping. Her hair was askew and she wore a gray fuzzy sweatshirt over slacks. She wore no makeup and she cried throughout the hearing.
Well, Paris, it is right. Going to court "disheveled" sounds like a scam to me. Michael Jackson at least had the decency to wear pajamas to court. Get it together, kid. By the way, if that job of holding the umbrella for MJ ever opens up, I'm your man.
This Hilton story has way too many angles and way too much nonsense to get involved with it. I'm not even that excited about blogging on it, but the thing that gets to me is that supposedly, she is under some mental hardship over this 45-day jail sentence. 45 days? I guess the pampered bitch can't live without her eye makeup for a month and a half.
Explain to me again; what exactly does she do for a living?

The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
- Frank Zappa US musician, singer & songwriter (1940 - 1993)

You're right Frank, as usual.
I know what you're thinking: No golf today? Nope. After my nearly 10,000 yard walk yesterday and "excessive heat" warnings today, I decided that valor was not the only thing that discretion is the better part of. In other words, why lean into a punch? I'll go on Saturday, when the temperatures will be more like 80 to 85. I watched it on TV today and the players were complaining about the heat. When they complain, you know it's hot.
The ironic thing is that everything I like to do involves being outdoors in the summer - biking, photography and sports - and I have tremendous problems in the heat. Even Thursday, when the temperatures were in the low 80s and a nice breeze was blowing, I suffered. Plus, I burn, so I have to wear gallons of sunscreen if I'm outside for more than 20 minutes. Seriously.

I'll be up at the crack of dawn again Saturday, headed for Maryland. Paula is in striking distance of the lead, but Suzann Pettersen and Karrie Webb will be tough to beat.

Oh ... that was about golf, wasn't it?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Brushes with the friends and relatives of greatness.

Day two at Bulle Rock was Seniors Day, where anyone 50 years of age or older was admitted free. Thankfully, I still have to pay. The joint was full of geezers.
I caught the shuttle from Ripken Stadium and got there at 7:30, and true to my word, I would be there to walk the course with Paula, and as an added bonus, Karrie Webb, another great player on the tour and In-Kyung Kim when they teed off at 8:32. Among the interesting sites would be Karrie's opening drive into a shallow stream on the first hole, where she would remove her shoes to play her second shot. I got to hold the rope over her head while she walked to the stream to find her ball. I got an Aussie "thank you" for my efforts. Sorry I had to do it, Karrie.
The round would go in rather uneventful fashion, with Paula hovering around even par (bogey one - birdie one), Karrie playing slightly under and In-Kyung struggling to recover from the first three disastrous holes. By the time we got to the eighth hole, things started getting interesting.
A spectator overheard me saying that In-Kyung was a pretty good player after recovering to 2-over par after 8 from a 4-over start. The spectator was a friend of hers, who was housing her for the tournament. Her parents could not afford to come here from Korea to see her play, so she depended on her friend from Maryland to give her a place to stay for the week. We talked about her game and career - she is just 18 and a medalist at the LPGA qualifying tournament which earned her exempt status. She's a good player and impressed a lot of people today.
Later in the day, someone pointed out a couple of people who had been walking the course with Paula. One of them looked amazingly like Paula, and was even dressed similarly in pink skirt and white top. The other, in blue Capri pants, I was told, was her mother. By the time we got to the 15th hole, she was by herself, so I decided to approach her and find out if my sources were correct.
"Excuse me, but I understand that you are Paula's mother," I wondered.
"Yes, I am. My name is Karen," she replied.
I introduced myself and told her that Paula "is my favorite professional athlete." She looked back with a smile and said, "Really? All athletes?" by which she meant, baseball, football and such.
"Yep. I'm a good judge of character, and I like everything about Paula. She was very nice to me yesterday." By now I realize that I'm talking to her mom, and just as we finish our little chit-chat, Paula hit a terrible shot on 15 which went into the rough to the right. "That's a little right," I said.
"Oh ... it's worse than that," Karen replied.
"Well, I'm just trying to be nice because you're here," I told her. As it turned out, it wasn't as bad as it seemed, but you know mothers. I won't bore you with minuate (unless you want me to), but we had a nice chat through a couple of holes and it is obvious that the apple did not fall far from the tree.
After Paula had finished her round, I found a concession stand and was in dire need of something besides the 80 ounces of water I had drank over the past 5 hours. A cheeseburger and ... Powerade for lunch. There was a nearly empty table with a lone woman sitting there. I wondered if she would mind some company.
"Not at all, sit down," she told me. Then she asked, "Who are you following?" To which, the obvious answer would come from me.
"Well, that's OK, but if you need someone else to root for, you should root for my niece - Christie Kerr," she said. She was wearing the telltale "GUEST" pass that tells people she didn't pay to get in, regardless of her age.
"I like Christie," I said, without fear of being uncovered as a fibber. How can you not like Christie? She hates to lose, gets assed-up over stuff and shows her feelings on the course. Besides, I had already decided to find her on the course and follow the rest of her round after I finished my lunch, so I would see her later whether she knew it or not (and I did).
She went on to tell me some interesting details about Christie's life as a pro golfer. For example, she got $250,000 as an appearance fee to play a tournament in Korea rather than play the Ginn Tribute and how the money they make as "earnings" on the tour is a fraction of what they really earn. Money from Mutual of Omaha (plastered on her bag and hat), shoe contracts, club contracts and even make-up contracts - where she is paid for wearing Estee Lauder make-up, as though we would care. This, in addition to a swing coach and a putting coach. Not to forget the caddies, who get a salary plus 10% of the golfer's earnings. Christie pays her coaches' expenses if they have to travel to find her and help. It's a bit of a racket, but as long as nobody is holding a gun to another's head, I say - go for it.
Christie wasn't playing very well on Thursday, and wobbled between 1 over and 3 over for the time I followed her. She missed an eagle putt on 8 (she started on 10), birdied it, then bogeyed 9 to finish at 3 over par, eight shots off the lead and was last seen heading for the driving range after her round.
Through all that, I walked a little over 9,000 yards (18 holes with Paula and 6 with Christie), met 3 relatives and friends of three great players, had a nice nap on the grass behind the first tee and saw some great and not so great golf. There is a severe heat warning in the forecast for Friday, with high temperatures in the mid 90s and high humidity. I will skip the second round in lieu of TV coverage and heat stroke and return on Saturday for the third round and hopefully, more stunning revelations from the good people who populate the LPGA tour. These Girls Rock is not just an advertising slogan. They really do. They so really do.
Upon boarding the bus back to Ripken Stadium, I asked the man in front of me what time it was.
"Six thirty-five," he replied.
"Holy cow! Really?" I said, as though he would lie to me.
"Wow. I completely lost track of time." I told him.
"You must have had a good time." he wondered.
"Yes ... I did."
I so really did.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Just me and the girls, hanging out at the CC

"I expect some good practice round pictures at least..."
- Sparky Duck, June 5, 2007.
Well, Sparks old buddy ... I hope the above snapshot qualifies as a good picture! That's me and Paula Creamer after her practice round today. After missing a couple of opportunities to grab the photo, it looked like Paula was heading back to the clubhouse to call it a day, so I quickly commandeered an unsuspecting spectator and gave her my camera and called to Paula, who politely agreed. The poor kid.
The day began early. I got to the course at around 9:00am after a little more than an hour drive and shuttle bus. I figured I would walk the course with someone and take in the sights and sounds of my first live golf tournament. What I didn't realize was how accessible the players would be. Once that became obvious, I abandoned my walking idea and spent most of the day hanging at the practice green (between the first tee and the clubhouse) and watching the players wander around and tee off on their practice round.
By the time I got there, Paula and Nancy Lopez were already on the course, and as she wandered out of the clubhouse to play another round, I asked her to autograph my hat, which by this time already had some significant signatures, and would wind up with a lot more.
The hat contains the signatures of Se Ri Pak, Sherri Steinhauer, Morgan Pressel, Christina Kim, Nancy Lopez (blue), Paula Creamer (pink), Pat Hurst, Mi Hyun Kim, Michelle McGann, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, Reilly Rankin, Brittany Lincicome, Lorie Kane, Stephanie Louden, Kim Hall ...
and Annika Sorenstam.

OK, so I'm a geek. There, I said it. I haven't chased after autographs in years, and I wasn't expecting to do it today, either. The players were so close and it wasn't very crowded, so it was kind of easy. That, plus the fact that most of the girls are very nice and they make a point of stopping and signing things for people who ask politely. I had to buy another hat to wear, since the one I bought first is now a museum piece at MSM HQ.
Oh, and the pink ball. She uses pink balls on Sunday's. Well, I had that already, unsigned, and after Paula finished her practice round she was hanging around again - she does a lot of hanging around - so I decided that I might not have another opportunity to get it signed, even though I still maintain that an autographed golf ball is among the oddest things to get signed - but there it is. I took it with me thinking that it would be the only thing I would have signed, and it turned out to be almost an afterthought.

So, as it was, I only saw one hole of actual golf. Paula and Nancy took off on their second round, and I decided to stay at the practice green until they got to the 9th hole, then I would walk the rest of the course and take off for home. I caught up to them on the 8th green, watched them play the 9th - then they called it a day. The practice is interesting and a little strange. They hit at least 2 off both the men's and women's tees. play all the balls from the fairway and putt around the green for a while. The caddies throw out circular paper coasters to act as surrogate holes, and they putt at each of them to simulate the way the holes move during the tournament. They chip a few from the fringe, talk a lot and generally loaf around each hole.

Once they were done, I was getting pretty tired from standing in the sun for the past 5 hours, then someone said that Annika Sorenstam was due to emerge at 3pm. Sure enough, she came out to do some putting, and sign some autographs.
Even though Lorena Ochoa is number one (deservedly), Annika will always be the best player on the tour in my book. She's the one responsible for getting me interested to begin with, and her recent back problems have opened the door for Lorena and some others to slip in.
The photo is Annika on the practice green, where the sign specifically says "No Chipping". One of the spectators mentioned to me that she was in violation, and I replied, "Are you gonna tell her?" Something tells me that Annika can chip from the fringe of the practice green if she wants to.
By then, it was nearly 3:30. The hat was full, my neck was red from the sun and I was getting tired and thinking about my early day on Thursday, when it starts up and the girls put on their game faces.

I had some nice conversations with my fellow golf fans, bought some cool LPGA wearables (including another hat) and had a great time hanging out. It turned out to be a much bigger day than I had expected, and it served to reinforce my opinion about what great people the girls of the LPGA are.
Thursday's first round pairings are out, and if I want to see Paula on the first tee, I'll need to be there at 8:30. She's paired with Karrie Webb and In-Kyung Kim, one of the hundreds of "Kim's" playing this weekend - or at least until Friday. Check the Golf Channel for first round coverage, running from 12:30 to 3:30 EDT. I promise not to wave at the camera while Paula is putting.

Meanwhile, here are a few more for Sparky...

Morgan Pressel and Se Ri Pak enjoying something mildly amusing on the first tee.

Paula Creamer on the first tee.

Morgan Pressel and the creepy disembodied hand.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Say what?

One of my little hobbies is paying attention to subtle changes in our language. My favorite is the way the word party became a verb. “I’m going to party” has a completely different connotation than “I’m going to a party”. The former has a drug and alcohol subtext, while the latter sounds more like ice cream and cake, but either can be used by children of all ages.
Of course, we have been using "like" when we mean "said" for ages, and it seems to be engrained now; as are anyways, same difference and an old favorite, "a whole nother".

I guess those little colloquialisms are supposed to be charming or cute, but what they usually do is make adults sound like children, which is almost never a good idea, unless there are drugs and alcohol involved. Maybe parents pick it up from their kids, I don’t know, since I am not around children all that much. It is probably why I only speak like that when drugs and alcohol are involved.
The most recent one is the way the word so has become an adverb. I was listening to a radio ad for an HBO documentary about Barbaro [see “Beating a Dead Horse”]. One of the voice-overs was bemoaning Barbaro’s fate by saying, “People so wanted it to end with a positive ending.” Yes, they really did.

They so really did.

Maybe I pay more attention to these types of things than most (and why?), but certain things stay with me, while other things (such as "where did I park my car?") vanish into cranium-thin air:
I remember when prog-rock kings Renaissance put out their Azure d'Or album in 1979. By this time, they were clinging to their already thin audience, and fading fast. Former WIOQ DJ Helen Leicht remarked, "Boy, just what this band needs is an album with a name that people can't pronounce."
Then Halley’s Comet came around in 1986. My whole life I had been saying HAY-lees, only to find out it is pronounced Hal-lees. A subtle difference which I figured was either a genuine error or just some scientists trying to make themselves sound smarter than they really were. It is coming back in 2062, when it will by then be known as Comet Halley.
Last weekend I saw tennis analyst Bud Collins (not a scientist) interviewing Maria Sharapova after one of her matches in the French Open. He sat down next to her and introduced her as Maria Sha-RAP-po-va – accent on the RAP. I’ve been saying Shara-pova like everyone else. Is Bud correct or is he trying to look like the smartest guy in the room? Geez – far be it from someone in the pro tennis community to appear pretentious, eh?

Now, it’s off to Bulle Rock [pronounced bully rock] in Havre de Grace [pronounced HAV-ur dee GRACE] and the serene (and only slightly pretentious) world of professional golf, namely the LPGA McDonald's Championship. Wednesday is the practice round (which will also be practice for me, since I've never been to a tournament) and Thursday is the start of competition. According to the good folks at the LPGA, Wednesday's practice starts at 7am, with the first shuttle leaving at 6:30am. Egad, I guess I'd better get some sleep.
Paula Creamer is playing well, Christie Kerr is due to win something, Annika is back on the course after her injury rehab and I don’t have to go back to work until Monday. My life rocks for five days!
I am so looking forward to this.

Another stupid thing your government does for your own good

The Nation - A recent study commissioned by Congress concluded that abstinence-only programs are completely ineffective in preventing or delaying teenagers from having sexual intercourse. Nor do they lower unwanted pregnancy rates or lessen the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Given this reality, it's bad news that the federal government will waste $176 million on these programs in 2007 alone. "In short, American taxpayers appear to have paid over one billion federal dollars for programs that have no impact," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

This, as well as other such legislation designed to regulate morality demonstrate the ridiculous notion that government can dictate behavior by making a law or funding a program. The first one that comes to mind (other than this one) is the War on Drugs. These and other programs are what the late Rich Ashburn used to call "eyewash". A play on the general public that makes it appear as though the government is concerned about the things that people are supposed to be concerned about, when in reality, the money is being thrown down a giant moral black hole, disappearing faster than it is being collected. The public, however, sees it and believes that the money is being well-spent because, after all, government should not be in the business of condoning drug use or sexual promiscuity. What these programs do is make criminals and moral degenerates out of people who are merely seeking that which is built into their genes - sexual gratification and the ability to alter our conscious state at will.

It would be highly unpopular for one of the newly anointed political candidates to tell us the truth, that the money is wasted and would be better spent on some legitimate social program like feeding people or funding Social Security or ... God forbid ... lowering taxes, so they go along to get along, with the knowledge that if they opposed the War on Drugs or the age-old Just Say No program, that they would be seen as being soft on morality and as such, un-electable. Based on truth alone they would have my vote, but as we know, the masses are asses and they feed into this nonsense willingly.
Meanwhile, I can buy 100 Proof Southern Comfort next door to my home, but I can't find a joint without sneaking around. If I had to call three people, sit in a parking lot and look over my shoulder twice to get a six-pack of Sam Adams, I'd never drink again. However, the government sees fit to tax liquor, legislate its use and even make me a criminal if I decide to drive afterward, but if I get caught rolling a bone in Rittenhouse Square, my ass is going to jail.

So, our government pisses away a billion dollars and they will continue, because legislating morality is as old as immorality itself, and the first political candidate who comes out and says that he (or she) will no longer waste our money on useless programs may just find themselves to be the one who finally is telling us the truth...

... and the one looking for work as his career in politics is abruptly brought to an end.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Summer of Corporate Love

Chances are you don't watch it, but there is a TV program on Sunday called CBS Sunday Morning, that for my money is better than 60 Minutes. The biggest difference is that the morning program is buried in Sunday morning TV wasteland, while the big-time news show is on at the perfect time for a big-time news show.
This morning, there was a story about the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, of which I have vague memories, mostly because I was 9 years old and not yet into psychedelic drugs, and partly because my father had died in May of that year, and for me it was summer, but there was precious little love.
The focus of the Sunday Morning piece was the nostalgia that is brought about by the so-called Summer of Love. I say so-called because for most of those involved it it, the Summer of Love was 1966. The following year was the summer that the media latched onto it and made it the cultural event that it has become. That's where I come in.
Most of us in the Blogosphere bemoan the idea that big media latches onto something and jerks it off until it becomes cliche. Every little event that is capable of selling advertising is sold, every big time sporting event is moved to prime-time and every popular concept is copied until it disappears into its own nonsense. It's nice to know that sometimes it isn't just modern culture that does such things.
Scott Mckenzie did a song (written by John Phillips) called "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" and thousands of people did what the song said. Shortly thereafter, big media (including 60 Minutes) did stories about the hippie counter-culture and the race was on.
America's version of "The Hippie" was the kid giving the peace sign, encrusted in flowers and tie-dyed T-shirt, while the reality, as you can imagine, was quite different. Nevertheless, the summer of 1967 marked the end of the hippie movement. It would survive in fits and starts through such media creations as Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and The Monkees TV shows, but, for those in on the ground floor of the movement, the thrill was gone, and as happens now, big business had sucked the will out of the people who founded something that was supposed to change the world. What they found was that the world does not want to be changed, and if they want to live differently, the fewer people who know about it, the better.
For me, as a nine-year old, my view of the world was skewed by both television and what the "squares" [adults] told me. Music was always the glue, and as such, it remains. Glue bonds. As they said in this morning's program, the real geniuses of the time spent their energy creating music. People like John Phillips, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Grateful Dead and countless others who tried ... albeit unsuccessfully ... to change the world. What they would find is that the world is a big place controlled by people who wish to shape ideas in such a way that they can earn money from them. This works in opposition to those in the business of earning money from things that they perceive as ground-breaking or ... God forbid ... popular.
It isn't so much different than what happens now, some 40 years later. Popular TV shows, music, movies or pop-culture are imitated until their energy is sapped and the original idea is rendered inert. That is why I've always been comfortable with bands like Umphrey's McGee and Gov't Mule and TV shows that are not that popular. Leave me alone, and I'll wallow in my happiness. If you don't like it, mores the better. Once big business and corporate media gets hold of something it becomes mass-market peace signs and mass-produced tie-dyed T-shirts. Spare me.
You might think that modern life is much different than the life of your parents or (egad) your grandparents, but trust me, it is not.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Walk much?

That physical specimen on the right is Miss Brazil, Natalia Guimaraes during the swimwear section of the Miss Universe final in Mexico City's Auditorio Nacional May 28, 2007. Guimaraes was the first runner up. First runner-up? I'm assuming that the winner was the judge's daughter or something. Some girl from Japan won, while Miss USA wowed the judges by falling during the evening gown competition.
I'm not all that interested in beauty pageants - at least not as much as I am interested in the contestants - but it would be nice to see the local girl make a good showing. Since I am not from Brazil, the local girl would be our Miss USA, who appears to have some difficulty walking and looking pretty at the same time.

Rachel Smith (left), Miss USA 2007 gets up after falling during the evening gown competition of the Miss Universe 2007 beauty pageant in Mexico City.

Meanwhile, it looks like Tony Romo would like to get him some: IRVING, Texas - Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo could definitely relate, considering he had a well-publicized slip-up of his own when he couldn't handle the ball for a potentially game-winning field goal in January.
"I can definitely understand when someone on a national stage doesn't do exactly what they wanted," he said Friday. "She performed well, she got up and did a good job."

Yes she did. Does anybody besides me figure that Tony didn't see the pageant, either?