Food: Cholesterol, Fat, and The Mediterranean Diet

This blog is going to discuss three aspects of nutrition, but not in the way you might think. There is a massive amount of information on all three subjects, on the wonderful internet. What is interesting, is how much conflicting information there is, especially about cholesterol. One thing is clear, despite all the negative aspects of having too much cholesterol, or too much fat in your diet, both have very specific, and necessary functions, to maintain proper health. Unless you are suffering from severe malnutrition, or have some odd genetic issue, it would be extremely rare, to have not enough cholesterol and fat in your system. However, there does seem to be this obsession with fat free foods, so it could be possible, that if someone went to extreme levels, with some of these fat free foods, that they could wind up with some kind of fat deficiency. Let’s look at what cholesterol and fat are supposed to do.

Cholesterol is necessary to make hormones, helps the body make Vitamin D from sunlight, aids in digestion, boosts the immune system, helps maintain cell wall flexibility, and improves brain function. Boosting brain function is one of the most important things it does. Over 25% of the bodies Cholesterol is found in the brain. There are two types of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL). Lipoproteins are the particles that transport cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood stream. Triglycerides are the main constituents of natural fats and oils. The LDL is often call the bad cholesterol. However, this is the cholesterol, that travels to all the areas of the body, and allows cholesterol to perform it’s functions. What makes it bad, is that if you have an excess of LDL, then if will have a tendency to attach to the inside of blood vessels, which causes the blockages, that lead to heart attacks and strokes. The HDL is called the good cholesterol. This cholesterol transports the LDL back to the liver, where it is eliminated from the body. HDL can help break down that sludge, that forms on the arteries. HDL does nothing to help cholesterol do its job. Fat is an essential part of your diet. It provides energy, helps absorbs certain nutrients, and maintains your core body temperature. It also combines with cholesterol to do many of the same functions, that cholesterol does. Again there is good fat and bad fat. The bad fat is call trans fat and saturated fat. Trans fat is the worst fat, and is found in a lot of processed foods, and red meat. When you consume trans fat, you increase the bad cholesterol, and decrease the good cholesterol, the dreaded double whammy. The good fat is polyunsaturated fat, and is found in fatty fish, and various oils. It is the good fat, because it contains the omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, which are necessary for brain health and cell growth.

This brings us to the Mediterranean diet, which is the diet of choice to try and control your cholesterol, and take in the healthy fat. It is a very flexible diet, but it does want you to limit your intake of red meat and pork, to no more than once a week, for either. What the diet wants you to consume, is lots of fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, some grains and nuts. Stay away from the processed foods, and you are well on your way. The Mediterranean Diet is big on the use of Olive Oil. Olive Oil falls under the heading of monounsaturated fatty acids. Nuts contain this kind of fatty acid. This fatty acid is considered a healthy fat, which lowers the bad cholesterol and raises the good cholesterol. Try to explore the Mediterranean diet, and make it become as much a part of your lifestyle as you can. The biggest thing is to avoid processed foods at all costs, because they are going to be loaded with trans fats. Here, is what I consider are the worst. Breakfast cereal, potato chips and chips of any kind, processed meats, such as bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs, microwave popcorn, and fruits in syrup, are to be totally avoided. Things that are frozen or dried, are not quite as bad, and can be eaten once in awhile.

When the subject of cholesterol and fat are explored on the internet, the opinions are as varied, as eat all the high fat and cholesterol foods you want, or do not eat anything, that you would consider high in either. Obviously some middle ground is needed, and the above should get you started. The bottom line on all this, is to start to make and eat real food. It is not that hard to do. There are great granola recipes, made from rolled oats, if you have to get a cereal fix. There is a great variety of foods out there, that are easy to make, and will lead to a healthier body.

Golf: Intention

When you look at the title of this blog, you may think, that intention should be under meditation. If you google intention, you will find many sites related to life goals, and ways to make powerful intentions. Intention may be the one tool, that we are leaving out of our golf games. I was going to hold off on this blog for awhile, because I think intention is the thing that as sparked my own golf game, but I wanted to get more rounds under my belt, before I wrote about it. I have played 13 rounds using intention as my main thought process. What prompted me to write about this now, was watching the Phoenix Open. I do not think I have seen so many top players struggle so much, during a final round. The leaders were putting balls in the water, in the cacti, in sand traps, and missing more putts than I could count. When Brooks Koepka pitched in for an eagle on the 17th hole, I clapped, and said out loud, somebody finally did something. It was the winning shot of the tournament. After watching so much failure, from the best players in the world, it made me think that maybe everybody is missing intention in their golf game.

Intention can be defined in different ways. Intention can be something that you want, and plan to do. Intentions can be how you want to feel, or simply what you’d like to get out of the day. There are websites dedicated to how to go about setting intentions, to make your life powerful and strong. This is a breakdown of what most of them say. Set an intention and let it go. Set these intentions when you are feeling content and not when you feel you are lacking something. Detach yourself from the outcome. Allow the universe to handle the outcome. Try keeping the mind quiet. Keep things on the short term. Keep things positive and make sure that your intentions are always evolving. Try to stay in the present moment. You can see how all of this can be applied to golf. One of my favorites is keeping things on the short term. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Another one I like, is to keep your intentions evolving, because that is what the round is going to do, evolve. Before we move forward, we need to differentiate between intent and visualization, since visualization is so much a part of golf. There is some debate on this subject, but I do believe there is a distinct difference. Intent is a determination to do something. Visualization is related to mental imagery. You can visualize golf shots, but you must apply intention, as the final step. I will say, visualization is not as big a part of my game, since I have applied intention. We have all been there when our golf games have abandoned us. Here are some examples of things that have affected my own game. Hitting the poor tee shot into trouble. This may happen about 5 to 7 holes into the round. It does not really matter how I am scoring. I have hit 4 or 5 drivers in the round, and they have all been very good to excellent drives. The holes, however, have been fairly easy driving holes and now the 8th hole has some trouble on it. I do not care where the trouble is, left or right or on both sides, just a narrow driving hole. I have hit good drives up to this point, but sure enough my drive on this hole finds the woods, water, or worse the out of bounds. Another good example, I am hitting the driver well all day, even on the tight holes, but my irons into the green are atrocious. Then, there is the day that on the par 3’s I am hitting great iron shots, but I am driving so bad, that you never get to take advantage of your good iron play. Finally, there is putting. Of course putting would be involved, when you are thinking about missed opportunities, or bad shots. I may start out a round not playing all that great, but my putting is holding the round together, because I am making some nice par saves by sinking a handful of 6 to 10 footers, or longer. Then like many times in golf, I hit a good shot out of the blue, to about 10 feet, for a birdie, and of course, I miss the putt. This is where I believe intention can help reduce and eventually eliminate these bad shots.

How do you apply intention to your golf game? When those bad shots happened in the past, I would look at various things to help correct the problem. I would look at my swing. In fact there is one train of thought that your driver swing and iron swing are two different swings. I got away from that process, and also got away from swing thoughts on the golf course. But that does not mean I do not think about anything. On driving, the old thought process would be to try and visualize the shot and try to avoid trouble when the situation called for it. When it came to iron shots, the first thing I would have to do is to figure out what club to hit. In that process you weigh things like the wind, and where the trouble is around the green, and whether I would hit a draw or fade. This thinking would sometimes lead to a lot of indecision. On short shots you would try to visualized the shot, and you would do the same thing on putting. When you begin to put intention into your game you wind up making the game much simpler. It comes as close to trying to play with a blank mind as you can get. Now, when I have a driver in my hand, I go through my routine, but now I think simply of where I want the ball to go, which is the middle of the fairway, no matter what the hole is like. With irons I still have to go through the process of picking a club, but once the club is chosen, I simply think of where I want the ball on the green. With the short game and putting I think of where I want the ball to end up, in the hole. One little adjustment I make, which I think is critical, is that before I execute the shot, I look at the spot where I think I will pick up the ball, when I look up. On full shots I look at spot in the sky, and at about the height, I think the ball will be. On short shots, I look where I think the ball will be when I look up. I do the same think on putts. Since I have been doing this, I work the ball less consciously, but I work it more intuitively. I am aware of, but pretty much ignore trouble. Since I have been letting intention be my main focus during a round, my scores have been, between 72 and 84 with 9 out of 13 rounds being in the 70’s. One of the biggest improvements of my game has been the rhythm of my swing. I can’t say it never gets out of whack anymore, but it does not happen very often. Intention is something that is simple, but can be hard to put into practice, with the usual things going on when playing golf. Only time will tell if this will be a permanent, and beneficial way for me to play golf. It may take a lot of time, since we are in a winter wonderland right now, in Western Pa., with no end in sight.

Sports: The Division Playoffs

I watched all four division playoff games this weekend, for the first time, in about 20 years. This is what a pandemic can do to you. Normally, I would watch parts of a particular game, or the ending, if it looked like it might be close. Professional football is not what it use to be, and the game is really not all that exciting. We are down to the final four, with the Green Bay Packers hosting the Tampa Bay Bucs, and the Buffalo Bills, taking on the defending champs, Kansas City Chiefs, in Kansas City. I am going to give a brief synopsis of each game, because that is all they deserve, and then just some random thoughts, as it relates to the Steelers, and TV coverage in general. The first game of the weekend was Green Bay beating the L. A. Rams. By far, the most impressive unit of the weekend, was the Green Bay offense. But even as impressive as the Packers were, the Rams were still in the game trailing 25-18, going into the 4th quarter. The Packers got a great break on a fumble, that went right back to Aaron Rodgers, and then a few plays later, hit a 58 yard bomb, to wrap up the game. Then came Buffalo and Baltimore, or should I say, Bufoonalo and Butchimore. Between dropped balls, missed field goals, penalties, and general ineptitude, this game was laughable. The only good sequence of plays for both teams, came at the start of the second half, with Buffalo driving down, and scoring a touchdown, and then Baltimore doing the same thing, until they got inside the 10 yard line. That is when Buffalo intercepted a horrible pass from Lamar Jackson and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown and for this game, an overwhelming lead of 17 to 3. The next day started with Cleveland playing Kansas City. Even though Kansas City won by only 5 points, 22-17, and Kansas City lost their quarterback to a concussion, you never really thought the Chiefs were going to lose. Another game that featured a lot of dropped balls, and that ill-advised attempted stretch across the goal by the Cleveland receiver, which resulted in a touchback and Kansas City’s ball on the 20 yard line. There were some gutsy fourth down calls, but other than that another sleeper. Then, New Orleans decided to gift wrap a game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Three turnovers all leading to touchdowns for the Buccaneers, with one touchdown drive being 3 yards. Another game where there were many mistakes, by both teams. Buffalo and Tampa Bay, will have to elevate their games, if they want to be competitive next week.

There were 5 quarterbacks over the age of 35, in the playoffs. Going from the youngest to the oldest, they were Aaron Rodgers 37, Ben Roethlisberger 38, Phillip Rivers 39, Drew Brees 42, and Tom Brady 43. There is no question that Ben plays like he is the oldest. My suggestion would be to shed the weight, and get back to playing the game. Both Brees and Brady made successful quarterback sneaks. Aaron Rodgers looks very mobile in the pocket and at times will pick up good gains running the football . Brees seems to have lost some arm strength but seems to move pretty well. Brady looks the same as ever. Ben, you need to recapture that zest to play the game. It was ironic to see so many 4th down chances taken in the Cleveland-Kansas City game, after Pittsburgh punted the ball away last week. The Browns went for it on 4th down, with more time on the clock, and deeper in their own territory. It’s called going after the win, Mike Tomlin. The coverage of the games was not too bad, but it did have it’s humorous moments. Tony Romo saying there is no way they are going to snap the ball, when the Chiefs snapped the ball and won the game. Troy Aikman still does not like any officiating calls and is always quick to point it out. But my favorite “analysis” was during the Green Bay game. There were two plays that were exactly the same thing but because the result was different there was a different analysis for each play. Aaron Rodgers was under pressure from the L.A. defense, scrambled around, threw slightly behind the receiver, the ball went off his hands for an incompletion and the L. A. defense was giving so much credit for “disrupting the play”. Then later in the game the exact same scenario happen. This time Rodgers scrambled, again threw the ball slightly behind the receiver, but this time the receiver caught the ball. The defense got no credit and it was all Rodgers. There is no question that dropped balls are pretty much ignored by the announcers of the game. They do mention them, of course, during the play itself, but the significance of them is quickly forgotten. I think that they want people to forget about some of the poor quality of play in the NFL. All networks are too busy trying to show replays and many times do not get back to the action until right when the ball is snapped and sometimes just after. This can be very annoying. Not quite as annoying as conducting interviews, while the game is going on. That has cut down, thanks to Covid. Next week will be the Championship Games, and it’s a good bet we won’t see any, that will be considered a classic.

Golf: Stories, The 80’s

As far as golf was concerned, the 80’s were just the opposite of the 70’s. The decade started off slow, due to work and family commitments, but ended with a bang. We joined Rolling Hills Country club at the end of 1986, and I went from playing 3 to 4 times per month, to playing 3 to 4 times per week. I have continued that rate of play, except when I went on a golf hiatus from 94 to 96. The reason I took a hiatus from golf will be covered when I discuss the 90’s. In fact, the Rolling Hill years will be covered, when I write about the nineties. The eighties were the South Park group, and I went on one unusual trip to Winged Foot Golf Club, in the early eighties. I played some of my best golf, during this time, and shot my two best rounds 67, both at South Park. On July 19th, 1988, I made my third hole in one, on no. 8, at South Park. This was the first hole in one, that I saw, and got to take the ball out of the hole. The unusual thing about this hole in one was, we had to wait, while the greens cutter changed the pin. I was the first player of the day, to hit at that pin. I hit a pitching wedge. The ball hit about 2 feet to the front and right of the hole, took one big hop, and then sucked right back into the hole. It was nice to make, what I called, a complete hole in one, almost 20 years to the day of my first hole in one, July 31, 1968. Before I get to my other South Park experiences, lets take a trip to Winged Foot.

A friend of mine Bill, who was a professor at a small school in Allentown Pennsylvania, had tutored a student of his, and helped him get through some classes. His dad, who was a member of Winged Foot, as a way of showing his appreciation, said he could come out and play at Winged Foot, all 36 holes, as his guest. When he said he could bring a friend, Bill called me, and I didn’t have to be asked twice. We were going to play 36 holes on Saturday. I left on Friday morning to head to Allentown to pick him up, which was about a 5 hour drive. I owned a Lincoln Towne Coupe, which was a big black two door sedan. I must preface one thing. I do not get cars fixed, as long as they are running. The knob that you pulled out to turn on the lights was broken, but the Lincoln had a sensor, so when it got dark, the lights came on. I was driving east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and there are a couple of tunnels that you have to go through. I noticed, when I was in the tunnel, that my lights were not coming on. I did not think much about it, but I should have. I picked up Bill, and as we were heading for his student’s home in New York, it was getting dark. You guessed it, I had no lights. We stopped at some repair shop in New Jersey, and they could not fix the light switch, and did not know why the sensor would not work. It is easy to tell this story now, but at the time this was very upsetting, because these people were waiting for us at their house and apparently had some kind of spread, for us to eat. If you have every watched the movie Along Comes Polly, a character in the movie says that he just sharted. When Ben Stiller says he does not know what that means, he says you fart and a little shit comes out. Well, through this stressful situation, I had done the same. It’s not the greatest feeling in the world to be standing in some godforsaken car garage, with a spray job in your pants, and a car without lights. We were able to get down the road with flashers going, to a motel, in Paramus, New Jersey, the home of Championship Bowling, hosted by Fred Wolf. I just thought, that this was quite ironic, that I use to watch Championship Bowling every weekend, as a kid, and now I was going to spend an unexpected night in the town where it was telecast. Needless to say I dumped the underwear, no pun intended, and was just thankful to be able to get to a motel, without getting arrested. The next day went much better and we played 36 holes at Winged Foot. I got in a lot of sand traps that day. We played the West Course in the afternoon, and the old adage of practice makes perfect came true. I was in 8 green side bunkers on the back nine, and got up and down 7 times, to shoot a one over 37 and a 78 for the round. I hit one of my greatest bunker shots, that day. I had short sided myself in a very deep bunker. With very little green to work with, I cut under the ball, and when I looked up, it seemed like the ball had gone right through the lip of the bunker, but barely cleared it, winding up about 6 feet past the pin. I made the putt for another sandy. Thankfully the trip home was not as eventful and I did get the lights fixed.

The rest of the 80’s was highlighted by my South Park foursome, as I liked to call them. They were a little older than I am now but we all walked the course. We were the first group that teed off, that could see their drives. The first two groups in front of us, teed off in the dark, and we would never see them again. We took about 3 hours and 20 minutes to walk 18 holes. I played close to 400 rounds of golf with these guys at South Park, and we never had to wait one time to hit a shot, except for somebody finishing up cutting a green, or changing the golf hole. The group changed a little over the years. In the mid 80’s one of the group passed away. I have written previously about how one of the guys got kicked out of the group for hitting the wrong ball. The last 8 years from 87 to 94 the group stayed the same. I played some of my best golf with this group. I shot two 67’s and I had my best 12 stretch of golf, ever, when I was just about ready to walk off the course. Four of the first 5 holes are fairly easy at South Park, and if you are going to have a good round, you need a couple of birdies, during this stretch. This particular morning, I got off to a bad start, and was 3 over after 5 holes, and when I put my tee shot in the sand trap on the par 3 sixth hole, I was ready to walk off the course. Then, I hit the most beautiful bunker shot, and it wound up 2 inches from the hole. I just felt this really good rhythm, when I made the shot. I decided to continue, and went on to birdie 6 of the next 12 holes to shoot 69. Playing with those guys was a great experience and I always appreciated them allowing me to play with them, all those years. As the 80’s drew to a close I was playing more golf and fully entrenched in playing at Rolling Hills. We will hit the country club set when I delve into the 90’s. A decade that saw me go from not playing for a couple of years to playing on professional tours.

Sports: Steelers, The Lack of Confidence to Make a Yard.

The Steeler season is over, and talk about ending on a down note. Not only losing in the first round of the playoffs, but losing to the hated Cleveland Browns. I have been a Steeler fan long enough to remember, a season would be considered a success, even if we won only two games, as long as those two wins would be against those damn Browns. To lose to them in the playoffs, when we had beaten them handily, not that long ago, and barely losing to them a week ago, while resting many of our starters, is a hard pill to swallow. Despite the opening disastrous play, Ben’s 3 interceptions, and the defenses inability to keep the Browns out of the endzone, the score was 35 to 23 Browns, with about 2 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. We had just had two beautiful scoring drives, to cut the lead and Cleveland had just gone 3 and out. We had a 4th and 1, around our own 45 yard line. We made the decision to punt. You could see how this energized the Browns offense, and they went down the field, and scored a touchdown to increase the lead to 42-23 and essentially the game was over. Tomlin will be criticized for this decision, and rightfully so. It was the wrong decision. However, you can’t really blame him. This team has had trouble making a yard all year. This was not a long 4th and 1 but exactly 1 yard to get a first down, and keep our momentum going. Twice this year, the Steelers have had 1st and goal at the one and did not score. There have been many other times this year, that the Steelers had third or fourth down and 1 and did not make it. Tomlin could not have been all that confident about making the first down, with this teams previous history. However, you have just come off playing one of the worse first halves in Steeler playoff history, and you had cut the lead to 12 from 28. It was time to go for it. He failed to realize that this was a pivotal moment in the game. It was time to roll the dice. Instead, because he had little or no confidence that they could make the first down, he made the safe decision. It cost us all hope. If the Steelers had not made the first down, it may have given the defense more resolve, because we made the aggressive move, and went down swinging. We will never know, and the season has come to an abrupt end. What’s next?

These are my guesses, and it is based on how this organization has functioned in the past. Tomlin and Ben will be back. I think some coaches will go. Both coordinators and maybe the offensive line coach will be looking for jobs. There will be some veterans let go to help with the salary cap. I think they will sign Ju Ju and T. J. After that who knows. I think the Steelers will still be very competitive next year and probably make the playoffs. The Steelers have always been able to manage the salary cap very well and I expect that to continue. I think the players will continue to play well overall. They will add with the draft. This team does have talent. It will be up to the brass of the Steelers to bring out the best in this group, if next year is going to be better.

Sports: Football Mysteries

As the football season is coming to an end, with the NFL starting the playoffs, and the College Football Playoff Championship game, set for next Monday, it is time to look at what I call, the mysteries of football. Maybe I should say, what is mystifying about the game. I am going to write about what I consider 3 unsolved mysteries when it comes to football. First let’s take a look at what makes football a very unique sport. Of the four major team sports in America, it is by far the most emotional. Emotion is not going to allow you to win a football game, all by itself, some talent must be there, but when a team gets fired up, there is no telling how much this will affect the outcome of the game. This is the only sport, where championships are decided by one game, winner take all. If football even tried to play three game series, most players would be dead, by the time they reach the age of 30. Football can be classified as a brutal and violent sport. Bill Russel said it best, “Basketball is a contact sport, football is a collision sport”. One of the reasons given for not expanding the college playoffs, is that it would make the colleges play more games, and increase the risk of injuries. In order to cut down on injuries, the rules of football have almost made the kick off a non play. Football is having trouble getting participation on the youth level because of fear of brain damage to the young participants. So with all this in mind, it is time to look at these football mysteries.

The first mystery is why would anyone take the chance of inciting a team by belittling them or showing some kind of disrespect. The latest example of this is Dabo Swinney saying that Ohio State did not belong in the final 4 of the college football playoffs. He may have been right. You can find out what he said and did, but the point is, why do it at all. Your not going to change who is in the playoffs, and who is out. It is a done deal. Why give your opponent more incentive and fire. Clemson had eliminated Ohio State last year in the semi finals, so the revenge factor was already motivating this team. Dabo put fuel on the fire by his repeated, inane remarks. He tried to temper those remarks near game time, by saying, he would have said the same thing about any team, that had played only 6 games. The damage was done. Not only did this fire up OSU, but it may have subconsciously made his own team overconfident. Whatever the reason, Ohio State rolled to an easy 49 to 28 win. I don’t think you are going to hear much from Nick Saban this week. The basic rule in football is to never say a disparaging word about you opponent. If you want to predict a win go ahead, but keep those feelings about the other team to yourself. Swinney wasn’t the first to make this mistake and for whatever mysterious reason won’t be the last.

Again targeting was in the headlines this week, for players getting ejected for the foul. Everybody’s screaming that it is an unfair rule, and is ruining the game. The mystery is why do players continue to do it, and more importantly why don’t coaches stop it, by making sure that players tackle with their heads to the side of the player. Being ejected from the game has been part of rule since 2013. This does not seem to be much of a deterrent. It seems like, the player’s overwhelming desire, to hurt and maim, is greater than staying in the game, and helping his team. Let’s face it, if you are leading with the helmet, you are up to no good. There is an easy solution to all of this. Just don’t do it. Don’t lead with your head. For whatever reason, players are not schooled in the proper way to tackle. Maybe it’s football’s way of making sure that more offense is in the game. If the players do not know how to tackle, then there will be more offense. Even announcers call tackles that are bad, good. In my view the only good tackle is when the arms wrap the ball carrier up. If defensive players are ejected for targeting then their replacements won’t be as good and hence more offense. If my view there is no excuse for targeting. There is no ambiguity in the rule, the way the media tries to make you believe. Lead with your head, and you are out of there. Good riddance, as far as I am concerned. Targeting needs to be enforced more, not less.

The final mystery is simply, can anybody make a yard. Watching 3rd and one and 4th and one plays especially in the pros, is mystifying. Offensive coordinators are always being criticized, when their respective offense is floundering, but this is ridiculous, when you see teams, not able to pick up a yard, in two or more tries. I blame it on being a slave to the west coast offense, and the shotgun snap. What would people say on a first and goal, at the one, if quarterback was under center, took the snap, and then pitched a lateral to the running back, 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This is essentially what the shotgun snap does, on a short yardage situation. You are one yard from pay dirt, but then take the ball 6 yards further back, with the snap. Let me offer some solutions, for the short yardage situation. Quarterback under the center. A quarterback, who is young, and has the ability to quarterback sneak. Place two other running backs, or even three, in the old T formation. Whether it is, 2 or 3 running backs, make sure, that these are running backs, you give the ball to on a regular basis. Since I am not coaching or playing against any football teams, this weekend, let me be a bit condescending, it’s called deception. Even if there are only two running backs, in the backfield, there are three options. Quarterback sneak, or hand the ball of to either running back, and if you go to the T formation, you will have four options. Football needs to find a short yardage offense, even on the college level. However, this does not seem to be happening in the near future. Teams continue to run plays from the shotgun on short yardage, sometimes with only the quarterback in the backfield. So football will come to it’s grand covid conclusion this month, and I doubt if any of these mysteries will be solved. I will be watching though to see if some are. GO BUCKS.

Golf: My 2020 Golf Season

I haven’t written about my own game this season, as there hasn’t been that much to write about, and I thought one blog about the whole season, would do the job. Despite the pandemic, and a very slow start, I was able to play over 100 rounds, for the 6th straight season. I did not come close to my record, of 150 rounds in one year, but getting over the 100 mark, is still nice, and as of right now I stand at 105 rounds. I had 52 rounds over 80, with two 90’s thrown in, and 53 rounds under 80, with the best, not that long ago, a 72 at Ponderosa. I have had a late season surge of good play, but more on that later. My handicap, with the updates happening every round, and only 8 rounds being counted, jump around more than usual, from a low of 4.5, to a high of 6.3, before ending the year at 4.9. Here is how the parts of my game performed in 2020. I drove the ball really well again, and it was by far, the best part of my game. I always find this a little strange, because in my younger years, it was probably, the worst part of my game. I have no explanation, other than this game is goofy. The irons were the most inconsistent part of my game. Some days, I would hit them great, and be very accurate, and other days, I would be all over the place. My short game was mediocre all year, with the chip yips and my sand play being the worst. The chip yips would come and go, and they had a major effect on my score. My putting was average all year, but I did have one day, that I will discuss later. No spectacular shots this year and overall the year was pretty bland. I am still not having any swing thoughts when I play, and I may have found why swing thoughts stop working, but more on that, on a future blog. There were 3 highlights of the year.

The first highlight was Covid related. I live in Western Pennsylvania, and we are close to the West Virginia border. Pennsylvania golf courses were closed for the month of April, due to Covid. However, Highland Springs is right on the Pennsylvania border with 12 holes in West Virginia, and 6 in Pennsylvania, with the clubhouse being in West Virginia. This golf course was open in April, and we managed to play 4 rounds, during the month. Needless to say, the golf course was packed, 7 days a week. The 5 hour plus round was the normal. I changed the name of the course to, Bubba Gump Golf Course, because just like Forrest Gump, who had the only shrimping boat to survive the hurricane, this golf course was the only game in town. When the weather was half way decent, there were easily, between 50 and 70 rounds played per day. The second highlight was the best 9 hole putting stretch I have ever had, and just like a lot of things in golf, it came out of the blue. We had to play the 9 hole course at South Park, because of work being done, on the front nine of the 18 hole course. I hadn’t played this nine, in about 2 years. The round started off innocently enough, when I knocked a 9 iron within about 15 feet, and 2 putted for par. On the second hole I chunked a wedge, indifferent chip to 20 feet, made it. Third hole 7 iron off to right of green, chipped up to 10 feet, made it. Fourth hole, hit a limb on my second shot, pitched up 15 feet, made it. The next two holes, I had a tap after putting from the fringe, and made a 3 footer, after a short chip from the rough. The next hole a par 5 I butchered, but made a 10 footer, for par. On number 8, I chipped up to 3 foot, made it. The ninth hole a long par 4, I made a 20 footer for par. For the 9 holes, I had 10 putts, with 5 of the putts, being 10 feet or longer. Now, I have had 9’s, when I had 10 putts, but a chip in was involved. We could not play more than nine holes that day, but it was my best putting for nine holes, by far. The final highlight of the year, was my good play, as the year wound down. My last 8 rounds of the year were 72, 76,74, 81, 81, 76,78, and 76. This finish I will blog more about, in the near future. The two 81’s were in some tough windy conditions. Even though there is some potential for a few more rounds, the 2020 golf season is basically over. The game is still mystifying to me, but at least I feel I have made some progress, as the year wound down. More on that later, see you on the links.

Meditation: Deserve

Deserve is a word that we hear many times, during the course of a day. The word deserve means to have earned or to be given something because of the way you have behaved or the qualities you have. Most of the times the word is used when somebody receives an award, and comments are made, whether he deserved the award, or not. When it comes time for the Oscars, there are movies that people feel deserve or did not deserve a nomination. The word is not always used in positive situations. Sometimes when bad things happen to people, someone might comment they deserved it. We all have had this experience when watching a movie, the villain, or vile person, gets his just due, in the end of the movie. We are all satisfied with that ending, because he deserved it. When a person commits a crime, they deserve to go to jail. This is not the way we are supposed to feel when something bad, or serious happens to another person, but it is still pretty harmless. In fact, it is often fun to debate who deserves what. On the smaller stage of life, we see people have opinions on whether or not someone deserved a promotion, or the new job they are pursuing. People will comment on another person’s new relationship, if it seems to be going well, as something they deserve. As long as a person applies deserve to another person or thing, then this process can be, for the most part, not a major problem, in one’s own psyche. It’s when deserve starts to be a way they describe their own life, that problems can arise.

It’s when you start thinking, that you deserve a better job, a new promotion, a better relationship, or just a better way of life in general, that can have a negative impact on your life. This thinking can spiral into a worse situation if you start perceiving that you deserve any of the bad things, that may be happening. We all feel there are times when we can do better, in dealing with other people, and ourselves, but this does not mean, that we are a bad person and deserve the results, when things go wrong. When you look up synonyms for the word deserve, you will find entitled. When people say they are entitled, this can bring quite a negative response. Maybe the word deserve should have more of a negative connotation. Is there anything that is good or bad, that we actually deserve. Just because you work hard, and do all the right things, is not going to guarantee success, or a monetary reward. Luck is always going to be a factor in life. Do we all deserve to be lucky? I think the answer lies at the end of movie The Unforgiven. The sheriff is about to get his head blown off by Clint Eastwood and says that he does not deserve to die like this. Eastwood’s characters reply is “Deserves got nothing to do with it”. That statement can be applied to every action and result in life, deserve has nothing to do with it. We need to get into that mode when dealing with deserve. It is just an opinion and it needs to be vanquished, from our own lives, if we want to have contentment. The reason for doing anything is for our own self satisfaction and peace. To do this, we need to remove deserve from the middle of our minds.

Golf: Stories, The 70’s

As far as golf was the concerned, the 70’s started out with a bang. In June of 1970, in a tournament called the Bernhardts, held at Oglebay Park, in a pea soup fog, I recorded my second hole in one. It was the 2ond hole, an 180 yard par 3, and all I knew from our caddies was that the pin was in the middle of the green. There was a tournament official at the green, who would just yell out, when it was ok to hit. I thought I had hit a pretty good shot, but one of the other players in the group, thought I had gone a little left. After we had all hit, we barely got off the tee box, when my caddie came bursting out of the fog, yelling it’s in the hole, it’s in the hole. My first hole in one, I did not get to take out of the hole because the people up on the green did, who had let me hit, and, of course, my second hole in one, I never even saw. In 1971, I played probably my best round of golf in a tournament. It was my first week of veterinary school, and I had not touch a club all week. This was a tournament, that was supposed to be a 36 hole, two day event, the first weekend in June, at Wheeling Park. It rained the entire weekend, and they rescheduled it for 18 holes, on the last Saturday in June. I drove home late Friday afternoon, and got home around 6:30, and immediately drove up to Mazeroski Golf Course, to get a quick nine in. For whatever reason, I just had this really good rhythm, and I played the first 6 holes 1 under par, and since the 6th hole is close to the clubhouse, I walked in, and went home. Wheeling Park is a short 9 hole course, with 7 par 4’s, and 2 par 3’s for a par of 34. Naturally, for the tournament you play each 9 twice. The next, day I had that same great rhythm, and shot a 2 under 66, to finish in a tie for second, one shot out of the lead. That was my last great hurrah for the seventies as life took over.

I got married, graduated from veterinary school in 75, and had my only child in 1977, in fact she was born on 7-7-77, a date I will be able to remember, even when I am senile. While in vet school, I played the Scarlett and the Gray courses, mostly the Gray because it was not as crowded, since it was not as renowned as the Scarlett. Both courses were great to play, when I was in school and it was a nice break from the grind. When you played the Scarlett, you often thought of all the shots that Jack Nicklaus hit some 15 to 18 years before, when he was at OSU. I moved to Pittsburgh in 1975, and I have been here ever since. As the 70’s came to a close, golf was definitely taking a backseat to my veterinary career, and family life. However, I was still playing about once per week, and in 1976, I would have my first of many experiences at South Park, the county course, in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. The first time I went to the course, I did not even play. I arrived at about 8:45 on a misty cold April morning, and when I walked up to the clubhouse by the first tee, I looked down and saw at least 30 to 40 people milling around. I immediately turned around, and went home. I told my wife, they must be having a tournament there, to have so many people, on such a lousy morning. I went back a week later at the same time, and the situation was exactly the same. The weather was a little better, but it was a mob scene at the first tee. I then decided to see what was going on. I went to the starter booth, and he told me it was like this every day. He told me, since I was a single, he should be able to get me out, in about a half an hour. Back in those days, the senior pass, for 60 and over, was only $40 dollars, and you could play Monday through Friday anytime, and everybody walked, to avoid the cart fee. The starter was right and I hooked up with these three guys who I still see today every once in awhile. I only remember the first 3 holes of that round, and here is the reason why. I bogied the first two holes, which are really easy par 4’s, particularly number one. The third hole is a par 5, and I really hit a good drive, which gave me a possible chance of reaching the green in two. I took a mighty swing with my 3 wood, and topped the ball right off to the left. It is one of those shots, that if you did not know better, you would have thought the ball went right between your legs. Now, I was about 180 yards from the green on the left side of the fairway. I took out my 3 iron (remember those) and hit it very well, and it scooted up the hill and right on to the green. It was a very nice shot. In fact, it was more than a very nice shot, because the ball went right into the hole for an eagle. How about that sport fans. I don’t remember anything else about the round, but that 3rd shot, on the 3rd hole, the very first time I played it, I will always remember. It was shortly after that round, about 4 weeks later, that I met up with the guys that I would play with, once a week at South Park, for the next 18 years. I enjoyed many a round with these guys, but those stories belong in the 80’s. I started my own practice in November of 1978 and that became the focus of my attention for next 26 years. Golf would have its ups and downs as we headed into the 80’s.

Golf: The Masters

The Masters is here at last. Having the Masters in November will be unique, and having no fans, to speak of, will be really weird to say the least. There are lots questions going into this Masters, not the least of which is, will bulked up Bryson DeChambeau turn Augusta National into nothing more than a pitch and putt course, and shoot 23 under to smash the tournament record by 5 shots? I wonder what Bryson does to bulk up his head, just saying. Can Tiger pull another miracle? Augusta National has been shown to inspire the old veteran. Nicklaus won when he was 46, in 1986. Ben Hogan shot a back nine 30 in the 3rd round of the 1967 Masters, at age 54, and was in contention, until a Sunday score of 77, placed him in a tie for tenth with Sam Snead, who was also 54. I think both Bryson and Tiger will have trouble with this version of Augusta. The Masters has been a tournament of redemption for some. Tommy Aaron, who made the scoring error that cost Roberto Di Vicenzo the 1968 Masters, won in 1973. Charles Coody who finished with 3 bogies to lose the 1969 Masters, came back and won it in 1971. Gay Brewer missed a 5 foot putt on the final hole, to send the 1966 Masters into a 3 man playoff, that Jack Nicklaus won. The next year Brewer won the Masters. Some players have had nothing but heartbreak at Augusta. Greg Norman just could not win it. He bogeyed the last hole in 1986 to allow Nicklaus to win his 6th green jacket. He fell victim to the miraculous pitch in of Larry Mize in the Masters playoff in 1987 on number 11. In 1996, he blew a 6 shot lead in the final round to lose to Nick Faldo by 5 shots. We mentioned the signing of the wrong score by De Vicenzo. De Vicenzo would not come close again. Ed Sneed bogied the last 3 holes in 1979 and then went on to lose the playoff to Fuzzy Zoeller. Heartbreak is rampant at Augusta, even for people with Green Jackets. Arnold Palmer double bogied the last hole to give the tournament to Gary Player in 1961. Most recent was the Jorden Spieth debacle in the 2018 Masters, where he thought the water was the green on the par 3 12th and made a 7 to lose by only 2 shots.

A November Masters will put another chapter in the long history of Augusta National. One of the big differences is that it will be short on daylight. The final round, which still will be televised by CBS despite pro football is scheduled to conclude at 3pm. Saturday’s coverage is set to conclude at noon. It will be like watching the British Open. So what is going to happen. Will scoring records fall left and right? Will Bryson put it in the lake on 11, with his drive? Will somebody win their first major? Could one of the really old guard pull off the big victory? Before I discuss what I think will happen here is what I think won’t happen. No scoring records will be broken. I think that the whole feel of the place will be so weird, that it will have a negative effect on the scoring. Tiger will not win. I wish he would but I do not see it. Bryson will not win because the ghosts of Augusta will not let it happen. Yes, I believe in ghosts, spirits, whatever the hell you want to call it. I think Phil will contend. I would even say he has a good shot at winning. The 280 score will prevail. The greens are going to be murder. You might see a record for 4 putts. My top three picks beside Phil. Jon Rahm, the par 3 skipping the water hole in one could have been an omen. Colin Morikawa, his swing just looks so good. Brooks Koepka, because its a major and for whatever reason he plays them well. I will blog again at the halfway point on Friday night. Its time to get ready and enjoy the Masters.