Golf: Let’s Get Started

Golf has had a resurgence in play, thanks to the pandemic. Because of this, golf has gotten a little lazy in promoting itself and encouraging people to play. Anyone who wants to start playing golf has one big problem, when to try and get on the course. In order to learn and play golf you have to find good instruction. Between the internet and knowing other people who play golf, this is not hard to do. After taking a few lessons, what is the process of actually getting out and playing. You don’t want to go out at a peak playing time if you are just starting out playing. There is the fear factor of making a fool of yourself in front of a lot of people. Golf is a game of patience. Patience is the most important thing you can have when starting out playing the game. In order to play golf, you must be willing to take baby steps. This is the best way I know to get started and to continue to play this great game.

Once you take a couple of lessons and you feel you can at least hit the ball, then the driving range becomes your best friend. You can play an entire round of golf right on the driving range tee box. Once you are warmed up then start your round on a course that you have seen or get a course score card. Start out with your driver, if it is appropriate, and hit your opening tee shot. Continue to play the hole as best you can. One of the keys to learning how to play is to not take any shots over. If you hit a bad shot or hit a shot only a few yards count it just as you would if you were playing for real. Use the appropriate club for the shots just like you would on the golf course. Continue that process until you are within 10 yards of the green or on the green. Many driving ranges have putting greens and short game areas. Once you feel you made it on the green or close to the green then make a note of where you think you are in relation to the pin. Once you have completed the 18 holes then go to the short game area and finish the hole beginning with number 1. I would say you would need to do this for at least 7 to 10 trips to the range. Once you feel confident that you are hitting the ball ok then you are ready for the next step.

It’s time to hit the course. The first course you should play is a par 3 course, which means that all the holes are par 3’s. The length of the holes could range from 60 to 220 yards. This could be a disadvantage if you are hitting your driver over 200 yards because you may not get to hit your driver. You will experience the rest of what golf has to offer with an increase in the short game and putting. Most Par 3 courses are not that crowded and are pretty straight forward in the design of the holes. Your next step up would be to play a 9 hole course or an executive course. These courses are usually shorter, but they do have par 4 holes and some 9 hole courses have par 5’s. On these courses you will be able to use your driver and your game can continue to progress. When starting to play the game one should play these types of courses for about 20 to 30 rounds. You will be able to improve your game in a relaxed atmosphere, at your own pace.

To determine if you are ready to play a regulation golf course, you should at least be playing close to bogey golf on the previous types of courses. Most golf courses have different tees to play from. You should pick the tees that will make the course play around 5500 to 6000 yards. That is plenty of length to experience all facets of the golf game. For women that should be around 4500 to 5000 yards. When you are scoring in the mid to low 80’s then it might be time to try and stretch out the length of the golf course out a bit. There are many times that courses are less crowded. Usually in the middle of the day between noon and 2 pm are times when the course will see a lull in the action. There are some courses that may not be popular for various reason. Maybe they are difficult to get to or the condition of the course may not be that great. When starting out this can be to your advantage where you can play somewhere and not feel rushed. You can take your time and work on your game. Driving a little further to play a course that is not that crowded is well worth it.

Golf is a much more demanding sport on the body than most people realize. There is a lot of twisting and turning when making a golf swing, even when making a beginner’s poor golf swing. Golf can be difficult to learn and play and you must be ready to go through the proper levels of learning and playing in order to enjoy the game. Every area of the country has plenty of golf facilities that were described earlier. Think of it as learning to crawl before you learn to walk. Think of it as going through the education process. Starting at the elementary level and working your way up to the college level. Golf has a lot to offer and if you take your time in learning the game and play the game at the appropriate place, then golf does not have to be a good walk spoiled.

Sports: The Steelers, The 90’s

The 90’s saw the Chuck Noll era end and the Bill Cowher era begin. Like Noll, Cowher was one of the youngest ever be to be hired as a head coach, but that is where any similarity between him and Chuck Noll ended. Compared to the stoic Noll, Cowher was a rah-rah coach and had many interactions with the players during the game. In a nutshell Bill Cowher was more style than substance, but the thing that saved his career was that he had immediate regular season success. He was coach of the year in his first year in 92, as the Steelers went 11-5 and won the division. The Steelers were in the playoffs the first 6 years that Cowher was the coach. He found running backs in Barry Foster and Bam Morris, even though their success was short lived due to injuries for Foster and off the field problems for Morris, they reestablished the Steelers as a powerful running team. Then the Steelers were able to acquire Jerome Bettis from the St. Louis Rams in 1996 and they finally had their Franco Harris running back. In fact, Cowher’s coaching career would have had an idyllic start if not for one thing, complete and utter playoff failure. They made the playoffs 6 straight years and had a record of 5-6. They lost 3 home playoff games. In Noll’s 23 years the Steelers lost 1 home playoff game. Even their Super Bowl loss was strange. They completely outplayed the Dallas Cowboys, but Neil O’ Donnell threw 2 of the most inexplicable interceptions in Super Bowl history, which sealed a 27-17 victory for the Cowboys. The decade ended with 2 consecutive losing seasons and the Cowher era was beginning to crumble, but the Rooney’s stuck with Cowher. It resulted in the 2nd greatest decade in Steeler history.

Record For The Decade: 93 Wins 67 Losses

Best Year: 1994 12-4 1995 11-5 Lost Super Bowl.

Worst Year: 1999 6-10

Why The Steelers Won More Games Than They Loss: The change to Bill Cowher as the coach seemed to energize the team and the results were immediate. The defense came alive under Cowher and had some of their best years in franchise history. They were able to establish their running game and control football games.

Significant Games: The opening game of the 1996 season seemed to sum up the Bill Cowher years in Pittsburgh. Neil O Donnell was gone for free agency and the starting quarterback job was a battle between Jim Miller, a quarterback who had been plagued with various injuries early in his career and Mike Tomczak, who had some decent years with the Chicago Bears. It was announced that Jim Miller had won the starting job and would be the starting QB against the Jacksonville Jaquars on opening day. The game was in Jacksonville. Jacksonville was only in their 2nd year of existence. The game was a disaster for the Steelers. Jim Miller did not have a good game, but he did not throw any interceptions. Late in the 3rd quarter he was replaced by Tomczak and never really played again. He threw about 10 passes the rest of the year. Tomczak did alright but never really impressed, but Miller never got another chance the rest of the season. This is why I call the Cowher years in Pittsburgh weird. Despite his success he seemed to have his judgement clouded by emotional issues on the team. He always gave you the impression that he wanted the players to be his buddies and if he felt a player crossed him, he would never let him back in the inner circle of the team. I felt this game and the rest of season really summed up the Bill Cowher era.

The Decades Best Player: This was an easy one as Rod Woodson played on the Steelers from 90 to 96. He was one of the best defensive backs in the history of the NFL and his play helped bring the defense back in Pittsburgh. He played the position with such grace and style he was a pleasure to watch through the mid 90’s.

This decade ended on a down note as the Steelers had their worst year under Cowher at 5-11. The team seemed headed for a downward spiral and the earlier playoff frustrations seem to be magnified as it looked like the Steelers might not make the playoffs for a while. The turnaround would be much quicker than anybody expected. Then in 2004, the Steelers would get their 2nd franchise quarterback, and all would be well.

Sports: The Steelers, The 80’s

The 80’s could be called the letdown decade for the Steelers. If the Steelers of the 70’s had not set such a high standard, the decade would have been considered not all that bad. The Steelers did win more games than they lost and made the playoffs 4 out of the 10 years. Many people consider this decade as the best coaching job that Chuck Noll did, because the talent was not anywhere close to the teams of the 70’s. The 80’s could be summed up by the fact that the Steelers never could replace the core that made the team great, even though they tried like hell. Even when they were successful tragedy would befall the team and the player. They drafted Gabe Rivera in the first round in 1983. He was the heir apparent to Joe Greene, and he seemed that he was going to dominate the defensive line just like Mean Joe. After the 7th game of the season, he crashed his Datsun 280 ZX into another vehicle, which left him a quadriplegic. Terry Bradshaw who continued to excel at quarterback in the early 80’s, injured his elbow in 82, played in pain, then had what you could call unsuccessful elbow surgery, would play one half of football in 83 and his career was over. The Steelers could never come close to replacing him in the 80’s even though they used a no1 pick to try. More surprising, they never came close to replacing Franco Harris. They used two 1st round picks, one in 82, the other in 89 but both picks basically turned out to be busts. The decade had many ups and downs but would end up being a decade of mediocrity.

Record For The Decade: 77 Wins 75 Losses

Best Year: 1983 10-6 1984 9-7 Loss AFC Championship Game.

Worst Year: 1988 5-11

Why The Steelers Won More, Barely, Than They Loss: Simply, it was Chuck Noll. The talent was never top notch but somehow Noll made every team during that decade competitive. For whatever reason, the Steelers lost their ability to evaluate talent. The draft instead of rebuilding the Steelers, became one disaster after another. Of their 10 number 1 picks, only one, Rod Woodson would go on and have a great career. The only other thing the Steelers could think, was what might have been with Gabe Rivera.

Significant Games: There were two games that stand out in the 80’s and they occurred in 1989. The 1989 season started out worse than anybody could have possibly imagined. The Cleveland Browns opened the season at Three Rivers Stadium and put on a 51-0 pasting on the Black and Gold. The Steeler offense only netted 53 yards for the game. The next week they went to Cincinnati and got blown out again 41-10. For week 3, the Minnesota Vikings came to town, and many expected blow out number 3. Noll rallied the troops, and the Steelers took a 21-14 lead into the half, shut out the Vikings the rest of the way for a 27-14 shocking victory, that started the Steelers on their way to a 9-7 record, that got them a Wild Card berth in the playoffs. They went from getting outscored 91-10 in the first 2 games to a Wild Card game with their hated rivals the Houston Oilers. There was no love lost between Jerry Glanville and Chuck Noll. The Oilers had beaten the Steelers twice in 89 and were favored to do so again in the Wild Card game in the Houston Astrodome. It was a game the Oilers pretty much dominated, but until the 4 quarter could not get the ball in the endzone and trailed the Steelers 16-9. Then Houston was able to put two drives together, which resulted in touchdowns to take a 23-16 lead with about 5 minutes to go in the game. The Steeler offense somehow mounted a long drive and scored the tying touchdown with about 50 seconds to go in the game. The Steelers could not move the ball in the overtime and after a bad punt Houston took over on the Steeler 48 only needing a field goal to win the game. On the very first play of the drive Lorenzo White fumbled the ball and Rod Woodson recovered. The Steelers moved the ball to the Houston 33 and Gary Anderson kicked the winning 50 yard field goal. Next to his Super Bowl wins, this had to be one of Chuck Noll’s most satisfying wins. It was even more so because this loss cost Glanville his job.

The Decades Best Player: This was not the most talented of Steeler teams but there were two players who stood out, Mike Merriweather and Louis Lipps. Merriweather lost some of his luster when he got into a contract dispute with the team after the 1987 season and eventually went to Minnesota. He was Pro Bowler for 3 years with the Steelers. Louis Lipps was a deep threat extraordinaire. In 8 seasons he averaged almost 17 yards per catch and was the 1984 Rookie of the Year. He returned three punts for touchdowns during his first two seasons.

The decade ended with a bang but there was no momentum to be found when the Steelers headed into the 90’s. Noll would retire after the 91 season and a new regime would begin. The 90’s for better or worse, would bring a whole new vibe to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sports: The Steelers, The 70’s

The 1970’s were by far the best decade in Steeler history. There would be a couple of decades that would approach the success of the 70’s but none would really come close. They won 4 Super Bowls and made the playoffs the last 8 years of the decade. The odd thing about the decade was probably their best team, the 1976 team, did not make the Super Bowl, let alone win it.

Record For The Decade: 99 Wins 44 Losses and 1 Tie.

Best Year: 1978 14-2 Won Super Bowl

Worst Year: 1970 5-9

Why The Steelers Won More Than They Loss: Chuck Noll took over in 1969 and built the team almost totally on draft choices. Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Frank Lewis, Franco Harris and J. T. Thomas were the number 1 picks from 69 to 73. They picked up Mel Blount in the 3rd round, in 1970 and Mike Wagner in the 11th round, in 1971. Then came the draft of 1974. It is considered the best draft of all time. The Steelers picked up Lynn Swan, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster in the first 5 rounds. That year they picked up Randy Grossman and Donnie Shell as undrafted free agents. The Steelers had many on the field leaders during this decade, but the true leader of this team was Chuck Noll. Noll would not tolerate anything but total dedication to the cause of winning championships. The Steelers made the playoffs in 72 and 73, but Noll was not satisfied. The 74 team saw 14 rookies on the 48 man roster. Terry Bradshaw did not start the first 6 games. Bradshaw was giving Noll such fits that he even started Terry Hanratty in the 10th game against Cleveland. Hanratty threw more interceptions than completions but somehow the Steelers still managed to win. After that Bradshaw started every game, something finally clicked, and the rest is history.

Significant Games: They won 4 Super Bowls and in 72 there was the immaculate reception, but I feel there were 3 significant games for the Steelers during this decade, with 2 of them being defeats. The first one came in 1972. The Steelers started the season 2-2 but then reeled off 5 wins a row thanks to that great defense and the running of Franco Harris. The five teams they defeated were not considered any kind of elite teams. This led into a showdown with the mighty Cleveland Browns who were also 7-2 and had won the division 3 out of the last 4 years. The Steelers trailed at one time in the game 20-3, but stormed back to take the lead 24-23, capped by a 75-yard touchdown run by Franco Harris. They lost on a late field goal, 26-24 but this game showed that this team had arrived. The Steelers trounced the Browns two weeks later in Pittsburgh, 30-0, and went on to win their first division title in history. The next significant game was the 1974 AFC Championship. The Oakland Raiders had just defeated the Miami Dolphins in a great semifinal game, that ended the Dolphins hopes of becoming the first team to win 3 Super Bowls in a row. The Steelers had to go out to Oakland, and it was considered a foregone conclusion, that the Raiders would win to go on to the Super Bowl. This was the week that Noll told his team that the best damn team in football is sitting right in front of me in Pittsburgh. Even though they trailed 10-3 going into the 4 quarter the Steelers looked like the dominant team from the beginning and scored 21 points in the 4th quarter to win going away, 24-13, to seal their first trip to the Super Bowl. Oakland was involved in the last significant game when they met the Steelers for the third consecutive year in the 1976 AFC Championship Game. Unfortunately for the Steelers both Franco Harris and Rocky Blier were injured, and the Steelers were never in the game and lost 24-7. You never know what might have been, but it was the Steelers best chance to win 3 Super Bowls in a row.

The Decades Best Player: This is the one decade that you really cannot pick a best player. There is no question that the core to this team during those years was Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, and Joe Greene. The proof of this is the fact that during the next decade they tried to replace them, and never could. More on all of that when we get to the 80’s. They were all Hall of Famers, but more importantly they were the heart and soul of the greatest teams in Steeler history. The Steelers had other Hall of Famers and major contributors to their success, but it was those 4 players who epitomized what it meant to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, each in his own way, Bradshaw with his perseverance, Harris with his consistency, Lambert with his ferocity, and Greene with his dominate presence. They were indeed the players that led the glory years.

The Steelers went from their worst decade to their most successful decade. The Steelers were great in every phase of the game, but like any great run you always have to have a little good fortune on your side. All that good fortune disappeared as they headed into the 80’s.

Sports: The Steelers Through The Decades, The 60’s

The Steelers are having a rough season that could best be called mediocre. Listening to personalities on the radio, many are calling them one of the worst Steeler teams of all time. It’s time to look at some Steeler history beginning in the 60’s when pro football started to make its climb to being the most popular sport in America. This is not going to be in depth look at each decade of Steeler history but more like the Morning Report of the Pirates. A look at what they did, why they did it, what were the most significant happenings on and off the field in each decade. We begin with the 60’s that did indeed have some of the worst teams in Steeler history.

Record For The Decade: 46 Wins 85 Losses 7 ties

Best Year: Their best year record wise was 1962, when they went 9-5, but the closest they came to the NFL Championship Game was 63 when their record was 7-4-3. If they had beaten the New York Giants in the last game of the season they would have won the division.

Worst Year: The worst year was 69 when they went 1-13, which was Chuck Noll’s first year of being the head coach. They won their season opener, thanks to a lucky deflected pass in the waning moments of the game for a winning touchdown, or they could have gone 0-14. “““““““`

Why They Lost More Than They Won: The decade started out with Buddy Parker being the head coach and his philosophy was to get veterans and forego draft picks. This worked for a while, but Parker was not near as sharp in evaluating veterans as Geoge Allen, and this philosophy finally caught up with the Steelers. When Noll took over the Steelers in 69, they were just starting to get their full complement of draft picks. Even the few draft picks they had turned out to be huge busts, including the biggest of all time, when they drafted Ohio State fullback Bob Ferguson in the first round. He gained 209 yards rushing for his entire NFL career. Najee Harris doesn’t look too bad, now. Another huge blunder was when the Steelers traded Buddy Dial to the Dallas Cowboys for the rights to Scott Appleton a lineman out of Texas. He signed with the Houston Oilers of the rival American Football League and even though Dial never put up huge numbers for the Cowboys, it was just the idea, they traded Buddy Dial for nothing. Finally, the 60’s were famous for quarterbacks slipping through the Steeler’s fingers. Beginning in the late 50’s the Steelers had these quarterbacks in their camp and one time, Len Dawson, Johnny Unitas, Earl Morrall, Jack Kemp, and Bill Nelson. All these quarterbacks led their teams to some kind of division title or championship.

Significant games: As bad as things were for the Steelers, they did have their moments. Their best game of the decade was the 23-7 drubbing they gave the Cleveland Browns on a Satuday night in Cleveland. The Browns went on to win the NFL Championship that year, but on that night the Steelers were the dominant team, with John Henry Johnson leading the way gaining 200 yards on the ground, scoring 3 touchdowns, on runs of 33, 45 and 5 yards. To this day, it was one of the most glorious nights in Steeler history. Then there was the strange 1963 season where the Steelers had 3 tie games, 2 with the Philadelphia Eagles to stand at 7-3-3 going into the last week of the season. In those days tie games were considered to be no game at all. Even though this was not changed for years, I always felt that this season was the reason they changed tie games to being a .5 loss and a .5 win. The New York Giants stood at 10-3 going into the last game against the Steelers. If the Steelers would have won the game, they would have been 8-3 and the Giants 10-4. The Steelers would have had a higher winning percentage .727 to .714 and would have been the division winner. But alas, it was not to be, as the Giants dominated the game and won easily 33-17. To say the decade went downhill from there would be an understatement. The Steelers never came close to having a winning season the rest of the decade.

The Decades Best Player: This is an easy one as John Henry Johnson played 5 full seasons for the Steelers from 1960-64. He led the team in rushing 4 of those 5 years gaining over a thousand yards twice. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 which took way too long to happen.

The Steelers were a hard nose group even when they were having horrible seasons. Nobody ever came out of a Steeler game without some severe bumps and bruises. No team ever looked forward to playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 60’s. At the end of the decade the Steelers hired Chuck Noll to be their head coach. It would lead to their greatest decade ever.

Sport: Heisman Trophy Winner, Why Can’t He Play Pro Football

The Heisman Trophy winner will be announced tomorrow evening. As I do sometimes when I do a meditation blog, let’s define the Heisman Trophy. The Heisman Trophy is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. It is presented by the Heisman Trophy Trust in early December before the postseason bowl games. You would think that the most outstanding player in college football would have at least a very good pro football career. Instead, the majority of Heisman winners have mediocre or no career at all. Granted, there are some unforeseen circumstances, with the greatest being injury, that can affect a player’s career. Since 1970 there have been 52 Heisman winners. Taking away the 6 most recent winners, because it is too soon to evaluate their careers, that leaves 46 winners that went on to the pros. Charlie Ward went on to have a basketball career, and did not play pro football, which leaves 45 winners who tried to have pro careers. Of that group, 6 went on to have Hall of Fame careers. Tony Dorsett, Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, Barry Sanders, Earl Campbell, and Charles Woodson. There were 12 Hall of Famers who went on to have excellent careers and may yet get into the Hall of Fame. That leaves 27 who had mediocre or no careers in the NFL, well over half, 59% to be exact. Some were related to injury, others, in my view, to a lack of opportunity, and in most cases, simply did not have the talent to play in the pros.

The award has always had an offensive bias. There has been only on defensive player win the award, Charles Woodson, and he became a Hall of Famer. You would have thought that this might have told the voters something, but it did not. The definition of the award certainly makes no distinction that the award is for offensive players only. It simply states that it is for the best college football player of that season. Over the years there is no question that there have been some defensive players that should have won. On the offensive side of the ball the award is prejudiced for quarterbacks and running backs. Forty eight of the fifty two winners have been running backs or quarterbacks. Again, I feel that there have been offensive linemen that should have won the award. More or less, this can be explained by the fact that this is an award voted on by sportswriters. Even though this is a different sport, just recently it was shown just how incompetent they are, when Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously by committee. The writers did not even come close to electing him to the Hall. It is always amazing how a group of people know so little about what they write about. This year all the finalists are quarterbacks. Because of the aforementioned prejudice, the Heisman Trophy, may be the most insignificant award in all of sports. At the very least it needs to be redefined.

Sports: College Football, Meaningless Championship Weekend.

This is conference championship weekend, with the 5 major conferences having their championship games Friday and Saturday. Instead of this being an exciting weekend, and a first step to a possible National Championship, there are only 2 teams, that the games have any kind of significant meaning. Southern California and Texas Christian must win, or they most likely will fall out of the final four. If Michigan or Georgia would lose this weekend, they most likely would stay in the top 4. Georgia for sure and Michigan most likely, unless unexpectedly they would really embarrass themselves. There are five teams, even if they win, will have no chance of getting into the playoffs. Those are Purdue, North Carolina, LSU, Kansas St. and Utah. Then you have the strange case of Clemson. The committee decided to make them the worst ranked 2 loss team. Even if they beat North Carolina decisively, it would be shocking to see them jump 6 places to get into the playoffs. Because college football puts no value on winning a conference championship, there are only 2 out of 10 teams that have a chance of making the playoffs. The playoffs are going to expand, but even that is up in the air on exactly when. Somehow, they came up with the number 12. They are going to “allow in” the top 6 ranked conference champions. There are 10 Division 1-A college football conferences. To use this year as an example, it would still be very unlikely for Utah, Purdue or North Caroline to get in if they somehow pull off the upset. All the 12-team format does is give more power to the committee. If a team is playing in a conference championship game and becomes team 5 through 12, it would mean they would play 17 games to become National Champion. So much for college football players playing too many games. Welcome to the NFL.

I have always advocated an 8-team format. To me it is simple, the 5 conference champions are in, and then the committee picks 3 at large births. Now that the powers to be have said that they want 12 teams, it would be quite easy to go to 16 teams without any extra games. In fact, the most any team would have to play is 16. To use this year as an example, we would have the 5 conference Championship games. Now take the next 6 highest ranked teams that are not in conference finals. In this case, you have Ohio State, Alabama, Tennessee, Penn St., Washington, and Florida St. They could play this week or the next week, with Ohio St. playing Florida St., Alabama playing Washington, and Tennessee playing Penn St. You would have 16 teams with the chance at the National Title. After those games you have 8 teams left and the playoffs could go on right on schedule and the committee would have been done this past weekend. In order to get better teams in the conference championship games, conferences could be much more liberal in changing the division make up every one or two years. You could also have more conference regular season games by eliminating the sisters of the poor games. You know those games, Ohio St vs Akron, or Alabama vs. Chattanooga. I always felt that championships should be settled on the field. This is an easy way to do this, and there would be more continuity to the college football season. I know this will never happen, but it does not keep me from wishing it would. It is time for a Division 1-A football conference championship to mean something.

Pirates Morning Report: Good Early Moves

The last time I wrote about the Pirates I said they would contend for the division title in 2023. I did say a few things would have to happen for me to continue to believe that. Two of them have happened already. Kevin Newman is off the team. They have not one but two first baseman. None of the moves are earth shattering, but they made the team much better and gave more potential to the bullpen. Let us look at the new Pirates.

The Pirates acquired Dauri Moreta from the Reds when they traded Newman. At first glance it appears that the Pirates may have gotten another stiff. For the entire season Moreta had an ERA of 5.40. However, most of that was due to a horrible May. He was sent down to the minors and when he came back in mid-June he obviously found something. His last 20 appearances he had one bad outing where he gave up 4 runs. In the other 19 outings he pitched 23 innings, gave up 4 runs, 14 hits, walked 6, and struck out 22. If he can continue something like that into 2023, we may have found Dwayne Underwood Junior’s replacement. The fact that we got anything for Newman is pretty remarkable.

The Pirates signed a free agent and made a trade to shore up first base. They acquired Ji-Man Choi from the Rays and signed Carlos Santana to a one year deal for 6 plus million. Led by Michael Chavis and Yoshi Tsutsugo the Pirates had the worst WAR at first base, in the entire major leagues at -4. Both Choi and Santana had WARs of 1.2, not great but huge upgrades from what was there. For the first time in a long time the Pirates are going to have real first basemen. Choi is an average fielder, while Santana is an above average fielder. Santana gives added flexibility in that he is a switch hitter. His overall OPS+ is 100 which is league average, but his OPS+ against lefties was 124. They should be a very good tandem at the position, and both have experience at DH. Santana will be turning 37 but the Pirates are experts at giving players rest and this time they will have to.

I would say the off season has started nicely for the Pirates but there is a long way to go. They still need a catcher and a centerfielder if they are going to contend. Any pitching additions should help, as we all know, you cannot have too much pitching. The winter meetings are coming up and the Rule 5 draft. Hopefully the Pirates can maintain this momentum and get some more help to win the division. Yeah, baby.

Golf: Trouble With The Irons

All my scoring problems for the 2022 golf season could be traced back to having a horrible year with the irons. I would have my normal share of problems with putting and the short game once in a while, but even my yips were not as much of a problem. My driving continued to be the best part of my game, which amuses me now, because in my younger days it was the worst part of my game. I have been playing these irons for 2 and 3/4 seasons now. These irons are unique in two ways when compared with my previous sets. They are graphite, with regular shafts. I have always played steel shafts when it comes to irons and have used stiff shafts. The irons I have now are the Titleist AP 3 irons. They are investment cast irons, which most of my sets have been forged. They also have very strong lofts for the individual irons. I look at them as a 1/2 iron stronger. In other words, my 8 iron is more like a 7.5 iron. Because of their uniqueness and my problems, I thought of giving up on them and getting a new set of irons, every golfer’s solution. For the time being I have ditched that idea and will give them one more year.

During the season I had some really bad spells hitting irons. In fact, in one round, it was so bad that I did not hit one green in regulation. A record that can only be tied but never broken. There were other rounds where I hit the green only 2 or 3 times. This does leave you with many birdie opportunities. One problem, of course, was I did not make solid contact. I was consistently inconsistent. During the same round I would often hit irons thin and fat. I had some rounds where my contact would be good but had terrible direction. That would be inconsistent as well. All within one round I would hit shots left and right of where I wanted the ball to go. I tried many things to try a correct the problem, most of them were pre-shot. I tried to move the ball back in my stance, stand closer to the ball, and play my hands much more forward. None of these things seem to make any difference. One of the more frustrating aspects of this whole ordeal, was I would go through periods where I hit my irons well. These periods would be mystifying and would not last that long, but I would go maybe 2 or 3 rounds with some very good iron play. These rounds kept my index below 7. One method that seemed to work to some degree was aiming more left of the target. This got me to hit the ball on a more descending blow and I would make solid contact. This would work for a while but then I would eventually hit everything left, right where I was aiming. I also have developed a mental block that I have had with these irons, almost from day one, that I have not been able to overcome.

I am able to hit these irons a lot further than any irons I have ever owned, even for an old guy. This is the typical scenario that leads to a very bad iron shot. It really does not matter what iron it is. I will use the 7 iron for an example. I have a distance that I think is too far for the 7 iron. This may be due to the conditions, the lay of the land, or the lie of the ball. Simple enough, just use the 6 iron. Then for whatever reason instead of swinging the 6 iron easily I have this mindset that this may not be enough club, or if I really hit it will be too much club. Needless to say, the shot turns out to be a disaster. Sometimes when I am going through this bizarre thought process I will drop back to the 7 iron, really smoke it, and wind up short. Now once in a while the 7 iron will get there to produce a good shot. This scenario does not happen every time I hit a bad iron shot. I hit bad irons when I have had no doubt about the club selection. But that issue is strictly mental and no amount of swing or set up changes are going to correct it. So, what’s next.

This has been the worst ball striking issue I have ever had in over 50 years of playing. In my own brainwashed way, I have made a swing change. I instituted this in my last round, with some mixed results. That last round was my 75 caused by my best putting round in about 5 years. In my brainwashed mind I attributed most of my bad shots in that round, on trying something new with the swing. Because of the weather I have not played since, but it does look like we might be able to get out the next couple of days. Hopefully I can get two rounds in. I know the conditions will be far from perfect but that should not affect my iron play if I am striking it well. Hopefully I will see some light at the end of the tunnel on this horrific period of iron play.

Golf: We Are Brainwashed

Playing golf can be one of the most frustrating endeavors known to man. Everybody wants to improve their game which means that they want to improve their score. Some of us took up the game when we were young. I started playing at the age of 8. Others did not take up the game until they were adults and in the case of one of my newer golfing buddies, he did not take up the game until he was 73. Many people take up the game only to quit after so many years of trying to improve and get better. Many people do get to the point where their handicap is in single digits only to get stuck there seemingly for the rest of their life. Some of these people quit due to this apparent lack of progress. One of the problems in golf is that our faults do not seem to be consistent. Our game seems to change from round to round. One round we cannot drive the ball. The next round we seem to have trouble with our iron game or our short game. Another round we just putt horribly. Even within these problems, the issue is not consistent. One round we may be hooking all our drives and the next topping drives. Irons may be hit fat one round and then thin and to the right on another. All of these things seem to happen out of the blue. The reverse can happen also. One time when I was in the throes of one my worst periods of the chip yips, I had a round where I had spectacular chipping. I put every chip, which there were many, within inches of the cup and wound-up shooting one over par. The bottom line is this. Whatever the problem may be with our games we want it fixed. Believe me that is no problem for golf instructors.

No matter what the problem is, slicing, hooking, fat shots, top shots, pulled shots and even the yips, there is somebody out there that can fix it. There is always a constant with these fixes. The first constant is that the fix is easy. The results are guaranteed. Sometimes there will be multiple ways to fix the same problem. You can easily find these on the internet or go to a local pro and the fix will have the aforementioned elements. You know what? Most of the time the fixes will work. The instructor will change something in your set up or swing and sure enough the problem seems to get resolved. The other thing that gives these physical changes more validity is you will read or hear about a top tour pro changing something and voila wins a tournament. It makes no difference that whatever the change was, does not seem to work forever, or another problem crops up in your game. It makes no difference that the pro you read about who made the change and won a tournament, has now missed the cut in his last 6 event. We are all brainwashed, including yours truly, into thinking that we need to make some change in our swing or technique to get better or solve a golf problem. We just cannot get over this philosophy even when we know that it is not a viable or permanent solution to our golfing woes.

There is no question in my mind that the reason our golf games remain stagnate and we do not get better is the brain. At one point in this blog, I went through a long period of playing and writing about what I called 100% mental golf. However, I really could never do it. There was another phase of my golfer education where I thought the game was 50% mental and 50% physical. I had very logical thinking when explaining my reasoning. I wrote that you could have the best mental attitude and course management, but if you swing and golf fundamental were bad you would not be able to score. You could have the perfect golf swing and fundamentals. but if your mental attitude was bad and your course management was unsound, then you would not score either. Naturally it probably is somewhere in between. I think we all have had this experience playing golf. We are having a bad day striking the ball. All of a sudden, we hit a spectacular shot that ends up about 3 to 6 feet from the pin. The opposite can happen also in a good round. You’re hitting the ball very well and in the middle of the round, you hit a horrible shot, that causes you to make double bogey. I have a saying when I finally hit a good shot in a round. I don’t know where those good shots come from, and I don’t where they go. So, what’s a golfer to do. These problems with our games are not going away. Be aware that most of your game’s problems are mental. Probably close to 90%. That is the first place to go when considering bad shots. Remember more of the mental feeling on good shots. Look for pre swing problems before you go anywhere else. Your good shots are not accidents. They are the result of a functional golf swing and a well-planned shot. Bad shots are usually from not planning shots, self doubt, and trying to do shots beyond your capabilities. Try to undo the brainwashing by looking at your swing as a last resort to improve your game. Next, an in-depth look at my struggles with the irons.


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