Florida Azalea ROUND 1

Okay, enough of the social political injustices of the world, its back to golf where we can forget about the worlds problems while trying to stay safe from COVID,

Today was a spectacular day in northern Florida, very similar to the great weather they enjoyed at “The Players Championship”

For those of you that watched the coverage and witnessed the frightening putting adventures of Sergio Garcia. The poor guy stripes it, but on certain days misses everything. Yesterday he was +3.7 strokes gained on the greens, and today was -3.7 putts. A huge change in his putting.

I can certainly feel his pain, but if perhaps he would try my new technique of putting the short ones with a sand wedge, YES a sand wedge. Today I used the combo of my STX putter on the longer putts and the bladed 60 degree sand wedge on the short ones. The only short putt I missed today was the 4 foot putt I had for eagle on the 5th hole.

Despite that I got the absolute most out of my round as possible. I didn’t hit it great, but took advantage of every opportunity I had today, resulting in a 2 bogey, 6 birdie 66. All the scores were not in when I left, but I saw only a 69 on the board.

Leads are leads and usually don’t hold up, so I need to continue to play well and execute good shots and think well on this golf course. This Donald Ross gem is amazing, with the smallest greens I’ve ever played anywhere in the world. If your in the middle of the green, you will always have a makable birdie or eagle try.

Stay tuned for more on the Florida Azalea

It’s VERY DISAPPOINTING

This is a golf blog, I like to write about my experiences, how I prepare to play the best I can possibly play, how I train, and of course the side saddle experience.

But tonight while dining by myself at the most popular place in all of Palatka Florida, I witnessed something that disgusted me, and made me reflect on certainly one of the major things that is very wrong in this country. On a Thursday evening this place, Corky Bell’s was packed with an hour wait for a table. I sauntered up to the bar and found a spot to hopefully have a quick dinner.

Unfortunately there were 6 guys in the bar that were basically screaming, and the more they drank, the louder they became. One of them actually poured himself a beer while the bar staff was absent from the bar. I watched in amazement as these belligerent drunks drank, and drank more, and drank yet more.

The topper for me was when the female bartender that was serving me said “yup, they have been drinking like this since 4 pm, and they are very loud and drunk” yet then she served them these shots in the video below.

Here we have COVID-19 and the restaurant business in dire need of revenue, so what are they going to do, serve alcohol to drunks and forget about their obligation to keep these lethal weapons off the road. I asked for the manager and told him I took video of these guys while I waited one hour for my food to arrive. I saw them steal drinks from the bar and laugh like crazy over their success. I watched the bar staff give them priority service as clearly they were spending the most money.

But at what cost do these desperate restaurants push the booze, while endangering lives on the road. When I asked for the manager and told him that HE would be responsible for anything that might happen on the road to an incident casualty of these inebriated idiots. I told him the big guy in the red hat was stealing beer, and that his staff could hardly give a damm. I also told him I was contacting the local authorities that his bar was serving alcohol to very drunk customers. He listened, but doubt he did anything.

My heart goes out to all those people lives that have been crushed by accidents that could have been prevented by NOT allowing drivers to get behind the wheel under the influence of anything dangerous. The roads are super dangerous, especially now with all this Canibas crap that’s making people think its ok to get high and drive since its legal to use.

I worry about this country. This is NOW a political forum, I don’t enjoy talking politics, or religion with people. But It’s really hard for me to look at the Golden Boy Andres Como, and see this scumbag get a free pass from the left media, while he covered up all his fuck ups with the retirement home COVID patients, and now just a handle full of the women he has terrorized are coming forward.

I look at this country and realize that we have a President, the most powerful man in the world, that would not, and could not even be hired as a Maitre D’ as he cannot remember anyones name. Over the next few years we are going to see craziness in what is going to be ramme

WILD RIDE UPDATE

If you didn’t read the first version of the Wild Ride, do that first. This is only to fill in the blanks as I was ripping through that post last night.

They kind people of Amateurgolf.com featured my win in the Moot Thomas

https://www.amateurgolf.com/golf-tournament-news/27671/Haag-wins-the-Moot-Thomas-Invitational

It will be interesting how the combination of a T31 and a win will average out on the new WAGR ranking tomorrow wagr.com my guess is that I’ll probably hold my same position.

They crazy part of golf during COVID is the number of players on the waitlist to get into events. There were 250 inquiries to play in the Jones Cup (which had a field of 90 players). The Moot Thomas had a long waitlist and the upcoming Florida Azalea does as well.

Golf is the one sport that you can safely play without physical contact while maintaining social distancing. Golf most definitely needed a boost as its in decline nationally. For a lot of us we are still waiting to see if the Royal and Ancient will go ahead with the Senior Amateur and Senior Open in July. As of now, everything is cancelled in the UK up and through April.

I honestly don’t know how they will be able to have players from 50 countries safely come into play in these events, but I hope I am wrong. This is going to be a packed year of tournaments, I’ve got over 30 events on my calendar, some 2 day events, but most are 3 day or longer events. Being on the road alone for 27 days is not ideal, and I’d prefer to have a companion with me.

My plan is to practice Wednesday and Thursday in advance of the Florida Azalea in Palatka, putt like a pro with my sand wedge and race off to the Gainesville airport on Sunday for my 4:30 flight back home.

My T67, T31 and win in the Moot, can all be well worth the long trip with a high finish in Palatka, a tricky short course that is really fun to play.

Tomorrow I will take some photos of some of their holes and share the experience with you.

Till then- STAY TUNED

WILD RIDE

My 27 day trip began with a thud as I had perhaps one of the worst Uber rides ever. I think I was her first ever Uber customer. Her GPS did not accurately locate my hotel, so we twice drove through a construction zone, and then back out to the wrong hotel. Since she had been in an accident recently she would not make a right turn even with a car a mile away approaching from the right. She drove 35MPH on the Freeway and I was scared to death.

On our third time into the Construction zone I spotted my hotel 500 yards away over a fence. I asked her to just let me out and with all my heavy luggage I wildled my way through the fence and finally to my hotel after 2 hours. I’m sure it took her 30 minutes to work her way back out of the construction zone to escape. Oh my, it was crazy.

The next day I had a practice round at Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club for the start of the Gasparilla Invitational. This is a Mid Am/Senior event all of us playing for the title. There is a cut after 2 rounds to the low 50 players. This is a tricky course, not long, but plays long. Miss the fairways and you’ll make lots of bogeys or worse.

The first round I was in the afternoon wave, shotgun start at 1:00 PM. The morning wave had calm conditions and we were met with 20mph winds that made the course play very tough. I fought all day and missed a few 2 foot putts that ended with a 71, which kept me in the top 40.

Playing now in the morning wave on Friday we had to deal with cold, wind and rain that subsided for the afternoon wave. I’ll cut to the chase, I had one hole left the short par four 15th hole. I knew that a par on the hole I’d make the cut, anything else and I’d be cut. After a prefect tee shot, I arrived to find my ball in the middle of a sand filled divot, however I was only 90 yards from the pin and I thought no problem, I can trap a 54 degree sand wedge onto the green. I caught the shot a bit heavy, it hit the front of the green, and for some reason spun back down the hill and into the pond fronting the green. I immediately knew I missed the cut and was done for the event.

I was gravely disappointed and faced yet another massive drop in my WAGR ranking with a T67 place in this highly ranked event. WAGR now uses a power system, and this would have been a great event to play well in to move up in the standings.

Why do we care about our WAGR ranking? Because the rumor is that this year the top 25 WAGR senior golfers will be exempted into the USGA Senior Amateur thus avoiding a very tough qualifier in August. I’m currently ranked 31st and need to move up not down, so this was a disappointment.

As always when I miss a cut I want out of the area as fast as possible, and since the Jones Cup was beginning in 9 days, I needed to decide where to go next. I was in Tampa, and decided to head to Monterrey Mexico for some R&R with some friends and play some golf. Unfortunately I got sick the day I arrived, thought I had COVID and dreamt about dying in a Mexican Hospital and being thrown dead into a big dirt hole and covered with dirt. With a high fever and in bed for 6 days I feared the worst, and had many COVID symptoms except losing my sense of taste.

In order to get back into the USA I needed a negative COVID test, and took mine on Wednesday for my flight back out on Friday (you need to take a test within 72 hours of your flight). I was EXTREMELY relieved when the test came back negative, and after spending 7 long days in one hotel room, I happily left Mexico and flew through Houston to Jacksonville, waited 3 hours for Hertz to find me a car and then on to Sea Island GA.

With very low energy I played my practice round on Saturday with the tournament starting on Monday. I was very disappointed that we did not get to play the fabulous Seaside course at Seaside, instead they had us on the newly renovated Plantation Course (I wonder if they need to change the name).

We had great weather on Monday, and I shot a mediocre par 72 round and found myself in T12 completing against the best Senior amateurs in the world. The next two days were miserable with hard rain, wind and very cool temperatures. We had one three hour rain delay on Tuesday and every inch of me was wet and cold. I did not enjoy either Tuesday or Wednesday, making mental mistakes, losing patience and missing multiple putts from 1 foot to 3 feet.

Basically I gave up and shot disgusting rounds of 79 in Tuesday and 78 on the final round, and as expected fell to T31 in the event with another huge WAGR drop coming. This was the second of four events I will play in over my 27 days trip. Next up the Moot Thomas in Ocala Florida.

I couldn’t get out of GA quick enough and on my way for the 3 hour drive to Ocala. What I didn’t anticipate was all the events being held simultaneously in Ocala. The LPGA event, and several large horse shows had the hotels full, and those with vacancies, prices jacked up 300%. I made the mistake not booking a room earlier, so I had to pay the piper.

A decent practice round on Thursday to re-figure out this short but tricky course. We started with amazing perfect weather on Friday with 75 degrees and light winds, resulting in low scores. I think there were about 10 scores under par, and I stood at 71, within 3 shots of the lead.

Saturday was very challenging with high winds and temperatures in the 50’s and the scores showed it. I continued to struggle with the putter. On day one, I hit 17 green, and three par fives in two shots and only shot -1 under par. I was disgusted with myself and all the various grips and eyes open, eyes closed. On Saturday I actually took out a club and put two putters in my bag. The first one up was an very old “So Easy”putter made in Jack Koski’s garage, and it looks like it. I started off my round 3 putt, 3 putt and that was the end of that putter for the day. But the STX was not much better. After hitting 16 greens and one par 5 in two shots, I had another 71 in tough conditions.

I decided not to look at the score board and play the last round not knowing where I stood. I also decided to just use one putter for the day. But after bogeys on the two par fives, I knew that something would need to change to have a chance in this tough final round. It was cold and the wind was strong at 15-25mph gusts.

After a disappointing one over par 37 on the front nine, I knew I was still close to the lead as the others in my group also struggled. I was paired with my pal Jerry Slagle, and was rooting for him as well.

But things changed for me on the back nine. It started on the tenth hole when I hit a good second shot to 5 feet, but this time I decided that I would blade putt with my 60 degree sand wedge. I’m sure the guys in my group were wondering what the hell I was doing, but it worked and I calmly rolled in this 5 footer for an important birdie. The 11th hole I hit a shot on this short par three to about 25 feet, used my regular STX putter on the long putt, and cleaned up the 1.5 foot putt with the sand wedge again.

Again on the 12th hole a quality second shot left me with a 6 footer for birdie, and again I used the bladed sand wedge to make another birdie. On the par 5 13th hole I made a tricky downhill slider to make my 3rd birdie in 4 holes, but the best was yet to come.

The 14th hole is a pivotal hole, a par three straight into a very strong wind over a lake with a very shallow green. Many options are available to a player with a far right pin, with lots of green to the right. But a long putt from the left would leave a very tough 2 putt. I decided to go for the right corner of the green, and hit the best shot of the tournament for me, leaving me with a tricky 12 foot putt for birdie.

I walked to the green with my two putters, the STX side saddle putter, and my trusty 60 degree sand wedge. I wasn’t sure which I would use for this 12 foot birdie try, but since it was a breaking downhill putt, I decided that I would just try to 2 putt it and move on with probably the lead (I was still unsure where I stood). I decided to give the STX a try on this tough putt, and as I took it back closed my eyes and struck a decent putt, and to my surprise opened my eyes in time to see the putt go into the middle of the hole.

Now I wanted to know where I stood after making 4 birdies over the first 5 holes on the back nine. I figured I was 3 shots ahead of my pal Jerry, and took on the tough 15th hole straight back into the wind. After a good tee shot and an iron into a far left pin, I had a 20 foot birdie putt up hill that I yipped with the STX putter to two feet, and cleaned it up again with my sand wedge.

But the 16th hole did not work out well for me. This time I missed the 1.5 foot par putt with the sand wedge leaving me three ahead of the hard charging Jerry Slagle. He made a great two putt birdie on 17, with me about 2 feet for par, again my putt somehow found the right edge and curled in, otherwise we’d be separated by only one shot going to the last hole.

On 18 Jerry hit his tee shot way left, making birdie very unlikely, meanwhile I hit a good drive down the left side, and then onto the green about 15 feet away. Jerry’s chip shot from short of the green almost went into the hole, and left me with two putts to win, however not knowing how the guys in the group in front of us played, I felt I needed to two putt to win. I ran my first putt 2.5 feet past the hole and it was a no brainer to again use the sand wedge leaving the best chance. I didn’t hit it perfect but it found the bottom and secured the W for me.

I can assure all of you that if I had just used my STX on the back nine, I would not have win this event. I now have 4 days off to prepare for my final event, the Florida Azalea in Palatka Florida where I defend my 2020 win in this really good event. I will again be using my bladed sand wedge on the short putts, and I’m sure I’ll be getting a lot of strange looks from my fellow competitors. My feeling is, for now, whatever works is what I’m going with. This has been a WILD 20 days starting in Tampa Florida, and will end this Sunday in Palatka.

STAY TUNED FOR RESULTS FROM PALATKA

Drinking, Gambling and GOLF

This will be the PG-17 version of the stated title above. Besides playing in the inaugural Big Stakes held in Nevada many years ago, with a $2,000,000 first place prize, I have never played golf for big money before. My typical games are $20 3 ways, or sometimes even $200 three ways.

With the upcoming weather report finally showing some rain for 7 days in a row in the Bay Area, I decided to bolt to Palm Desert for some golf in prefect weather. I have an old friend that I’ve not seen in 17 years that is always extending me an invitation to come and stay with him. I finally took him up on his offer, and hopped a United flight from SFO to Palm Springs, not knowing that Southwest flew from Oakland non-stop to Palm Springs for half the price.

Upon my arrival my long lost friend of 17 years scooped me at the airport, and off to his 3/4 acre estate in Indian Wells we went. I had my own amazing casitas to my disposal, and one oof his Mercedes to drive during my visit. Since our dinner plans were coming fast he suggested we have a glass of white wine before heading to the restaurant. The interesting thing was that I had never seen him drink before, when I knew him 25 years ago, he was off the booze for ten years. I respected his restraint and ability to resist drinking as I heard it was a problem. in his past. However now, he was in full tilt back drinking. I do enjoy an occasional glass of wine, or some good whiskey.

After a few glasses of white, we headed to a great place in Indian Wells that had just reopened the day before. We had two of his friends join us and quickly we were drinking some amazing pink champagne, followed by two bottles of delicious red wine. Our after dinner drink was sambuka which I probably spelled wrong here.

He was a gracious host and picked up the tab, probably $600-$700 range. We headed back to his place feeling no pain, and started in on the Tequila mixed with some sweet mixer, and that went on for 4 hours and through two bottles of Tequila. The music and dancing around the kitchen was fun, until I realized I had my first of many money games lined up at the Hideaway.

Throughout the night my cotton-mouth hit me hard, I had not been drinking anything close to this in 30 years. I felt terrible upon finally waking and trying to walk in a straight line to the bathroom. My game was in two hours and I needed to find some balance and equilibrium.

At the Hideaway I met up with some old friends I had not seen in many many years, and 5 of us played a game that had two players agains the other three paired up in teams. We had a point game and other things I didn’t pay attention to. I was in great fear of losing more than what I had in my pocket and felt like Lee Trevino playing for $100 with only a $5 bill in his pocket. The difference of course is I don’t possess Lee’s game.

My saving grace was that one player that never was on my team, had one of the worst games of his life and threw the party. My horrible 79 playing as a zero I thought was going to cost me $2K-$5K. But once it was all tallied up, I won $1970. I was shocked and more relived than anything. Unfortunately that was the last game with that group of guys.

What I then quickly learned was don’t head into a golf gambling town with a +2 handicap and play unfamiliar courses for big money. Yes the drinking continued for a few more days, and it was costly. The next big game was held at the Palms, were legendary games for big money are played. I was playing with a good friend of mine vs 3 other players, all getting lots of strokes in a match play style game. Keep in mind, when playing match play, you can never give a player all his handicap shots, as each par he makes on a stroke hole needs to be matched by a natural birdie.

My hangover of a week was not helping my putting, and I missed 2 footer and 2 footer, each costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars. After 18 holes at the Palms, we found ourselves down $12,000. An emergency nine was played getting us to +1 with one hole to go, the tough par 4 ninth hole with a drive over a creek out about 240 yards. All we needed to do was ONE of us to fly the creek, as we were playing a scramble format. Just making a par on the hole would earn back the $12,000 plus get us an additional $3000. But NO, we both hit our tee shot in the creek, and made a scramble bogey to let them off the hook.

The next day we had a 3 up lead with 5 holes to go with a match and stroke play bet of $1000 5 ways. We again lost 3 holes in a row, lost the gross bet and tied the match bet going deeper into the hole.

At this point I was thinking what the hell was I doing here, playing these sharks on their home turf with a handicap that clearly I cannot play too. I decided that if I had a chance to make a comeback I needed to stop drinking all together, and get some good rest and focus on playing good golf. After getting scalped the strokes given came down and slowly we notched some wins against the same guys we’d been playing.

Another new friend of mine got us on The Plantation another great course with lots of great players that will scalp you on their home course. We had a game with three guys I didn’t know, and quickly they looked up my handicap and said, “oh Randy is a plus 2, so we will play off his handicap” what that really means is a 5 handicapper get 7 shots, and then he said “oh we are playing the back tee combo, so I get two more strokes or 9 shots”. Well guess what, if you are a plus 2, you don’t get that adjustment of two extra shots for playing the back tees. And the beatdown was on. We played Wolf, and it was an utter joke. My friend that invited me played to a zero and got ZERO points in a wolf game, which is almost impossible. Me, I got a whopping 2 points, and they emptied our wallets, with no remorse at all. The guy that was a 5 handicapper that got nine shots actually beat both of us scratch with a 73. I would guess that score will never be posted.

Complaining about this will get you no-where, the handicap system is a joke, as you can be what ever handicap you want by posting fictitious score on the GHIN website. Tournament players cannot do that, as then they will have a handicap that’s two high to enter the top amateur and open events. So a sand bagger typically does not play in scratch events, as that would expose them.

After my ass whooping at the Plantation it was Super Bowl time, and I’ve made the mistake of betting against terrific Tom in the past, but not this time. I had Tampa Bay and the under in this one, and enjoyed a nice W that helped move me out of the deep hole I was in on the golf course.

Since I didn’t buy a return ticket home, I decided I would stay in this perfect 80 degree weather with light winds and try to fiddle down my deficit. Three more games occurred, and on the last hole of the last round I played, I had a 6 foot birdie putt for $6000. By now, this was starting to be the norm, but still challenging for a guy that doesn’t know if he’s putting with eyes open or eyes closed right before the putter goes back. I missed the putt, but still ended my 18 day trip dead even. It was a brutal rollercoaster and taught me many lessons.

Number one, I did finally post all those high rounds I played and my handicap has gone from a +2 to a 1. It actually should be a 2 right now, but I have events that require a 1 handicap or less to enter. Number 2, never play someone for big money that you don’t know well, or that your playing partner doesn’t know well. Number 3, always allow for an adjustment after nine holes, or have time for an emergency nine. Number 4, never play for more than what you have in your pocket (or in the bank) as it will cause additional stress and pressure. And finally Number 5, playing a guy on his home course is a mistake, at least do a home and home to equal the playing field.

Not sure how many people will provide such graphic details of an ass whooping, but the hope is that I will now be better for it going into my 4 tournaments, which I will post on soon.

I have finished the first one in Tampa Florida at the Gasparilla held at Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club. Caught the tough weather side of the draw playing late on day one, and then early in the rain on day two. I grinded my guts out trying to make the cut. I made a late birdie on my 16th hole and then made a 10 foot par save on the 17th hole. I knew I was right on the cut line, and hit a prefect tee shot on my last hole, the short 15th hole. I had 90 yards left to the pin, but noticed I was in the middle of a huge sand filled divot. I took one extra club and hit the shot fat, onto the front fringe, and then watched it roll back down the hill and into the Lake. At that moment I knew all the grinding, the flight across the county, the hotel bill, food and travel expenses were for not. This can be a cruel sport, and that bad luck on the final hole cost me the opportunity to play the next day in perfect weather and advance my WAGR ranking which is currently 28th in the world (for seniors over 55). The top 25 WAGR ranked seniors will get an exemption into the USGA Senior Am, which is the goal. However that one chunked shot will move me backwards.

Stay tuned for the JONES CUP in beautiful Sea Island GA

I TRUST THE USGA

In further clarifying what I understand to be the situation with what I had written earlier here is some additional or edited info:

  1. The USGA has made no decisions on doing anything at this point. They are going through the process of evaluating and doing their diligence
  2. In the recent past the USGA with the R&A have put into place many changes to the rules that have made the game better, and I believe they will do the same here
  3. Whatever the final decision is, I believe it will be a good one and will be well received by golfers of all and any skill level.

The USGA and Royal & Ancient have a very challenging task of protecting the game of golf on all ends and fronts. On my earlier blog post I did not want to lead anyone into believing that any decision was made, nor that any opinions had been formed by anyone.

Your feedback and comments were much appreciated, and it clearly shows the passion we all carry for the game we love.

Since I began golfing at age 6, the game has evolved in so many ways. I can remember the days when I used to re-varnish my old Olimar wooden headed driver and 3 wood. The head was tiny and the sweet spot very small. The old balata balls would curve so much more than the ball today. Which was a better era for the club and the ball now with the distance and less curve, or back in the day when you could hit huge slices and hooks?

My personal bottom line is that I trust the USGA, I always have. I think golf is in very good hands, and I am confident that you all will be pleased and support what our governing golf association does.

Up next 2021, how to play your best golf

Stay Tuned