Monday, April 20, 2009

Slow Play

I have the privilege of watching the best players in the world play golf form inside the ropes. I have witnessed some of the best ball strikers in the game hit shots from only a few feet away. So I have an idea of how the game is supposed to be played.

Now with that being said, I have to call out those golfers who have allowed professional golf to ruin recreational golf. Slow play has been an enemy of golf for years. Nothing is more frustrating that playing behind a slow group. It’s hard to get into a rhythm and that in turn affects how you play that day.

For example, a 25 handicap player hits a decent drive on a long par 5 and has about 260 yards to the green. Instead of playing to the percentages and hitting a lay up shot he decides that he is going to hit the shot of his life and go for the green. So he stands in the fairway with his 3 wood and waits for the green to clear ahead of him. Meanwhile your group is standing on the tee box waiting to hit your tee shot and you are wondering what the heck he is doing. After all with 260 left to the green he could hit a bucket of balls and never reach it. So after a lengthy delay he addresses the ball, takes a mighty swing and tops it about 30 yards.

After following PGA Tour players around the course and watching how they play the game, I realized that as a recreational player I am supposed to suck! They do this for living and they do it well. Go out enjoy yourself and remember that you’re not the only one out there playing. Have some consideration for other players. So pick up your 5th putt and move to the next hole.
"Keep it in the short grass"
Edward S. Wanambwa

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The 2009 Masters a Look Back

Now that the 2009 Masters is in the books, I would to reflect on a few of my experiences in Augusta.

Augusta was abuzz as always with Masters Fever; however this year was it was a bit more subdued. Patrons lined the sidewalks along Washington road and scurried in and out of the gates of Augusta National like kids at a candy store. They were almost in a trance like state basking in the afterglow of having walked the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. I could tell I was at the Masters.

The economic downturn was evident as well. Weeklong badges could be purchased for a few hundred dollars. A shocking proposition considering that in past years a Masters badge would have set you back a few thousand dollars.
Inside the gates of The National it was business as usual. The packed gift shop, the long lines of patrons waiting to get their hands on those famed pimento cheese sandwiches and a cold beer in a Masters cup. There was an electric atmosphere around the golf course and I think the members at Augusta National made a call to the big guy and request perfect weather because they got it.

After years of complaints about the course setup, the tournament committee final relented and setup a fair but yet challenging layout this year. As I looked at the leaderboard I saw my share of birdies and the occasional eagle popped up as well. The roars were back at the Masters. With a winning score of 12-under par it’s clear that setup was fair and very playable. Just don’t ask Sergio Garcia that, he is still whining. I guess he played a different course.

The storylines that played out this week went from magical to tragic. Kenny Perry almost became the oldest winner of a Major Championship, but it was not to be. Two late bogeys’ and a bogey on the 2nd playoff hole cost him the championship. But despite the stinging loss he handled it with class and dignity. Kenny Perry in a true gentleman and a credit to the game.

Tiger and Phil made a charge on Sunday and put on a display of golf that electrified the crowd. Even though they both fell short, it was womderful seeing them go mano y mano at the Masters. Hopefully, we can see it again.

“El Pato” the duck Angel Cabrera now gets to take a Green Jacket back to Argentina. He became the first Masters champion from South America. A fitting winner when you think about 1968 and the memorable scorecard gaffe by Roberto DeVicenzo. Cabrera’s win served as a bit of redemption for Roberto and now he can say I was not so stupid. Congratulations Angel Cabrera.
(images courtesy of Getty Images)
"keep it in the short grass"
Edward S. Wanambwa

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Masterful Masters: Cabrera Wins a Green Jacket

Easter Sunday at Augusta National served as the setting for a major championship that will be remembered and talked about for years to come. The patrons were expecting an exciting final round and they got what they wished for and much more.

Angel Cabrera persevered, played steady golf, got a few nice breaks and walked away with his first green jacket and his second major championship. Kentucky’s Kenny Perry on the other hand let the green jacket slip out of his grasp with two costly bogeys on the final two holes and another bogey on the second playoff hole seal his fate.

Perry left the 16th green with a two shot lead and seemingly had the tournament won. He was clearly the crowd favorite and it was hard to root for him. At 48 years old, Kenny Perry would have become the oldest player to win a major championship. However, the golf Gods did not smile on him. His close friend Chad Campbell let another opportunity to win major slip away as well. Playing the next last group, Campbell was in position to win the tournament of the 18th green. He could have posted a winning score but his birdie putt slipped by. Despite the fact that he was the third player in the playoff, he missed a short putt for par and was quickly eliminated on the first playoff hole.

Angel Cabrera solidified himself as a world class player on Sunday. He handled the pressure of a major championship with class and poise. At the 2007 U.S. Open, Cabrera stared down Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk on his way to his first major championship. He did the same thing yesterday at the Masters. He couldn’t help but hear the thunderous cheers of the patrons as Tiger and Phil made a charge and flew up the leaderboard. Cabrera appeared to have a few loose swings on the front nine, but he managed to calm himself and right the ship.

Cabrera’s win in a small and symbolic way is a measure of redemption for his fellow countrymen Roberto DeVicenzo. In 1968 DeVicenzo lost the Masters because he signed an incorrect scorecard. He marked down a 4 on the 17th hole instead of a 3. The error was discovered after he signed his scorecard and under the rules of golf he was disqualified. His mistake still reigns as one of the saddest stories in all of sports. After Cabrera’s U.S. Open win in 2007, De Vicenzo gave Cabrera a picture of him holding a green jacket and told him to win one for himself on day.

This Easter Sunday Angel Cabrera did just that. His win was the first for Argentina and as he put on that green jacket I am sure Roberto DeVicenzo had a smile on his a face and was feeling a sense of pride for his friend Angel Cabrera.

(images Courtesy Getty Images)

"Keep it in the short grass"
Edward. S. Wanambwa

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Thriller at Augusta

Well we finally got what we’ve been asking for. The final round of the 2009 Masters featured the most anticipated pairing in golf, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The entire media buzz about this storied rivalry was validated today by an amazing display of golf from both Mickelson and Woods.

Both Woods and Mickelson came out the gates a bit shaky spraying their tee shots on the first hole. However, they both managed to recover and get up and down for par. The front 9 featured an astounding display of shot making by Phil Mickelson who tied a Masters record by shooting a 6-under 30 on the outward nine. His first nine was punctuated by an amazing shot off of the pine straw on the 7th hole to a few feet for birdie.

If golf could have anything close to a heavyweight fight this was it. It was like the Thriller in Manila Ali and Frazier on the back nine at Augusta. I sat glued to my monitor watching every shot and wondering if one of these titan’s of golf would be able to pull off a come from behind win and walk away with a Green Jacket.

They played well and even though they both bogeyed the final hole after bad tee shots, they managed to satisfy the appetites of millions of golf fans who have been praying for this match up. Mickelson shot a 67 and Woods carded a 68 in the final round today. Both players entered the clubhouse at 9-under par and walked away from the 18th green realizing that their chances of winning this year's Masters tournament were all but over.

I was blessed to have witnessed this pairing. I can’t wait until they face each other down the stretch in another Major Championship. Today was golf at its finest and I can’t wait to see it again.

(images courtesy of Getty Images)
"Keep it in the short grass)
Edward S. Wanambwa

Monday, April 6, 2009

Where are the black golfers in professional golf?

Video Link:
Yesterday I did an interview with Bob Ley on ESPN’s Outside The Lines concerning Tiger Woods and the development of black golfers in professional golf. After the interview I received a wide range of responses. They ranged from praise to anger and frustration. So I decided to add an entry on my blog to clarify my position.

The simple fact is that the number of black golfers on the PGA and LPGA Tours had declined drastically over the past 40 years. Today Tiger Woods is the only black golfer on the PGA Tour and there are no black women on the LPGA tour at all. 40 years ago there we at least 15 black golfer on the professional circuit. So that begs the question where did the black golfers go and why hasn’t anyone followed Tiger?

As I stated in the interview, it’s an issue of access and resources. It takes money to play and stay out on tour, somewhere in the range of $100,000 a year for a player to compete on the professional level. Even the PGA Tour qualifying school costs $5,000 to enter. Furthermore, you won’t make it out on tour practicing and taking instruction at your local municipal golf course. Specialized training, instruction and equipment are essential for a golfer that is looking to get out on tour. So the argument of get some clubs practice and qualify is a bit short sighted.

I got several responses stating why are black golfers asking for a handout and that the tour lower their standards so they can play? I immediately asked myself what interview did these people watch? I don’t think anyone on the panel suggested that the PGA Tour lower their standards so that black golfers can play on tour. Nor did anyone suggest that black golfers receive any type of freebies or handouts. I simply stated the black golfers need resources and access. In other words, let in the room so I get the opportunity to compete. Help me get the tools I need to qualify. Then my clubs will have to do the talking.

For example, The Leadbetter Academy in Florida that produced Michelle Wie and Charles Howell III and other professional golfers has an elementary school, high school and college campus on site. The kids there go to school from 8 to 12 and then work with their swing coaches, Video analysis, physical trainers and mental coaches for the rest of the day, everyday. The are also backed by IMG and Callaway golf. So they play with the best equipment tailor made for them and they practice and play on the best golf courses. By the way if you want your child to attend the Leadbetter academy, it will set you back $1,700 a week. Not cheap. But that level of instruction is required to get out on tour.

Tiger Woods doesn’t owe black golfers anything. He is not obligated to help a single black player get out on tour. The only thing he is required to do is play golf be a good husband, father, golfer and be a positive role model. So far he has done a wonderful job in all of these areas. However, Tiger has a platform to affect change and if he decided to reach back all he has to do is make a phone call and he could really help some up and coming black golfer get the resources, training and access they need.
But again that has to be something Tiger chooses to do. He shouldn’t be and can’t be forced to do anything he doesn’t believe in. Tiger stated clearly that his foundation was not created to produce professional golfers. The Tiger Woods Foundation was created to produce good citizens and it seems to be working.

Let’s face it as long as Tiger is on tour this discussion will continue and the fact that neither Tiger nor PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem would speak publicly about this issue speaks volumes. Clearly it’s an issue the golf industry is reluctant to address or speak about.
I would love to see more faces like mine out on tour. It thinks it’s amazing that when I look at the President of the United States and he looks like me but when I watch a PGA Tour event, I don’t see anyone that looks like me unless Tiger is playing.
"Keep it in the short grass"
Edward S. Wanambwa

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

9 Days and Counting

There are only 9 days left before the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club come alive with the sights and sounds of thousands of awe struck spectators. Sorry I mean Patrons. I forgot that I was talking about the Masters.

My first trip to Augusta National was an unforgettable one. I remember walking through the gates and begin overwhelmed by the magnitude of this event. There were bright eyed almost shell-shocked people everywhere running around trying to get a memento from their trip to the Masters. After walking into the 16,000 square foot gift shop, I could see why they needed so much room.

After grabbing a few souvenirs myself, I headed out the course and I was immediately struck by how hilly the fairways were. Looking at the course on television makes you think that it’s flat but in reality it has numerous hills and valleys. The grass looked like a lush green carpet and the flowers were amazing. It almost made you feel guilty to walk on the grass. I rushed down to Amen Corner holes 11, 12 and 13 because after all who goes to Augusta National and doesn’t go down to Amen Corner?

I saw the Hogan Bridge and Rae’s Creek and the infamous Par-3 12th hole. Television just doesn’t do it justice. What really struck me was the caliber of Patrons that attend the Masters. Monday through Wednesday you have the “Practice Round” crowd. The lucky people who scored a practice round ticket and now have their once in a lifetime chance to go to the Masters. They have bags full of Master stuff and they are taking it all in like little kids at Disney land. But later in the week the “Badge Holders” show up. The prim and proper cashmere sweater and Bermuda shorts or tailored slacks wearing crowd. The people who have been coming for years arrive. They pick up the loose trash and find the closest trash receptacle so they can properly dispose of it. They have a distinct air if sophistication. It’s a sight to see.

The Masters is truly a place that every person who loves golf should attend at least once in their lives. The pageantry and tradition in unparallel. I can remember following Tiger Woods and Chris Dimarco on the 9th hole and stopping to speak to a member of Augusta National. I introduced myself and said “Sir I am enamored with your golf course” and he slowly rose up off of his golf cart, tipped his hat like a true southern gentleman and said “ Thank you sir, here at Augusta National we don’t have rules we have traditions”.

I couldn’t agree more. In 9 days the magic that is the Masters begins and if you love golf you can’t help but feel a sense of anticipation. I can’t wait see the Azaleas in full bloom and see who will don the Masters champion Green Jacket this year.

(image courtesy of Getty Images)

"Keep it in the short grass"

Edward. S. Wanambwa