Friday, July 18, 2014

Fun Find: Newsreel Footage of 4-Year-Old Bob Rosburg in 1930

Bob Rosburg was a longtime PGA Tour golfer, a successful one, and the 1959 PGA Championship winner. He later enjoyed a long career as an on-course analyst on ABC TV's golf broadcasts in the USA. Everyone called him "Rossie."

But long before all that, Rosburg was a childhood golfing prodigy. And I just stumbled across the newsreel footage to prove it.

Take at look at the following video. It's a 1930 newsreel from British Pathetone that showcases Rosburg at age 4. Alas, they misspelled his last name as "Roseburg," but the "Bobby Roseburg" in the newsreel is really Bob Rosburg.

The newsreel is titled "Another Golfing Bobby!" A leaderboard before the footage begins states, "Meet Bobby Jones' rival - Bobby Roseburg (sic), a 4-year-old Californian but a golfer in miniature!" We then see little Rossie beating balls, and then playing a hole accompanied by an older girl. When the ball drops into the cup at the end of the short newsreel, 4-year-old Rossie exclaims, "How do you like that!"

In 1939, when Rosburg was 12 - approximately eight years after the footage above was shot (Rosburg was born in October 1926, so the newsreel footage had to be shot very late in 1930) - he played in the first flight of the The Olympic Club's club championship in San Francisco. And he beat baseball legend Ty Cobb 7 and 6. Cobb was 53 at the time. According to some accounts, Cobb was so embarrassed at losing to a 12-year-old, and took so much ribbing from Olympic Club members, that he quit the club.

Rosburg said this, in a My Shot interview with Golf Digest in 2002, about playing Cobb:

I beat Ty Cobb, 7 and 6, in the first flight of the club championship at the Olympic Club when I was 12. He was a fierce competitor, and I remember him getting mad at himself for not playing better. But he was nice to me. He shook my hand. It was almost the last I saw of Mr. Cobb, because the guys at the club rode him unmercifully for losing to a child. He disappeared and didn't come back to Olympic for years.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Beatles on the Golf Course

With the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool, here are a few photos of Liverpool's most famous export - The Beatles - playing golf. OK, they aren't actually playing golf; none of The Beatles were (or are) golfers. You can tell by the way they are holding the clubs they have no idea of the right way to hold golf clubs. But, it's the Beatles, it's golf ... yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Arnold Palmer Coolatta from Dunkin Donuts

It wasn't too long ago - maybe just 10 years ago - that you might have to explain to someone (even many golfers) what an Arnold Palmer is. Not the golfer - the drink.

But these day, the Arnold Palmer drink is darn near ubiquitous. It really started in the early 2000s when Palmer licensed his name and image to the Arizona Brewing Company, which then created a whole bunch of Arnold Palmer tea-and-lemonade mixes. Then there was a Sportscenter commercial featuring Palmer making the drink, and later still a short ESPN 30-for-30 documentary about the drink.

How common is the Arnold Palmer today? So common that Dunkin' Donuts will serve you up a frozen one. They call it the Arnold Palmer Coolatta: "Iced tea and lemonade with a refreshing twist. Our Frozen Arnold Palmer Coolatta® is just the ticket to keeping you icy cool in the heat," the Double-D says.

Have you tried one? It's basically a slush - frozen tea and frozen lemonade blended together in a 50-50 mix. If you want one, hurry - Dunkin' says it's a limited-time offer. The Arnold Palmer Coolatta will probably be available only through Summer 2014, but if it proves popular, who knows.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Video of Black Swans Charging Golfer Turned Into 'Game of Thrones' TV Commercial

For the last few months a video of two black swans charging at a golfer has been making the rounds. The golfer, with his buggy, hit too close to the swans' favorite water hole, and they didn't like it when he showed up to try to play his golf ball. (The giggling and cackling videographer lets loose multiple f-bombs, so take that into consideration depending on where you are watching this.)

The incident took place at Grimsby Golf Club in England. And the video, after sitting on YouTube for a short while, was noticed by Blinkbox, an on-demand video service in the U.K. They digitally replaced the swans in the original video with dragons, and, there you go: a neat commercial for Game of Thrones:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Jack Nicklaus: Friend or Foe?

Most people have strongly positive impressions of the Golden Bear. Most golf fans admire him personally as well as professionally. But not everyone.

About eight years ago I was interviewing a golf course owner and developer who had built some of the top courses in Southern California. His company had worked with both Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. And he owned a home alongside a fairway at one of those fancy courses, one that was once the site of an exhibition match between Palmer and Nicklaus.

This fellow and his kids waited in back of their house, next to the fairway, as Palmer and Nicklaus played that hole. When Palmer reached this little group of fans he was friendly and chatty. "You won't be surprised to learn that Nicklaus wasn't," the fellow said to me.

He continued: "Nicklaus, as I'm sure you know, is an ***hole."

As I'm sure you know. Well, no, I didn't know that. And I still don't know that. I'm sure Nicklaus, in the course of his not-always-successful business ventures, or over decades of beating the tar out of his fellow golfers, rubbed a few people the wrong way. Like everyone else on the planet, Nicklaus has his bad days.

I told the story to a friend of mine, a teaching professional who has had the chance to play golf with Nicklaus a few times at corporate events. "What???" was his reaction. "Jack's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet." My friend regaled me with tales of Nicklaus' generosity of time and spirit on the few occasions my friend had golfed with him.

Why am I thinking about this exchange today? I ran across and old newspaper article. A golf columnist in a Aussie newspaper offered his picks for best quotes of the year. One of them was:

"If you'd offered me a 69 at the start this morning I'd have been all over you." - Sam Torrance

Let's hope Sam didn't say that to David Feherty. And this one:

"I'd stick my head up a dead bear's bum if it made me putt really good." - Peter Lonard

Picture the training aid ...

And then there was this one:

"Nicklaus' courses are like Jack himself - grim and humourless with sharp edges." - Peter Thomson

Thomson is a Hall of Famer, a 5-time winner of the British Open. I'm not aware of any prior beef between Thomson and Nicklaus, but perhaps there is one. Perhaps it goes back decades. Perhaps Nicklaus once insulted Thomson's course design work. For what it's worth, Thomson hates Augusta National, too, so at least Jack is in good company in drawing Thomson's ire.

In truth, many of Nicklaus' peers have never been fond of Jack's golf course designs. Some of his best friends - Tom Watson, for example - have poormouthed his work as an architect. But if you recall Watson's tears as he and Nicklaus walked off the 18th green at The Old Course following Jack's final British Open appearance in 2005, then you know that Watson doesn't share Thomson's opinion of the man.

Fact is, you can develop a bad opinion of anyone - of Mother Teresa - if you want to. Depends on what you take away, on what you weigh most heavily in other people.

Not even The King himself is immune. Remember that ESPN series from 1999 or 2000, "SportsCentury"? ESPN came up with a list of the 100 greatest athletes of the 20th century, then did a 30-minute or hour-long documentary on each. Their episode on Arnold Palmer portrayed Palmer as an insecure, insincere, manipulative egomaniac. It wasn't a pretty picture. Most of us remember Palmer much differently.

So, sure, there are people out there with poor opinions of Nicklaus. People who, perhaps, caught Jack on a bad day. Or saw a side of him he usually keeps hidden. Or whatever. Nicklaus can be arrogant, sure. His ultra-conservative, right-wing politics surely rub some the wrong way (but not his fellow pro golfers, since most of them are also ultra-conservative right-wingers). And I'd bet that Nicklaus' reputation would be far different - much more like Tiger Woods before Woods' cheating scandals became public - if Nicklaus had played in a media/celebrity/social media environment like today's. (Disagree? Go back and look up some of the things Nicklaus said about the competition over his long time at the top of the PGA Tour pecking order.)

The things I've always found most insightful about Nicklaus, however, are those little acts of kindness he has always - according to the stories - done for his friends and fellow pros. Those things Nicklaus himself never publicized, but that were eventually revealed by the recipients of Nicklaus' kindnesses.

Like that 6-year-old boy in Georgia who scrawled a letter to Nicklaus on Big Chief tablet paper, and has Jack's response framed on his wall today (Charles Howell III). Or that teenager in Canada struggling with his game, writing to Nicklaus to ask if he should switch from lefty to righty and start over (Mike Weir - you know what Jack told him).

Or that young pro in 1971, the one whose father died and who then received a warm, thoughtful letter of condolence from Nicklaus, a man to whom he'd barely spoken, and who has that letter with him still (Ben Crenshaw).

There are dozens and dozens of stories like these. Private little acts of kindness.

Another famous story about Nicklaus regards the time he took Lee Trevino aside and gave him a pep talk. I believe I recently stumbled across what may well be the very first telling of that story. It was in the July 19, 1971, issue of Time magazine, in a lengthy article about Trevino:

Troubled by business problems ... and the lingering illness of his mother, (Trevino) started out the 1971 season by dropping out of three tournaments. During an exhibition match in Palm Beach five months ago Nicklaus took him aside in the locker room and told him: "I hope you never find out how well you can play. If you do, it will be trouble for all of us." Says Trevino: "That word of encouragement changed my life. It stopped me from being the nervous character I was. I realized that I could reach the peak." He cut back on his outside commitments, and tempered his night-owl habits. Last April, Lee won the Tallahassee Open and started off on his fiery streak.

Trevino has spoken often about what those words of encouragement from Nicklaus meant to him. Remember, Trevino was Nicklaus' greatest rival at that moment, and Nicklaus was trying to help him get his game righted. Can you imagine Tiger Woods taking aside Phil Mickelson and offering him advice and encouragement? No?

There's no such character as Saint Nicklaus, or Saint Palmer. Like all of us, Nicklaus has had bad moments, moments of arrogance, moments of intemperance, moments of sullenness, and moments of worse.

But on the whole, Nicklaus seems so much better a person than Peter Thomson - or that golf course developer whose tale started this post - appears to believe he is.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Pyschological Barrier to Going Long

I need a caddie. And bad. I think if I won the lottery, I'd hire a caddie. That's about the only luxury I'd want.

What's my problem? Well, there's the issue of reading greens, which I can't do. However, my putting stroke is very good, and my speed is usually quite good, so I sometimes make putts by accident. No, where a caddie would be of greatest help to me is in club selection.

I'm one of those guys who simply can't believe that he hits the ball one, sometimes two, clubs less than he used to. Many amateur golfers share this trait: when we reach into the bag to pull a club for the next shot, we're thinking of the farthest we've ever hit a particular club, rather than the average distance we hit that club.

Coming up short is a commonality among amateurs. It's as if we have some psychological barrier to going long. Going over the green must be a truly terrifying prospect.

During a recent round, I came to a hole where I am always short of the green. Always. It's a shallow, elevated green, and I never hit more than pitching wedge into it, yet I'm always short. I told my partner, "Today it's going to be different. Today, I'm hitting a 9-iron and I'm not going to be short, even if it means going over."

I was short. Somewhere between the time of my declaration that I didn't care about going over the green, and the time my club made contact with the ball, this thought must have occurred to me: Don't swing so hard or you're going to go over the green!

A teaching pro friend does a simple demonstration with his students when he takes them for on-course instruction. He tells them, "You pick your clubs the first few holes, and then I'll pick your clubs on the next few clubs." They always score better when he's picking their clubs - because they're much more likely to get the ball to the green.

This isn't new information to me, however. I'm ashamed to admit that one of my childhood buddies, a scratch golfer, used to tell me the same thing. "Bogey, I'm beggin' ya, just let me pick your clubs for you. I'll take six strokes off your score."

So, yes, if I win the lottery, I'm hiring a full-time caddie. In the meantime, next time I get to that hole, I'm going to hit the green. No, really, this time I mean it. I'll pull an 8-iron. Heck, a 7-iron, if I have to. But I won't be short. Even if it means going over.

Gators, Snakes and Bugs, Oh My

Alligators aren't uncommon sights on golf courses in East and Southeast Texas and in many locations along the coastal plains of Texas. I grew up in Corpus Christi, where several times a year we'd head over to the municipal course in small-town Sinton. It's inside the Rob and Bessie Welder Park, another part of which is a nature preserve. A little par-3 runs alongside a back fenceline, with a short carry over a tiny pond. But there was a sign next to that tiny pond: Alligators - don't search for balls in the water.

For several years at Oso Municipal Golf Course in Corpus Christi, a large gator took up residence in the pond near the 14th, 15th and 16th holes. This 6-footer could often been seen sunning itself on an embankment about 30 yards in front of the No. 15 tee box.

But the golf course where I've seen the most, shall we say, dangerous and/or annoying wildlife was a golf course that no longer exists and, in fact, really never did exist.

It was Goose Island Country Club. Goose Island is a spit of land north of the bayside community of Rockport, just over the Copano Causeway bridge that spans Copano Bay. It's home to Goose Island State Park and to Big Tree (state champion coastal live oak in 1969, and believed to be one of the largest oaks in the country ... but you already knew that, right?).

I was around 12 years old, and was heading to Goose Island with my family. My parents were in real estate, and they noticed a new subdivision being built so we drove into it to check it out. We stopped in the "show room" and talked to the realtor on duty. He told us about the golf course that was being built as the centerpiece of the neighborhood. Nine holes were close-to-complete, he said, with another nine on the way, with the first nine just needing finishing touches.

Schmoozing, my parents asked if we could play the nearly-complete nine. We had one set of clubs in the trunk and two unopened 12-count boxes of balls. The real estate agent said, "what the heck, go for it," and we did.

Those nine holes were a managerie of gators, snakes and insects. The place was thick with 'em - it was literally crawling with them. Every embankment had gators or snakes sunning themselves, every fairway had things slithering across it, and the air - especially around the greens where the thick brush and trees closed in - was choked with bugs.

It only took us about six holes to lose every ball we had, mostly because we were afraid to look for them if they missed the fairway.

Years later, I tried to find out whatever happened to Goose Island Country Club, but as far as I can tell, I'm the only person who's ever heard of it. It never opened, as best I can determine, and faded back into the brush.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Michelle Wie Bikini Pics

Michelle Wie fever is back! Or at least, Michelle Wie is back - she's dominating talk in golf right now after her U.S. Women's Open victory.

As far as we're concerned, there's never a bad time for Wie talk. And there's especially never a bad time for photos of Michelle Wie in a bikini or swimsuits. So here's another celebratory post: Michelle Wie bikini pics.

(Thank you, all the people who invented social media!)

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Wie 'Tabletopping' Photo That Can't Be Topped

A very interesting new addition to Michelle Wie's Instagram page today, the morning after her win at the U.S. Women's Open:

(Photo: @themichellewie/Instagram)

Michelle Wie "tabletopping" (take that, critics!) while chugging from the US Women's Open trophy. How can you not love this woman?

Wie's message with the photo? "So ... this happened last night ... #tabletopping #istillcantbelieveit"

LPGA, PGA Tour Pros React to Michelle Wie's US Open Win on Twitter

You can tell a lot about how popular a pro golfer is with his or her peers by how those peers react on Twitter to a win by the player. In Michelle Wie's case, you can that she is very popular with her peers.

Here's a look at Twitter reaction from other pro golfers after Michelle's 2014 US Women's Open win.

First, Wie won with a small (or not so small) assist from Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley, both of whom gave Michelle their yardage books from the week before at the U.S. Open. Here's Keegan staking his claim to the win:

And Rickie and Michelle apparently had bet riding on whether Wie could win. And Fowler, as the "loser," now has to caddie for Wie. Will he honor the bet? Looks like it:

Now, here are many more general reactions to Wie's win: