Editor’s Note: Sorry for the Slow Play; Normal Content Stream Resuming Soon

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My apologies for a bit of slow play on the blog this week. I attended a conference and also have been busy writing a two-part post you’ll see next week.

As you’ve probably noticed, the blog has begun to run almost entirely on my client work, and I’ve got a couple things I’m waiting to get posted in that regard so I can re-post them here.

The next two weeks should be chocked full of good stuff on here. Thanks for your patience. Regularly scheduled programming on the blog will resume next week. Have a great weekend.

Maderas: GM Bill O’Brien Announces Promotion to Troon Golf

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Written with Maderas GM Bill O’Brien

After nine years at Maderas Golf Club, I’m moving on and moving up within the world of Troon Golf. Next week, I’ll report to my new assignment in Scottsdale as Vice President of Operations overseeing daily activities at some of our 200 courses worldwide.

Maderas will to continue to be one of my responsibilities, but you won’t see me here in the daily capacity you’ve become accustomed to. However, I will still be in the area as many family is remaining in Poway while my son, a junior, completes high school.

I relinquish my post as General Manager at Maderas with a great deal of pride for what we’ve accomplished and also a sense of what I’m going to miss about the club. You don’t stay in any place for nine years without making connections, and I’ve appreciated all of them, especially those that’ve helped us raise the level of service at Maderas to be worthy of the Golf Digest top 100 rating we received two years ago, our first.

That accolade fulfilled the promise and potential I saw for the course when I was introduced to it for the first time in 2006. I saw a course with a remarkable layout and well-appointed facilities in a fantastic setting … and with a great story to tell. It really was love at first sight.

And I’ve enjoyed helping Maderas tell the story of San Diego by highlighting the things that make Southern California so remarkable. Setting. Climate. Weather. Attitude. This place has it all.

That’s also what Maderas ownership and Troon saw when they opened the club in 2000 and put it on a trajectory to be elite. I have only tried to bolster that early success and make sure it lives up to that vision daily.

While Maderas has remained a premium golf destination, it’s become even more the last nine years. It’s increasingly now a place to teach and be taught. We renovated and upgraded our driving range in part to give Director of Instruction Chris Mayson and his golf academy a better place to practice and grow.

Maderas is now home to some of the best up-and-coming players in the game in men’s and women’s golf. Chris Mayson and his fellow coaches Skip Van Matre and John Darling tirelessly coach young people and are assuredly making Maderas the home of future champions.

Using the game to changes lives is one of the most powerful things a golf course can do. Maderas has done it, partly, through hosting charity golf tournaments. We’ve raised nearly $3 million annually through charity events, including those for Rady Children’s Hospital and the Toby Wells Foundation. I’m proud of those connections and even prouder to know those proceeds have changed lives.

We’ve also changed lives with our renovated and upgraded banquet area, which now allows to host weddings for up to 300 people some 35 to 40 times a year. That’s a lot a couples and a lot of lives and a lot of moments that that our club is tied to.

The biggest leap of faith a club ever takes is when it agrees to do somebody’s wedding. We’ve hosted more than 300 now in my tenure. Thanks to all of you for letting us be part of your most special story.

And people, and particularly the great and talented staff we’ve assembled here at Maderas, have been behind all of it. When you work more than 40 hours a week, you spend more time with your co-workers than your family. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy that time with a truly great group of people.

Before the raters ever showed up to tell us we were great, I believed it. And now that we’ve been ranked top 100 and Golfweek has named us one of the best places to play in California four out of the last five years, we’re no longer just potential. It’s real. And more and more people are discovering that.

The challenge then becomes not just to maintain but to gain and continue to grow and build of the momentum of these last nine years.

I do believe that there are higher levels of service for the club still to reach, and I’m rooting for the club to achieve those and hope to help it continue to tell its great story for a long time to come because there are even better chapters ahead. I wish you all well.

Big News: SoCal PGA Honors Blog W/2014 Media Award

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Here’s a great way to start a week: Announcing you won something.

I was informed last week that I’ve been chosen as the 2014 Media Person of the Year by the Southern California PGA’s San Diego Chapter. It’s obviously gratifying and always an honor to win something like this, but I’m particularly appreciative of this award since I’m living in a new area and it comes from a group of people (the PGA pros) that I respect and really enjoy working with.

In particular, I have Mark Hayden, General Manager of Eagle Crest and member of the PGA board, to thank for this. He’s been a supporter of mine from the beginning and nominated me back when I didn’t even there was something to be nominated for.

Anyway, this is the endorsement Mark wrote for my LinkedIn after nominating me:

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Corey Ross for over three years now, beginning with him being a student in my class at the Golf Academy of America. The enthusiasm and passion he showed for the game then he now expresses in his writings.

“His regular blog posts and magazine articles have been a great a promoter of the Southern California golf experience, as well as promoting the SDPGA, Junior Golf, PGA professionals and the game as a whole. He work has been well received in the golfing community.

“That’s why, though he’s only been doing this in San Diego for barely more than year, I felt he was worthy of nomination as the SDPGA’s 2014 Media Person of the Year. This annual award given by the SDPGA and its more than 400 members recognizes the media person who contributes the most to golf in the greater San Diego area. This honor can only be awarded to someone who has shown dedication to promoting the game and who has many supporting contributions, but Corey’s work has quickly met this criteria as his professionalism has earned him an impressive roster of golf clients, including TaylorMade Golf, JC Golf and Maderas Golf Club.

“I wish him well in future endeavors and know he’ll continue to diligently and creatively work to spread the word about the golfing good life we all enjoy in Southern California.”

There really isn’t any more that I could want someone to say about my work than that. There are plenty of others who’ve been supportive along the way, but I’d be quite remiss if I didn’t mention my editor at Southland Golf, Al Petersen, who gave the first assignment that got the ball rolling on all of this and gave me my new professional life in California.

Then I started the blog and started blogging for JC Golf and 160-some posts later socalgolfblog.com is now award-winning. I’d like to thank all my clients, but in particular Maderas General Manager Bill O’Brien who had a hand in pointing me in the right direction from the beginning in terms of marketing needs for golf courses. His openness, honesty and friendship have been invaluable while I’ve been figuring out a direction for my work.

I’m hopeful that other courses and course groups will see the content need the way JC Golf and Maderas do and that I can help more of them promote the incredible playing experiences Southern California golf has to offer.

Beyond that, I hope my readers have similarly appreciated what they find here. It’s been fun to watch the readership grow and I hope for only more of the same in 2015.

Finally, thank you to the Southern California PGA members and board for validating all the work that has been done here. I’m looking forward to meeting as many of you possible at the awards breakfast in December. Thank you for the honor.

JC Golf: Twins Oaks Introduces Golf and Grapes

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A golf teaching session begins with grabbing a club. Next week, it’ll also begin by grabbing a glass.

Twin Oaks Director of Instruction Paul Miernicki is combining golf education and wine education into a series called Golf and Grapes that will begin on Oct. 18th. The first session is called “Begin With the Basics” and will held on the Twin Oaks driving range and patio from 4-6:30 p.m., and attendance is being limited to 20 spots.

Miernicki says his inspiration for the concept came from a student of his in the wine industry. Miernicki saw it as a way for people to combine two passions that they would like to learn more about.

“I’m an entertainer,” Miernicki says, “and above all I want my students to have fun. So let’s drink some wine and have some fun.”

Miernicki says he’ll strive to combine golf and wine using common terms, such as short and sweet, which will be an introduction to the short game and sweet wines. Sommelier Dewey Lederer will be on hand to pour wines and providing tasting instruction. Each student will sample six wines.

The session costs $99. Golf attire is NOT required.

“We’re going to make wine tasting fun,” Miernicki says, “and combine it with the fun I normally have teaching golf.”

To register, go to www.jcgolf.com/golfandgrapes.

Buy 1 SLDR S Driver & Get a Fairway or Rescue Free! Ends November 6, 2014

Paul Miernicki

Photo courtesy of Southland Golf Magazine


Maderas: Maderas F & B Insider – Sous Chef Ryan Gilbert Talks About Oktoberfest

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Maderas Golf Club members and guests will be treated to a unique seasonal feast on Wednesday, Oct. 8 when the club presents its Oktoberfest.

The event takes place from 5-8 p.m. and will feature German fare and entertainment along with tastings of German wine and beer from Karl Strauss.

In the following interview, Maderas sous chef Ryan Gilbert provides a preview of the menu and talks about what makes special events at Maderas special for members and staff.

What type of event is Oktoberfest?

It’s a fun-loving, outgoing atmosphere that allows people to relax and sample some different flavors of food and beers and enjoy what might be an out-of-the-box experience for them.

How did the staff plan the menu?

We took a look at what was successful last year and then added some new things. For instance, the pork schnitzel was a favorite last year, so we brought it back and decided to work with chicken. That’s the fun thing about these special events is that, as a staff, it allows us to explore some flavor profiles we don’t get into normally.

One of the menu highlights is a three-meat sausage platter – bratwurst, knockwurst and bockwurst. Can you please give us Sausage 101 for those who aren’t familiar?

The brat is the most common, and that’s a heavily spiced pork sausage. It’s a very clean-flavored sausage. The other two are variations.

Knockwurst a little creamier, a little lighter and more delicate.

Bockwurst is a little more on the spicy side.

The three sausages really play off each very nicely and complement each other very well. It’s three variations of flavors that are in the same ballpark.

And what would Oktoberfest be without beer … tell us about the beer.

We’re offering a limited-release season Oktoberfest from Karl Strauss. It’s a California thought process on German beers. It gives people who normally drink a pilsner or ale a chance to try a new micro beer.

And that continues a local theme that predominates the menu at Maderas. Can you talk about the local emphasis at Maderas?

The term macrobiotics refers to sourcing and using local products, from vegetables to meat. Being in such a lucky area in terms of food allows us to do this.

Our real goal is to provide an experience from regions around the world while focusing on what is trendy, sustainable and readily available from California, with Southern California being our main source.

We feature dishes that range from Mediterranean to Asian to Southern California’s Baja influence. What we’re trying to do is open people’s eyes to something new and something they may unfamiliar with by spreading out our menu.

How much fun is that for you as a chef to be able to work across that wide a culinary range?

For me, coming from a fine dining aspect, I try to bring a different thought process to the country club atmosphere. Maderas is extremely high-quality, high-end, probably more so than most golf clubs.

That gives us the opportunity to take things up a notch and surprise people by putting our California contemporary spin on things.

It challenges us to maintain a baseline, but also to explore new flavors, new ideas and new presentations that you might not see in most country-club environments.

I feel lucky to be at Maderas, where I can focus almost entirely on food and the dining experience. For a chef, that’s an amazingly rare position and a wonderful thing.

Buy 1 SLDR S Driver & Get a Fairway or Rescue Free! Ends November 6, 2014

Video Post: New Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver

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From our friends at Callaway Golf (videos to follow):

Today Callaway Golf Company officially announced the new Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver, a club that establishes a new driver category. The new driver gives golfers the benefit of maximum distance from low spin and forgiveness. While low driver spin has previously come at the expense of forgiveness, Alpha 815 has changed that pattern by giving players both characteristics in one club.

Callaway also announced today the Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond Driver, designed for better players to maximize distance through extreme low spin.

Both drivers will be available at golf retailers nationwide and on www.callawaygolf.com on Nov. 13, 2014. The Alpha 815 will be available for a new product introduction price of $449.99, and the Alpha 815 DD will be available for a new product introduction price of $499.99

Below, we give you the video lowdown on the Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver

-Introduction video: http://youtu.be/ZtYRSWqKH8A

-Callaway Talks: http://youtu.be/6nRqA9UlEhk

October 2014 Southland Golf

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The October issue of Southland Golf was my busiest issue ever. Follow the link to the digital issue and you will find stories as listed.

The Grape Escape: Temecula wine country travel piece – page 9

Lasting Impact: Titleist 915 driver Q & A – page 24

Stick Around: A look at the Lodge at Torrey Pines – page 47

Bucket List: A lesson about lessons – tips for maximizing your golf lesson – page 57

Q & A W/Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame WR Andre Reed – page 86

Buy 1 SLDR S Driver & Get a Fairway or Rescue Free! Ends November 6, 2014

Friday Video Post: Inside Callaway’s New Big Bertha Irons

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Courtesy of our friends at Callaway Golf, here’s Callaway’s Dr. Alan Hocknell talking about the new Face Cup technology in the new Big Bertha irons, which the company is promising to be two clubs longer.

Enjoy.

http://bit.ly/BB360Face

Both products will be available for purchase on www.callawaygolf.com and at retailers nationwide on October 17. The Big Bertha Irons’ new product introduction price is $999.99 (steel).


Maderas: Premiercaddie.org at Maderas – Course Expertise and Confidence at Your Service for Hire

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Editor’s note: This post also appears on the blog at www.maderasgolf.com.
Also for a related read, scroll down a few posts to read a ranking of the most walkable courses in San Diego

Buy 1 SLDR S Driver & Get a Fairway or Rescue Free! Ends November 6, 2014

Learning the nuances and proper plays of any golf course, and particularly one as undulating as Maderas Golf Club, takes time and is usually knowledge acquired over numerous rounds.

One way to expedite the process, however, is to outsource it by hiring a caddy.

Maderas is part of a group of San Diego courses that makes caddie services available to its guests through a partnership with premiercaddie.org.

Premier Caddie is owned by former UCLA golfers and experienced Southern California caddies Chad Beckley and Joel Tabachnick. Their staff of nearly 50, some of whom has their PGA card, caddies primarily at Maderas, Torrey Pines, the Grand Del Mar, Del Mar Country Club and Rancho Santa Fe Country Club, but can also be requested to work other area courses.

Beckley and Tabachnick founded their company two years ago with a mission of enhancing the service and experience for golfers on area courses and have been happily looping weekly rounds ever since.

Beckley’s particular caddying career grew from a love and talent for reading greens, he says.

“I’ve always read greens really well and that helped me get into caddying, which has honed my skills even more,” he says. “Caddying, for me, is extension of the playing experience that provides you another perspective on the game.

“Doing it made me fall in the love with the area courses all over again.”

That love has produced a thriving business. Beckley says Premier Caddie staffs around 200 rounds a month and is seeking to expand its course client base. The company staffs both recreational and competitive rounds as well as private events.

Beckley is a great promoter of the caddie experience and the benefits of hiring one.

“There’s no real relationship in sports like a caddie relationship,” he says. “A caddie can give you a confidence and comfort level on the course you may not have known before.

“That can help you score lower, or just have a better experience. For instance, if you’re going back and forth on the wind, or a yardage, or a putt, the caddie can give you the reassurance you need to commit to that play.”

And Beckley says that sometimes a play that, especially an amateur, wouldn’t make on his or her own.

“A lot of amateur golfers are timid,” he says. “For example, I’m an aggressive short-game player. A lot of amateurs don’t attack the golf course the way that I do, but I can give you the confidence to play that way.

“At a minimum, the caddie gives you another way to think about the course.”

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The difficulty of putting Maderas’ large, undulating greens and the wide variety of shot options on some tee shots are a course reasons a caddie can be a great aid at Maderas, but neither of those are Beckley’s primary reason.

“The course plays a lot differently depending on speed, which varies there. If it’s fast and firm, you need a lot of knowledge to be able to go low there partly because the greens have so much slope and undulation,” he says. “And if it’s windy, which is there almost every day, the right play there can go a long way.”

Beckley says a caddie experience at Maderas is a great complement to the service experience.

“Their customer service is amazing from the top down there, so the partnership has been seamless.”

Not every caddie customer is looking to shoot a number, Beckley says. He says some just want a competent guide, or even a good friend, on the course.

“Resort caddying and competitive caddying are completely different, but for both the customer-service aspect is the main thing,” he says. “We have a lot of customers who just want to have a good time and get to know you over those 4 ½ hours. A good caddie is able to tell a few jokes and be able to relate to people.

“A lot of times they just want to get to know you and learn from your experience.”

Making the most of a caddie experience, Beckley says, is making the caddie aware of your expectation.

“When you hire a caddie, be very upfront,” he says. “The caddie isn’t just there to be there. He’s going to club you right and read the greens, and it’s your job to let him know he’s doing a good job.

“Or if you don’t want them to do something, like read greens, you’ve got to let them know that too. It’s as much a friendship as a partnership, so treat them like a friend.”

And friends share stories, which caddies also seem to have a ready supply of, especially about famous clients.

Among others, Beckley has caddied for professional golfers (Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples), professional baseball players (David Wells, Bobby Bonilla), professional football players (Kyle Boller), professional basketball players (Jordan Farmar) and … the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

One of the best non-PGA players? Professional hockey player Jeremy Roenick.

“Heck of a player,” he says. “Hockey players always have that nice takeaway and stay down through impact.”

Another of Beckley’s caddie testimonials comes from last year’s Farmers Insurance Open. Despite hitting 18 of 18 greens, Beckley’s player didn’t make the cut. He suggested a putter grip change to the player after the tournament.

“Being confident enough to make a suggestion to one of the best golfers in the world takes some guts,” he says, “but that’s part of the job. You’re there to help the player in any way you can.”

The levels of caddying service vary (a regular caddie or a fore caddie, for instance), but Beckley says a standard rate at Maderas is $160 to carry two bags and $115 for one. A standard gratuity is $100-plus.

Caddies can be booked as far as advance as you like, Beckley says, or at little as 24-hour notice.

And while you may ride during your round at Maderas, Beckley will walk, which he says is a good workout always, but especially at Maderas.

“It’s a pretty good walk,” he says, with a chuckle. “But walking is good for you and it gives you different perspective on the game.”

Maderas General Manager Bill O’Brien says Premier Caddie has provided a consistently excellent experience to golfers at the course, and he extols the virtues of the service.

“The caddie experience really enhances a round of golf,” O’Brien says. “Most of us, regardless of our abilities, day dream about what playing golf inside the ropes might feel like. Taking a caddy is the closest to that experience most will get. It’s so worth it.

“The memories tied to a round of golf with a caddy are some of my favorite.”

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Re-Post: How Caddies Make the Game A Whole Lot Better

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Editor’s note: This is a re-post of something a wrote a year ago that pertains to the above post about caddies about Maderas. This piece captures what the caddie experience means to me.

For whatever reason, it didn’t dawn on me until about 10 minutes before we teed off at Sherwood on Monday that we’d have caddies. If it had, I would’ve been 10 times more excited than the 10 times more excited I already was than for a normal round of golf.

Caddies are such a great way to experience the game, and a luxury I’ve rarely been afforded, but one that I think would hook more people on the game if they got to experience it even once.

When you hire a caddie, you’re also hiring a tour guide, a swing coach, a greens guru, a motivational speaker, a cheerleader, a comedian, a personal assistant and more all rolled into one. In my experience, it’s a guaranteed good time, and an always memorable one, on the golf course when you have a caddie.

(And I realize that, for some people, we’re into issues of elitism here and some of people’s other pet issues with golf, but let’s suspend that for a moment, shall we?)

The first time I ever had a caddie was when I played in Jamaica, where Jamaican law requires you to play with a caddie. Our caddy’s name was Devon, and he looked like he could’ve walked right off the course from a 1970s Masters, white coveralls and all.

Anyway, I didn’t totally know what type of experience I was in for with him, but I got a pretty good idea on my first tee shot, which I hooked high into the palm trees on the mountain on the first hole.

Devon dashed off the tee box, shouting, “No worries, mon! I got it! Hit again!”

Cool! Throughout the round, Devon was basically a walking GPS, previewing holes, giving me yardages, reading my putts and at the same time, basically teaching beginner’s golf to my playing partner, all while cleaning our clubs. He balanced it all remarkably well.

Anyway, I recall it being a very relaxed round and so much fun that we went back the next day. And that’s when I hit the shot I recall most.

While playing a long par-3, I carved a 5-wood incredibly close to the hole, or so it looked to me from the tee. Doubt started to creep in though because my caddie, a man with a line for every golf shot under the sun, was silent. Finally, he approached me on the tee, took my 5-wood and handed me my putter.

“They always say the pro walks off the tee carrying his putter,” he told me, making me feel 10 feet tall walking off the box.

It turned out that the putt was much more than a tap-in, but I still saved par, and it was my hole of the trip, largely because Devon made it so.

So when a caddie named Bruce hopped into my cart on Monday, it automatically gave me a good vibe about how the round would go, regardless of the score. And, truth be told, at the beginning, it didn’t go well, but Bruce made that part memorable, too.

On the third hole, I hit a rare slice off the tee and way OB right into the backyard one of the multi-million-dollar homes. As I handed Bruce my club, he provided an interesting piece of course knowledge.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, that’s the backyard of Britney Spears’ old house,” he said.

“Hey,” I replied, “if you’re going to lose a ball, better it be almost famous, right?”

My round turned around on the fourth hole, where Bruce’s read of a tough uphill breaking putt helped me make birdie, and a great golf day ensued from there.

Sherwood was a spectacular, borderline surreal, golf experience for me, and undoubtedly one of the five best courses I’ve ever played. I would’ve enjoyed the day regardless of how I played, but my scorecard probably would’ve looked drastically different were it not for Bruce’s guidance.

I’ve come to think of a good caddy as being like a good personal trainer: they get that 10 to 15 percent more out of you that’s hard to get out of yourself.

That certainly happened on the back nine, where it felt like Bruce had seen me swing enough to that he knew how to club me and what shots to recommend. I hit an uncommon number of good golf shots over those nine holes, but none better than on the last two.

Our next-to-last hole was a 491-yard par-5 with a green fronted by a creek. The play off the tee was to hit the left side of the fairway and let it roll right. I hit my best tee shot of the day and actually carried it past the suggested landing area.

That left me 230 out, prime yardage to get home in two with my hybrid, and Bruce was giving me the green light all the way. And I was only too willing, largely because I’d botched a similar shot on a previous par-5 off a perfect lie.

This lie, however, wasn’t so perfect. It was a bit of a side hill and especially troublesome for me because it wasn’t conducive for the stanch I needed to hit my draw. Because of this, I couldn’t get comfortable over the shot.

That’s when Bruce stepped in and redirected me.

“Take it off the right side of the bridge,” he said, causing me to focus left instead of right.

This created a dilemma. Hitting where Bruce recommended meant playing a cut, an uncertain outcome from me. Part of the allure of playing right was a bail-out area, where I could still recover for birdie if I didn’t completely pull off the approach.

Seeing I was still debating, Bruce provided the closing argument.

“Trust the read, boss. Hit the shot.”

With that, I settled in on the recommended line, and when I planted my lead leg, it felt solid. And I’d now be swinging more with the slope than against it. I was all in. And I fired.

The ball shot out like a pin-seeking dart. Tracking at the hole all the way, it easily carried the creek, hit short of the flagstick and rolled 15 feet past.

“That’s the best shot you’ve ever hit in your life, bro!” Bruce shouted, and high-fives and fist bumps ensued.

On the green, Bruce guided me to a two-putt birdie and later blamed himself for costing me eagle.

“I should’ve backed you off 20 percent on that stroke. You were a little too amped up there.”

No complaints here, Bruce. That was no gimme.

Having pocketed two birdies for the round, I was more than satisfied with my play for the day, but we still had one hole to go – a 146-yard par-3.

The hole was playing longer because the pin was tucked on the back tier. I was thinking of playing safe, but Bruce handed me my 8 and told me to go right at it. So I did.

Six feet. Another round of cheers broke out, making me suddenly feel like I had my own gallery.

Bruce greeted me at the cart by handing me my Cleveland putter and on the green he provided me with a two-word read on the putt. Straight in. And it was. Birdie!

Four birdies in a round is my record, and it wasn’t on a course nearly the caliber of Sherwood. I walked off the last hole on a golf high and ready to play 18 more. But alas we were done, and it’s probably better that way. You don’t mess with walk-off birdies. That was a first for me.

Anyway, a day like that makes you ponder the possibilities for your game. What if I had a Bruce for every round I played? Dare to dream. Friday it was back to the reality of approaches that just miss the green and birdie putts that don’t quite find the hole.

As we parted in the parking lot on Monday, I joked with Bruce that I’d like to have him in an app. that I could just open and point at the course when I needed a yardage, a read, or even maybe just a little comedic a relief.

Only I wasn’t joking. Move over, Siri. I want Bruce.