Bad Karma Plague Afflicts the Field

Hourihan smiling for a reason
Hourihan smiling for a reason

Ah, the glory of battles past still warms my heart. Yesterday’s victories leave their sweet after-taste on my palate. Grasp the fading images of past splendor and squeeze them into eternal memory. But today sucked.

I have no idea what happened, but most of the golfers chasing the Inferno Cup appear to have played without removing the club covers from their sticks. We go from a Wednesday where those who were in school when Truman was President shot net 58’s to a day where one and only one golfer even breaks net 70! You don’t suppose nature does actually have a sense of justice?

Dan Hourihan was the only competitor Friday who broke 70, shooting a net 64 on a gross 79. It was like he was playing alone. Harold Hoeg, Dennis Kildare, Dave Inman and Mike Nichols all lagged six strokes back in second place.

Low Gross

  1. Dave Inman – 76
  2. Mike Nichols – 77
  3. Harold Hoeg – 78

Low Net

  1. Dan Hourihan – 64
  2. Harold Hoeg, Dave Inman, Dennis Kildare and Mike Nichols – 70

Lots of skins were claimed, two by Hourihan, two by Bruce Partridge and one each by Howard Jones, Dennis Kildare, Skyler Irvine, Dave Inman and Mike Nichols.

It comes as no surprise that in the two-man team event, the winners would be Dan Hourihan and whoever was lucky enough to get paired with him. That prize went to Gary Graham even though he turned in one of his poorer rounds. He was delighted to learn how broad Hourihan’s shoulders had become. Dennis Kildare and Gary Anzalone took second place edging out Tom Hansen and Bruce Partridge in a scorecard playoff.

In the race for the Inferno Cup, the top four positions remained unchanged. Kildare jumped from sixth into fifth passing Jim Gabriel who is now hanging on to the last “money position”. Nichols has the cross-hairs on Gabriel who has only a ten point cushion.

The Commish Goes Low – Very Low

Commission Kildare shoots a record round
Commission Kildare shoots a record round

Dennis Kildare walked into our record book on Wednesday, August 28th. In the nearly four thousand rounds we’ve tracked, only three golfers involved with our group have broken the net 60 barrier. George Stelmach was the first to shoot net 60 with a gross 74 on October 17, 2012. Sir Laurence Rosen smashed that record on April 24th of this year when he carded a gross 74 for a net 58. On June 21st, Raoul Encinas tied the record. Yesterday, Dennis Kildare became the third person to record a net 58 when he shot 37/37 on the Lakes/Dunes courses. He used two birdies to neutralize two of his four bogeys and added twelve pars to the card en route to a great finish.

Some are wondering if he’s human and if so, does he spend much time with Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds? Does he hang with Mark McGuire? Is he chummy with Lance Armstrong? Consider these facts.

Less than five percent of all golfers EVER break 80. Less than two percent of all golfers EVER break 75. Dennis not only shot his age, he shot the age of a few other guys that are many years younger. I’m in my third year of golf at Gainey Ranch and in my last 134 rounds, my lowest net score has been 64, six huge strokes higher than 58. The calculated odds of a 16 handicapper turning in a 74 are 4,240 to 1.

We know that Dennis is the bionic man with more artificial organs and man-made joints than a 70’s rock band. Should his performance have an asterisk by it? No, probably not. He just had a great day. Congratulations. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy (well, except maybe me).

Meanwhile, back amongst the mortals, there were a couple dozen other guys competing yesterday. The Inferno Cup race continues to intensify. The team of Bryan Noonan, Howard Jones, Gary Graham and Jim “Woodsy” Woods carried the day edging out the team of Jason Sample, Dennis Kildare, Tom Hansen and the blind dude (who was sitting in for the AWOL Marty Howe). The win moved Woodsy from third into second place only ten points behind the leader, Jim Stamatis. With nine Inferno Cup matches remaining, it’s looking like a hellava finish is on the horizon.

There were nine skins winners Wednesday. Jim Stamatis claimed a pair. Dave Inman, Steve Danovic, Dennis Kildare, Gary Graham, Steve King, Bryan Noonan and Mike Nichols all left the building with one each.

Low Gross

  1. Bryan Noonan – 72
  2. Dennis Kildare and Dave Inman – 74

Low Net

  1. Dennis Kildare – 58
  2. Howard Jones – 64
  3. Jim Woods – 66

Golfers appeared to be pretty focused with the average gross score recorded at 83.8. There were 23 birdies carded on the day, 60% of those coming on the Dunes course. The Lakes course was a stroke and a quarter stingier than the Dunes nine.

Rat Fink 101 – A Short Course on Peer Review

USGA-1The entire USGA Handicap System is predicated on the concept of “peer review”. This is a euphemistic term that loosely translates into “checking on that S.O.B. to make sure he’s posting his scores correctly.” Historically, “peer review” has been done by checking the posting sheet in the locker room or wherever your club hangs it. This can be problematic because the S.O.B. may not post until the following day or maybe a week later. It may also be difficult if the club picks up the sheet every day to make entries into the handicap system. And of course, it’s hopeless in cases where the S.O.B. plays a foreign course and posts six 95’s accidentally.

With the advent of electricity (thanks to Ben Franklin), we now have computers. You can get on and double-check the postings of not only that S.O.B., but even honest, nice guys like myself. Not only “can you”, it’s your responsibility. It called “peer review”. Admittedly, it can still be difficult when the S.O.B. spends part of the year in Canada or Europe where the exchangeability of data between the USGA’s “ghin” system and their barbaric, underdeveloped handicap posting systems run in a dank, dark room with a computer driven by a hand-crank (do they have electricity in Canada?). But in the enlightened world, it can be done from the comfort of your home with a good, peety scotch in hand.

Continue reading “Rat Fink 101 – A Short Course on Peer Review”

Trench Warfare at Gainey Ranch – Friday, August 23rd

Jim Gabriel - Model for Joe Arpaiaso
Jim Gabriel – Model for Joe Arpaiaso

With ten rounds to go in the Inferno Cup competition, not a single golfer has been mathematically eliminated from the prize money. Admittedly, for those hovering at or near the bottom of the list, they’ll have to get in and play in most if not all of the final rounds. It will also be helpful if they begin winning. Jim Stamatis still sits on top, but the gap is getting smaller and smaller. Jim Woods has gained fifty points this week and now sits in third place only thirty points behind Stamatis. Jim Gabriel has picked up forty points this week and has crawled into the five spot on the money list. Given the design of the Cup competition, it can only get tighter in the final five weeks.

With five out of the top eight Inferno Cup performers out of town Friday, a small field of two man teams fought it out in a modified Stableford match where the playing partners weren’t known until after the completion of the competition. Partners were determined in a completely random fashion. Jim Gabriel tookhis net 71 and paired up with Howard Jones who bagged four birdies on the day. They claimed first place one point ahead of the teams of Dan Hourihan and Jim Woods and Tom Swan and Tom Hansen. Hourihan and Woods won a scorecard playoff to claim second place honors.

Tom Swan took low gross honors with a 75. His net 65 was also good enough to win low net.

Low Gross

  1. Tom Swan – 75
  2. Gary Anzalone -77
  3. Mike Miller – 79

Low Net

  1. Tom Swan – 65
  2. Howard Jones – 68
  3. Gary Anzalone, Pat Collins, Steve King and Jim Woods – 70
Jones finally wins one
Jones finally wins one

Skins money was distributed between Howard Jones, Mike Miller, Tom Swan, Gary Anzalone, Jim Woods and Jim Gabriel with Jones walking away with two skins.

Bruce Partridge turned in a fine round capturing the sixteenth position, i.e., last place, in both the gross and net divisions. His group apparently did a lot of “waiting” on the course. The group in front moved quickly (geologically speaking) so it’s difficult to understand the source of the problem. Perhaps we need to do something to stifle fast play.

Nichols Slaughters Everyone in the Field – Including Himself!

Unstopable Mike Nichols
Unstopable Mike Nichols

One week ago, Mike Nichols shot his career round. His smile was so big it couldn’t have been removed surgically. Friday, Nichols not only beat his career round, he beat it by four strokes! He carded a spectacular round of 68 on the Dunes/Arroyo course combination. He exorcised two bogies with an eagle and four birdies in route to a “2,000 to 1” odds golf miracle. Awesome round of golf.

Given the low probability round, one might have thought the strangeness would have ended there, but apparently the Devil has taken note of the “Inferno Cup” name and is now a participant. The evidence? Let’s start with Nichols himself. He scorched the course with his career round and his team would have walked away with the team event, but another team needed a low handicap blind draw. As those of you present at the after-party noticed, the Devil was in control of the golf computer. When no one was looking, he pressed the blind draw button and the team of Jim Stamatis, Dan Hourihan and Mike Wentrup ended up with – you guessed it – Mike Nichols as its draw. Nichols played so well, he beat himself into second place. He left the house with 40 Cup points and two skins. Tom Hansen, Jim Woods, Pat Collins, Ken Vlah, Rick May and Scott Hull also won skins and Jim Stamatis won two more.

The weirdness didn’t end there. Mike Wentrup became ill and had to leave the field after nine holes. A command decision was made by the Commissioner to replace half of Wentrup’s round with a “half- blind” draw. Naturally, when looking for a half-blind golfer, the Devil selected Bruce Partridge. Wentrup’s empty nine was filled up with Partridge’s 48. The team of the Greek, the Bostonian, Mike Partrup and the hired gun Nichols still finished on top. Here are the full team results.

Low Gross

  1. Mike Nichols – 68
  2. Rick May – 75
  3. Jim Stamatis – 77

Low Net

  1. Mike Nichols – 61
  2. Scott Hull, Jim Stamatis and Gary Graham – 65

Miscellaneous match notes – Mike Forde shot a 4 (binary) for his round – the Devil was pleased. Raoul Encinas didn’t do that well and will be gone for a couple of weeks getting help from a USGA licensed exorcist. Raoul’s “possession” carried over into the Member’s Grill when he tried to get the computer to generate the match results. Flames belched forth from the keyboard and the laugh of the Devil was heard in the background. Nonetheless, a big thanks go out to Raoul for stepping in and handling scoring for the week while Jones was conscripted into the Colorado golf wars. Who could have guessed that Raoul would be joined by “half-blind” draws, career rounds and the Devil himself. Raoul did an admirable job in some difficult circumstances.

One last note – Nichols can win no more. This was the last file photo I had of him.

Armistice in the Colorado Golf Wars

Red Sky Golf Club - The Greg Normal Course
Red Sky Golf Club – The Greg Norman Course

A truce has been declared in the two day war on the golf courses of Vail, Colorado. After Dick Scott ran with the money Wednesday, he didn’t show up to play on Thursday. He claimed he had a prior commitment, but I suspect he was out burying his winnings in his backyard.

Sandy Wiener schemes
Sandy Wiener schemes

It was a three dog fight Thursday on a course that was so difficult that putts would actually disappear before getting to the hole or sometimes after rolling ten or twenty feet beyond the hole. Red Sky Golf Club is a luxurious, magnificent test of golf, but I have never found more difficult greens to putt. I’m suspecting that an 80,000 volt electro-magnetic coil was buried beneath every green and that its polarity was reversed after every read, but before every putt. Up was down, left was right and we were all befuddled.

Ed Nafus had it all figured out for a few holes and that was sufficient to remove most of the remaining cash in the pockets of Howard Jones and Sandy Wiener. To avoid a lifetime of criticism, I will not reveal Sandy Wiener’s final score. I’m sure his differential to course rating wasn’t too bad. Surely the course was rated somewhere around 90.

Jones came out on top in the individual match with Wiener, but somehow still lost money to him. As near as I can tell, here’s what happened. Our fourth player was a club pro. The pro rode with Wiener and coached him throughout the round. But even with expert professional coaching, Sandy was no match for the course. It ate us all alive, but it spit Sandy out when it was done. For the second consecutive day, Sandy lost a $30 bet to Jones. He promptly paid it as we walked off the 18th green.

So far – so good.

However, we had all decided that as a thank you for the pro taking his time, testing his patience and getting us a discount, it would be appropriate if we all chipped in and gave the pro a “respectable” tip. As we walked off the 18th green, I gave the pro twenty-five dollars. Ed Nafus went over and gave the pro twenty-five dollars. Now Sandy turns to Jones and says, “Give me twenty-five dollars.”

Jones assumes Sandy doesn’t have the correct change for a tip and “loans” him twenty-five dollars. Now Sandy goes up to the pro and tips him fifty dollars, half of which he’s just lifted from Jones. The pro thinks Sandy’s twice as generous as the other two cheapskates and invites Sandy to play the other course at Red Sky next week, but figures to hell with the tight-wads.

So at this point, Jones won thirty, but collected five dollars. The pro’s up one hundred dollars. And Sandy’s got a reputation at Red Sky as being the biggest tipper since Donald Trump played there.

In a nutshell, Sandy lost to both Ed Nafus and Howard Jones, but Sandy was the big winner. It all makes sense to me.

Wednesday, August 14th – If Only . . .

Joel Temple
Joel Temple

If Mike Forde, Tom Hansen or Dan Hourihan would have parred #9 Arroyo, they (along with their teammate Dave Inman) would have carried the day and won first place in Wednesday’s match.  However, with double-bogeys on the finishing hole, they moved from first place into next to last. That’s how close the match was. One stroke separated the first four teams. Three teams tied at the top with scores of 126. After the magic of the scorecard playoff was performed, Raoul Encinas, Scott Hull, Mike Wentrup and the as of late unstoppable force, Mike Nichols walked away with first place. Another scorecard playoff put Joel Temple, Mike Miller, Nate Sanders and new member, Jeremy Davis into second place. Even though they tied for the day’s best score, Bruce Partridge, Dennis Kildare, George Stelmach and Chey Castro went home empty handed. Jim Stamatis, Gary Graham, Pat Collins and Evan Carr also played in the match, but apparently forgot to bring their clubs. With one stroke separating the first four teams, they finished eleven shots back.

In the gross score department, Mike Nichols was kind enough to let someone else take first place Wednesday. Joel Temple took that honor with a 74. Nichols was one stroke back. Temple and Nichols also finished one-two in the net category.

Low Gross

  1. Joel Temple – 74
  2. Mike Nichols – 75
  3. Chey Castro – 77

Low Net

  1. Joel Temple – 65
  2. Mike Nichols and Tom Hansen – 67

Skins were plentiful with Castro, Forde, Gary Graham, Nichols and Temple grabbing one each. Mike Wentrup and Dan Hourihan each left the building with two skins.

The race for the Inferno Cup heated up even more, but Dave Inman and Jim Stamatis remain tied at the top. Kildare, Hansen, Woods and Wentrup hold on to the last four money spots.

Howard Jones, Ed Nafus, Sandy Wiener and Dick Scott
Howard Jones, Ed Nafus, Sandy Wiener and Dick Scott

Four other Gainey Ranch members duked it out a mile and a half high. Sandy Wiener was nice enough to contribute thirty dollars to Howard Jones while Dick Scott filched Jones, Wiener and Ed Nafus for a sawbuck each. They played in an oxygen starved world at Sonnenalp Country Club in Vail, Colorado amidst thunder, lightning and cold rain on greens that ran so fast balls outran their shadows. Jones three putted nine greens – one from three feet. Maybe we should be grateful for greens at Gainey that have a 6.5 stimp. At least you can find your ball and don’t have to worry about putts going out-of-bounds.

Welcome to the Mike Nichols Show

Nichols was on fire
Nichols was on fire

He was hot Wednesday capturing low gross honors. Who knew it was just the beginning? Mike Nichols brought Gainey Ranch’s Lakes/Dunes course to its knees Friday with his own version of a scorched earth policy. He shot a torrid 33 on the Dunes side with a birdie, an eagle and seven pars. He coasted after that and finished with a career best net 64 (gross 72) to take first place in both the gross and net brackets.

Low Gross

  1. Mike Nichols – 72
  2. Mike Miller and Joel Temple – 77

Low Net

  1. Mike Nichols – 64
  2. Skyler Irvine – 65
  3. Jim Gabriel – 67

Even with his record round and the fact that both the first and second place low net players were on his team, it wasn’t good enough to take first place in the overall match competition. The team of Jim Gabriel, Tom Hansen, Stephan King and Mike Miller claimed first place with a 128 score, two strokes better than the team of Nichols, Skyler Irvine, Scott Hull and Gary Graham.

The Inferno Cup race tightened up even more. Inman and Stamatis remain locked in a tie for first place, but Tom Hansen moved up from fourth to third place and now sits only twenty points behind the leaders. A half dozen players are fifty points or less from the top spot.

The course played to an average of 85.3 strokes and yielded 19 birdies and an eagle on the day. Joel Temple and the prodigal son, Cris Caruso accounted for six of the birdies between them.

A Tangle at the Top

Low Gross Winner Mike Nichols
Low Gross Winner Mike Nichols

Jim Stamatis won a tough match Wednesday against nearly two dozen competitors. In doing so, he climbed into a virtual tie with Dave Inman atop the Inferno Cup Leader Board with 430 points. Inman finished Wednesday’s round – a Modified Stableford format – in 18th place despite shooting a gross 78 on the Lakes/Dunes course combo. Dennis Kildare and Tom Hansen remained in a tie for third place after finishing 8th and 19th respectively in yesterday’s competition.

Six skins were divided up with two going to Jim Gabriel and one each being pocketed by Phil Graham, Bruce Partridge, Jim Stamatis and (will miracles never cease?) Howard Jones.

Mike Nichols watched as putt after putt hit the hole and came back out or stopped  an inch short, yet he still captured low gross with a 76. Chey Castro was right on his heels with a 77. The longest putt Nichols did make was about a 25 footer to cancel a nascent skin that had just been holed by his playing partner, Howard Jones. Jones’ other skin possibility held up when Nichols stroked his putt from off the 15th green and watched as it hit the pin squarely and bounced out of the hole with the shadow of the ball squarely in the bottom of the cup.

Low Gross

  1. Mike Nichols – 76
  2. Chey Castro – 77
  3. Jim Stamatis and Dave Inman – 78

Low Net

  1. Jim Gabriel and Jim Stamatis – 67
  2. Steve King and Mike Nichols – 68

The average score on the day was 86.3 with 76 on the low end and 105 on the other side. The owner of the 105 will remain a secret in exchange for a favor to be named later.

One Man’s Opinion – Don’t Post Scores for Others

Jones' Opinion
Jones’ Opinion

In the past, in an effort to assure a higher level of compliance with USGA handicap rules, team “captains” have been encouraged to post the scores of all members of their teams following golf rounds. Although the intent is noble, the result is not. Team “captains” should be encouraged to “encourage” teammates to post scores. If necessary, I have no problem with them yelling, berating and sarcastically demeaning their teammates to get them to post. Threats of physical violence are fine with me, but the individual players should post their own scores . . . post them correctly and post them all.  Here are my reasons.

  1. Page One of the USGA Handicap System manual couldn’t be any clearer. Two basic premises underlie the USGA Handicap System, namely that each player will try to make the best score at every hole in every round, regardless of where the round is played, and that the player will post every acceptable round for peer review. There are no provisions in the manual for surrogates, babysitters or house mothers. It’s the golfer’s responsibility – end of story.
  2. With captains or scorekeepers posting rounds, confusion and errors are inevitable. An increasing number of players prefer to post their own scores online. Without question there will be duplicate postings. Unfortunately, these duplicate postings are not always detected in a timely manner and having them eliminated is problematic. The golfer must call the club, explain the situation, ask that the duplicate be removed and hope that the process is completed successfully and without error. Also, it is not unreasonable to conclude that with human nature the way it is, some golfers’ abilities to detect and correct duplicates are no doubt greater when the scores are very low. High scores are going to be thrown out anyway aren’t they? Not exactly mathematically valid reasoning.
  3. The converse to #2 above is also true. If the golfer assumes the captain will be posting and the captain fails to post for whatever reason, a handicap lowering 75 may be overlooked and go unposted.
  4. Not all captains fully grasp the concept of equitable stroke control (ESC) and know how to properly apply it. Depending upon a golfer’s handicap range, he may not take a score above a certain number. When posting scores, adjustments MUST be made prior to posting. Otherwise, the handicap system does not function as intended. It is also true that the team captain has just arrived at the club house after a grueling round in 110° heat and has not only his own score to review for adjustments, he now has three other scores to check and double-check. He’s thirsty, damn thirsty and the Member’s Grill calls out his name. How much time and effort do you really think he’ll be investing in reviewing postings for ESC?
  5. The fifth and final reason for arguing against placing an intermediary in the posting process is perhaps the biggest one. It gives the “shady guys” (you know who you are) ground cover when they’re reviewed by the Handicap Committee. “Well, I didn’t post that score because the team captain was supposed to do it. It’s not my fault.” Yes it is. Read the USGA manual. But when we put the burden on someone else’s back, we confuse the situation at the least or worse yet, we give the bandits cover for their crimes of neglect or intent. And then we wonder why some guys seem to always play below their handicaps when the stakes are higher. Go figure!

In the past week, I’ve had one duplicate score posted by a team captain. It has been corrected, but not without spending a little time and a little effort. If the old system of captain postings remains in place, please take note of my personal request – DON’T POST MY SCORES. When I am a team captain, I will not post yours. I will give you your adjusted score and growl at you to post it yourself. If you don’t, shame on you. Perhaps I’ll see you in a meeting of the club’s Handicap Committee the week before one of our big tournaments.