The Joker’s on Us – Monday, October 28th

Partridge the JokerAdmittedly, it was an odd match format, but you would have thought we were at a funeral. There was so much whining and whimpering on the driving range, I worried we’d be shut down for not having a day care license. Places on the course had so many tear drops, they had to be declared casual water. Pouting replaced putting. Pin placements became secondary to chin placements. If the USGA didn’t prohibit sniveling on the golf course, we should adopt a local rule making it a crime.

The format involved being dealt poker cards in proportion to the number of strokes your team finished under par. The lower your score, the more cards you got. As it turned out, the last place team ended up getting about half the number of cards the first place team earned. The task was to create the best poker hand with the cards you were dealt. Obviously, your odds improved as your score improved.

Mike Nichols bolstered his team’s chances by shooting a gross 72 to take the medalist honors. He also took low net bragging rights. His teammate, Skyler Irvine finished second with a strong net 69. Teammate Howard Garr played respectably and it appeared they’d have half the deck to put together a winning hand. The other teams stood little chance.

The last place team on the golf course, Gary Reibman, Scott Hull and whiner-in-chief, Bruce Partridge stood little chance and probably should have folded before the cards were dealt. Once Partridge was stripped of the “extra cards” he had in his pocket, their lot seemed sealed. They were doomed.

The cards were dealt. The teams sparred in the Member’s Grill as they constructed their strongest hands. As the cards were played, the team that dominated on the course appeared to be dominating on card table. Finally, the last place finishers laid their hand on the table – a King high full-house! They had defied the odds and beaten the field.

The last place team left the Grill with the first place money and a set of grins that couldn’t have been removed surgically (although some of the other players were willing to try). Interviewed after the match had been settled, Partridge said it was a great format and he couldn’t understand why others were whining. Scott Hull said it was an outstanding game and should be played more often.  Reibman proved to be the only man of honor on that team and bought the score keeper a glass of wine. It seems like that’s the least the team could do after walking away with a hundred fifty dollars. At least Reibman remembered the lyrics of that famous song, “You have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to buy a round.”

As they walked away, Partridge and Hull sang in unison, “. . . and know when to run.”

Friday’s Golf Lies

Between cart path restrictions, new grass, wet spots, soft spots, hard spots and unfilled divots, the course is playing tough. The average gross score in Friday’s Kildare match was over 91 strokes, one of the highest averages ever recorded. Everyone survived, but some just barely. The team of Mike Nichols and Tom Hansen finished on top of the leaderboard two strokes in front of the team of Bruce Partridge and Mike Hickey and the team of Dave Inman and Nick De Santis. Ten teams braved the course. Nichols won low gross and Dan Hourihan won low net. He was the only golfer to shoot his handicap.

HansenNicholsChartWhat proved to be more interesting than the match itself was the discussion of the format and its “fairness”. It’s a word that’s not really in my dictionary, but when dealing with handicapped golf competitions, it’s a concept that can’t be ignored. To set the stage for the dialog, understand that the match consisted of two-man teams playing a best ball match where odd holes called for the best net ball of the team while even numbered holes required a best gross ball of the twosome. In an effort to level the playing field, the teams were built such that the combined handicaps were the same for each team. This meant that the lowest handicap golfer was paired with the highest handicap golfer. The process continues until it meets itself in the middle. In other words, the final team consists of two golfers with roughly equal handicaps midway between the highest and lowest handicaps. This raises the question . . .

Is it “fair” for a team composed of a six and a twenty-five handicap to compete against a team consisting of two fifteen handicap golfers playing in a format where half of the holes depend on a best gross ball?

The simple answer to the question is “No”. After analyzing thousands of rounds of golf played at Gainey Ranch, it becomes apparent the team with the low handicapper can be expected to score gross par or better on a given hole approximately sixty percent of the time.  For the fifteen handicappers, par or better is expected about fifty percent of the time. Advantage – low handicap golfer. Case closed? Not on your life.

There is no match format that doesn’t offer some element of unfairness. More often than not, the advantage goes to the higher handicap golfers. But the inevitability of inequity doesn’t in of itself justify unfairness. In Friday’s match, the team with the widest division of handicaps finished third. Does this prove the deck was stacked? The team with the third highest differential finished next to last. Does this prove the playing field was level?

If you look carefully at the picture above, one of the lines on the chart shows there is a strong correlation between “net score” and finishing position. Wow. What a concept. Play better relative to your handicap and you finish closer to the top. Go figure.

So what have I proven here? Not much really. I’ve shown that someone that plays better than his competitor usually beats his competitor. I’ve shown that “fair” probably doesn’t exist. Maybe I’ve shown that “if you torture numbers enough, they will confess to anything.” If you make the putt, you make the cut. And as Benjamin Disraeli supposedly said, “There are three kinds of untruths, lies, damned lies and statistics.”

2013-2014 Season is Underway

We’re underway. The first full-fledged Men’s Day of the new season began with a flourish. Faces absent all summer wandered the fairways in search of birdies, but as the scores show, not many were found. Scores averaged 90 on the Dunes/Arroyo course combination. Being restricted to the cart paths as the winter grass continued to mature, competitors were forced to play a little slower than normal and to take a few extra swings. The arroyos were particularly punishing with dense grass so high and thick that a golfer height restriction had to be put in place before he could search for an errant tee shot. A lost ball is one thing, but a lost golfer is quite another.

When the dust had settled and all the survivors hadNichols reported to the Member’s Grill, the team of Jerry Whalen, Phil Graham, Gary Mattox and Jim Maxwell stood atop the field. Second place went to Ed Nafus, Alex Currie, Gary Reibman and Doug Lammle. Mike Nichols, Ron Dobkin, Brian Laks and Scott Hull hung on to third place.

Skins were abundant with nine gross split between Tom Hansen, Howard Jones, Gary Graham, Bobby Romero (2), Sandy Wiener, Ed Nafus, and Jim Meissner. Seven net skins were divided between George LaHood, Hansen, Jones, Romero, Gary Mattox, Nafus and Meissner.

In the Kildare group, Mike Nichols laid claim to the name Mr. Boring. All he did was shoot par, par, par, par, par . . . ad nauseum. He finally cracked and carded a bogey after 13 holes. He carded a gross 74 without a single birdie. Nichols claimed low net and low gross with his performance.

Low GrossChef Jeff

  1. Mike Nichols – 74
  2. Joel Temple – 81
  3. Scott Thompson – 82

Low Net

  1. Mike Nichols – 68
  2. Howard Jones -69
  3. Tom Hansen and Brian Laks – 71

With the winter crowd arriving, the club is hopping. The activity levels are on the rise. One of the great advantages to being a member of Gainey Ranch is having a super-chef Jeff. Last week, he conducted his first demonstration cooking class of the season and put on a great show. There’re more to come. Check your club calendars.Chef Jeff crowd

Gainey Ranch Golf and Obamacare

Obama and Partridge
Partridge and Obama golfing in Cahoots

“Where’s he going with this one?” you ask. “Has he fallen off the deep end?”

Well, think about it. In the world of computer programing, schit happens. It appears whoever put together the team of programmers responsible for the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act wasn’t on his or her game. The computer problems that plagued the roll-out don’t reflect on the Act itself. They reflect on a group of programmers that didn’t do their job properly.

So it was with yesterday’s match at Gainey Ranch. The match was – by definition – as fair and balanced as any match in golf. But due to a “programmer’s error”, we were unable to announce the results until this morning. As suspected yesterday, the first place team was Dan Hourihan and Howard Jones (a.k.a. “the programmer”). Second place was captured by George Stelmach and Russ Hagberg. Here are the complete results. Prize money will be in envelopes in the Member’s Grill by Wednesday.

The computer glitch that delayed the announcement technically wasn’t a programming problem; it was a human problem. (Programmers are people too!) The programmer spent hours creating the algorithms to handle a “zero based handicap version of a Modified Stableford team best ball” match and then proceeded to forget to copy the files onto the traveling computer that is used at the club. The traveling computer is necessary because the programmer’s main computer is far too expensive to risk taking into the Member’s Grill. The risk is that participants could get too close to the computer with a glass of wine and pour it into the computer and thereby destroy it. Bruce Partridge has done this in the past and is therefore the reason the traveling computer is necessary. It logically follows that if Obamacare fails, it is the fault of Bruce Partridge. Furthermore, the act of forgetting to copy files from one computer to another is clearly related to a mental glitch that is age related. If I hear anymore crap about this, the club risks an age discrimination action. That too will be the fault of Bruce Partridge.

Back to the Member’s Grill – let’s talk skins. The revelation that resulted in a delay of the distribution of funds (similar to a government shutdown of sorts) came when I looked at the skins list. The programmer (whatever his name was) not only won the match, it appeared he took home two of the seven skins. In that he played poorly and didn’t record a single birdie, this seemed suspicious if not fraudulent. A review seemed to be in order. The review has been completed and the computer was right. On the 10th hole (#1 Arroyo), there were only three gross pars logged. Two of those three were strokeless, Gary Reibman and George Stelmach. The third one, Jones’, came with a stroke. Kaching! Net skin. There were only two pars made on the 17th hole (#8 Arroyo). Mike Nichols’ lack of a stroke meant the other par took home another net skin. There you have it – no birdies, two skins and a first place finish. Don’t blame me; blame Partridge.

For those of you who find the New York Times crossword puzzle insufficiently challenging, here is the list of all gross scores from Monday’s match. Feel free to verify the results with pencil and paper. Remember to adjust all handicaps by subtracting the lowest handicap from each, i.e., Mike Nichols was a six.

One last suspicious clue may need explanation. In the Grill, Buddy Stein was the blind draw. The computer selected Buddy as appropriate, but that was because it had been entered that he played from the green tees. He actually played from the white tees and his handicap was adjusted accordingly. After the adjustment, a new blind draw became appropriate. Although it didn’t affect the results in any way, the new blind draw became [queue the music] BRUCE PARTRIDGE! I told you it was his fault. Everything is his fault.

Government Shutdown Be Damned – Tee It Up!

Gainey Ranch G.C. Clubhouse from #9 Arroyo
Gainey Ranch G.C. Clubhouse from #9 Arroyo

If the government can shut down, so can I. Yup, I’ve taken a couple weeks off after covering the Inferno Cup all summer. What’s the government shutdown got to do with golf you ask? In some respects, our government and our golf games are exactly opposite. In fact, they couldn’t be more diametrically opposed.

In golf, we put a lot of time and money into a sport. We enter upon the field of battle and treat a two foot putt for a two dollar Nassau as if it’s the end of the world if we miss it. The reality is… the significance of our playing golf is almost zero. In the grand scheme of things, our golf match today or any day doesn’t mean a damn thing. We love to pretend it is of critical importance, but it’s below “trivial” on life’s list of essentials. It’s for our pleasure – nothing more.

Congress, on the other hand, takes an issue that is of the utmost importance and trivializes it. It toys with the world economy, the lives and well-being of not only every American, but everyone on the planet, as if it were little more than a playground game. These guys really need to get it together before the gettin’ is gone.

In the meantime, I’ve missed birdie putts of two feet or less on #6 Dunes in three consecutive rounds. Now that is some serious stuff.

To summarize the last two weeks, here are your match winners Scott Hull (2), Garry Warner (2), Howard Jones (2), Mike Nichols, Don Fruchtman, Gary Reibman, Bruce Partridge, Pat Collins, Sam McConkey, Jim Stamatis, Jim Woods and Sandy Wiener. For those of you interested in seeing the nitty-gritty of the various matches, here are the scores for Oct. 4th, Oct. 7th, Oct. 9th, Oct. 11th and Oct. 14th.

Scores have soared in some matches as a result of playing one nine that has just opened after over-seeding and a second nine that has been scalped in preparation for over-seeding. It’s been a show worthy of America’s Funniest Videos to watch someone finally get used to extremely slow greens, make the turn and have to lag a putt downhill on greens that role like a sheet of marble. Many have had second putts twice as long as the first putt. Golf may be of little consequence, but it teaches character and patience at the same time.

Oh well – Back to work. Maybe they’ll do the same thing in Washington before it affects my golf game. That’s a serious issue.

Mega-Skins Game Marks the End of the 2013 Inferno Cup

Ron Dobkin after the harvest
Ron Dobkin after the harvest

Wednesday, October 2nd was a day of celebration as the 2013 Inferno Cup competition came to a close. The only match on the day was the skins game. Nine were awarded, each being worth more than one hundred dollars. Jim Gabriel took a pair of them while Dave Inman, Mike Miller, Ron Dobkin, Dan Hourihan, Jim Stamatis, Jim Woods and Nate Sanders escaped with one each. Again, fate was my enemy as a pair of birdies went unrequited. However, Mike Nichols and Joel Temple suffered a fate far worse. They turned on each other to crush their hopes. Nichols ran in a 70+ foot putt on nine Lakes for an eagle. His celebration lasted all the way to the edge of the green when he discovered Joel Temple had also eagled the hole. It’s a tough day in Golfville when natural eagles yield a hand full of empty. Nichols turned in a gross 71, Temple a 77. They both left without a penny in hand. Sometimes life just ain’t right!

Here are the complete scores on the day.

Following the round, players and guests partied at a warm and wonderful awards presentation. Golf Pro Matt Anzalone hosted the group with a generous contribution of food, drink and prizes. You can see pictures of both golf and celebration by clicking here.

When the Commissioner, Dennis Kildare, starting putting together ideas to create the Inferno Cup, we thought it sounded like fun. We had no idea how successful it would become. It was a great event and we’re looking forward to next year’s chase for the Cup.