The Cup is Finally Empty

Congratulations to Scott Howard. He finished strong and took home the 1st place prize in the “Half-Cup” competition May 15th. Scott edged out 2nd place finisher, Bob Sznewajs (pronounced just like it’s spelled). Joe Busch held on by a thread to capture 3rd place. Del Spence and Kristi Williams rounded out the top five.

Since the inception of our Corona Cup formatted tournaments, I have told everyone the algorithms used to determine point allocations in each match were designed to make the event very competitive. After nearly 3,400 holes of golf, the results weren’t locked in until the final group walked off the #18th green. Everyone was in the thick of it until they weren’t. A single putt in the middle of any one of the rounds could make a big difference in the standings, even if the round in which the putt was made or missed, was extremely mediocre. Consider this real story about the Half-Cup’s final round.

When the lights went out Friday evening, here were the top six finishers and their point totals in the Half-Cup.

  1. Scott Howard (895.2)
  2. Bob Sznewajs (803.5)
  3. Joe Busch (662.7)
  4. Kristi Williams (601.9)
  5. Pat Collins (576.7)
  6. Dell Spence (570.6)
Memorial Day 2019 (82 of 99)
The Honorable Joe Busch

As usual, I went to bed fairly early Friday night. Soon thereafter, Joe Busch exhibited the classic honor those true to the spirit of golf carry with them. He realized there may have been a scoring error. He sent me an email saying he was pretty certain the scorekeeper had made an error and awarded him a five rather than six on the fifth hole of the Padre course. Joe also was afraid the reverse had happened on the ninth hole and that he may have been given a six instead of a five. He believed the mistakes cancelled each other and would have no impact upon the results, but he felt compelled to correct the errors.

When I digested Joe’s email Saturday morning, I discovered he was half-right. His score on the ninth hole had been recorded correctly, but the fifth hole score was indeed one lower than his actual score.

Joe had carded an 85 rather than an 84. I promptly made the change and reran the Half-Cup results and was relieved to discover that at first glance, Joe remained in 3rd place, but by a much smaller margin. All was well or so I thought. Here are the revised Half-Cup standings with Joe still clinging to his $150 3rd place money.

  1. Scott Howard (895.2)
  2. Bob Sznewajs (828.7)
  3. Joe Busch (625.8)
  4. Dell Spence (612.5)
  5. Kristi Williams (601.9)
  6. Pat Collins (576.7)

All was well. Whoa! Wait a minute. Joe stayed in third place, but Bob Sznewajs’ second place point total increased by 25 points. Oh my! Kristi Williams was no longer in 4th place; she fell to 5th. Dell Spence climbed from 6th place solidly into 4th place. Pat Collins fell one position and he hadn’t even played on the final day. With more than a thousand dollars in prize money already distributed, I had visions of a lynch-mob now asking for a full explanation of the algorithms buried deep within the program code.

I considered my options – change my name and wear a disguise, sell my membership and move to Mexico, disqualify everyone involved and keep the money, come out of pocket for any prize money deficiencies (No, now I’m talking like a crazy person). Some options had greater appeal than others, but none seemed to make me feel safer. Viewing the Cup as half-full, I had some solace in knowing that if I were to be hung from a tree, at least I’d be in the shade.

Facing down the problems like an impending dental appointment, I dug in to sort in all out. After a half an hour analysis, I discovered the changes in point totals for 2nd and 3rd place didn’t alter the prize amounts. Sznewajs still pocketed $200. Busch still held on to $150. So far, so good, but what about the complete reshuffling of 4th, 5th, and 6th places? Imagine my relief when I looked at the awards spreadsheet and discovered the prize money for 4th was $100, 5th was $100, and 6th was $100. Dodged a bullet there.

My survival chances were improving, but I wasn’t out of the woods (and that’s where the hanging tree is). We’ve long had a rule on the day game that once players walk away from the scoring table, all results were deemed correct even if they were incorrect. On this one, I could declare the “It sure sucks to be you” defense. But as luck would have it, I dodged one final bullet. Joe had finished a slim one stroke out of the money in the day game. He was now two strokes away from the cashier’s window.

One final challenge remained – take a page out of play-books of political leaders everywhere and deflect the blame. One can’t be too careful.

Mike Forde (4 of 5)
The Banker did it with the pencil in the conservatory

Got this one! For years, our chief banker has been Mike Forde. It has been his responsibility to make certain all monies were collected, awards were “properly” determined, and paid in the appropriate amounts to the appropriate parties. Clearly he failed. And all this after I had relied so heavily upon him, trusted him to do what was right in an efficient and equitable manner in keeping with the standards instilled in him while at Cal State Fresno. He failed in his task. He let us down. However, in the spirit of honor and forgiveness so nobly displayed by Mr. Busch, I have decided (with the acquiescence of Pat Collins and Joe Busch) to pardon Mr. Forde, especially in view of the fact he is on the injured reserve list with a severe cut to his finger. When told of the magnanimous actions of myself, Busch, and Collins, he has offered to show us his finger. What a guy!

In the wake of all this, still no one has asked to review the algorithms. Pax Vobiscum.

Corona King is Crowned

I may not have promised you a rose garden, but I did guarantee an exciting and competitive finish. The April Corona Cup came to a dramatic close yesterday. As the opening match of the Cup lurked just hours in the future, Dick Cahal was pessimistic. “I don’t think I can play enough to stand a chance,” he opined.

member-guest-2017-1-of-96“Yea, right,” I said. “Now gimme your hundred dollar bill.” (This is the only time the term “gimme” is acceptable within our group.) Cahal still resisted, but under threat of public shaming, he pulled a Franklin from a wad of bills that looked like a much sought after roll of Charmin.

By the time the last putt found the bottom of the hole yesterday, Dick Cahal had fleeced the entire group and carried home the $500 that went along with first place. “I just got lucky – again”, he grinned much as Jesse James would have as he walked away from the stage coach.

The complete standings for the Corona Cup are shown below. We paid sixteen places in a very competitive event.

Just how competitive was it? Only twice during the course of the entire event did the same person hold down first place for more than one event. Through fourteen rounds, there were twelve lead changes.

As another example of the intensity of the competition, note that Pat Collins languished in 20th place on the eve of the final round. He appeared to be all but hopelessly out of the money. Pat carded a most respectable net 69 and vaulted himself from out-of-sight of the leaders into 9th place overall. Phil Ortez recorded the day’s best net 68. He had a precarious finger-hold on 15th place, barely in the money, yet jumped into a top six finish.

Given the format of the Corona Cup, it was persistence and consistency that paid off. Finishers carried the day over those with the hot starts. It wasn’t so much what you did right; it was more a case of what you didn’t do wrong. To illustrate, I’ll cite the final round of someone I watched play. He turned in a respectable front side shooting his handicap. On that back side, he seemed to drop into his “grove”. You know the feeling. Even after missing a couple of very makeable five footers, he stood on the seventeenth tee box under gross par for the back. He knew all he had to do to bring home first place was cruise in conservatively on the final two holes. So much for cruise control.

The tee shot on #17 went wayward. Six hundred forty-two sock stickers later, he managed to punch out. Once on the green, he missed a four foot putt for bogey. On #18, with a wider fairway and still in command, he hit another cruise missile into ankle-itch country, punched out, and missed a six-footer for bogey.

Happens to everyone, right? But here’s what it meant in the final standings. Had he just played the final two holes in one over par, he would have finished the tournament in fourth place. With the first pathetic tee shot, he moved himself from fourth place to sixth place. The second swing catastrophe took him from sixth place to eighth place. When the dust (and sand) had settled on the #18th green, after fourteen rounds in a competitive race, he had used two holes and four strokes to move himself from fourth place to twelfth. He wasn’t happy. I know; I am him. Nonetheless, it’s an example of what a great and competitive fourteen rounds of tournament golf we had.

CupStandings

¡Viva México!

JZ0A0914Eighteen of us left Scottsdale on the morning of January 2nd. We were bound for Puerto Peñasco, Mexico for a couple of rounds of golf at one spectacular Jack Nicklaus designed course. Thursday’s Tournament was won by Kathy Thompson when she ran away from the field winning by 10 points over second place finisher, Troy Jarvis. The second day’s tournament belonged to Samir Sleiman. He walked away from second place winner, Troy Jarvis, by 9 points.

However, steady wins the race. Troy Jarvis’ consistent play made him the overall champion. Troy averaged 79 in his two days of play. Troy easily outdistanced the second place finisher, Samir Sleiman, racking up 54 points to Samir’s 41.

This was no easy task. Jack Nicklaus was apparently fighting with someone when he designed the course. Although it is magnificently beautiful, it is a tough, tough track. There were only four birdies in two days of play. The average gross score was 102! The average to handicap was more than 11 strokes over the top. One and only one of the 28 rounds was at handicap. It is a great, but challenging course. One thing that all participants agree upon is that it takes balls, lots of them, to play Vidanta.

Here are some pictures of the tournament and a few thrown in of the dinners. Clicking on any of the images enlarges them for your viewing pleasure (or chagrin).

In the Laboratory of Golf

mad-scientistIt was “Experimental Wednesday” with the J-Golf group. We were in the golf lab on two fronts – playing under adverse conditions and dealing with human behavior and decision making.

Six four-player teams competed with sustained winds of fifteen to twenty miles per hour. Gusts reached forty miles per hour. Keeping a golf ball in a straight line was all but impossible. In some situations, just placing the ball on the putting green meant chasing it down after the wind took it east. There were times when simply remaining upright was a formidable challenge; not everyone was successful. Adjusting for wind velocity became an issue even on short putts.

In our golf laboratory, we looked at how the extreme conditions impacted golfer performance in general and in particular, which groups of golfers would be most impacted by the adverse conditions.

One school of thought held that the low handicap golfers had the most experience and would be better equipped mentally and physically to adapt. The opposing school of thought argued that low handicap players would be prone to hitting their drives much longer than high handicappers and that the longer ball flight would yield control to the whims of nature for a much longer time and offer the potential for greater disaster.

In the realm of human behavior and decision making, we threw in an experiment with pari-mutuel betting. If you’re a moralist, don’t get your knickers in a knot – this is not “gambling”; it is science. “Gambling” implies the existence of a random result. In this case, the goal of the participants was to apply all the deductive prowess available to deduce the correct outcome. It was interesting to observe that as the odds (as determined by the wager volume distribution) of any given team winning changed, the betting vectors swung wildly in one direction or another.

To provide additional control to the overall experiment, teams were created where one team had an average handicap of three, another averaged twenty-one, and others fell somewhere in between. One group’s total handicap was half the handicap of one player in a competing group.

The pre-match odds favored the lower handicap golfers. For the most part, bettors believed skill and experience would triumph. The long odds on some of the higher handicap teams did bring in some bets from those hoping for a good payout, but the two teams with the lowest handicaps dominated the betting.

So how did it work out? The results tend to support the old adage that “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.”

With twenty-three golfers in the field, only two played better than their handicaps, Bob Joselyn and Scott Hull, the 22nd and 23rd ranked players in the field by handicap finished tied for first place in the low net category with 64s. On the front nine, the team with the highest total handicap finished in first place. The team with the second highest handicap finished in second place. The team with the lowest handicap came in last. The results on the back nine weren’t much different from the perspective of statistically significance. Of the seven skins won, five of those seven went to players with handicaps well above the average.

What can we conclude from these results? Frankly, probably a fair amount. However, if we’re going to try this experiment again with pari-mutuel betting, I’m not sure I want to share my conclusions. After all, I bet on the two teams with the highest handicaps. Good luck next time.

Gender War

Gender War (5 of 53)
Howard Jones and Harold Hoeg (the vanquished) and Phyllis Laschuk and Karen Stevison (the conquerors)

They bring us into the world. They nurture us, feed us, take care of us. Our first hugs come from the women we call Mom. They wipe away our tears and tend our bumps and bruises. They are our protectors, our guardians. I’m not yet sure what went wrong, but yesterday’s Gender War didn’t go according to the script.

In what has all the earmarks of an annual event, those known for having “sugar and spice and everything nice” kicked the living hell out of those of us constituted of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails.”

The women squared off against the men in a series of head-to-head match play contests. The ladies prevailed. In the opening match, I faced the diminutive Phyllis Laschuk of Vancouver, British Columbia. I thought to myself, “This really isn’t fair. A man of my experience level charged with the task of abusing a wisp of a woman who would need to seek the shelter of her golf bag if the wind blew.” I only hoped I didn’t embarrass her; she seemed like such a nice girl.

After five holes, I was four down. She turned me every which way but loose as she toyed with me. She carded a gross 73 on the day and buried my hopes of winning by the 15th hole. I felt like I was at the State Fair locked in a cage with a 700 pound wrestling bear.

The day’s second match wasn’t much better for the men. Harold Hoeg, a fine golfer and an outstanding competitor tenaciously battled Karen Stevison, but by the 12th hole, found himself two down. He mounted his charge. On the difficult 12th hole, he hit an excellent drive and put his second shot within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie. His opponent had put her second shot five yards over the green into the tall rough. Everyone knew Harold was about to get within one hole of tying the match … well, everyone except Karen. With the confidence of a street corner preacher, she announced, “Well, I guess I’ll have to run this in.”

It’s a fine line between optimism and delusion and I wasn’t sure which side of the line she was on. I knew she had to hit a pretty good shot just to get it on the green. Putting it in the hole was beyond pipe dream. She put it in the hole!

Harold had nearly eagled one of the toughest holes on the course and lost the hole to go three down with six to play. The air leaked violently from Harold’s balloon. He fought valiantly for the last six holes, but it was an exercise in futility.

Things didn’t get much better as subsequent groups turned their cards in to the scorekeeper. The only matches the men really dominated were those where one man played against another.

As the competitors warmed up on the range, one of the grounds crew captured a snake. It got away so I helped by running over and picking it up. I placed it in a box. The snake hissed at me and tried to bite me. At the time, I didn’t view the event as a portent of what was about to happen. Next time, I’ll let the snake run free and hope for the best. “Sugar and spice and everything nice”? Don’t be fooled. Put a seven-iron in her hand and you have created a ruthless predator.

Here are a few pictures from the day’s event. You can click on any of the images to enter the “slide show” mode.

A Lovely Day for a Walk

20190215 JGolf (22 of 68)Friday’s golf was as bad as Wednesday’s golf was good. They lit it up on the Ambiente course Wednesday, but it was the heart of the dark ages on the Padre course Friday. We needed one blind draw, but nearly everyone tried out for the part playing and putting as if blindfolded. The average score was more than six strokes higher than the previous match’s average. For those who believe Padre is easier than Ambiente, think again!

Nonetheless, it was a great day for a walk. Here are some of the people I found in my meanderings. It was great to see one golfer get off the injured reserve list. Pat Collins played his first round in more than three months. Welcome back.

As usual, a click on an image enlarges it and puts you in the slide show mode.

 

They Sacrificed for You

Peñasco Golf Trip (5 of 55)As the caravan approached the border, armed guards braced for its arrival. The disparate group of refugees was hopeful they could talk their way through the barrier. As Hans Birkholz dutifully scanned the wall for breaks in the concertina wire, David Harbour and Mike Forde rehearsed the plan. “If Jones pisses them off, we tell them he’s a hired driver and we had no idea that trying to cross the border with a loose-cannon violated Mexican laws against arms importation.” The last car in the caravan carried Dave and Lauri Allen poised to retreat at the first sign of discord on the frontera.

Continue reading “They Sacrificed for You”

High in the Pines

Pinetop Golf (12 of 66)
Our gracious hosts, Mike and Vicky Smothermon

Pinetop, Arizona was the site of some fun golf and great camaraderie this past weekend. More than a dozen Camelback Golf Club members and some additional friends and family played golf at more than 7,200 feet high in the mountains where long drives went longer than ever. Participants played one or more of some great courses.

Torreon offered magnificent views and a course to test any golfer’s skills. Silver Creek was a great layout with eighteen challenging and beautiful holes. Pinetop Lakes Country Club was a scenic test of golfing skill. Finally, the historic White Mountain Country Club gave every golfer breathtaking views and some monumental tests of golfing skills.

Being a gracious host for dinner and golf must pay rewards in golfer heaven. Mike Smothermon carded at 75 Monday at White Mountain Country Club, but his wife, Vicky, finished with a strong round of 79 (net 64) to more than hold her own. Mike shot a 69 on Sunday giving him low gross honors two days in a row. Continue reading “High in the Pines”

Camelback Golf History is Made

Chip smilesWow!!! Those who know me will assure you that it is a rare occasion when I’m left speechless. Chip Nelson created one of those instants Wednesday when I was handed his group’s scorecard. Chip had just obliterated the existing course record for the Ambiente course by shooting a 60 from the Verde tees.

It was a warm day. Winds occasionally gusted to ten knots. The course was in good shape. The stage was set for an 11:10 a.m. tee off in a group with Dr. Jack Summers and Captain Lee Mitchell. The opening hole on the Ambiente course sets the tone. It’s a challenging dogleg with both fairway and green guarded with cavernous sand traps. Chip carded a birdie three.

Chip birdied the second hole and stood on the tee box of the 504 yard par 5 third hole. He was already two under par. He carded an eagle on the third to go four under after three. After another birdie on the fourth hole, Chip just missed the green with his drive on the par 4 fifth. That didn’t appear to hurt him because he chipped it in for another eagle. After five holes, Chip was seven under par!

Continue reading “Camelback Golf History is Made”