Friday, December 9

Vin Scully: A Pure Voice Goes Silent

Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 22 at the White House. Below is a version of my commentary that appeared in the Roanoke Times as Mr. Scully was wrapping up his legendary career.

THE SPACE UNDERNEATH THE LEFT-FIELD PAVILION was a Vin Scully echo chamber. Broadcast on mighty KFI, 640 on the AM dial, the announcer’s voice could be heard throughout Dodger Stadium during the pregame show, but we always heard it in and around the left-field pavilion, a “family friendly” spot before the term existed or was even needed.

It was circa 1970. I was a 12-year-old boy who had recently moved to Southern California from Indiana. Dodger Stadium overwhelmed my senses and Vin Scully was music to my young ears. “Grab a Dodger Dog,” he’d say, “made by our friends at Farmer John.” As I recall, a Dodger Dog, a 10-inch pork and beef frank, was about a buck. I liked mine with yellow mustard and real onions—raw and coarsely chopped. I gobbled it down as we watched batting practice from the long, beige bench seats in the left-field pavilion.

Los Angeles was a big, exciting place for this Indiana boy. It was an hour drive to the sprawling city and Dodger Stadium from our new home in Palmdale on the edge of the high desert. In those days, locals called traveling to LA from the Antelope Valley going “down below.” We took 14 to I-5, exiting at Stadium Way and then winding up the hill and through the canyons to Chavez Ravine.

From the moment we entered the gates, the sounds at Dodger Stadium were unmistakable: the perky organ that musically narrated the action, the insistent cries of the food and drink vendors roaming the stands, the loud crack of a wooden bat in the hands of a big leaguer and, of course, the silky voice of Vin Scully.

“It’s time for Dodger baseball! Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be.”

The Dodger home uniforms were as white as sea gulls, trimmed in “Dodger” blue with red numbers. Wearing those magnificent uniforms in 1970 were, among others, Maury Wills, Willie Davis, Wes Parker, Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Manny Mota, Don Sutton, Claude Osteen and Charlie Hough. Walter Alston, nicknamed “Smokey,” was the manager. Wills was the highest-paid Dodger that season by a wide margin. His salary was $88,000.

I don’t recall seeing the best National League teams such as the rival Cincinnati Reds. I do recall seeing cellar dwellers like the San Diego Padres. That made it easier to get into the game—and to find a prime spot in the left-field pavilion. We always arrived early, an hour or more before the first pitch.

We watched the teams take infield and batting practice. Occasionally a baseball would fly deep to left and clear the wall. A scramble for the precious souvenir ensued. Once the game began, I stared a hole in the back of whomever played left field. I studied the long warm-up tosses of the outfielders between innings. Sometimes they looked our way and acknowledged our cheers. And sometimes fans heckled the opposing players.

The left-field pavilion was also the place to peer into the Dodger bullpen. I remember Hough, the knuckleballer, and others loosening up their arms and hearing the rhythmic thud of the catcher’s mitt.

In later years, when I was in my twenties, Vin Scully was my companion on drives between San Diego and Palmdale. On hot summer nights, with windows rolled down, he talked me through Temecula, Riverside, San Bernardino and over Cajon Pass and onto the high desert.

By that time I was no longer a true-blue Dodgers fan; I just loved listening to their announcer rhapsodize about baseball on a summer evening. I was still a Vin Scully fan. I’ve always been a Vin Scully fan.

That voice going silent after this, his 67th year broadcasting Dodgers games, saddens me. Whether in a ballpark or another walk of life, there are few voices as pure and enduring as Vin Scully’s. How can we afford to lose him?

Thursday, December 8

USGA Rule Change: No Penalty for Accidental Ball Movement on Putting Green

This was long overdue. Following is the USGA news release.

FAR HILLS, N.J. (Dec. 8, 2016) – The USGA and The R&A today announced the introduction of a new Local Rule that eliminates the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green. The Local Rule will be available for any committee in charge of a competition to use starting Jan. 1, 2017. It will be adopted by the USGA and The R&A in all of their championships, qualifying competitions and international matches.

"Eliminating this penalty responds to the concerns we have heard from both golfers and committees about the difficulties in applying the current Rules when a player accidentally causes a ball to move on the putting green," said Thomas Pagel, USGA senior director, Rules of Golf and Amateur Status, said. "This change is a good example of the type of Rules Modernization changes we hope to implement after completing our fundamental review of all of the Rules. We are looking for ways to improve the Rules by making them easier to understand and apply."

David Rickman, executive director - Governance at The R&A, said, "For the past several years, as part of The R&A and USGA's Rules Modernization initiative, we have considered the penalty for a ball that is accidentally moved on the putting green. Both Rules Committees agreed that it needed to be changed and decided that in this particular case it was important to act now, through a Local Rule, rather than wait for the next overall set of revisions to the Rules of Golf."

The Local Rule has been welcomed by all of the major tours worldwide, and the PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA, PGA of America and the Masters Tournament are among the golf organizations that will implement the Local Rule for all future events, beginning Jan. 1, 2017.
If a committee wishes to introduce this Local Rule, the following wording is recommended:

"Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1 are modified as follows:
When a player’s ball lies on the putting green, there is no penalty if the ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved by the player, his partner, his opponent, or any of their caddies or equipment,

The moved ball or ball-marker must be replaced as provided in Rules 18-2, 18-3 and 20-1.
This Local Rule applies only when the player’s ball or ball-marker lies on the putting green and any movement is accidental.

Note: If it is determined that a player’s ball on the putting green was moved as a result of wind, water or some other natural cause such as the effects of gravity, the ball must be played as it lies from its new location. A ball-marker moved in such circumstances is replaced."

For more information about the new Local Rule, including explanatory diagrams, videos and a detailed question-and-answer document, please visit

Wednesday, December 7

Fake Golf News: A Tiger Woods Love Letter

This fake golf news is from the archives and based on actual events.

November 15, 2009

Dear Tiger,

Where did the time go?

It seems like it was just yesterday that you were stepping off your Gulfstream at Essendon and were whisked away in a limo. We now realise this past week went way too fast.

Good on ya, mate. You have once again proven yourself as the world's greatest golfer. Our sincere congratulations for winning the "other" Masters. We are so honored to have you as our champion. To be perfectly candid, we were rooting for you and are thrilled you got the job done. (Relieved, actually. Ha ha!)

We love our own—Chalmers, Nitties, Scott, Appleby, Ogilvy, Parry, Pampling and all our boys—but they have had their chances over the years and will have many more. This was the year of the Tiger.

Please, please, please do not stay away so long between visits. We are accustomed to hardship. It is part of our national identity. But 11 years is a very long wait, even for us. We will do everything humanly possible to make any visit unbelievable. We think you know that.

Or just drop by whenever you are in the neighborhood. (Maybe on your way back from Asia next year.) We promise not to make such a terrible fuss. It could be a small bash. (We would not have to tell Brumby or other pollies and curtail the journos and earbash.)

Thanks again for coming. It exceeded our expectations in every way. Hugs and kisses and camera clicks! (Not when you are in mid swing, of course.)

Love always,

P.S. Do write. Even if just an occasional email from your agent.

P.P.S. If for some reason you cannot make it back to Oz, we will always have Kingston Heath.

Tuesday, December 6

Thomas Bjorn: 'This Is One of the Greatest Days in My Career'

THOMAS BJORN HAD BEEN LOOKING forward to the day when he would get his turn as European Ryder Cup captain. It finally happened on Tuesday.

Courtesy of Callaway Golf
The 45-year-old Dane will be the skipper for the European side at the 2018 Ryder Cup near Paris. He is the first Scandinavian to serve in that role.

"It's a huge honor for me to be named European captain ..." Bjorn said. "This is one of the greatest days in my career."

Bjorn has plenty of Ryder Cup experience as both a player and an assistant captain. He played on victorious teams in 1997, 2002 and 2014. He served as an assistant in 2004, 2010, 2012 and 2016. Hard to imagine how he could be more ready to take the reins.

Bjorn was picked by a committee that included Europe's last three Ryder Cup captains: Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Colin Montgomerie.

Bjorn added, "I studied a lot of captains as a player and as a vice captain, and always wondered what that feeling would be like to be the one leading out a team of 12 great players. Now it's my turn to do just that and it is an exciting moment for me. I have lived and breathed the European Tour for so long, and now I will do the same with the Ryder Cup for the next two years."

Monday, December 5

Win-Win: Hideki Matsuyama Wins, Tiger Woods Plays

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA WON THE HERO WORLD CHALLENGE for his fourth victory in his last five starts. Matsuyama finished at 18 under, and, except for a 73 on Sunday, he made it look easy.

"I played very, very well until today," Matsuyama told Golf Channel. "Today I struggled a little bit."

Henrik Stenson finished second at 16 under after a final-round 68.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods started and finished his first 72-hole event in 466 days. Tiger shot 73, 65, 70 and 76 to finish 15th in the field of 17 players.

"I think it was a great week to be back," Tiger said. "Playing again and competing and playing against the best players in the world. Unfortunately I made a lot of mistakes this week. I made a lot of birdies but also made a lot of mistakes."

He added, "I made some poor decisions, missed the ball in some wrong spots and quite frankly it feels a little weird not to play in a cart. So, it is a little different and getting used to that and getting my legs back and getting my body back and focusing for a long period of time. These are all things that I missed for about a year and a half."

It's hard not to see Tiger's first event back as a big success. He went the distance, his body held up, he posted four scores. And if you need another positive, Tiger didn't finish dead last. He beat two guys in a good field. That's something, right?

I wouldn't expect much more at this point.

Friday, December 2

Things (Including Golf Things) Our Kids Will Never Experience

YOU KNOW YOU'RE AGING when you notice and read AARP articles such as "10 Things Our Kids Will Never Learn."

Nothing wrong with that, though, because I'm a boomer. Maybe you can relate.

Following is a partial list from that article on "boomer knowledge that's becoming obsolete."

From AARP, our kids will never learn ...

How to read a map.
How to send stuff in the mail.
How to write in cursive.
How to balance a check book.
How to make change in their heads.
How to drive a stick shift.

There are more, of course.

Now a golf list by yours truly. Same idea. Our kids will never ...

(NOTE: The following aren't absolutes, but true of some or many, or perhaps moving in this direction.)

Wear metal spikes.
Estimate yardage using eyesight.
Play with persimmon and other 20th-century golf clubs.
Walk the golf course.
Carry their golf clubs.
Maintain a "shag" bag and shag their own golf balls.
Learn golf etiquette and basic rules before going out on the golf course.
Read golf instruction books.
Clean clubs, shine shoes and do other golf-related chores.
Hang out at the golf course all day/all summer (including playing cards and doing other activities).

What else?

Thursday, December 1

Buy My Book, Get Arnold Palmer's Book FREE

Both THE LONGEST SHOT and DRAW IN THE DUNES were nominated
for the USGA's Herbert Warren Wind Book Award.

WITH THE HOLIDAYS APPROACHING, I'd like to offer you one of my hardcover books for sale at a reasonable price ($20) for your gift or other needs. I'll also autograph or inscribe it.

PLUS I'll give you a free book. I have four copies of ARNOLD PALMER: A Life Well Played, currently Amazon's No. 1 selling golf book. With a purchase of my book, I'll throw in Arnold's book free (while supplies last).

Email me at and we can work out the details.

Wednesday, November 30

Hero World Challenge: Golf, The Bahamas and a Generous Purse

YOU AND I WOULD BE GUARANTEED a top-20 finish and a hefty check if we teed off in the Hero World Challenge, which starts tomorrow at the Albany Resort in the Bahamas. The tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.

That's because this silly season event has an 18-player field. So dead last would be 18th place, some good bank and perhaps some world ranking points. Plus a trip to the Bahamas.

I'll just dream on.

Despite the small field, there are several marquee players showing up at Albany, including six of the top 10 and 16 of the top 30 in the world rankings. Not to mention three of the four major winners in 2016. They include Dustin Johnson (No. 3), Henrik Stenson (No. 4), Jordan Spieth (No. 5), Hideki Matsuyama (No. 6), Patrick Reed (No. 8) and Bubba Watson (No. 10).

Watson is the defending champion. Patrick Reed was the runner-up. The 2015 purse was $3.5 million with a million going to the winner.

This year, oddsmakers like Johnson (5/1) and Spieth (6/1).

Here's the 18-man field:

Tiger Woods
Dustin Johnson
Henrik Stenson
Jordan Spieth
Hideki Matsuyama
Bubba Watson
Rickie Fowler
Patrick Reed
Justin Rose
Emiliano Grillo
J.B. Holmes
Zach Johnson
Russell Knox
Brooks Koepka
Matt Kuchar
Louis Oosthuizen
Brandt Snedeker
Jimmy Walker