International Women’s Day and Golf

I am sharing this submission which will be edited and posted on http://www.golfchat.org/ GolfChat is a forum that connects and engages golfers from around the world every Tuesday on Twitter (#GolfChat).

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I drafted this on March 8, International Women’s Day as a response to a call from the #GolfChat Author’s Forum on the topic of Women’s Objectification in Golf Media.  There are many places to take a topic like this and issues of social media, objectification, demographics, sexuality and history are all themes which I am certain we will see woven throughout submissions.  Any my guess is that some authors will explore the issue from a deficit model, specifically, critiquing what is not right about how women are perceived in the game today.  All understood, all recognized.  However, I am going to try to take a different approach.   Here, I want to look at the richness of the game because of women’s participation and where golf media gets it right.  I am not trying to put my head in the sand here.  I want to look at this issue and let people know there are success stories; there is some good taking place.  I am an optimistic person and believe we all have an ability to affect positive change.  Our attitudes and behaviour matter and today, while we pause to reflect and respect the incredibly important role of women in the world, here’s what I love about women’s engagement in golf.

My favourite golf commentator is Judy Rankin.  It’s not even close between her and a second choice.  She is a consummate professional.  She is intelligent, articulate, engaging and honest.  Her knowledge comes from experience on the LPGA Tour as a 26-time winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member.  She takes the time to get to know the players and helps viewers build important connections to them as golfers.  I like the fact that the team during LPGA coverage is focused on their professional roles.  The fact that she is a woman is irrelevant to me, she’s just excellent in her role and I appreciate her work.  Juxtaposed to this is Morning Drive (and I use that only as an example).  Here, I struggle to make sense of why the male co-hosts can enjoy a relaxed role – khakis, maybe even spikeless golf shoes.  Women? Cite the day where any co-host has not had on a dress and likely heels (on odd occasion one may wear flat shoes), which makes any demonstration of golf skill awkward.  This shows the pervasiveness of the issue in question.

Last summer I had a chance to play a semi-private course in Toronto, called The Ladies Golf Club.  I wrote a course review and while the course was designed by one of Canada’s foremost golf course architects, Stanley Thompson, the person most important to its development is Ada Mackenzie.  Her story of a woman golfer seeking greater access for play in Canada around 1920 is well documented.  Her perseverance and drive resulted in the development of TLGC in 1924.  This course “is the only private golf club in North America where women have priority access to tee times, and where both women and men can enjoy golf in a welcoming atmosphere.”  And while Ada was battling for greater access for golf for women around the time of women’s suffrage there is a more pervasive challenge for women as they choose to enter into the world of golf.  Cassie Norris, fellow #GolfChat author and blogger wrote a brilliant piece (https://bandwagonersguidetogolf.com/2015/12/30/bandwagoning-the-boys-club/) that shows the extent of this issue today for her as a young woman new to the game of golf.   Beyond that, Cassie makes important contributions to golf through her blog and coordination of #GolfChat.

It’s no longer 1924 but the challenges of Cassie’s participation in this game are – in my opinion – only wrapped with new and more modern layers of pervasive gender bias.  So today, of all days, it is important for us to understand the contributions that women make to our world.  Many of us will look to our mom, maybe daughter or a friend as a woman who have inspired and supported us.  Drawing from this process and in the spirit of the day here are some ideas we can employ to make golf less the ‘boys club’ Cassie wrote about.  Some simple ideas for golfers: scrap the term ‘Ladies Tees’ and let’s call them Forward Tees; consider support for Fairways Fund (https://www.facebook.com/fairwaysfund/) which provides opportunity for young boys and girls to play this game; and embrace anyone who is new to the game – boy, girl, man, women.  Learn about and support initiatives like Golf Ontario’s ‘She Swings She Scores’ (https://gao.ca/she-swings-she-scores/). It’s all about respect. I feel golfers can understand that principle, but let’s expand the circle of respect to everyone who participates in the game, in any capacity. I really believe our individual actions can truly make a difference.  As opposed to waiting for change, let’s be the change and start calling out those who engage in disrespectful behaviour.

Looking Ahead to 2017

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Mid-January but always dreaming of getting in 36 a day!

We’re well into 2017 now and while the golf clubs continue to sit idly, except for indoor dome or simulator action, I know it’s only a few months now until the season begins.  But I am not spending of the off-season quietly sitting and waiting for spring’s arrival.  A new year brings optimism but also a plan and a commitment to improve.  So here are some thoughts, projections and plans for the year ahead:

  1. Getting my mind and body fit.

Reflecting back, I don’t think I’ve looked at my off-season preparation for golf in a truly holistic manner.  I’d try to hit balls as often as I could and workout every now and then but it never was truly effective.  A late summer move to my childhood hometown has helped me get into some more healthy habits.  Combined with a couple health apps on my smartphone and an investment in new exercise equipment I am giving 2017 a chance to be more healthy, happy and successful on (and off) the golf course.

Better sleep, better diet, an exercise regime which will focus on my heart and my overall flexibility are already helping me feel better.  I am reading more often – golf and non-golf books – and am starting to learn French.  All this to say is that my view on improving my golf game is being viewed physically, mentally and emotionally now.  I am continuing my golf lessons over the winter months and feel once I get to the middle of April I will be ready to build on my successes of last season.

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I can’t golf every day.  But like this sign says, at Eagles Glenn in Cavendish, PEI, I can have a good day and make choices to help me get better.

  1. More Champions and LPGA golf, less PGA Tour

Ever so slightly, I am starting to sour on the PGA tour.  Where I am finding enjoyment on

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I feel like I’m the only one not scoring 59.

TV is through the PGA Champions and LPGA.  Here I see players who hit it only slightly farther and play courses closer in length to what I do.  It is increasingly difficult for me to relate to PGA stars that hit the ball so far and are seemingly automatic around and on the greens.  I understand on TV we see the leaders play and those are the players who are playing the best.  But seeing pros dissect 500 yard par 4’s with driver and 9 iron just doesn’t appeal to me.  Maybe part of it is that in 2017 I become eligible for the Champions Tour (age-wise anyway. Yes, it’s a milestone year).  Don’t get me wrong, like you I’ll be glued to the Masters and all the important tournaments and I’ll still get more than my share of PGA Tour viewing in.  But with weekly scores of 59 or 60 now, and tour players’ relentless commitment to training the game is not what it once was to me.  My issue is not the players, it’s the ball…but that’s another rant for another day.

  1. Business Travel Plans

My 2017 business schedule is locked in.  I have extended visits to Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal lined up.  I certainly plan on tacking on some time out west to play Sagebrush and maybe one or two others on my Bucket List.  I have yet to explore the options (time or courses) for Ottawa or Montreal but the clubs will be coming with me and my habit of mixing some pleasure after business will continue.  I will do my research but not hesitate to put a call out on Twitter or FB for recommendations of places to play to help build my itinerary.  I’ll be hard pressed to match my success from the 2016 season which had me play in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick.  There, I was able to knock off 5 courses off the Bucket List as well as play two others.  This year I’d like to knock off just as many on my revised list.

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No trips to Cape Breton planned for 2017…yet!

  1. Membership has its privileges

It’s possible I’ve buried the lede here but I have joined Hidden Lake Golf Club in my hometown of Burlington, ON.  As an associate member I can control the value proposition for myself but still get all the benefits of belonging, including the chance to play in the Club Championship in August.  The membership structure is such I can still make a commitment to play public courses in the area from time to time (I will not abandon my pursuit of my bucket list) yet have access to practice and playing facilities close to my home and at a fraction of the cost of other area courses.  It’s been over 35 years since I was a member at a club so this will feel new but will also be exciting.  I expect to wear out their short game practice area over the year.  But even in terms of rounds played, 20 rounds is simply not going to cut it (that was my total for 2016, one of my lowest numbers in some time).

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Christmas Eve 2015 – Hidden Lake Golf Club

  1. Practice with purpose. Play more competitively.

My index is currently 9.6 but that is not consistent throughout my game.  My weakest parts of my game are irons and short game (I’m more a 15).  I’ve worked hard to become an average putter and my long game/tee game has vastly improved (here, I’m closer to a 5).  So, to get better I feel I need to focus 3/4 of my time inside of 150 yards and most of that inside of 50 yards.  My new course will provide me great access and space to do so.  Through my instruction with Brian McCann I will create a plan to review and address areas of my game which are weak.  I love practicing and get much from an hour or two on the greens, range or short game area.

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OK, maybe this is extreme, but I do plan on making a greater commitment to practice in 2017.

Also, I am hopeful to play more competitive golf in 2017.  I wrote about my experience in 2016 at the Golf Ontario Baka Public Player Championships.  I won’t be eligible for that this year and will need to focus within my new club to get the competitive experiences I now crave.  An August Club Championship and weekly Men’s night will be a good starting point.  I’ll explore other options too as I love the competitive nature of golf.  But even with that, my filter for golf will always be to have fun.  It’s an amazing game.

Like New Year’s resolutions (which I no longer make) I don’t want to set a firm goal for 2017.  I strive to be a scratch golfer and break par regularly.  I have never broken par, my best round +3.  However, if pressed on the issue I’d like to see if I can get my index down to 5.0  This is a milestone I am seeking to achieve.   I have much work to do to get there…we’ll see how things go!

It’s going to be a fun 2017 golf season; I hope it’s an enjoyable and successful.

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Here’s to many great days for us all in 2017.  Play well friends.

 

Requiem to the 2016 Golfing Season

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Requiem to the 2016 Golfing Season

OK, requiem may be a little over the top, but the official end of the golf season always makes me a little sad.  Golf Canada sets the Ontario season as April 15 to October 31 and, well, here we are on closing day.  I won’t be playing today and as such my index will remain in single digits albeit precariously so.

It’s been a great and memorable season and I hope the same is true for you too.  Closing day is a good time to reflect back on the year that was.

The bucket list continues to get dwindled down with trips to Tobiano, Salmon Arm, Banff Springs, Stewart Creek and Algonquin to put a healthy dent in the list.  My home province of Ontario is woefully underrepresented and I’ll have to address that in 2017.  Speaking of my bucket list, I have placed a call to followers on Twitter and my FB page for courses to consider adding to my list.  I’ve had about 16 additions and they look sensational.  My goal is to bolster the bucket list to close to 100 courses across Canada.

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What a beautiful day for golf!  A cool, sunny September and first group off at stunning Algonquin Golf Club in St. Andrews By-the-Sea, N.B.

Another great highlight from the year was the chance to tee it up with fellow bloggers and twitter friends.  A spring round in Calgary at the home course of Josh with @golfismental and a summer round with Tiffany @tiffchaisson and @fairwaysfund were memorable highlights.  Playing two private courses as well – Calgary GCC and The Ladies Club were simply a bonus.  But it was the company, spending quality time with two great people that made the experience.

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Tiff, with what may well be the best golfing photobomb shot ever.

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Josh and Mike set to tee it up at historic Calgary GC

I am appreciative of my engagement with the Golf Journalist Association of Canada.  Here, I was able to play with another twitter friend, Jeremy at @meximenno   It was a classy move of Jeremy to fly in from Winnipeg for the GJAC Annual Awards Dinner and Golf Day.  A great round at Beverly Golf Club outside of Hamilton provided the venue for an enjoyable experience with colleagues and friends.

I engaged the amazing services of Herb McNally @McTwentyTwo to develop a new and strong visual identity for 36aday.  Dare I say I have a visual ‘brand’ now.  You may notice a subtle change in my twitter avatar as the logo is now red.  Red will be the off season colour and green will be for golf season.  Thanks for the great work Herb, love it.

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Going with the off-season red until April 2017.

I’m enjoying my continued relationship with Canadian Golf Magazine.  Showcasing my course reviews to a wider national and international audience is something I am very grateful to be able to do.  And while I have yet to tee it up with the Editor, Frank Mastroianni, it is something to look forward to for 2017.

Also, in terms of golf relationships, I am very pleased to be a brand ambassador for Snell Golf Canada.  A true believer in their quality golf balls, I want to help introduce players to these products and allow them to make informed decisions on playing a quality ball at a quality price.  Order online and use 36aday (1-5 dozen) or 36aday6 (6 dozen +) for $2 off per dozen on any orders.  Turns good value into great value.

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My game continues it steady progression.  Working with Brian McCann with Brampton Golf and Country Club has set my game on a firm foundation and allowed me to increase my expectation.  A summer move derailed my playing and practice schedule and my index remained relatively stagnant just below 10.  But recent lessons to maximize my play off the tee raised expectation and help lower scores this fall.  A successful tournament experience at Golf Ontario’s Public Play Championships was a real highlight.

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But my best memory was a quick and casual 9 holes with my Dad at his home course, Oxley Beach outside of Kingsville, Ontario.  I’ll never forget it.  It captures all I love about the game; quality time with people I care about.

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So as the official season comes to an end I’ll continue to play until courses tell me I can’t.  I’ll work on my game and I’ll work on my writing and this blog.  I am grateful for what 2016 provided me and am excited and hopeful for more of the same in 2017!  Best wishes for a safe and healthy off-season.

Competitive Golf – Call Me Addicted

Competitive Golf – Call Me Addicted

A two-day provincial public player tournament in late August was only my second foray into formal competitive play.  Member-guest experiences (mine anyway), while competitive, are a little more casual in their structure and feel.  My first competitive golf experience was in 2011, similar event as this.  Golf Ontario is my provincial association and is formally affiliated with Golf Canada.  The event has all the formality of any event you’d expect; there is formal communications, a draw based on flights determined by the skill of the entrants, registration, a scorer’s tent, even a hand written score board and a starter who calls each player by name and city to the first tee.  I loved it.

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Competitive golf events are also sponsor supported.  Baka Wireless is the title sponsor for Golf Ontario’s Public Player tournament.

Playing of a 10.6 index at the time of registration I was in the C Flight, which meant I was in the lowest third of the almost 99 entries and were able to play from a course about 6300 yards and in a format that is Gross scoring (which is my score minus my index which is factored according to the slope rating of the course).  For me, this meant I got 12 strokes deducted a round.  I hadn’t exactly been lighting it up this summer; in fact, my game has regressed from June until now where I simply had not been able to score well.  I was getting loose off the tee and a mid-August lesson with CPGA professional Brian McCann from Brampton GCC set me on track and unleashed a new confidence I had not felt in some time.

A late summer move from Mississauga to Burlington had derailed my plans for regular summer play and practice so I entered the event with modest expectation (meaning none).  My only three goals were to have fun, focus on each and every shot, and accept the fact that over 36 holes there will be some loose shots.  After all, there’s a reason I am in C flight.  The event was hosted at DiamondBack Golf Club in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  The course in managed by ClubLink which is the same course conglomerate which controls Glen Abbey (home of the RBC Canadian Open).  Conditions were ideal and with a late morning tee time on the first day I felt prepared and had a quiet calm, dare I say confidence.

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A selfie in the late morning heat at DiamondBack Golf Club.

With a game plan off the tee, I started strong and carded a respectable 87 on round one which netted me at +3 and T-9 in my flight of 30.  With inverted tee times on Day 2, our flight was off first and my play afforded me a humane tee time.  Again, I played to a deliberate plan focusing on putting the ball in play off the tee.  I putted much better and scored an 82.  Overall, I finished T-5 with a two day net total of +1.

Golf Ontario ran a first class event.  The staff and volunteers were amazing and very helpful and supportive to all the players.  I’m already flagging the time in my calendar for next year.  Yes, after a fun two days of competitive play I am completely hooked.

In closing, I have never played golf with such a deliberate cadence.  From pre shot thinking, to attempted execution and complete acceptance I have no regrets about my approach.  Much advice I received from people I know focused on fun and purposeful routine.  Mission accomplished.  I’d love to hear about your competitive golf experiences and how you managed your play.  From my first event in 2011, I was able to mature on the course and play better, smarter and more fun golf.  After all, this does not affect my tour earnings of world golf rankings, but I did try my best, smile a lot and savour each second.

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The handwritten master scoreboard is a great touch.  Makes the event seem very official.  Great work, Golf Ontario.

I wish I could do this more regularly.  I know there are options through the GolfChannel AM Tour and the GTA AM Golf Tour.  But my combination of being loyal and value conscious, I think I’ll wait to 2017 for the Golf Ontario Public Players.  I can’t wait!