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Sometimes the most amazing moments happen

I had a sort of amazing moment the other day, when something flashed through my mind for the first time in my life.

I was playing golf and I was enjoying a pretty good round. I had a shot at breaking 80, and if I hadn’t missed three or four short putts earlier, it would have been a lock.

I was seven over par through 15 holes, which would have meant I needed three pars for a 79. But on the par three 16th hole, I put my drive on the green and then rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt to go to six under.

That was nice, but it wasn’t the amazing moment.

Sun City Peachtree 17th green in winter.

On 17 — a par four — I put my tee shot out in the middle of the fairway, about 180 yards from the hole. I took out my fairway wood, lined up my shot and swung. Then came the amazing moment.

I don’t know why it was, but as I made contact and saw the shot heading out down the fairway, two words crossed my mind.

“That’s perfect.”

It damn near was. The flag was near the back of the green, and then shot was heading directly on line with the flag. That’s rare enough for me, but when it does happen, I usually sacrifice distance and don’t reach the putting surface. Either that or the shot doesn’t bite and goes all the way through and off the green at the back.

Not this time. The shot never hooked or sliced, and it hit the green, rolled a while and stopped 10 feet from the hole. A truly perfect shot would have gone in for an eagle 2, but that would have been too Hollywood even for me. As it turned out, I missed the birdie putt and tapped in for par. When  I bogeyed the tough 18th hole, I had my 79 — the fifth or sixth time I’ve broken 80 since I started playing this course.

I have been playing two or three times a week, and after years of thinking my game would improve if I made it out more often, I feel like I’ve been proven right.

Someday I’ll have the reaction I had the other day and the shot will actually turn out to be perfect. It’ll go in for an eagle or maybe even a hole in one.

But for now, the amazing feeling that flashed through my mind when I hit my second shot on 17 will be enough.

More than enough.


posted by Mike in golf,Happiness,retirement and have No Comments

A quick visit to see very little of a pretty city

Beautiful Augusta

Augusta is supposed to be one of the prettier cities in Georgia, but I didn’t get to see much of it in my first visit.

My lovely wife had an 8:15 a.m. appointment to see a neurologist at Medical College of Georgia, and since we live about 150 miles west of Augusta, we decided to drive in the night before. We arrived about 8:30 p.m., stopped in at Subway for a sandwich for our evening meal and then went to our motel.

We were at the neurologist’s office by 7 a.m. — rough night sleeping — and the doctor was very prompt at getting her in on time. I dozed in a chair in the waiting room, and Nicole met with the doctor for about three hours. We were back on the road by noon — after another Subway pit stop — and home by 3 p.m.

We didn’t see any of the beautiful older neighborhoods, and all I saw of the classic Augusta National Golf Course was a couple of closed gates by which people will enter in a few weeks to see the Masters.

My friend Brian Robin described a course in Mississippi as the “best course in the state that you can actually play.” Well, Augusta National is one of the most famous courses in the country that you can never play. It’s a private club that is extremely exclusive in its membership. I know my friend Tom Kensler got to play the course once because he covered the Masters for the Denver Post, and I think it was on the day after the tournament that they let reporters play the course.

I did have one sort of interesting things that almost happened. An old friend of mine, a girl I dated 44 years ago and haven’t seen since we stopped dating, is a doctor at MCG. I was sitting in the waiting room in the Neurology Department on the fourth floor of the massive office building, and her office was two floors below me.

Did I stop by and see her?

Not a chance.

I don’t bother people who are doing serious work.

At least not people who might be holding scalpels.

Oh, most important of all, the doctor gave Nicole a relatively clean bill of health.




posted by Mike in Family,Georgia,Happiness,Health and have No Comments

On the links wonderful after a long absence

When Nicole and I moved to Georgia, one of the things that excited me the most about our new community was that it was designed around a golf course.

My favorite Par 5 -- No. 8

Instead of driving 45 miles as I did in Southern California to play at the lovely Empire Lakes course in Rancho Cucamonga, all I have to do now is walk about a quarter mile to the first tee. Last winter I played 18 holes in 28-degree weather — I was the only person on the course — and in May I played maybe 20 times.

But when we came back from Europe in July and Nicole was having health problems, I didn’t find myself making the effort to get onto the course as often. I played a couple of times in September and October, and then went out for nine holes on November 2nd.

I didn’t play again for more than four months.

Then today, on a windy late-winter day, I got my clubs out of the garage, went down to the clubhouse and paid to play 18 holes. I hadn’t swung any of my clubs in longer than I cared to remember, although I had played 18 holes — sort of — indoors in Seattle with my son-in-law on a wonderful simulator.

We played St. Andrew’s. My score was somewhere in the 120s. I was out of shape and I couldn’t get accustomed to hitting a ball into a screen.

My first swing today was nothing special. A drive that went maybe 130 yards. In fact, I double-bogeyed the first hole, but heck, I did that maybe a third of the time when I played regularly. It’s one of the two or three toughest holes on the course.

What surprised me the most was that things got better after that. I put my tee shot on the fringe on the second hole and two-putted for a par. I parred the fourth hole as well, and after a second double bogey on No. 6, I parred the seventh hole and bogeyed the eighth.

On the par three ninth hole, I hit a bad shot — topped it — but got a good result as the ball wound up on the green, 42 feet away from the hole.

I have a tendency to three-putt in those situations, but I hit this one as well as I possibly could. The ball came to a stop about 10 inches to the left of the hole. I tapped in for par and a quite respectable 43 for nine holes.

I called it quits at that point and walked off feeling pretty good.

Today was the fifth day of my diet-and-exercise regimen, and it was the first day I substituted golf for walking. It worked pretty well, and things are fine in general — down 11 pounds the first four days. I still have a helluva long way to go, but after five days, I’m into my routine.

That’s half the battle at this point.



posted by Mike in Exercise,golf,Happiness,Health and have No Comments

It’s summer now, but not summer forever

It’s August, and it’s very hot and humid here in Georgia.

It doesn’t bother me, though, because for the first time in 22 summers, I am living through a summer that is going to end.

Mike, isn’t that a little bit of an exaggeration? Summers in California don’t last forever.

No, they just seem to. You cannot imagine how frustrating it is to someone who loves the changing seasons to go outside in the middle of December and find that it’s 90 degrees outside.

By that same token, you cannot imagine how wonderful it was for me last December to play 18 holes of golf here at Sun City Peachtree when it was 28 degrees outside. I was the only person on the entire course, and I was too bundled up to score well, but it was so much fun to feel cold.

SCP in December.

In winter, the Bermuda grass is anything but green. When they told me how beautiful it would be in summertime, it was almost impossible to believe. But now, whenever I’m out on the course, or just when I drive down Spring Forest past the first and ninth holes, the course is the most gorgeous shade of green you could ever imagine.

And me? As much as I like it, I’m looking forward to seeing the green disappear for the winter.

I’m looking forward to the fall, too. For the first time since the ’80s, I’m back in a part of the country where college football really matters. Folks around here are already talking about the Dawgs (Georgia), the National Champion Auburn Eagles, ‘Bama and all the other big programs.

We didn’t get here last year until just about the end of the season, and most of the excitement for Georgia schools was pretty well past. But what’s great about football Saturdays in the fall is that sometimes they’re chilly.

This might seem like a strange post for the first week in August. Earlier this week, I shot a 39 on the front nine and was only two over par on the back nine when I decided to call it a day because of the heat. I was on track to shoot a 78 or 79, but I play often enough that I could walk away and not feel bad about it.

Anyway, summer will be over before I know it.


posted by Mike in Georgia,golf,Happiness and have No Comments

Fear not the passport photo; golf is scary though

Ah, timing.

We moved to Georgia last November, and I went in for my driver’s license picture and my Sun City ID badge at a time when I was at my thinnest in more than 20 years. The pictures weren’t bad, but I noticed that with my face as thin as it was and my hair really short, I looked old.

My passport photo

I gained some weight over the winter, so when I realized that my passport was going to expire a week before our trip to Europe next month, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of having a passport photo taken.

I actually found an old picture that I liked, but it was too old. I think it was taken at least 10-12 years ago, and I had my hair permed. I figured it would be silly to color the gray out of my hair and get a perm just to look like my passport photo.

So I combed my hair and went to Wal-Mart to have a passport picture taken. The result is the picture you see here, and it actually came as a pleasant surprise to me. The biggest surprise, something I have noticed only in the last couple of days, is that playing so much golf this spring has enabled me to get some color in my complexion.

At any rate, I’ll be looking at this picture in my passport until I’m 71, God willing.

I can live with that.


Nicole has gone on sort of a decorating spree the last couple of days, so we’ve got more rugs, chairs, etc., coming. In fact, once that stuff arrives, I think we’ll be about 98 percent done with what we want to do with the house.

I actually got a minor injury the other night carrying in a UPS package containing a chair for the sun room. I whacked my index finger — the lower half of it — against something and I have a fairly painful bone bruise on my right hand.


There's a tomato in there.

Thankfully, it hasn’t stopped me from watering my tomato plants. If you look closely at the left side of the photo, about halfway up, you’ll see the beginning of one of the first tomatoes of the season.

Yeah, I know. Big deal.

My choice is to write about my golf game, which has gone south this week. I had an extremely weird 18 holes Tuesday, in which I was five over for the first four holes, then had seven pars out of the next 10 and finished six over for the final four holes for an overall score of 86.

It got worse Wednesday. I played only nine holes, and was three over after five before I went double bogey, bogey, double bogey and bogey to finish with a 45.

Those are my worst scores in a while, and my biggest problem is that I’m not reaching greens in regulation. Where a few weeks ago I was driving 210-220 yards consistently, most of my drives this week have been in the 160-170 range.

I’ve decided I might be getting a little stale. I didn’t play today and I might try to stay off the course till Monday.

If that doesn’t work, I might have to sacrifice a chicken.

You think I’m kidding?



posted by Mike in Exercise,Gardening,Georgia,golf,Happiness,retirement and have No Comments

We’re genuinely enjoying ourselves in Georgia

I don’t know how to explain it, but there is something so genuine about living in Georgia.

I’ve written before about how impressed Nicole was with the people when we were here twice in March 2010 buying our house, but it seems like every week I see some little thing that makes me realize this is a pretty great place to live.

I know I have already mentioned that Griffin — a city of only about 20,000 people — has more than 50 different Baptist churches, and I know I’ve posted pictures of some of the signs I see advertising services. One in particular seems to be pretty good at coming up with different aphorisms.

Funny church

Since I’m Roman Catholic, I doubt I’ll ever go to a service at Vineyard Baptist Church, but I would like those folks to know they have brightened my day a few times with their sense of humor.

We’ve been barreling along toward summer recently, with temperatures in the 80s and fairly high humidity as well, but today was a big surprise. It was supposed to rain, and it might yet, but the temperature was only in the mid 60s and it was cloudy with something of a cold wind.

I thought it might be a good day to play 18 holes, and since I didn’t want to be caught a long way out on the course walking, I took a cart today. My game has slipped recently, and I’m not sure why. After playing 21 times in 31 days, I’ve only been out three days of the last seven. I shot a 44 on Tuesday and a 43 on Friday, and I didn’t start out well today either.

At the turn, I had a 43 — three pars and one double bogey.

For some reason, I’m getting a lot less distance off the tee lately, and I’m reaching far fewer greens in regulation. Where I was driving 220-230 yards off the tee, I seem to be down to 170-180 the last few times out. And where I was reaching the greens with my approach shots, I seem to be either coming up short or landing off to one side or another.

But what I now consider bad scores — 43 or 44 for nine holes — are scores that once would have been very good for me, so I don’t want to get too discouraged.

Cloudy day

The course wasn’t real crowded, and most of the people I came across were Georgia Nice. We chatted, and since I was playing alone, they let me play through.

After I bogeyed the 10th hole, I started getting it together. A couple of pars and a couple more bogeys left me 10 over after 14 holes, and then I went for the big finish. I did something I’ve never done before. I parred the last four holes, including rolling in a 23-foot putt on the 17th hole.

I shot 39 on the back nine and finished with an 82.

I didn’t realize it until this minute, because I’ve had at least half a dozen rounds better than that, but 82 is still better than I had ever shot for 18 holes until about two months ago.

I still miss playing with Chuck and Mickey, my two golfing partners for the last 15 years or so in California. Playing alone was strange at first, but as I said, I’ve gotten used to it and I can actually complete most of my swings now without pulling the headphone wires out of my iPod.

I really do love it here, and so does Nicole. Because she is working so hard on her research, we haven’t gotten involved in any activities in the community yet. So it isn’t at all surprising for us to go through the day without talking to anyone except each other.

That’s OK for now.

In fact, it’s better than OK.

We both love it here, and that’s wonderful.

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posted by Mike in Family,Friends,Georgia,golf,Happiness,retirement and have No Comments

Golf leaves me feeling goofy, squishy and happy

When I walked off the golf course today, I felt like I was about 14 years old.

Not in a good way, either. I did something really goofy on the 18th hole, and it was pretty embarrassing to have to go into the pro shop and admit it.

I hit a mediocre tee shot on the 18th hole, and even though I fully intended to play it, I did what I often do when I’m playing alone and there’s no one behind me. I hit a few more balls to try and get the shot right. Two of the balls went into some tall grass off the fairway, and I decided to go in after them — in my golf cart.

Uh huh. I have no idea why the middle part of the grass was muddy — it has been days since we had any rain — but whatever the reason, I reached a point where the cart wouldn’t go forward and it wouldn’t go back. It was stuck in the mud, and when I decided to abandon the cart and carry my bag the rest of the way, I stepped into some fairly deep mud myself.

My right foot

As you can see from the accompanying photo, at one point my entire right shoe was submerged in mud. The left foot wasn’t quite as bad, but I still felt like sort of an idiot. Couple that with the fact that my lovely daughter had called me a dumbass earlier in the day (see previous post) and I was definitely not enjoying myself on Mother’s Day.

They actually thanked me when I came in and told them about the stuck cart. Apparently it isn’t all that uncommon for people to get their cart stuck somewhere and just abandon it without letting anyone know.

The irony of it was that when I walked in my muddy shoes to where my first shot had landed, I saw that I was about 130 yards from the pin, although a tight group of about a dozen trees was directly in my way.

I figured what the heck and hit a seven-wood directly at the trees. Amazingly — they do say trees are 90 percent air — the ball passed through unmolested, hit on the green and scooted through, just off at the back. I chipped to within five feet of the hole and then made the putt for par, finishing an amazing round.

I had gotten off to a slow start, bogeying the first four holes. I parred four of the next five to finish the front nine with a 41, although I bogeyed the seventh hole, one of my more consistent par holes.

I started the back nine with two bogeys, so I was seven over after 11 holes. My only chance at breaking 80 would be to par the last seven holes, which I have never done. Not even close.

I parred the par-five 12th, the par-four 13th and the par-five 14th, but I bogeyed the easy 15th hole when I three-putted. That meant that even if I parred the last three — three of the toughest holes on the course for me — the best I could do was an 80.

I parred 16 thanks to a terrific chip, and I put my second shot on the par-four 17th 15 feet from the hole from 160 yards out. Then I stunned myself — I have been putting horribly lately — by rolling in a 15-footer for my first birdie ever on that hole.

When I parred 18, I had shot 38 on the back nine and walked away in my squishy, muddy shoes with a 79.

So I felt stupid, but happy.


Just a note at the end. It’s the third time in the last month that I’ve broken 80, and I’m sure a lot of it is that I’m improving because I’m playing a lot of golf. I added it up, and I believe I have played golf 21 times in the last 31 days, including seven times in the last eight days.

In other words, I have played more golf in the last month that I usually played in a year when I was living in California.

posted by Mike in Georgia,golf,Happiness,humor,retirement and have Comment (1)

Out again on a really beautiful day

It’s still early, but the spring here has been really beautiful so far.

It rained last night, so today was cooler and fresher than yesterday. I have been getting out to walk this week, and for the third consecutive day, I was on the golf course. I could be wrong, but I think this was the first time in my life I have played golf three days in a row.

Beautiful blue skies.

Last night’s storm blew away the clouds, except for a few wispy ones, and the skies seemed so clean and blue.

I rode today, but I did a lot of walking around the course taking pictures. It’s funny. When I’m on the golf course I take dozens of pictures of nature, and when I look at them later, I hardly ever use them.

But I do enjoy looking at them. The course is getting greener and greener, and I can tell that by the time summer is here, it is going to be truly beautiful.

It started out to be a very frustrating round. The shots I had been making Sunday and Monday weren’t going down today, and after eight holes, I had only one par and seven bogeys. I was looking at a score in the high 80s.

But things got better. On the ninth hole, I put my tee shot on the edge of the green and then two-putted for par and a 43 on the front nine.

Then I started having fun. I parred the 10th, which I don’t usually do, and the par five 12th hole. I birdied the par-five 14th when I rolled in a 22-foot putt from the edge of the green, and then parred 15 and 16, leaving me just one over par on the back nine.

Looking down to 16

I’m not sure why, but 16 has been a tough hole for me. This was the first time I parred it, and even then it wasn’t easy. My first putt on the par three was from 35 feet, and to complete the par I had to knock in an eight-footer.

I bogeyed 17, but came back and parred the last hole for the second day in a row. It gave me a 38 on the back nine — the first time I’ve broken 40 — and it meant that I had played the last 10 holes in just two over par.

Dang, I’m really having fun playing golf these days.

The 81 I shot meant that the last three rounds I’ve played are 81, 79 and 81 — the three best rounds of 18 holes on a full-length course I have ever shot.

It’s going to be a great summer.

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posted by Mike in Exercise,Georgia,golf,Happiness and have No Comments

A pretty fine spring day on the golf course

The grass is getting green.

It was an interesting day on the golf course.

Now that spring is here, the Bermuda grass on our lawns and the golf course has started its annual turn toward the deep green it will be all summer.

The last three times out, I have walked instead of riding, but I’ve only played nine holes. Today I went out early enough to try and walk 18 holes, pulling my clubs behind me in a pull cart.

As I have become more and more familiar with the course, and playing more regularly — 1-2 times a week — I have been getting fairly good scores. In two of my last three outings, I’ve shot 42 and 43 on the front nine. Monday was odd. I had three double bogeys, but parred five of the other six holes and shot 43.

The weather was great today, although it was a little windy. I parred two of the first three holes, which was a good start for me, but then I bogeyed four holes in a row. Not bad, but not great.

Then things got really interesting. I parred the last two holes on the front nine for a 41, and then did something I’ve never done before. I parred the first three holes on the back nine and was only five over par after 12 holes. I had a bad tee shot on the 13th hole and bogeyed it to end the string of pars, but then I came back and parred the next two to leave me only six over par after 15 holes.

I have never broken 80.

I have never come close to breaking 80. My best round ever in California was an 83, but I shot 45 on the front nine in that round, so there was never any chance that I would break 80.

But today, with three holes remaining in my round and nine pars already in the book, I needed only to par two of the last three holes to shoot a 79. One problem: I have never parred any of those three holes. They’re a quirky par three and two longish par fours.

Well, I still haven’t. I gave myself a chance on two of them, with putts in the 11-12 foot range for par that I didn’t make. I finished bogey-bogey-bogey for a 40 on the back nine and an overall score of 81.

After walking — and pulling my cart — for 18 holes and 4 1/2 hours, I was pleasantly exhausted and extremely happy with the way I had played. But I didn’t get to go home with a good feeling. Apparently, one of the club pros had noticed for the first time that I was pulling my clubs.

I found out — God knows why — that my golf course does not allow pull carts. You either have to ride in a golf cart or carry your clubs on your back.

Oh, well.

It was still a pretty good day.

posted by Mike in Exercise,Georgia,golf,Happiness and have No Comments

A different sort of day on the golf course

I’m starting to get back into my routine.

Yesterday I walked for the third straight day, and I covered nine miles. Today I didn’t feel as much like just walking, so I went out on the golf course — without a cart. I decided I would try to play 18 holes walking, which I haven’t done in at least 15 years.

As it turned out, I didn’t do it, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. It just took too much time to play nine holes. I usually get through 18 holes here in less than three hours, but walking the course — which is fairly stretched out — it took me about two hours and 40 minutes just to cover the front nine.

So I stopped after nine holes, since it was about 6:15 p.m. and I had told Nicole I would be back by about 6:30 or 7.

Out for the afternoon.

The strange thing was, after a weak start, I played pretty well. I double-bogeyed two of the first three holes. The long par four that starts the course and the first of the par fives are two of the tougher holes, but after that I did really well. I had parred the second hole, and I then parred four of the last six and bogeyed the other two.

Five pars on a side is pretty special for me, and even with the two double bogeys, I was pleased to be just six over par for the round — shooting a 42.

What was really fun about it was that I was putting great. I made four or five putts of six feet or longer, including a 15-footer and a 20-footer to save two pars. Maybe I’m getting past the difficulty I’ve had with short putts the last few years. That would certainly be nice.

Best, though, was the exercise. I don’t carry my clubs. I’ve got one of those wheel things so I can pull them around, with with all the hills on the course, that still makes for a pretty good workout.

Another couple of days and I should be back under 200.

Then I can start feeling better again.

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posted by Mike in Exercise,golf,Happiness and have No Comments
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