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A Day in the Life: 36 more and a Warrior down
The 12th at Narin & Portnoo Golf Club

A Day in the Life: 36 more and a Warrior down

The 12th at Narin & Portnoo Golf Club [photo courtesy of John and Jeannine Henebry]

The day-to-day existence of The Golf Road Warrior might sound, well, sorta cushy when viewed from a distance. But trust me: The pace is unrelentingly, if purposely, grueling. Let me give you the blow by blow of our Saturday in County Donegal, using the 24-hour clock that pervades here:

01:15, Saturday, 23 July — To bed at the Rosapenna Golf Resort Hotel. We had arrived here for our 16:30 tee time the day before, whereupon we tackled the super striking, super difficult Sandy Hill Links, one of two golf courses here perched high on the North Atlantic coast. We finished at 21:00 or thereabouts, rushed over to the hotel for a lovely dinner, and set about blogging re. Friday’s events. My post was uploaded well after midnight and I was dead away the moment my head hit the pillow.

06:30 — Outta bed and upstairs for quick continental breakfast.

07:30 — On the road for Narin & Portnoo Golf Club, which sits in a remote village on the northwest coast — next stop to the west, Newfoundland. Thirty-seven kilometers of this trip from Rosapenna to Portnoo were logged on a road no wider than my driveway back home. Thankfully, unlike my driveway, it was paved, and there was little oncoming traffic. It is Saturday morning after all.

09:15 — Arrival at the club, and off the first tee 15 minutes later. Beforehand, however, I pop an 800 mg tablet of ibuprofen — a canny purchase I made in Cabo san Lucas the previous May. You can’t get that much ibuprofen in the U.S., not in a single serving and without a prescription. They’re bright orange and the size of a horse pill… Finian is our caddie. Like most we’ve retained here, he’s young and a very good player (he plays off 3).

10:30 — About four holes into this track, the thing takes off. Many of these links begin in flattish, gently duned, lowland areas, or maybe some sort of salt-water bog or estuary. This was the case at N&P. Yet as we made our way out to the beach, we could see a line of huge dunes rising to our left. At no. 5, we played a dogleg up into the breach of one and there we stayed for the next 13 holes, diving down off the dunes to seaside greens (no. 8), playing par-3s from promontory to promontory amid the dunes, and banking our way around the base of this stunning dunescape, right to left and left to right. This is a course you may never have heard of unless you book a Perry Golf tour or consult the Northwest Ireland web site. It’s superb, and if you’re doing 36 a day, it forms a nice link between the northern courses and Donegal GC.

13:30 — We finish the round literally one step ahead of the three women who pushed us the whole back nine, as we hit entirely too many balls in the junk, and spent entirely too much time looking for them. It was a big day at P&N, Lady Captains Day, where the leading ladies from clubs all over Ireland converge for their annual to-do. We grabbed a quick bite in the clubhouse, which was mobbed with some 60 women, all fresh off the golf course. Ran in to the threesome behind us outside; they had picked up a head cover we had dropped somewhere along the line. I took this opportunity to apologize for playing so slowly. They smiled and shot me a polite look that said, “Well, that’s all well and good but you should be ashamed for having played so slowly.” And so we skulked off to our green VW van, suitably admonished.

14:15 — In the parking lot we run into another group of three women, whom we had encountered prior to the round. They asked where we were headed next: Donegal Golf Club, also known a Murvagh (mer-vah). Well, that’s their home club. They advised us that Murvagh was several miles beyond Donegal Town and to “stay out of the rough.”

16:15 — Arrived at Donegal GC. We headed straight off the back, and the weather couldn’t be better: 70 degrees and 15 mph of wind. Fifth consecutive round in shorts. Second horse pill of the day, down the hatch.

17:45 — On the 8th, a lovely par-4 that plays off a dune down to a left-turning fairway, our fellow Road Warrior Peter Kessler was felled. We didn’t know it yet, but he ruptured a tendon in his left hip trying to hit a sand wedge a bit farther than perhaps was feasible. (I heard him say as much, to himself, before the swing.) This was serious: 5 rounds in 3 days had taken its toll, and Peter’s day was done. He couldn’t walk, so fellow Road Warrior Tom Harack packed it in after nine and brought him to the clinic in Donegal, from whence Peter was shipped north to Letterkenny Hospital for an x-ray, where the tendon-issue was confirmed. At this writing, Peter remains in hospital. We’ll pick him up tomorrow, with his crutches, and head to Enniscrone GC. At least, that’s the plan…

18:30 — And then there were two. Fellow Road Warrior Jeff Wallach and I headed out to play our final nine. Hey, we told ourselves, Tom has it handled — and he’d played the course before, whereas we had not, and Donegal GC is too good to simply walk away from.  I snagged Peter’s Adams Redline driver and hit the shit out of it. If he doesn’t play for a couple days, I’m appropriating it. If he rallies, we’ll share it.

20:30 — We holed out on 18, victimized by the Murvagh rough twice on the last two holes. In the clubhouse, Tom and Peter are nowhere to be seen, so we grab a Smithwicks and a bite to eat. They’re still sorting the patient, we’d soon learn from Brendan Reck, the affable club captain whom we met in the bar; I recognized him from his portrait hanging in the hallway. Tom arrived around 21:00 with all the details re. Peter’s condition. Nothing to do but find the hotel and start blogging.

22:00 — Saturday night in Donegal, and it’s quite a scene at The Abbey Hotel, where we’re kipping for the night. First-floor disco with a live band. The place is packed, and up and down the high street every bar and hotel is similarly equipped with live music, packed houses and dozens of folks on the street smoking butts. How does the Golf Road Warrior respond to such stimuli? “Um, excuse me: What’s the wireless password?” Thirty-six holes and two 90-minute drives have sapped us of all partying energy and initiative. Must post.

02:09, Sunday 23 July — The above is written, the photos/video are downloaded and posted. Looking to sleep in tomorrow, if only just. A 90-minute drive and a 16:30 tee time at Enniscrone await — that is, after we retrieve Peter from Letterkenny.

Thirty six holes in one day can be taxing. Thirty six with at least one 90-minute drive in between is more so. Thirty six on this sort of schedule three days in a row? Well, it has proved to be a bit more than at least one hip tendon ocan bear. Twenty-seven at Enniscrone tomorrow… I mean, today.

USA v. Mexico: Americans exposed at the back
Pablo Barrera (left) scored two and Gio Dos Santos sealed the deal in Mexico's 4-2 win over the U.S. last weekend.

USA v. Mexico: Americans exposed at the back


Pablo Barrera (left) scored two and Gio Dos Santos sealed the deal in Mexico’s 4-2 win over the U.S. last weekend.


Behold, the Unsightly American Soccer Podcast for the week of June 27, 2011. The Gold Cup has concluded, and the Mexicans, by virtue of their 4-2 victory, have laid claim to biannual honors as top dog in CONCACAF. This is our Federation, of course, the agglomeration of North American, Central American and Caribbean countries that holds a World Cup Qualifying tournament every four years, and every two years conducts its own championship, The Gold Cup. It’s nearly always held here in the U.S. — we’ve got the stadia, the corporate backing, the ease of travel, etc. But Mexico’s got the fans. Of the 100,000 who packed the Rose Bowl Saturday night, June 25, for the Gold Cup final, 80,000 were in green. Tom Wadlington joins your host Hal Phillips to pick up the pieces. Tom strays, as he often does, into some Fulham FC talk at the close of our discuss. This serves aptly as preview for Part II of this UASP, wherein we talk to Spencer Robinson and Stephen Myers re. matters Euro. But for now, enjoy Part I…

2011.06.25 UASP


Fullcourt Pod: NBA Playoff Chat for April 25, 2011

Fullcourt Pod: NBA Playoff Chat for April 25, 2011

It’s NBA Playoff time, about midway through Round I, and so we take stock of key developments courtesy of  Fullcourt Pod’s resident near-savants, Hal Phillips and Jammin’ James W. Jackson Jr. This week’s fixation and jumping-off point is Laker Coach Phil Jackson‘s indifference toward defending Chris Paul — or should we say inability?

2011.04.25 Fullcourt Pod

Desert Golf Safari Conjures Memories of Bob Labbance

Desert Golf Safari Conjures Memories of Bob Labbance

So I’ve been thinking a lot about Bob Labbance lately. Bob was a good friend, a golf writer and historian, a counter-culturist after a fashion, and, as my grandfather would have described him, one of nature’s gentlemen. Note the tense. Bob suffered a traumatic fall and paralysis in 2007. He fought back to regain a great deal of motion and a large measure of his life, only to contract Lou Gehrig’s disease, degenerate quite quickly and pass away in Aug. 2008, at the tender age of 56.

You learn a lot about a guy when horrible shit befalls him. You talk more deeply and seriously about things with that person. You learn more about the man — more than you ever would have if, as we do with most acquaintances, both parties were to skate together through life largely unaffected by tragedy.

Bob loved the desert, and I thought of him as my family and I toured the American Southwest last week and played a fine Johnny Miller design in St. George, Utah: Entrada Golf Club at Snow Canyon. Bob grew up in Fairfield County, Connecticut, went to school in Maine, and lived much of his adult life in Vermont. He was a New Englander through and through, and he was what I like to call an unreconstructed hippie. But he loved golf, and the counter-culturist in him allowed an appreciation of desert golf — something a lot of golf design nerds reflexively disdain.

I first met Bob in about 1994, and only later in his all-too-short life did I learn that he fancied the idea of retiring to Flagstaff, Arizona. I got the impression his family wasn’t as keen on this particular idea, and in that way his untimely death mooted the issue. I thought of him as we passed through Flagstaff twice last week. We were there to play some disc golf but found far more than an excellent track tucked beside the athletic complex at Northern Arizona University. More than a mile high, surrounded by open chaparral and sitting in the shadow of the 10,000-foot San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff is physically gorgeous and a pleasing college vibe pervades. Many towns in the north of Arizona — hell, in all of Arizona and much of the West — are striking (to a New Englander especially) for just how new or post-modern they feel. Flagstaff has some of that, but it also has a proper, turn-of-the-19th-century downtown where today funky galleries and a wide variety of non-chain, quite excellent restaurants abound.

I didn’t start playing disc golf until after Bob had passed away, and playing in Arizona made me wonder what he’d have thought of it. Hardcore golfers tend to look askance at this golfing cousin, and while Bob was in many ways a counter-culturist — he lived in a commune after college on the shores of Sabbathday Lake, for chrissakes — he was something of purist when it came to golf. He revered the old course designs, soaked up the game’s rich history, and collected old clubs and books… But when he wrote books on course design, his subjects were Wayne Stiles and Walter Travis, not Donald Ross and Alistair Mackenzie. Bob also organized an annual Cayman tournament at his place in Vermont, where competitors holed out by chipping the ball either against a car tire (1 stroke) or into said tire (no stroke).

I’m betting Bob would have liked disc golf, recognizing that between the ears it’s essentially the same game — minus the status-seeking, the collared shirts, and the reliance on expensive, ever-upgradeable equipment. I’m also betting that as an eminently practical unreconstructed hippie, Bob would have recognized that to love one game doesn’t prevent the love of another.

Unsightly American Soccer Podcast: April 1 Edition

Unsightly American Soccer Podcast: April 1 Edition


Join Hal Phillips and a cast of characters/correspondents spanning the Globe to discuss  the burning, hot, molten issues of the footballing day. This week we present a pre-Champions League Quarterfinal edition, in advance of the four matches scheduled for April 5 and 6. Big doings, but that’s not all: Hal and guests Dave Batista and Stephen Myers also tackle the strange fate of Fernando Torres, why we hate Manchester United and the bizarre dispute now gripping Spanish football, which may result in a work stoppage this weekend.

2011.04.01 UASP 2

Curmudgeon talks Asia, Tiger, galleries with Kessler

The Curmudgeon, a.k.a. Hal Phillips, made a guest appearance Feb. 22 on Peter Kessler’s “Making the Turn”, a fixture on the PGA Tour Radio network (XM 146/Sirius 209). As a guest on someone else’s show, he kept the ranting and complaining to a minimum, but there was nevertheless lively conversation on the state of the U.S. Tour galleries, the rise of Golf in Asia, the transition of media outlets to web formats, course ranking, Tiger Woods and more. Enjoy.


A Tale of Two Soccer Melting Pots


By Dee Schmidt

One of the things you need to know about me is that while I’m counter-cultural and an American through and through (you can be both, my brothers and sisters), my paternal ancestry is seriously Teutonic. Dig: My dad was Austrian and because the heyday of Austrian football came in the 1930s — bet you didn’t know Das Team finished 4th at the 1934 World Cup, and runners-up at the ’36 Olympics — his loyalties and interest (and mine, by extension) naturally shift to the Germans, who, even critics will allow, are totally outta sight when trophies are at stake. The finest tournament performers in the history of world football, I reckon.

The other thing you need to know about me, if you don’t already, is that my soccer experience was interrupted in 1973 by the 32 years I spent in a weed- and ice-induced state of suspended animation (see details here: The Story of Dee).

So it’s with great interest that I follow both the American and German teams at the World Cup now underway in South Africa — not just because I have national rooting interests, but because the make-up of these teams today is nothing as I or any other self-respecting football-freak would have expected them to be in the early 1970s.

I watched the Germans roast and pluck the Australians on Sunday, 4-0, and the result wasn’t nearly so mind-blowing as the German roster: Two Polish-born goal scorers (Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski), backed by a withdrawn striker of clear Turkish origin (Mesut Özil) and a defensive midfielder named Sami Khedira, who was born in Stuttgart to a father from Tunisia. The two strikers who came on? Why, naturally it was a fellow named Mario Gomez (father: a Spaniard) and Cacau, who did what Brazilo-Germans are supposed to do: score on his first-ever World Cup touch.

In my day, Die Mannschaft was the whitest, most purely German thing in the country. I’m not about to use the word “Aryan” to describe it, but the national team was a clear reflection of a very white, quite homogenous country. This has changed, and viva la difference, to quote a famous Alsatian (!).

Team USA also features a diverse juxtaposition of flavors, colors and textures. But I have to say, 36 years ago it was an accepted fact that, eventually, the country’s Latin flavor would come to dominate the game here in America. I’m from San Diego (Encinitas, to be exact; my colleague and blood brother Hal Phillips likes to call me “Encinitas Man”, after some movie about a once-frozen cave man) and we could see it happening even in the early 1970s.

So, I’ve gotta ask, what happened?
I look at this team, and though I marvel at its overall skill and athleticism (I really do; the progress we’ve made as a soccer nation makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck), I’m frankly perplexed by how few Latin players are in the team and how Northern European the American style of play remains.

In my day, American soccer was very direct, very straight-ahead, very aerial. And this could be credibly explained by the fact that most of the foreigners coaching American kids back then were British or German. But it would appear that not much has changed. The American style remains Northern European. One look at either of the Mexico-USA World Cup qualifiers shows how much the Mexicans want to hold the ball, and how quickly the Americans want to get rid of it, up the field, in the air.

More pointedly, where are the Mexican-Americans? If the bleats of politicians in Arizona are to be given any credence, should the U.S. roster not be peppered with Latino kids who grew up playing in California, Arizona and Texas?

Carlos Bocanegra from Upland, California, just north of L.A.? Check.

Herculez Gomez? No doubt.

Jose Francisco Torres? Yeah, I think so.

Ricardo Clark? Nope. His dad’s from Trinidad.

Benny Feilhaber? Another Brazilo-German.

Jozy Altidore? Of Haitian descent.

Clint Dempsey? He’s from Nagadoches, Texas, but he ain’t Latin and neither is his style of play.

I’m not saying the USMT isn’t a melting pot. It is.

And I’m not saying that there should be some sort of Latin quota.

It merely strikes me as odd that with so many Mexican-Americans in America, our national team program has not tapped this rich vein of talent more markedly. We used to say that when it does, American soccer will develop a unique hybrid style that is not just its very own, but very difficult to beat. But if it hasn’t happened by now, one wonders when and whether it will.

Defrosted Retromensch serves up pre-WC punditry


By Dee Schmidt

Hello, world. I’m from the ‘70s and if you’re reading this, you’re probably not. So bear with me, future dudes. I’ve spent 32 of the last 36 years frozen solid, biding my time at the bottom of an ever-expanding trash heap on the snow-white shores of Hudson Bay. I’m from Encinitas, man. There’s no way I should be alive! But Dee lives, he still breathes the game, and he’s holding forth on the World Cup thanks to his righteous new sugar daddies at The A Position, who’ve asked me to blog my way through the world’s greatest sporting spectacle.

Lookit: Four years ago, Dee didn’t even know what a blog was. Or a “personal” computer. Or the Internet. And I’m still learning — still trying to get my head around this Net thing: Was all this information always up there, just floating around in space?

You know what? Nevermind. I don’t care. I love the Net, for no other reason than Dee can follow Bundesliga matches as they happen, or get Serie A results the same day! And here’s another reason: Anyone can dig my backstory by just clicking on this colored, underlined “link” bit here (The Story of Dee).

Trust me, this was not possible in 1973. Not even close. In 1973, that was a sausage. More to the point, do you realize what Dee had to do, back in the day, to check on the Scudetto? Either I had to call my dad’s brother in Salzburg (Horst knew everything about European football), or Dee had to hump it up to Long Beach and buy a London Times at this special ex-pat newsstand on Alamitos.

Forget television. Do you realize that during the 22 years of my former life, Dee never ever saw a match on TV? EVER. I’ll never forget the night some four years ago, fairly soon after my thaw, when I’m flipping through the gajillion channels at my buddy Proo’s pad. He grabs the remote and shows me to a station that broadcasts nothing but soccer. God praise Fox Soccer Channel! … I gotta tell ya, the adjustments to 21st century life have been many. But Dee likes it better this way.

Besides, uncle Horst is dead. Hell, my parents are dead, too, and I never got the chance to say goodbye. Most of my old friends are unrecognizable to me: married, married-and-divorced, parents, even grandparents. Some of them still follow the footy (like Proo, who zoinked majorly when I showed up at his place in La Jolla; he’s a BANKER, man! But we watched a Bundesliga match on his FSC and we zoinked at the kits. Well, I did. More on that later). But in every other way I’m basically unrecognizable to Proo, too. Dee’s a 58-year-old, ice-aged panel-head with a 22-year-old brain, a head of hair that’s going gray at a bitchin’ rate, and the palest, saggiest damned skin you ever saw (apparently, one’s natural elasticity and melanin count tend to suffer after three decades in the freezer. It’s true — I read it on the Net.).

So that’s my story, dig? It’s a sad and bizarre tale in many ways but I’m glad my mother, a writer herself, made me keep a diary all those years and steered me toward a journalism gig at San Diego State. I’m loving this iMac thingy. It’s good therapy for me, and it’s helped me realize it could’ve been worse: Dee could still be sleeping with the fish heads in Churchill, or they coulda dug me out this summer and I’d have missed another World Cup.

In the meantime here are some initial observations on the state of the soccer world leading up to South Africa 2010 — and the world at large — issued by yours truly, the Retromensch, one of the only pentagenarians on Earth totally untouched by disco. I’ve heard this shit, man; what were y’all thinking?


• Much has changed since 1973, but Dee has to say it was a comfort to see certain fashions, which arrived and thrived during my previous life, have endured uninterrupted to the present day. Bell-bottoms and butterfly collars, for example. You wouldn’t believe the shit I caught for making that fashion move in the mid-‘60s, when pants were still pegged and collars buttoned-down. Now that I’m a dirty old man, I can agree even more strongly with my younger self that nothing flatters the female form like a pair of hip huggers, man (nothing with long pants anyway). Another look clearly built to last: mutton chops. When me and my boys grew our sideburns out in high school, we thought we were on to something BIG. But we never dreamed it would stay so big for so long.

• Football fashion? That’s another story. What’s with the clown pants, man? Y’all look like the second coming of Ferenc Puskas. That’s a look older than I am – baggy shorts down to the knees went out with over-the-ankle boots. Give me Gerd Mueller in a pair of proper shorts any day. I will say, future dudes, that y’all are onto something pretty groovy with some of these national team kits. I watched Cameroon and Ivory Coast plays some African Nations Cup matches in February — psychedelic!

• In 1973, there were two Germanys, East and West. Now there is just one. In 1973, there was this wall, see? Not anymore, I gather. This is basically a huge freak for a dude of my latent vintage, but it’s all well and good. My dad was Austrian, but he’d have been well chuffed that the Germans got their act together politically, and that Austria successfully co-hosted the last European Championship, an event I was privileged to watch (even if the side looked fairly inept). My dad might have gone with me to West Germany in ‘74, had the Austrians qualified, but they didn’t. Neither did England, a fact that rocked the soccer world in 1973. Trust me, it did. They had won it all only eight years before and brought a wonderful team to Mexico in 1970. England’s failure to qualify in ’74 hung like a pall over the pre-tournament atmosphere… Get used to my continual references to West Germany 1974. I understand that eight WCs have since come and gone, but that’s my last, pre-frozen point of reference and you’ve got to recognize that my whole life was leading up to that tournament, man. And Dee missed it!

• George Best is dead? Okay, but here’s my question: It only just happened? Sad, and apparently I missed his stint in Southern California with some NASL outfit called the Aztecs (?), but even based on what I knew of George Best, i.e. leading up to 1973, I’d have put the over-under on his liver giving out at around 1986, 1990 max.

• Okay, in this first column I’ve saved the best for last: Nothing warms my defrosted heart or bends my flower-power brain more than the fact that America will be participating in its sixth consecutive World Cup finals this month. Fuck the Berlin Wall. This development is truly earth-shattering, to me anyway. Never in his wildest dreams did Dee think this was possible. I’ve seen most every U.S. international over the last four years and the class of soccer we’ve mustered is, well, mind boggling. If you were suddenly transported back to 1973 (sort of like my own experience, in reverse), you’d understand what leaves me so gob-smacked. But the thing that really sends chills down my arthritic spine is the fan support. The crowds, man! American crowds! Thousands upon thousands turning out to see proper football — in the United States of America!

In August 1973, I saw the Americans play Poland in a friendly up in the Bay Area. We lost 4-0 and there couldn’t have been 200 people there. I hope you realize just how far y’all have come — how far we’ve come! I watch Landon Donovan and think surely he’s some Irish national who just been naturalized. But he’s an American, from L.A., and that dude can play. The quality and pace of Michael Bradley, of Stuart Holden, of Jozy Altidore — the physical specimen that is Oguchi Onyewu… For a dude whose standard of excellence had been Kyle Rote Jr., whose last pair of new boots were 1971 Puma Apollos (seriously!), it’s a bit overwhelming. But I’m adjusting — to everything but the shorts.