Tag Archives: Golf

Screw You, Rules and Rules That Screw You

Rules. From the games we play to the governments that run nations, rules are everywhere. Sometimes we refer to them as “rules” and sometimes they carry a tad more gravity and we use the word “law”.

An example of a generally good rule is the, “three strikes and you’re out,” one they have for baseball. You can’t just have as many strikes as you want, that would be ridiculous, and limiting it to one or two seems like you’re not giving the batter enough of a chance. Three seems like a good number. Three strikes and you’re out is a keeper.

Another good one is, “Thou shalt not kill”. I really like this one. If more people followed it I think the state of many things would improve.

But then, especially when it comes to less murder-related events such as sports, there are some pretty stupid rules. Just ask Lexi Thompson.

Lexi is a professional golfer on the LPGA and was playing in that league’s first major championship (there are four majors in a single golf season and are considered to be the most elite competitions). Golf has a lot of rules, but the thing is, for just about everyone who plays, the rules – and the penalties that come with breaking them – are self-imposed. Yes, even the professionals. There are rules officials on course, but they can’t be everywhere at every time. Most of the time the players police themselves, but on occasion, the viewers get involved. 

Lexi was twelve holes into the final round when a rules official notified her that a viewer had emailed the LPGA and said that a day earlier, Lexi had incorrectly placed her ball on the green before a putt. This is a rule in golf. When you’re on the green you can mark your ball, pick it up, clean it, remove any debris from the area, and replace your ball. You must replace the ball in the exact same spot as it was when you marked it. In Lexi’s case, she picked up her ball in order to reorient it to suit her needs and placed it back down – less than one inch away from where it was marked.

As insignificant as the infraction was, Lexi broke the rule. The penalty for this infraction is two strokes. The thing about this particular incident, however, was the email didn’t come in notifying the league about it until after the round was completed. As such, Lexi had unknowingly signed an incorrect scorecard. The penalty for that is another two strokes (previously it has been a disqualification!)

So, more than halfway through her next round, Lexi found herself the recipient of a four-stroke penalty in a tournament that she was leading by two strokes with only five holes to play. She battled back to tie the score after eighteen holes but lost on the first playoff hole and was denied her first major championship victory – because of one stupid rule and one asshole viewer.

I think it’s fine if you want to allow viewers to police golfers. I also think it’s fine that there is a penalty for such an insignificant thing as half an inch distance discrepancy. What I don’t think is fine is how Lexi was penalized for signing an incorrect card, that, at the time, she had no reason to believe was incorrect. Change the rule so that incorrect card signing penalties aren’t levied if the round has ended.

If you want to see the video of Lexi’s incorrect ball placement you can see it here:


Let’s go from a shitty rule that ended up costing one person several hundred thousand dollars to what I consider to be a great rule that could end up costing one company millions.

The rule: the Oxford comma.

The scenario: a contract document between a company and a union had a clause that was missing an Oxford comma.

“…people involved in the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of…”

It’s that last bit that’s of interest. “Packing for shipment or distribution” is different than, “packing for shipment, or distribution.” The company argued that “packing for shipment” and “distribution” were two separate functions but the union argued that, as it was written, it was one.

The result: the court agreed with the union. 

You can read more about it here:

I’m a big fan of the Oxford comma. Clearly, using it can help clarify a sentence and omitting it can cause confusion (and as we just saw, a lot if money). So my take on it is this: I think of using the Oxford comma the same as I approach fighting climate change. There are times when it doesn’t seem necessary, but you’re never going to make things worse by doing it.

If you’re going to have a rule, why have a complicated rule when you can have a simple one? In other words, quit your suckitupbuttercup and just use the fricking Oxford comma already, and if you want me to stop using it you are going to have to pry it from my cold, pale, and dead hands.

~ Andrew

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

In March of last year I was exchanging text messages with a friend about how twice in the last five years my birthday was cursed. My brother-in-law died on my birthday back in 2009, and that year, 2014, while away on a cruise with the family our cat died on my birthday as well. After the usual “I’m sorry to hear that” / “That sucks” type comments that two friends such as the two of us would exchange, he sends me this: “We have to get you a new birthday.”

He tossed out a few ideas including the Sunday of The Open Championship, which has some sentimental value to me as the weekend of The Open is the time when a group of guys from university all gather at his cottage to just be guys and drink, golf, water ski, and eat steak (and unhealthy amounts of Peanut M&M’s). Realizing that July was a tad too removed from my March birthday he found the solution: Masters Sunday. 

Masters Sunday was perfect. I LOVE The Masters. Love it. The Masters means spring is here. It’s usually warm enough to get up on the roof and take down the Christmas lights. The NHL playoffs and the quest for the Stanley Cup are but days away. The Masters is home to some of my favourite golf memories (watching, not playing, obviously). Going to see a round at The Masters is on my bucket list.

I’m claiming fair use of this logo but if that doesn’t fly,
Augusta National, please don’t sue me.

I would still celebrate my birthday in March, of course, but since 2009 it lost a bit of its lustre. My friend’s thought was that if I received a text message wishing me a happy birthday on Masters Sunday that some of the lustre could be restored. He was right. The afternoon of Sunday, April 13, 2014, while I was watching Bubba Watson on his way to his first Masters victory I received my first Masters birthday text. I should have taken a screen capture or saved the text or something, but for some reason I didn’t. The memory will have to suffice and I’m documenting it here, now, before my memories one day fail me. 

Jim Nantz once famously said of The Masters, “It’s a tradition unlike any other.” He was right, too. 

This whole thing got me thinking about some of the other traditions this particular tournament embraces and how this wasn’t always a good thing. Keeping things positive for a moment we have the tradition of the amateurs invited to the tournament and how they get to stay on the grounds in the famous Crow’s Nest. I can only imagine the feeling of being a teenager or newly minted twenty-something amateur golfer and getting to play that course and stay on-site. 

Another famous tradition is the Par 3 Contest. Held the Wednesday immediately before the first day of competition golfers play the Par 3 course at Augusta National with their kids as caddies. Players without children often use a parent or sibling or sometimes a celebrity they happen to be friends with. There’s a prize awarded to the winner of a crystal bowl but many of the players forego their chance at winning by letting their kids putt out on some of the holes. Aside from the awesome father / child experience this creates, taking themselves out of of the Par 3 competition has other advantages as no winner of the Par 3 Contest has ever gone on to win The Masters in the same week. 

Of course, traditions are all fine and dandy so long as we’re not doing them because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or out of bigotry, racism, or fear. When this happens, at best, we end up as a bunch of monkeys that won’t go up a ladder and don’t know why

Augusta National’s membership is by invitation only (it’s a private club and there is no application process) and for a long time invitations were only extended to powerful or influential men. White men (their caddie policy was spectacularly racist until 1983 as well). That changed in 1990 when invitations started to go out to black men and other non-whites as well. 

In 2002 there was a famous disagreement between then Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson and Martha Burke regarding the exclusion of women from the club. The dust up between the two resulted in The Masters airing commercial free for two years to avoid putting the sponsors in the position of having to pull their support for a tournament that was not gender inclusive. In spite of this, sponsors were on board again in 2005 and the club still didn’t have a single female member (citing other such clubs as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, college sororities, and the Junior League as examples of other gender specific organizations). However, in 2012 Augusta National invited two women into its club: Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore

So, Augusta National changed (albeit at a glacial pace, but they changed) and is still filled with many traditions that can be appreciated by golfers and golf fans all over the world. 

Happy Birthday to me!

~ Andrew

For Dad

Not surprisingly, a good number of the memories I have that involve my father also involve sports. Whether it was sitting on the porch listening to the Toronto Blue Jays on the radio; me with a lemonade, Dad with a can of Schlitz, or him taking me downtown on the subway to sit in General Admission at Exhibition Stadium and watch them play live. I can still hear the chants of “Er-nie! Er-nie!” echoing through the ball field and out onto the cool waters of Lake Ontario.

If I was really lucky we’d sit in Right Field – Reserved Bench!

I have a family of my own now and my wife’s father enjoys heading down to the ballpark as well, so every so often for Father’s Day she and I will buy tickets for our dads and we’ll all go down to the ballpark and catch a Jays game (preferably against the Yankees). Where do you think Dad likes to sit? Yup, out in left field above the Jays bullpen – not too far from the old General Admission days at Exhibition Stadium.

By the age of 5 I had watched more games on Hockey Night in Canada than I could count. In 1979-1980 my dad, as the principal of a school, would bring home boxes of confiscated hockey cards (no shootsies allowed in the hallways!) and I would catalogue each and every one, diligently using the checklists to see which ones I was missing. Dad would sometimes get hockey tickets from a parent and take me down to see the game and if he was really itching to go to and didn’t have seats he’d hop on the subway and get some off scalpers. The most memorable moment would have to be the 1987 playoffs against St. Louis. Toronto won the series in 6 games on the same ice that I scored a goal on a little more than 2 years earlier. Dad and I were in standing room “seats” and I thought the building was going to collapse! After the game Mom said she saw us on the news; Dad carrying me on his shoulders as fans paraded up the street. Even if I didn’t know what it meant at the time that night was probably the first truly surreal experience of my life.

1984 Thornhill Rebels crammed into a broom closet in the bowels
of Maple Leaf Gardens. I was 10 years old. 

All grown up, able to afford my own tickets (and a knack for being able to actually get some), I would make a point of taking my old man to a game every year. The last Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game we saw was in 2001 at the new home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Air Canada Centre. Wouldn’t you know it, the Leafs would win in overtime and we were fittingly situated in standing room (it was the game Sergei Berezin actually passed the puck!) Dad didn’t put me on his shoulders but an usher did have to instruct him to get down off the railing and stop banging on the bottom of the press box.

Now, as any good hockey fan knows, when you’re not out on the ice you should be out on the course. When it came to golf Mom had more patience (and a hole in one!) but played a lot less than Dad. Not that Dad played a whole lot, but both his parents were avid golfers and he definitely liked to get out on the course and hack it around. Dad would let me borrow his clubs and I’d go out to the Unionville Par 3 course with a friend and just make a total mess of things. I’m pretty sure the only reason every club came back in one piece was the uncertainty of what would happen if even one of them came back broken.

Since Dad retired he’s played a lot more golf, and since I’ve grown up I have as well. Now, once or twice a year we go out on the course and shoot a round, usually 9 holes so it doesn’t take as long. I couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve played, but I can definitely tell you how many times I’ve beaten him: once. That’s right, I’ve only beaten him one time. I’ve never been able to hit his curve ball, and apparently when he’s around I can’t hit a fairway either. I bought him a round at the course by my house for Father’s Day this year and I have this sneaky suspicion that he’ll eek out the victory just like he’s done all all those times before.

Pretend score card from the one time I beat Dad (as if I shot a 44)

If it’s possible to be influenced into enjoying a certain type of book I was definitely influenced by my father. He’s read all the classics of course, and as an English major from Waterloo Lutheran University and public educator for 34 years he has read his fair share of novels. The man loves to read, and one of his go-to genres is the one I head to first when I’m looking to buy a new book: suspense / thriller. I have borrowed many a book off of his shelf written by Dan Brown, Steve Berry, or Robert Ludlum and have certainly purchased many of their works or taken them out from the library as well.

Is it any surprise then that my novel, just a few thousand words shy of a completed first draft, happens to be a conspiracy suspense thriller? I’m 39 years old and still trying to get in my dad’s good books.

One thing I am looking forward to is writing on the inside cover of his copy and handing it to him sometime this year; heart in my throat, terrified he’ll think it sucks. I have another feeling though, that he will think it’s a perfectly readable book, and even if he doesn’t, one thing I know is he’ll put me up on his shoulders one more time and place my novel proudly on his bookshelf right beside Ludlum, Brown, and Berry – and every time I visit it will be surreal.


~ Andrew

Choosing Wisely

On the day of what can arguably be described as the biggest day in North American sports, Super Bowl Sunday, I find myself in a minority position when it comes to giving a damn. I’ve never really been a football fan – hockey and golf seem to hold my interest – and I’m definitely not in the habit of worshipping the ground these best-of-the-best athletes walk on. Now I’m not saying I’m a perfect human – I’m far from it – and I’ve been lucky to make my mistakes in private without the world standing around judging me.

That being said, my kids are starting to pay attention to what’s on the TV and are going to start to look to people that aren’t my wife and I as role models. As such, I started paying closer attention to the famous faces that SportsCentre plasters all over their highlight reels and I noticed something: a lot of them are little more than just really good athletes.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a God-fearing fella with a few tattoos, a better than average passing arm, and seemingly no fear of running the ball. He takes the field for his first Super Bowl appearance today playing on the first professional sports team to openly support the gay and lesbian community. Now that’s a really big deal, and one that San Francisco player Chris Culliver came out and said he was not OK with. Now, that’s his choice, but I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not running out and getting my kids a Culliver jersey any time soon. If anything, I’ll be using him as an example of someone whom my kids should pay as little attention to as possible.

Unfortunately, the number of athletes on that list of mine is more than a few. It seems that for every incredible story on the field there’s an incredibly idiotic one that’s happening off of it. Pick your poison: religious extremists, misogynists, rapists, philanderers, racists, bigots, drug addicts, blood dopers, steroid abusers, liars, and cheaters. You can certainly find these people in among famous scientists, writers, and educators as well but the principal difference is the media is not often pushing them into our line of sight and hanging off their every word hoping for a sound bite they can use to open the show.

Now, the good news is we also have many respectable athletes to choose from as well. For every jerk with record setting statistic there’s another one I’d gladly hang a poster of on my wall. Sidney Crosby, the poster boy of the NHL, lived with Mario Lemieux for the first 5 years he was in Pittsburgh – to help with his transition from a small town kid to a big city superstar.  Here was a full grown, voting age adult with a job making millions of dollars a year, and a full entourage of advisers, coaches, and support staff living with his boss and mentor. No controversy, no scandal, no embarrassing photographs… just a pretty nice guy who happens to be a pretty amazing hockey player.

I suppose my wish is for the media – and the general public – to do a better job of distinguishing good athletes from good people, because at the end of the day they’re all just people. For all they do on and off the field, I think it’s important to remember they have their own problems, their own hurdles to overcome, life lessons to learn, or growing up to do. They also have their own opinions – which you don’t have to agree with. I know in a lot of cases I certainly don’t, and I used to get worked up over it, but I try not to any more. I’ve just stopped putting athletes on a pedestal and touting their virtues to the world because they happen to be rich and good at their jobs. At the end of the day they’re just a bunch of guys who excel at playing games.

I’ll acknowledge that fact they possess remarkable athletic skill, and I’ll be duly impressed by it, but after that I’ll be keeping a close eye on the ones I point out to my kids, because superstar athletes have just as much chance as the next guy of being absolutely bat shit crazy.

Go Niners (most of them)!