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How I Went Undercover to Recover My Stolen Golf Clubs

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Imagine the following scene: I’m walking on 23rd street toward my car. There’s glass everywhere, and I carefully plot each step around it. I look up. My rear passenger side window is busted. Really. I try to stay calm and assess the scene. Ok, my phone charger is gone. A bag of coins I use for parking is as well, and my car’s insurance and owner’s manual are torn up on the sidewalk.

A woman with her dog hurries by. Does she think I’m breaking into my own car?

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Clubs! Where are my clubs? I pop open the trunk. Oh. My. God. My prized Texas Mid-Amateur participant headcover; that new HZRDUS shaft I’ve been trying to work myself into; the set I shot my career-best 70 with. Everything is gone.

Here’s the thing about stealing gear from someone who’s worked in the golf industry – you can run with my clubs, but you can’t really hide them. I know my equipment very, very well, and I am determined to track it all down. I call every golf store in the area, and I obsessively check – and recheck – ads on eBay and Craigslist. Three weeks later, just when I think I’m the victim of an elaborate, underground, golf-club-stealing crime ring, there they are – listed for $2,000 and mere blocks from the scene of the crime. As panicked as I am, there’s no chance that my jumbo grip, 1-inch over, and 3-degree upright sticks will command $2,000 on the open market. Still though, I need to work fast!

I immediately call the local police precinct to explain the situation. Even with a filed police report in hand, I sense there isn’t much they can do. After a day without hearing back, I catch a break. Through a friend, I am put in touch with another police officer. He’s a golfer and a member at a course I know well, so there’s instant rapport between us. He essentially tells me where to go, who to talk to, and what to say.

Meanwhile, I start a dialogue with the person who has my clubs. At this point, all I know is that they’re still available, he wants two grand, and he can meet up at 7pm.

Following the golfing officer’s advice, I head down to the police station. After an hour or so of waiting, form filling, and transfers, two officers come out. Unfortunately, they aren’t golfers. “We’d love to help,” they say. “There’s just one problem; we don’t have any plain clothes officers working right now. So, if you want to do this, you need to meet the seller yourself. Confirm it’s your property, and then we’ll move in.”

I’m not one to be confrontational. Unless you tee up in front of the box – which for some reason really bothers me – I tend to mind my own business. In golf and in life. Not once did I consider having to face this person, so it was a major snag in my plan. I also don’t live in the best part of town, and masterminding an undercover sting operation a few blocks from my apartment wasn’t a great look.

The officers do what they can to quell my uneasiness, and I ultimately decide to play along.

I suit up. Baggy jeans, a hoodie, and the most nondescript hat I can find – ironically, a Fisher’s Island Club hat I borrowed/stole from a buddy who played there. 20 minutes later, I’m on a street corner waiting for someone to surface from a run-down San Francisco Victorian. The cops are nearby, and we’re in communication over text. A few moments later, a guy wheels a fully-loaded travel case towards me. We shake hands and he introduces himself. He starts telling me a story about how he got the clubs a few months before. For two of the most drawn-out minutes of my life, I stand there quietly. Listening. Trying to understand what would possess anyone to break into a car and take something from someone they know nothing about. And then, just when I think the cops found something better to do, two police cars rush in. Handcuffs clip together, and that’s that.

All my stuff is there. Even a bag-tag with my name on it hangs in plain sight. I walk the officers through every detail (the burden is on me to prove ownership). “There’s a dent on the 60-degree wedge half way up the grip; my left shoe is missing a spike; there are golf balls from my bachelor party, but the personalized logo is a bit crude, so maybe don’t include that in your report!” They loved the detail.

I ride with the officers to the precinct to give a full statement. A few days later, I’m called by the District Attorney’s office; they’re prosecuting for possession of stolen property and need me to testify. The city wins, and my clubs are returned from evidence a few weeks later.

Believe me, a lot of effort was expended here. When I’m standing over that 6-foot putt for 69 and my first ever round in the sixties, hopefully I’ll say it was worth all the trouble and drain the putt.

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Alex is a mechanical engineer who has spent the past six years in golf equipment R&D. Always focused on metal woods, he has extensive experience in club design, manufacturing processes and testing methodologies from his time at Adams and Callaway Golf. Now that the golf industry gig is over, he’s done playing favorites. The GolfWRX chapter is all about finding the best 14 sticks to take his game to the next level. Alex is also an avid golfer. He's often referred to as “The Launch Monitor Hero" and is always up for 36. He’s the co-founder of an addicting game called Office Golf, and he was once six shots from qualifying for the U.S. Mid-Am.

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. chip

    Mar 14, 2017 at 9:51 am

    the best part are the details you had to explain to the cops. I know my clubs like the back of my hand, and non golfers would be quite impressed with the minute details i could spew out.

    • setter02

      Mar 20, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      Had the same thing last year when my clubs were stolen from my car. I started listing out everything (they got quite a bit as I had extra’s in the car) and on the 3rd club I could hear her just kind of getting uneasy that the level of detail. Told her I’d just email her a complete list and she was relieved.

  2. Kelly

    Mar 12, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Someone broke into my car. They ransacked my car and rifled through the trunk. I had about 25 cds in the cab and all my golf equipment in the trunk. All the guy took was a Tim Horton’s card. I thought, “Obviously I have terrible taste in music and I need to get better golf clubs.”

  3. Jazzy

    Mar 12, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Everyone should take this story to heart and inventory all your equipment based on S/N. It makes for a much easier process identifying the items if they do go missing. This could of course be a week-long job for some of us gearheads 🙂

  4. Bruce Ferguson

    Mar 11, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Being a Sanctuary City isn’t a plus . . .

  5. Nick Prafke

    Mar 11, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    My rental car was broken into in San Fran a couple weeks ago. They took all my luggage but not my golf clubs, luckily. I would have burnt the city to the ground to find them had they taken my clubs.

  6. Louie

    Mar 11, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I actually had my clubs stolen from my garage (thanks to my older son forgetting to close it and to me for leaving them there), never recovered, but, as I filed the police report, they said that I should contact my home owners insurance (USAA), I did and a few weeks later (had to show proof of the stolen equipment was actually mine, luckily I had photos of the clubs and where they were in the garage, don’t ask me why) I received a very substantial check to cover the equipment…

  7. HUH?

    Mar 11, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Bubba – Please just stay wherever you are in whatever paradise you think you live in. Because I’d truly hate for you to become disillusioned about your life should you ever have the unfortunate opportunity to visit The City. Hashtag IgnoranceIsBlissDude

    • Mike

      Mar 11, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      Wow. Those who have never left “The City” have no place lecturing others on ignorance. And leave the superiority complex behind if you have the courage to because otherwise you won’t last 2 seconds here in the better half of America. We don’t call the cops when we catch thieves. They become forgotten. We take responsibility for our carelessness and then take care of our problems ourselves.

  8. SlapHappy

    Mar 11, 2017 at 8:11 am

    We’re not going to find another story about you with your throat cut, after the guy gets out of jail, tracks you down and kills in revenge? lmao

  9. Dan

    Mar 10, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    This was a wakeup call for me. I live in rural Alabama where there is very little crime but, I’ll never keep my clubs in the trunk again, because I play golf all over the state and visit family in MD. I’m glad you got your clubs back without getting hurt.

  10. Tim

    Mar 10, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    Real brilliant comments here! You should be proud. Lol

    Almost as eloquent as your idol, Mango Mussolini.

  11. Keith

    Mar 10, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Man, he didn’t even take the bag tag off….real mensa student.

  12. Brian

    Mar 10, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Libtard…you must be an intellectual giant.

  13. Joey5Picks

    Mar 10, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Linking politics with this crime is ludicrous.

  14. Tom

    Mar 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    The Haight district?

  15. Big Wally

    Mar 10, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Great story. I appreciate how disturbing it is to lose a big of sticks that you finally had the way you want them. Happened to me once and it messed me up for a couple years. What wasn’t clear was the guy that was selling the clubs the same as the one who stole them. What was he convicted of?

    • Alex Berger

      Mar 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks, BW. My understanding is that the prosecution/conviction was on felony possession. No one tried to claim that this guy actually broke into the car. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.

      • Mower

        Mar 10, 2017 at 6:06 pm

        Just saw a movie like this (I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore) with Elijah Wood & Melanie Lynskey. “When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves alongside her obnoxious neighbor.”

  16. TR1PTIK

    Mar 10, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    My wife’s car was broken into in January of last year. It’s a mess to deal with and none of it plays out like all those movies and TV shows would have you believe. For starters, if you want your stuff back and the criminal to be punished you’d better be prepared to do some of your own leg work. It’s not that the police department doesn’t care, they just really do have more pressing matters. Unless, you were robbed at gunpoint or assaulted in the process or it’s part of some bigger more pressing criminal act they will only do so much beyond filing the necessary paperwork. We were fortunate in that at least one of the people had repeat violations and jail time to help speed things along. Still, I was the one who pulled our bank records and determined where they’d been spending money, then drove there to see if the store clerks recalled anything suspicious and could provide photographic or video evidence. Ultimately, they nabbed 2 out of 4 possibly 5 people that we know of involved with the crimes that were committed against us following that – identity theft, forgery, grand theft auto, and vandalism to name a few. It’s no fun at all. Glad you got your clubs back!

  17. SF

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Great story. But leaving your clubs in the car in the Mission? Big nono 🙂

  18. Dat

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Great story!

  19. James

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:31 am

    I’ve stopped carrying my clubs in my car due to this reason. I work in the golf industry, so I hear all the horror stories and cannot fathom losing all the personal items. Clubs can be replaced, but my Fitter of the Year headcover and Scotty Cameron 3wd cover from the gallery after touring Scotty Cameron’s work facility can’t be replaced.

  20. P. Edmondson

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I wonder what punishment the court gave the thief, probably a coupla days community service. Give me 1870’s Deadwood justice any day. Stealing a mans clubs is as bad as stealing his horse!

    • Double Mocha Man

      Mar 10, 2017 at 11:25 am

      Good one! Yes, i say hang the guy… 14 times!

      • Double Mocha Man

        Mar 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        … from the most prominent tree on your favorite golf course.

      • Mike

        Mar 11, 2017 at 1:15 pm

        Yes. Bring back real penalties for committing crimes against others. There’s a big difference between this and the 1000’s of worthless victimless crime laws we have now.

  21. Double Mocha Man

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Alex, how did the guy know to break into YOUR car??? Any indication there were clubs in the trunk? This is my worst nightmare… I never open my trunk if someone is in the parking lot or driving by. Nobody gets to see into my trunk! Although when I’m loading groceries around my Titleist bag some onlooker might be curious…

    • Alex Berger

      Mar 10, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      There wasn’t anything visible in my car. It was completely random! I think you know my advice…

  22. Nicole

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Great story! Love the dedication to getting your sticks back.

  23. mitch

    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:01 am

    That is a golfer’s nightmare! Glad you got them back!

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Opinion & Analysis

A Letter from the Editor: Big changes are happening at GolfWRX

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For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Andrew Tursky. I recently went from the right-hand-man of former GolfWRX Editor-in-Chief Zak Kozuchowski, to running the show here at GolfWRX as the Editor-in-Chief myself. In my new role, I’m going to help GolfWRX fulfill its fullest potential as the best golf website in existence, and that means making a number of immediate changes, all of which I’ll highlight below.

First, a look back. Over a decade ago, GolfWRX started as a small community golf forum for golfers to discuss golf equipment, courses, instruction, rules, bargains, and everything else golf related. The forums continue to grow everyday, and they’re stronger than ever with over 250,000 members who are the most knowledgable and passionate golfers on the planet. They also helped us determine the Best Driver of 2018. Additionally, sometime around 2011, Kozuchowski took GolfWRX.com from simply a community golf forum to a golf media powerhouse by adding a front page section of the website, equipped with ultra-professional editorial. He built a team of Featured Writers — consisting of some of the biggest names in the golf industry — to help produce content that readers love and need. Since 2013, I’ve been helping Zak run the site by writing/producing original content myself, and working with the Featured Writer team. Currently averaging over 1.8 million unique readers per month, GolfWRX has been doing just fine. But I believe so strongly in the GolfWRX brand that I don’t want to settle for “just fine.” I believe we have more to offer, and I want every golfer in the world to garner entertainment or knowledge from our website.

As such, and building upon the foundation that is GolfWRX.com and the forums, I’ve been empowered by the “powers that be” at GolfWRX — you know, the guys who cut paychecks — to grow and shape the best golf website on the Internet.

So what does that mean going forward? Well, that’s what I wanted to discuss.

Here at GolfWRX, we’ve always been great at telling stories through the written word and images, and we will continue to do so with our Featured Writers team and legion of golf writers who love and know the game of golf. But after taking over the editorial direction of the website, I also wanted to help give GolfWRX a voice and a face. There are so many amazing people in the world of golf, and I wanted to provide platforms for us to help them tell their stories… to provide our readers the chance to see how golf clubs are made, how courses are designed, why professionals play certain equipment, and so much more. I wanted to bring readers where they’ve never been and hear from the people they’ve never heard from. Here at GolfWRX, we have the opportunity to speak with amazing people and play golf at amazing courses, and it’s about time the GolfWRX readers got to enjoy those experiences with us.

Therefore, we’re implementing our own original video and radio initiatives.

On the video-end of the spectrum, GolfWRX has recently hired Johnny Wunder full-time to the GolfWRX Staff. He’s a Hollywood producer (check out his new film Josie, starring Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones, that was recently in select theaters across the country!) and is also the new Director of Original Content at GolfWRX. If you’ve enjoyed the Bob Parsons interview, Paige interview, PXG Gen2 Editor’s Journal, or how PXG irons get built, you have Mr. Wunder to thank. Also coming soon are experiences with Mike Taylor at Artisan Golf, David Edel, Bert Lamar of Iliac Golf, the Criquet Golf team in Austin, a short game series with Gabe Hjertstedt, a new fashion series and much more. We’re extremely excited to bring our own original content to the world, and help highlight the people in golf who we think deserve a platform. See the things you’ve never seen, go places you’ve never gone, and meet people you’ve never met; that’s what we want to do with our new GolfWRX original video content. We truly hope you enjoy it, and learn a lot from the content we produce.

We’ve also started three great podcasts — the “19th Hole with host Michael Williams,” “Two Guys Talkin’ Golf,” and “Gear Dive” — with plans to expand in the very near future. Check all of them out here on SoundCloud, or here on iTunes.

The 19th Hole is hosted by Michael Williams, who was the PGA Mediaperson of the Year in 2014 and is a longtime titan in both golf media and radio in general; he has produced and hosted shows on CBS Radio, Fox Sports Radio and Voice of America. Michael is a true professional, knowledgeable golfer, and knows how to conduct one heck of an interview. So far on the show, his guests have included Greg Norman, Bob Vokey, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Scott Van Pelt, Byron Scott, Michael Breed, Louis Oosthuizen, Jim Nantz, Roger Cleveland, Mike Taylor, and many more.

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf (TG2), is hosted by equipment expert Brian Knudson and myself, a former Division I golfer and GolfWRX Editor. Together, we discuss all things golf, but mostly focus on golf equipment… and the occasional hot take. TG2 welcomes guests on the show as well, ranging from GolfWRX forum members to club builders to Tour professionals to caddies. If you’re hungry for more equipment knowledge and high-level golf conversation, TG2 is your type of podcast.

The third, and all-new podcast, is called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder. What you can expect is a weekly podcast where Wunder interviews anyone who’s anyone “in the know” of golf equipment… and he’s going deep. To give you an idea, his first guest was legendary clubmaker Larry Bobka who made Tiger Woods’ old Titleist irons.

Also, as I discussed before, GolfWRX is great with telling stories via the written word. To make sure we continue to do so, we’ve hired Ben Alberstadt who’s been writing for GolfWRX for over 5 years now. He was previously a freelance journalist who worked with a variety of media and news outlets, and he now wears the GolfWRX hat full time. I cannot be more excited to have him aboard the ship because he’s a true, hard-working journalist and he’s great at telling a story in his own unique style. If you’ve read any of his stuff, you know what I mean.

And as for me, I promise to continue providing GolfWRX readers with the content they want and need to read/hear/see on a daily basis. It’s my duty to help our readers be the most knowledgable golfers and golf buyers, and be entertained while learning more about the sport we all love. I simply love GolfWRX and our readers/listeners/viewers, and I want you to have the best website of all time to visit every day… a website to be part of and proud of.

What do I ask from you GolfWRX readers? Your feedback! If we write a bad story, tell us why you think it’s bad. If we publish a video you like, tell us why in the comments or on social media. If you love the new podcast, tell us that you loved it and support by subscribing. (If you want all of our podcasts transcribed, we’re working on it!) We want to have the best website in the world, and we want to provide information to golfers in the way they want to consume it. We care deeply about your opinion. GolfWRX began as a forum community, and we will always be a community. Personally, I was a GolfWRX reader myself before ever writing for the site. So was Alberstadt and Williams and Knudson and Wunder. We love golf and we love GolfWRX. We want to see it thrive, and you, the readers, are a huge part of that success.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you continue to be a GolfWRX reader and participant. And if you do, make sure to tell your golfing buddies how much you love the site… in real life or on social media. The more we grow, the better stories and podcasts and videos we can create. I love and appreciate the opportunity to be your GolfWRX Editor, and I won’t let you down!

 

Hit em between the tree line,

Andrew Tursky

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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