I just wanted to start this article by thanking GolfWRX for allowing me to share my story of battling ulcerative colitis, and to the community of great members for taking the time to read it. It was a blast for me to write it, and I feel I am achieving one of my goals of raising awareness about the disease and just how difficult it can be on the people and their loved ones going through it.
To provide a bit more insight as to where I am now, I am feeling 100 percent. It was a long road to get there, mind you. After being told I would be in the hospital for three to five days, I was there for 14, home for two and then back to the hospital for another three.
I remember a lot about being in the hospital. The thing that I will take with me the most is the love and support of my family and friends. My loving wife (fiancée at the time) was the best. She would always be with me and just made me feel so good about it all, and always encouraged me to continue to get better and better. My brother came to visit me every single day; a 45-minute drive away and never missed a day. It meant the world to me to see him, and he made things easier for me. My mom and dad were there a lot too, and my friends all came to visit. It’s the people in your life that make the difference, and I think my team of people is the best!
I also remember my weight. Before getting so sick, I was about 170 pounds. A few days after my surgery I got on the scale and it said 123! I was in shock. I was so skinny it was scary. I am happy to say that I am now back to 165, and feel great about it.
As for my ostomy, I still have it. I am in a position to remove it and replace it with an internal “J-Pouch,” however I plan to keep my bag. For me, it has been easy to deal with, and I can easily handle it. I consider it my life-saver, and it truly has been. It allows me to golf, and live a very normal life, it is all good!
Now, as for golf, I was able to get in a very full 2012 season and it was a blast. I did a lot to prepare in the cold, wintery months here in Toronto and felt ready to go once 2012 started. My goal was to compete in about four or five events, but that changed when a big break came.
I saw the application online for The Golf Channel’s “Big Break” and I knew I had to apply. True, I was very rusty at the time, but I thought why not? What a story it would be right? I applied and kind of forgot about it, that is until the show got back to me asking me to come apply. The problem was the auditions were nowhere near me; Florida, North Carolina and Phoenix were the sites.
I am a die-hard Phoenix Coyotes fan, and it has been a dream of mine to go to Arizona. I really thought hard about it, and then my father-in-law offered to help out with the costs of the trip. He believed in me, and knew this was a great opportunity for me to live out two dreams: go to Phoenix and be on the Big Break. From there, I had to go for it, and I did! It was mid-March, and I was on my way, about to try to make it on the show.It was a dream come true just to be there, and a trip I won’t soon forget. I was very fortunate to be able to play TPC Scottsdale, as well as Troon North while out there, and both were incredible. Troon North truly blew me away. It was something else!
I remember very clearly my audition for the show. I arrived at the course very early, and figured I would warm up and hit some putts — really just soak the whole experience in. I remember hitting balls and watching the guy beside me. He was swinging so beautifully, so pure and it was something else to see. It reminded me a lot of my favorite player, Aaron Baddeley. Turns out that it was Ray Beaufils, who, of course, qualified for the show. When it was finally my turn to be interviewed, I was really nervous, but confident at the same time. I went over in my head a number of times the potential questions and of course what my answers were. I felt pretty good as the interview kept going. He then asked me about my surgery, and I could tell he had never heard of the disease. He seemed was very confused as I told him a little about the procedure and what happened. That threw me off a little, and I kind of froze over the last question or two.
When it was time to hit some balls, I did, but they were OK shots at best. My flaw of a little over-hooking shots showed up a bit, but it could have been worse. When I left the course, I was really kicking myself over the interview more than anything. I really wanted a chance to have a do over on the final few questions, and actually show him my ostomy bag. I knew he was clueless about it, I should have just showed him. I was down, but decided to not let it ruin my trip. Later that week I got to live out a dream of seeing the Coyotes at home, and it was amazing. Thinking back to that night — wow — so amazing! Of course, not totally like the atmosphere in Toronto or Montreal, but it was special nonetheless. And getting to meet Shane Doan and Mike Smith the day before at practice made it all the more special.
The only down side of the trip was the fact that I used up five of my vacation days at work, really limiting me in terms of days I could take for events. I knew that going in, but knew it was worth it! It was painful waiting to hear back from the show, and when I got the news I was not selected I was upset, but I totally understood. I think getting that “no” kept me motivated for 2012 to work hard on my game, and be more prepared for another shot if I decide to go for it.
As the season went on, it was just so great to be out playing. After missing so much time, the scores were a lot less important than the actual playing part. I started off playing respectably, but not up to my standards. I was hitting the ball well, but I was a bit shorter than I was used to, and was really struggling with my putter. That was until June, when I added a long putter. That putter served me well for the second half of the season, and I was able to shoot some pretty solid scores while in Florida in July. I was able to sneak in one event toward the end of the season, which was interesting to say the least.
I went up a few days before for a practice round and later found out that the Tour changed the event course! I really wish I had known that! So I arrived for the event going in cold, not ever seeing the course. But was just ready to have a good time and feel the nerves again of professional golf.
I vividly recall my warm-up session and just how good it was. I was flushing it, and honestly only missed one shot all warm-up. I was ready. Of course, what do I do on the first tee? Pull it left, lose the ball and make a six. It was weird; I honestly did not feel too nervous — I just really miss-aligned myself for fear of going right and over did it. As the round went on, I continued to struggle. I just kept telling myself have fun, and remember this is just a prep for 2013. I got a bit discouraged on the back after a few three-putts and left the course sour about how poor I played. But I was still excited to be back in professional golf, and looking forward to 2013.
Once again, thank you all so much for the read. It has been a lot of fun writing these entries and even more fun hearing all the well wishes from the community.
TG2: Should Tiger Woods play in The Masters without a driver?
Tiger Woods’ No. 1 concern heading into the Masters is the driver, according to Notah Begay. Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky argue whether Tiger should even use a driver during the Masters. Also, they discuss Rory’s new prototype putter and how it was made, and they talk about a new shaft company called “LA Golf Shafts.”
Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
For more info on the topics, check out the links below.
- Rory’s putter: www.golfwrx.com/503976/rory-mcilr…rmade-soto-proto/
- Tiger’s driver: www.golfwrx.com/503940/tiger-wood…irms-notah-begay/
- LA Golf Shafts: www.golfwrx.com/503818/la-golf-pa…s-la-golf-shafts/
Book Review: The Life and Times of Donald Ross
The Life and Times of Donald Ross is a successful golf history, in that it holds one’s attention, regardless of one’s level of enthusiasm or interest for the subject. It can hardly avoid doing so, as it traces the life of a man who lived through both world wars, emigrated from the old country to the new, and championed a sport that grew from infancy to maturity in the USA, during his earthly run. The loss of two wives to uncontrollable circumstances, the raising of a child essentially on his own, and the commitment to the growth of golf as an industry add to the complexity of the life of Donald J. Ross Jr. Within the cover of this tome, through words and images, the life and times of the man are communicated in fine fashion.
The book was published in 2016, by Chris Buie of Southern Pines, North Carolina. Buie is not a professional writer in the traditional sense. He does not solicit contracts for books, but instead, writes from a place of passion and enthusiasm. This is not to say that he is not a writer of professional quality. Instead, it isolates him among those who turn out high-level prose, scholarly research, with attention-holding results.
Before I opened the book, it was the cover that held my attention for much longer than a single, fleeting moment. The solitary figure, staring out across the ocean. Was he gazing toward the Americas, or toward his birthplace, in Scotland? And that blend of blue shades, like something out of Picasso’s 1901-1904 period of monochromatic azures, proved to be equal parts calming and evocative. Those years, by the way, correlate with the 29th to the 32nd years of Ross’ life. During that period, Ross lost a brother (John) to injuries suffered in the Boer War, and married his first wife, Janet. With care like that for the cover art, what marvelous research awaited within the binding?
After a number of readings, I’m uncertain as to the greater value of the words or the pictures. Perhaps it’s the codependency of one on the other that leads to the success of the effort. The book is the culmination of 5 months of exhaustive research, followed by 7 months of intense writing, on Buie’s part. The author made up his mind to match as many images as possible with his descriptors, so as to create both visual and lexical collections to stand time’s test. Maps, paintings, photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, etchings and course routes were collected and reproduced within the covers. Throughout the process, so much of Ross’s life and craft, previously unrecognized in publication, were revealed to Buie. Ross’s ability to make the unnatural look natural when necessary, is hardly equaled in the annals of golf course architecture. According to Buie,
Growing up all I’d heard was natural. Certainly he incorporated as much of the existing terrain and environment as possible. But given how much other work went into the courses, it would be more accurate to say his courses were naturalistic.
Buie also scrapes away at the misplaced notion that Ross was a one-dimensional golf course architect. After all, what else did Shakespeare do besides write plays and sonnets? Well, Ross did so much more, in addition to building some of the world’s great member and tournament golf courses, shaping the Pinehurst Resort experience, and running an in-town hotel in the process. Again, Buie comments,
His greatest contribution was the role he played in the overall establishment of the game in the United States. He was involved in every aspect (caddymaster, greenkeeper, teacher, player, mentor, tournaments, clubmaking, management, etc). The theme that went through his efforts was that he was adamant all be done “the right way”. Given the breadth and enduring nature of his efforts I don’t think anyone else did more to establish the game in America. That makes him the “Grand Old Man of the American Game” – not just a prolific architect.
What was it about Ross, that separated him from the many compatriots who journeyed from Scotland to the USA? They were content to compete and run golf clubs, but Ross sought so much more. His early years involved much successful competition, including top-10 finishes in the US Open. He was also a competent instructor, manifested in the ability of his students to learn both the swing and its competitive execution. And yet, Pinehurst is so different from any other place in the Americas. And so much of what it is, is due to the influence of Donald Ross.
In a nod to the accepted round of golf across the planet, the book contains 18 chapters, including the appendices. At locomotive pace, the mode of transportation utilized by Ross to traverse the lower 48 of the USA and Canada, the reader gathers a proper awareness of the great man’s living arc. Beginning with the hike from the train station in Boston to the Oakley Country Club, the emigration of the Scotsman from the highlands of Caledonia to the next hemisphere was a fairly simple affair, with unexpected, poignant, and far-reaching consequences. Donald J. Ross, jr., would complete the shaping of american golf that was assisted (but never controlled) by architectural peers. Men like Walter Travis, Albert Tillinghast, Charles Blair Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie and Tom Bendelow would build courses of eternal worth, but none would shape in the far-reaching manner of Ross.
It’s tempting to make a larger portion of this story about Buie, but he wouldn’t have it so. A Pinehurst native, Buie’s blend of reverence and understanding of his home region are evident and undeniable. One almost thinks that a similar history might have been written about any number of characters charged with the stewardship of the Sandhills region of North Carolina. Fortunately for aficionados of golf and its course architecture, Buie is a golfer, and so we have this tome.
Donald J. Ross, jr. was a man of principle, a man of faith, a man of belief. When those beliefs came into conflict with each other, which they seldom did, he had an instinct for elevating one over the other. No other place is this more evident that in his routing of the Sagamore course in Lake George, in the Adirondack mountains of New York state. Faced with the conundrum of how to begin the course, his daughter remembers the sage words of the father. Despite contradicting his belief that a course should never begin in the direction of the rising sun, Ross commented I can’t start it anywhere but looking out at that lake and those mountains. Indeed, Sagamore would be a poorer place for an alternate opening, and this review would have less of a way to reach its end.
My recommendation: read the book.
Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real
We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.
The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.
Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.
Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.
Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.
I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.
Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.
Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!
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