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My 10 favorite assignments of 2020

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In December of 2012, my first GolfWRX article reached your eyes. For trivia buffs, it considered the viability of sidesaddle putting. Mash all the polemics of 2012 to 2019 together, and they won’t add up to the potent cocktail of 2020. Humanity’s flawed nature, from one sea to the other, was laid bare in the USA. From ethnic strife to biological frailty, to a simple inability to think beyond one’s own needs, 2020 was a year to forget, PLEASE! (No matter what Satan and Girl 2020 try to tell you.) On we strode, torsos leaning into the winds of defiance and change, with hopes to come out of it all in 2021. On considering that cheery note, I decided to compile, for the first time, my ten favorite GolfWRX pieces. I hope that you enjoy recalling this handful of scribbles, and that we see each other again, this time, in 2021.

1. Interview with Debert Cook

Part one

Part two

Why does this matter? Debert Cook is a woman … a woman of color … a woman of color at the helm of a major golf magazine. She lends her perspective to us in the two-part interview, so that we might enter the world of brown and black golfers, and understand what they feel, experience, and enjoy, within the game that we all love, and sometimes share.

2. An in-depth talk: Golf course architect Brandon Johnson

Easily the longest-to-conclude interview I’ve ever done. Brandon Johnson wanted to get it right, so he took his sweet time, and he got it right. Despite my years of study of golf course architecture, I had yet to run across Mr. Johnson, until a friend pointed me in his direction. What came of it, was a narrative thread of an architect who moved through layers of the industry, until he found his well-deserved niche.

3. Tour Rundown: WGC to new world no. 1, Werenski, Kang and more

It was one of many TRs this year, but what set it apart were the numbers: 10K readers, to be precise. My top-selling piece of 2020. What’s funny is, it didn’t showcase a major championship, nor anything particularly salacious. Somehow, it reached five figures. Cool. No more questions.

4. December Open title goes to A Lim Kim

I placed this article at number four, three weeks before the tournament was contested. In writing about the Biden cabinet, some pundit noted that it was not, in any sense, pale, male and yale, suggesting that diversity might be a good thing for government. The same can be said for golf. Golf, its writers, and its power players need to be proactive in welcoming people of all ethnicities, gender identification, age, and social strata, to the world’s greatest game. In December, the Women’s Open in Houston concluded the major championship slate for 2020, and it brought a lot to the fore. Two courses were used in tournament proper, for the first time in history at ANY Open championship. The ultimate champion, A Lim Kim, was everything unexpected and exuberant about golf. The venue and conditions were quite challenging, and provided an appropriate conclusion to an unfortunate year in human history.

5. Two more golf books: “Getting to 18” and “One for the Memory Banks”

Tom Doak has written a healthy number of books. Luke Reese has written one. Tom Doak does not write humorous books. Luke Reese could probably not avoid writing a humorous book. For this reason, this pairing of golf book reviews sticks in my head as my favorite book review piece of 2020. I’ve met Tom Doak on three occasions. I don’t suspect that any of them is etched in his memory, but the triumvirate is indelible in my own. As for Luke Reese, we enjoyed a 45-minute conversation on the phone last sprummer (the time between spring and summer) and he truly had me at hello.  Tom Doak’s books are meticulous, attractive, the type that grow in value for intellectual and financial investors. Luke Reese’s collection of anecdotes makes us all better story tellers and historians.

6. The GolfWRX interview: Golf songster Sam Harrop

Out of nowhere came Sam Harrop. For me, at least. He might differ, as that would suggest that his life has taken place in nowhere. If there’s anything a failed artiest enjoys, it’s a send-up, a version, of a famous work. What Jake Trout and the Flounders (look them up) did in the 1980s, Sam Harrop does to a higher degree as the 2020s dawn. His golf takes on popular songs are playable, again and again. That means, you won’t tire of them. You will send the YouTube links along to your friends, and you should post them to your social media accounts. Think of them as LP or EP memes. The laughter will come, in gales.

7. GolfWRX Spotlight: Tour Edge Exotics EXS Blade wedge review

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over time … please tell me what it is, ’cause I don’t know. Seriously, it’s that an equipment review needs to state its purpose in the very first sentence. The scientists, the engineers, the gear heads, all write from a perspective of precise, limitless data. That is not my style of research nor writing. I’m the reviewer who tells you how the club looks, how it feels at various points in the address, swing, and club toss into oblivion. I’d heard so much about Tour Edge, that I sought them out, and was afforded the opportunity to review their wedges. Funny part is, they came out with a brand new line, from tee to green, three weeks after I turned in this review! Fingers are crossed that they’ll have me back for a second course.

8. “A Little Madness: Stanley Thompson’s 5 Great Courses”

Why another book review piece? This one is different. Ian Andrew, a practicing golf course architect from metro Toronto, has worked with Tom Doak (see above) on St. George’s, in Ontario. He also works on the US side of the border, and is consulting architect at a number of courses. Andrew is as fine an expert on the great Canadian architect, Stanley Thompson, as there is. A Little Madness was his labor of love, and he decided to complete the book when the pandemic arrived. Andrew self-published the book, no mean feat, and the result is worthwhile. It should still be available for purchase so, after reading the review, you might wish to secure your own copy and enjoy a little madness of your own.

9. Why all of golf’s majors should pass on 2020

This was me, raising the alarm on golf and its tournaments. My concern was for humanity. I, like all other golf aficionados, was thrilled to watch three of four major titles contested on the men’s side, and three more on the women’s. What still bothers me is the notion of normalcy that a return to professional sports conveys. It suggests to all of us that this pandemic isn’t that bad, but it is. It suggests to all of us that sacrifice and avoidance are for other people, but they aren’t. My fear of human response is tempered only by my faith in human ingenuity. Science will save the day, but not for all.

10. An Interview with Bill Coore

A long ways back, Bill Coore called me out of a swamp. Trudging around a site that he and Ben Crenshaw were considering for a course, he decided to answer my interview request with a 45-minute conversation. I was equal parts thrilled and horrified. Thrilled that a fellow Demon Deacon would value my time and questions; horrified that he might take a bad step and disappear forever, into Dagoba. Fortunately, only the former transpired. The pair opted out of that particular site, but eh ones on which they have built courses have been intuitively chosen.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Boring journalism

    Dec 23, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    This is a Facebook post, not article

    • Ronald Montesano

      Dec 24, 2020 at 8:45 am

      I’d like to know more about you. Do you surf the web, in search of boring journalism? Have you established other tenets that writers should follow? It’s exciting to know that there are people like you, adrift in the world, dedicated to improving golf writing everywhere, with 2/3 of a haiku as your mode of communication. Hope to hear back. Happy Holidays.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 159: Howard University coach Sam Puryear

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Host Michael Williams talks with Howard U. coach about the trials and triumphs in the fledgling golf program. Also features Adam Martin of Haig Point (SC) and Eduardo Mestres of Los Siete Misterios Mezcal.

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The Red Zone

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For those of you who are big football fans, we are lost in the off-season, waiting a few more months before we get to watch our favorite pro or college teams duke it out on the gridiron. Living in Texas, of course, football is a very big deal, from the NFL Cowboys and Texans, through our broad college network representing multiple conferences and into the bedrock of Friday nights – high school football, which drives fans and entire towns into a frenzy.

In almost every football conversation on TV, you hear talk about “the red zone”. How a team performs inside the 20-yard line is a real measure of their offensive prowess, and usually a pretty good indicator of their win/loss record, too. It breaks down to what percentage of the time a team scores a touchdown or field goal, and how often they come away empty.

I like to think we golfers have our own “red zone”. It’s that distance from the green where we should be able to go on the offensive and think about pars and birdies, ensure no worse than bogey . . . and rarely put a double or worse on the card. Your own particular set of red zone goals should be based on your handicap. If you are a low single digit, this is your “go zone”, where you feel like you can take it right at the flag and give yourself a decent birdie putt, with bogeys being an unpleasant surprise. For mid-handicap players, it’s where you should feel confident you’ll guarantee a par and rarely make bogey, and for higher handicap players, it’s where you will ensure a bogey at least, give yourself a good chance at par, and maybe even a birdie.

But regardless of your handicap, your own “red zone” should begin when you can put a high loft club in your hands – one with over 40 degrees of loft. Of course, that has changed a lot with the continual strengthening of irons. In my early days that was an eight iron, then it migrated to a nine. But regardless of your handicap or the make and model of irons you play, my contention is that golf is relatively “defensive” with all the other clubs in your bag. With those lower lofted irons, your goal should be to just keep it out of trouble and moving closer to the goal line . . . er, the flag. Even the PGA Tour pros make a very small percentage of their birdies with their middle irons.

When you can put a high loft club in your bag – whether that’s from 150 yards or 105 – that’s when you should feel like you can put your offense into high gear and raise your expectations. It’s no longer about power, because this isn’t about raw distance, but rather distance control and precision. From the red zone, it’s about trusting your technique and your equipment and taking it to the golf course a little bit.

As most of us are in the early stages of the 2021 golf season, one of the best things you can do for your golf improvement is to begin tracking your “red zone” performance. Put the numbers down as to how you are scoring the golf course from your 9-iron range on into the flag. My guess is that you’ll see this is where you can make the most improvement if you’ll give that part of your game some additional time and focus. Any golfer can learn to hit crisp and accurate short range approach shots. And so you should.

Pay attention to your own red zone stats, and work to improve them. I guarantee you that you’ll see your scores come down quickly.

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Reviewing Titleist TSi3 drivers and fairways! (Finally!)

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The moment you all have been waiting for: I finally have a TSi3 driver and 3-wood in my hands! Talking about how they performed and maybe some shaft changes for each in the future.

 

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