Lessons from the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont and midsummer golf
I was fortunate enough to visit Pittsburgh for the U.S. Open at Oakmont this summer. As I age, travel makes me increasingly introspective, and I find myself jotting little notes on whatever paper or device is handy. I think the idea is to incorporate these notes into later articles, and I don’t want to forget them. But then I forget to include them in the articles … sigh.
Growing old is fun.
In any case, here are some of the random notes I’ve rediscovered since returning from Oakmont (the ones I could decipher), along with a few from the past weeks of my annual summer golf binge during the glorious Midwestern playing season:
* The shape doesn’t make a bagel a bagel. In Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, The Great American Bagel is not a bagel – it’s just round bread with a hole in the middle. Now, it’s tasty bread, but it’s not a bagel.
* Flying from small airports can be truly wonderful. In a summer of TSA nightmare stories from around the country, I was the only person in line at Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. It took me, oh, 5 minutes to get through. And most of that was me taking off and putting back on my belt.
* “Go Pens!” looks a lot like something very different if you just glance as it really quickly. I couldn’t figure out why the city bus in front of my cab has a sign saying, “Go Penis” …
* It is TOTALLY WORTH IT to take a ride up the Duquesne Incline to the top of Mount Washington. The views are spectacular (see some pics in the story linked above), and the fare is just a couple of bucks.
* Wearing golf shoes to watch a tournament may seem dorky, but when the skies open up, your feet will be dry, and you won’t slip on the muddy hills. A lot of seasoned golf writers at the U.S. Open who were bragging about all the majors they’d covered had soaking wet feet after that rain-shortened Thursday. Not yours truly. My ECCO BIOM Hybrid golf shoes, crafted from supple yak leather, were stylish, comfortable, and completely waterproof.
* I’m shocked by the number of people around the country, including well traveled travel writers, who still have an image of Pittsburgh from the 1970s. The Steel City has completely reinvented itself as a foodie city, an arts city, and a high-tech & education city. So much to do and see in The ‘Burgh!
* When in Pittsburgh, you HAVE TO get a Primanti Bros. sandwich – even if you’ve had dinner just a couple hours earlier. You know how they say, “Dance like no one is watching"? Well, my motto is, “Eat a giant sandwich in bed in your hotel room like no one is watching.”
* There is a point in every round where every golfer aside from the very best thinks, “You know, I am just not very good at this game.”
* Those belts with buckles that flip down to store a ball marker are also good for secreting a cyanide capsule, for when your game goes south.
* When the Golf Gods close a door, they open a window. And in my case, they yell, “Jump! Jump, you stupid SOB!”
* A lesson is totally worth the time and money. Sometimes a good pro will see just one thing you can’t feel and give you the easy fix. In my case, within 60 seconds, Dave Huber, the head pro at Lake of the Woods Golf Course, saw that I was “playing a piccolo” at the top of my backswing (i.e., letting go of the club with the last 3 fingers of my left hand). And when I regripped it, there was no telling where the clubface would be. When I focused on keeping the last three fingers of my left hand firmly on the club, my game turned around, and I got back to trying to break 80 instead of worrying about not being able to break 90.
* Nothing – nothing – in golf is more memorable than watching your son or daughter card his/her first birdie on a regulation course. When my 12-year-old son drilled a 15-foot birdie putt a couple weeks ago, all of my own playing struggles this year melted away.
Heck, even I won’t forget that birdie.
Getting old might not be a picnic, but it’s better than the alternative.
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