The Bermuda grass is dormant, and the greens are still recovering from a late fall aeration, but the boys and I are still hacking away (The Golf Nerd Goddess and her posse, The Klassy Beyotches, pick their spots this time of year). Once again, I’ve gone “aceless” extending a 50-odd year streak, and my handicap has crept upward to 12. My game is at a point where there’s still enough there to convince me that if I would just focus a bit more, maybe be more diligent in my stretching and exercise, and maybe not “go big” on so many Friday nights, it might return to its former glory.

I tell my friends that playing good golf requires the proper balance of Advil, Gatorade, and alcohol – if any one of those elements gets out whack, all bets are off.

But there’s this thing called “practice” that needs to work its way into the equation, and until yours truly recommits to that concept, there will continue to be plenty of “what might have been” and “if only” rounds.

But the game remains the game, with its frustrations, humiliations, and (believe it or not) fun. And in those moments when shots are executed as planned and one forgets about swing mechanics and just concerns himself with getting the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes (that is, after all, the object of the game), there is almost no better feeling in the world.

And this year did bring its golfing pleasures. To wit . . .

ROAD TRIPS: The GNG and I managed to hit two of golf’s most famous locales this year; Scotland and Pinehurst. I’m sure there are folks who react to my ramblings about St Andrews the way that the patrons at Cheers would to Cliff Klaven’s proclamations about the state of Florida, to which I say, “Too bad.” And now I have Sharon hooked to the point of her wanting to know when our next visit will be [short answer – if my Mega Millions investment plan works out, it will be very, very soon]. Our Pinehurst trip involved a reunion with some old college chums and rounds at Forrest Creek, which features two challenging and playable Tom Fazio designs. I love the low-key vibe of Pinehurst Village and the springtime beauty of the Sand Hills.

The most opulent golf experience of the year for us was arranged for us by the head pro at our club, Paul Ernst. We traveled to College Station, TX for a wedding in late September. Paul arranged for us to play at Miramont, which featured a 93,000 square foot club house (the Men’s Locker Room had a bar that was better stocked than most club restaurants I’ve been in), golf carts with leather seats, and conditions so pristine that one was afraid to take a fairway divot.

One place we will not return to (at least to play golf) is Possum Kingdom Lake. When we asked folks about this particular track, the two recurring advisements were 1) bring plenty of golf balls and 2) watch out for snakes. Any course that consistently contains fairways that tilt towards out of bounds markers located less than three yards from its edges should be blown up with the most powerful explosives available. On the other hand, the lake itself it quite lovely, being surrounded by cliffs and easily navigable by a variety of watercraft.

Regarding the world of professional golf . . .

THE RIDICULOUS: The hyperventilation over each Tiger Woods post-injury tournament appearance (which reached its zenith when the Golf Channel – which admittedly has a lot of air time to fill – noted that he was able to carry his own bag from his courtesy vehicle to the practice range at the PGA Championship, and showed his practice range shots using ShotTracker technology) . . . The Golf Channel choosing to devote an hour of live coverage from the SNL studio to have Tom Watson announce his Ryder Cup captain’s picks . . . Endless post-Ryder Cup analysis of the USA’s poor performance (Europe has better golfers right now. Suck it up) . . . The FexEx cup, which despite the tons of dollars thrown at it remains an afterthought once the majors are completed.

THE SUBLIME: Rory McIlroy’s dominating performance at the Open Championship and his great battle with Ricky Fowler and Phil Mickelson down the stretch at the PGA . . . Jordan Speith emerging as a force.

COOLEST PERSONAL PGA RELATED MOMENT: Getting to meet two-time major champion Angel Cabrera after the Byron Nelson tournament. I’d like to think that I inspired him to his victory later in the year at Greenbriar, where he holed out in the final round from 176 yards for eagle to seal the deal.

WTF: John Daly announced his engagement to his caddie, Anna Cladakis, potentially making her Mrs. Daly #5 and breaking a tour record of four wives previously held by Hal (“Halimony”) Sutton. One hopes that Long John has properly vetted Ms Cladakis and found that 1) unlike #2, she is the age that she claims to be and 2) unlike #4, she won’t come after him with a steak knife or get arrested for drug trafficking. Then again, he won a tournament over in Turkey after making this latest announcement, so who knows?

And finally, the most encouraging news of the year . . .

A few months back I wrote about my friend Vern, who was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He’s been going through intensive treatment, and the good news is that the size of his tumor has been reduced significantly. He has a lot of folks rooting for him, including you all. Thanks for that.

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