Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Official Word is...

I do some observing and analysis on this blog, but its main purpose is to keep my friends, family and supporters current on my weekly happenings in the golf world. The recent update from the Asian Tour is I will be playing in a field consisting of 156 players, divided on two courses, for spots equal to 15% of the field (somewhere around 11 spots). I will be competing at Borneo GC for my first stage.

The following week holds the second stage where there will be again a full field spread out over two courses for 40 tour cards. Out of the two 1st stage venues, Borneo is the more challenging; a Jack Nicklaus design that measures about 7300 yards from the back tees.

As fate would have it, playing a longer, more difficult course is an advantage for a player like me whose strength lies in driving and putting. That advantage combine with all the productive prep work I've been putting in on the practice area should be a large initial stride towards a successful result.

Stage 1 commences December 5 and I will be ready to start the first day of the rest of my life as a successful Asian Tour golfer.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Hole in One Card

Hung from endless walls lining the Keleb Golf Perkhidmatan Awam (golf club I practice at in KL) are plaques with names dating back to the begining of the club's history. They are the names of every golfer to get a hole in one at KGPA. After your name is mounted on one of the many plaques, you recieve a 'tour card.' A card that signifies you have made a hole in one in Malaysia and therefore, are entitled to discounts and complementary rounds throughout the country. At one country club I played at in Indonesia, a hole in one won you a free lifetime membership at that facuility.

I wish in this paragraph I was able to relay to you that my name now appears on one such wall. However, I am still holeless. If there ever was a place to run an ace scam, it would be in Asia. H-I-Os are reveared and celebrated on an entirely new level. At most courses I have been to, the managment could care less if you are a professional pursuing golf as a career. But, if you have hit a bladed short iron, that snuck up the ladies' aid, over the apron, down the slope, through the windmill and into the clown's mouth at some point in your life, you can get a cheaper rate to play golf.

When I meet someone new who has no golfing experiance, they ask two questions: how far do you hit the ball; and how many hole in ones do you have? Should they only ask me how many ones I've made, and I reply zero, it is naturally assumed that because the Questioner's Grandmother Lucille made a hole in one last week, I am not a very skilled player. These are the looks the Pro golfer gets in Asia after he shows up at a course's registration desk with no H-I-O card.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Perseptional Shifts

I woke up this morning and seriously contemplated calling in sick. I was just going to pick up the phone, use my direly ill voice to get me out of work and spend the day in bed. The plan sounded so appealing as I looked into the bathroom mirror after my morning pit stop. My body felt as if it had been beaten in my sleep and the culprit taped my eyes open while they slapped me around.

I've been in prep mode for the last week. It starts one month prior to competition--early wakeups, cardio workouts, practice and on course prep work before the day tapers down with a hard anaerobic workout and stretching. Then I move onto my golf psych mental preparation. It is a complete and hearty day, but on this particular morning, the previous day had left me feeling lame.

I sat plunked down on the couch and nestled into the cushions. The tv was turned onto the only english station my antenna picks up: strange online messages were flashing across the screen as American songs played in the background. If I took a sick day and spent the day resting I would be fresh for tomorrow I thought. "Tomorrow, yeah, I'll make it happen tomorrow. I'll be twice as productive."

It was almost 9am. I had overslept and already disrupted my daily prep routine. Even if I wanted to get everything started now, I would be working into the night before sleep and then my sleep cycle would be thrown off. I'd be twice as tired tomorrow if I decided to start my day now. I started to flip through dvds.

I looked across the room to my Asian Tour Q-School Prep Plan (I have a large white board where I write the next days schedule every night). I looked back to my dvds and began to wonder whether I should start my day off with The Weather Man, seeing how it was monsoon season? It seemed appropriote for a sick day.

Sometimes, inspiration comes from unlikely sources. When I saw Charles Howell III in Singapore, he had an entourage at lunch with him-- a group of people that likely included friends, coaches, maybe his agent-- his possie. These are the kind of people who are around for moral support, intellectual challenge and to inspire confidence. They are what Napolean Hill would call "The Mastermind Alliance (TMA)." My TMA consists of various people I know genuinely love me. This morning I only had one member of my TMA with me.

All 5'11'' of her stood over me as I justified to her why it was alright for me to spend the day on the couch watching Nick Cage and Michael Caine in The Weather Man. She is usually a person who supports the decisions I make without any quarrel. She responded with, "I'm sure that is what your opponents are doing. They are waiting until tomorrow to get ready to beat you. Today, they're all taking the day off and watching movies too." She walked away.

She cant understand I thought, aggrivated. I need my rest. My body is tired, it'll be ready to kick some ass tomorrow. I almost felt satistfied. I nearly convinced myself until I had a delayed reaction to her rationale. I invisioned an opponent, another pro. He was on the driving range, grinding away. Hitting ball after ball crisply today and he was thinking about beating me. Usually my inspiration comes from the idea of beating the golf course. Hitting it close to the hole, away from the challenges and adversity that the course has planned for the other golfers. Today, that image, that challenge, didn't appeal to my motivation. But this image was so powerful that it immedietly got me to my feet and out the door.

Inspiration comes in various ways, from different sources. Even the monotony of preparation or office work needs to be kept fresh. Sometimes all it takes it a slight tweak of perspective from an unlikely source to provide that reignition of passion.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

After I placed my clubs in the cab's trunk yesterday I looked up at the sky; behind the cab was partially cloudy with sun shinning through, the sky ahead ominous- black, as if night had set in. As I got in the car and drive towards the darkness the cabbie said, "I dont think you picked the right time to go golfing, my friend." "Haven't you heard, it never rains on a golf course. My dad swore by that law," I replied. He laughed, "...monsoon season here in Malaysia for the next few months. Be careful out there, the wind will take you with it!"

The storm couldn't have been more on cue. Following his forecast, the clouds decended upon the highways and opened up, revealing a wind that could have carried a golf ball farther than any shot in Malaysian golf history and a rain that could make a seeing-eye dog, blind. This storm would have made Santa turn his sliegh around and go weeping like a little school-girl, to Mrs. Clause. I needed a row boat to make it into my appartment later to mop up the floor...all part of the Asian experiance.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Indiana Jones and the Golf Course of Doom

Flat, duckbilled hat brims from 1987 strapped as tightly to the asian male golfers' heads as is possible without them blowing out an eye socket. A shirt and pair of shorts that look like more like old bathing suits than golf shorts. This ensamble combine with knee-high, white socks that fit into all black golf shoes. The only thing that was missing was a large camera strapped around their necks and mickey ears over their hats. I played golf with three players like this today. They looked like stereotypical, Disney-bound, asian tourists in America, only they were in their hometown in Asia. The best part about it was: they were making fun of me.

At a small, outdoor chinese restaurant, I sat in front a traditional asian breakfast consisting of everything but the socks I wore yesterday. It had pork, fish balls, shirmp, noodles and I dont even want to know the rest of the contents. As I fumbled around attempting to eat the gumbo with plastic chopsticks, I looked up to see my playing companions, having finished their bowls, enjoying the comedy hour of me lifting and dropping my slimmy noodles back into the soup. As they splashed in the soup, broth shot over the sides of the bowl spilling onto the table. I laughed along with them.

"You want to use fork?" They asked.

"I didn't come across the world to use american utensils thanks," I replied.

"Then, I think you go hungry today," Mr. Lo responded. He was right.

I had the last laugh though when their golf balls found the cobra pit on the par 5, seventeenth hole. My drive soared high and far over it. Yes, I said "cobra pit" and it isn't called that only because the hazard is in the shape of the deadly snake. Needless to say, players who go down looking for their balls get more than they bargained for.

The course should have been the setting for the upcomming Indiana Jones film. It winded through the mountains, carved out of the jungle. It was more like a cross-country, jungle trek than a golf course. You were afraid the next time you reached your hand down into the hole, you were going to pull out your arm without a hand attached to it.

The grass here is entirely different than America. Being on the equator and almost 100 degrees everyday, the course maintenance is extreamly difficult given many courses' lack of funding. Therefore, the public courses consist almost entirely of what we know as 'crab grass;' the kind you dont even want growing in your front lawn. When you can shoot 68 consistently on crab grass, you are ready for the tour. The toughest, nastiest grass on any side of the world, added to the challenge of the jungle adventure.

There is nothing like the feeling of home on the otherside of the world though. I am sure it was my playing companions goal today to show me a great day in southeast asia. After the round we celebrated the Indian New Year together. I sat in a room full of Malays, Chinese and Indians ringing in the new year. There were Buddhists, Hindis, Christians and Muslims all sharing laughs and stories in every different language they spoke. It was a beautiful, harmonious and comforting moment. All gathered around for the companionship and the drink. We ate the local food with our celebratory drinks and they saw to it that my meal was brought out with a fork so I wouldn't go hungry.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Stuck in the middle with you

"We are all just kites floating in the wind." ~Shivas Irons, "Golf in the Kingdom," by Michael Murphy

A main differance between western and eastern philosophy lies in perspective of "the journeyman." Western philosophy sees the journey as taking you somewhere; a physical location that leads you to transcend your former reality. The American cowboy is a "floating kite." The high-school graduate heading to college fits this model.

Eastern philosophy (Chinese Tao, Hindi Upanishads, etc.) view "the journey" as knowledge attained from the inside moving outward. According to these philosophies, the ability to transcend does not come because you seek it out. It will not come from books you read, or lecture halls you sit in at University. The ultimate existence is innately connected to people. The unlocking of this potential starts not when you seek it out through outer forms of knowledge, but by searching your inner being.

Here I stand, somewhere in between. My path has led me to the other side of the world. But my transcendence comes from mastering my innermost fears and anxieties, while roaming through a zen state in nature. Or otherwise known as finding inner tranquility and happiness that yeilds low scores on the golf course.

So whether you play golf or not, the object of hitting the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible is the most superficial and inadequete description of this game we all play.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Asian Tour Prep Work

Last week the Asian Tour announced it provisional schedule for the upcomming 2008 season. It offers 11 events wth US$1 million purses in addition to a greater number with purses between US$300k and US$1million. See this article if you're interested in where I will be spending '08 (I promised my mom I wouldn't play in the Pakistan Open, so that one's out):

I began training today for the qualifying tournament that begins in exactly 1 month. After a run, lower-body workout and flexability training, I began the epic search for a golf course to practice on. This crusade began in a slef-proclaimed, devoutly-religious, Muslim's taxi. After being dropped off at the base of a country club's driveway, which ascended at a 45 degree angle for what felt like miles, I made it to a course that I found out had been closed for renovations. This course was well outside civilization, where no taxi cabs ventured. I was stranded.

Before slinging my weapons over my shoulders and embarking on a pilgrammage down the mountain, I encountered a Chinese man with a relaxed and indifferant demeanor. After a few minutes of talking, the man offered to drive me to a nearby golf course. "It's lucky for you that you play golf. Otherwise you would be just another stranded tourist," he joked. Whether a dues-paying, member somewhere or not, regardless of what part of the world you are in, if you can speak that golf lingo, you're part of the club. It can be a very adventageous club to belong to.

Xiansheg Loh (Mr. Loh), the manager of a nearby furniture store, drove his new Toyota Camry north of the city. The buildings were disappearing from view, even the Petronas Towers, a marvelous sight from anywhere near the city, had vanashed from the horizon. Surrounding us were mountains, jungle and caves. We were at least 30 minutes outside the city. An unusually kind fellow member of World Golf Country Club and I, drove past monkeys headed towards another golf course. After a cell phone call, Xiansheg Loh had been told in Malay, that visitors were not allowed to play after 1:00pm.

As we discussed his golf game and Kuala Lumpur, the golf course was in sight. He finally asked me what I did for work after I had illuded to being in Malaysia for business about an hour earlier. When I told him I was a professional golfer from the United States, his excitment startled me. "I can't believe I have a pro in my car! That I am talking to a pro makes my day! Maybe you come play with my friends and I on thursday at my home club!..." He continued.

That was the begining of a day that followed with a golf course carved into the side of mountains and jungle. Monkeys came up to my "buggy," attempting to conspicuously steal a snack I was eating! The fog and clouds cut into the sides of the surrounding mountains creating thin, overhanging roofs. I hit a bunker shot where the ball used a sheer-rock cliff, as a picutesque backdrop. Those thin roofs began to open up. Sheets of water came crashing down on the lush jungle and the theiving monkeys. I welcomed the added challenge of the inclimate weather and finished my round with a majestic, towering 230 yard 4 iron. The ball landed softly next to the hole on the rain-soaked green. The rain and jungle-carved fairways didn't prove the true challenge of the afternoon.

The real test was the homeward-bound journey. But that's a story for a less occupied day.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Possibly the most poorly planned city on planet earth is Kuala Lumpur. It is spread out over a large radius with no true central city area. The roads are built in circles that take you everywhere but where you want to go. Some might think it could be the taxis attempting to get back at some bargaining strategy that I will delve into shortly. In actuality though, there was never a plan for the construction of the city and because of this, locations and roads are random and indirect. Thank the petrol companies for the Petronas Towers. It is worth comming and enduring the circular nature of the travel just to see the towers light up the night's sky.

Everyone has an angle here. They see tall, white-boy in his golf polo and they sharpen their talons. In the cheapest, shopping capital of the world you can purchase anything: films on dvd still in theatres, Tag Hauer "genuine replicas" for 30RM ($9), Gucci handbags for 50RM, the newsest pair of Nike shoes for 60RM, or should you be the wrong place, female companionship. Everything that can be bought can be bargained for. This extends to meals and beer.

Most taxis here wont run the meter for tourists. They give you a price, let's say 30RM, for a trip that costs no more than 6 or 7 RM. If you arent a stereotypical tourist, the interactions goes as follows: After the cabbie says 30, you laugh and close the passenger door. You continue laughing as you begin to walk down the road. They drive alongside you after rolling down the window. Providing they speak english, the cabbie will retort with "my friend, how much you pay?" You then ask them whether they dont charge their later passengers for the remainder of the night after you pay 30RM because for 30RM, you'd pay for everyone else's cab rides. Shake your head and smile when asking the question. They respond by repeating their previous question begining with, "my friend..." Then you tell them you're prepared to give them your business if they run the meter. Then follow that statement with another; maybe you'll consider giving them a tip despite them attempting to rip you off. That'll break down any formal, "hello how are you today, the weather is hot, hugh?..." small talk.

Once you get this system down, you've taken the first step in being able to handle public transportation in southeast asia.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cabbie World Perspective

Please Note: I do not in any way agree with this persective, I only offer it as standing out for an American tourist venturing through the world. It made for a slightly tense cab ride.

An Islamic cab driver yesterday told us the reason for the war in the middle east. The war in the middle-east the US has created, says the cabbie, is because the majoirty of our goverment is comprised of Jewish people. These Jews want to cleanse the world of the Islamic population by sending the Christians to fight them, thus leaving Judiasm as the most prevelent, and powerful religion in the world. It's all a religious conspiracy he added.