Archive for March, 2010

Ernie Els is a man of high integrity. The Big Easy is also a fabulous golfer. But he will be just as remembered for bringing to the public’s attention the plight of autism. His seven-year-old son, Ben, is autistic, and Ernie and his wife Lisl bravely chose to reveal this and form a foundation educating the public about this tragic and debilitating illness. As a social worker and counselor with over 30 years in the field, I’ve worked with people with autism and related Asperger’s syndrome, and can tell you it adversely affects every aspect of life, both the individual’s and their family’s. There are different levels of autism, ranging from complete separation from others, such as rocking and obsessing on their fingers, to a social disorder, of varying degree, where the person is of normal or higher intelligence but has difficulty  communicating and making friends and relationships. I’ve worked with autistic kids who can only rock in a chair all day and night, absorbed totally with themselves, and others who’ve gone on to college and work. The entire illness is now known in the DSM-IV as the Autism Spectrum, with a wide range of functionality.

There’s been much misunderstanding, fear, and prejudice around autism over the years, (more…)

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I know I’m sticking my Nostradamus neck out, but I’m going to make a bold prediction for 2010. Tiger Woods will win the Grand Slam; and here’s why. Given the scandal, it’s what he has to do to gain vindication. Nothing else will do it. No words, no promises, no commitments, no vows will win the forgiveness of the public this year. If he came clean and followed the advice of Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, and this blogger, he could be vindicated. But he won’t be with five minute interviews with Golf Channel and ESPN. And he won’t be with stilted speeches in front of his friends and mother, and questionable promises of returning to his devout Buddhist ways. I suspect the Masters Media interview on Monday of Masters Week will yield nothing new. Winning all four majors in this year, however  and catching Jack Nicklaus’s record will vindicate him before a public who reveres sport heroes and rolls over easily when belly-rubbed with spectacular achievements.

Woods is a socially inept figure who talks in clipped monotones, probably has a personality disorder, and who seems more a mannequin (more…)

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These interviews were not everything I was suggesting in my last post, but they were on the right track. They take the onus off the Masters media to provide all the answers, and so more free up the Masters to focus on golf. This is a good thing. Thank you to all involved.

As a Buddhist, I also know what it’s like to stop meditating at times. This human plane is a difficult one, involving many decisions, desires, disappointments, and challenges. Without meditation or prayer of some kind, it’s a perilous journey. We need help…often. We need support. And when we fall from grace…and we all do at times…we need forgiveness. Tiger Woods is a fellow human being, a fellow Buddhist, a fellow golfer, and I wish him well in his struggle to return to that Middle Way that provides such a wonderful beacon to light the Path.

In the Dharma.

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Tiger Woods is like this little kid who nobody wants to play with because he has goo all over his hands. A little like Pigpen in Peanuts who has a swirl of dirt and dust constantly around him but who bats .714 for the season. So now Tiger spreads his goo on the Masters, and I, for one, am pissed off. There is no need to taint the greatest tournament of them all. All he needs/needed to do is/was to sit down with the press and answer any questions that come his way. No holds barred. No time limit. Everything answered. Personal. Public. Everything. And do this before the Masters. What’s he trying to do–win the thing before it starts by psyching out all his competitors? Tiger Woods got himself into this mess. Now he’s trying to drag everyone else in and make the Masters into a mess, having his personal enforcer on his bag.

Playing the Masters requires the height of concentration for all competitors. Any unnecessary distractions rob them of the ability to focus on their golf challenges. Tiger shows again how self centered and insensitive he is when it comes to golf and his colleagues. This is not what Buddhism, his mother’s religion and what he was brought up with, is all about. It’s about consideration and compassion and personal responsibility.

Very simply, I appeal to Tiger Woods to spare making the Masters into a media circus, with reporters busting at the seams to get some questions answered. Have a full disclosure, question/answer press conference before the Masters at a neutral location, open to all bona fide press members. Only then can we put this sorry episode behind us and get on with the greatest golf tournament in the world.

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I am a great driving range player. I have my off days but for the most part I look like a pro on the range. In fact, people sometimes come up and compliment me on my swing, asking how I developed it. What I’m thankful for is that they usually don’t follow that up inquiring about my handicap. For, as we well know, playing great on the range does not guarantee playing great on the course. The problem, I think, is physical and mental, perhaps even spiritual, when you consider the nebulous arena of concentration. At any rate, all of these factor into preparing to play the game of golf.

We get into a kind of mini-groove on the range. We get comfortable and relaxed. We get confident. The lies are nearly perfect. We are fresh and alert, and only need to reach over and rake another ball to the hitting area. Fatigue is a minor problem, a factor nearer to the end of the bucket. Unless you’re practicing with a buddy, no one is talking to you between shots. Your concentration is solid. You are deep into golf meditation.You have your off days at the range. A personal problem may be distracting you. A physical problem may be the cause, throwing off your concentration. Still, it is easier to establish or regain concentration at the range than on the course.

Concentration is focusing on one thing at a time in such a way (more…)

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I was over at my friendly neighborhood driving range the other day, and noticed something revealing about most amateur golfers. Most bend their forward arms in all the wrong places compared to the pros. Of course, it got me to wondering why this is. As Oscar Langman, the driving range pro in Philly who taught me how to play in 1960, emphasized, the forward arm is key to maintaining a measured swing, delivering the clubhead back at impact to the same spot at address. Without it, there is not much possibility of keeping the ball in position, hitting it far, and particularly hitting it high. Mostly, you’ll slice, pull, scoop, or top it. I know: the older I get, the more that arm bends somewhere in the back or forward swings. We’ve even given it an Oh-so special identifying tag: the chicken wing.

No need to believe me on this. Here’s what the Hawk himself, Ben Hogan, had to write on the matter, particularly in relation to the shoulder turn on the backswing: (more…)

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First, let’s be clear about something: Rickie Fowler is doing absolutely great, so far, in his initial season as a touring pro. Regardless of some of the pinheaded pundits, his lay up on the par 5, 15th hole in Phoenix was a sign of maturity and level headedness. I like that he made a decision that few expected. He plays his own game. And he does play to win. His strategy was just different, though quite reasonable under the circumstances. There is no more demanding game than tournament golf. Even we amateurs face many tough decisions during a round of golf. What we decide for any given shot is dependent on many inner and outer considerations. I’ve gone over some of these in previous posts, and you’ve all experienced these many factors. Hunter Mahan didn’t make better decisions than Rickie: He sank more putts down the home stretch.

Fowler has the mental makeup to be a winner, and he will be. It took Ben Hogan two years to win his first pro tournament, and no one had a better golf mind than the Hawk. Fowler makes decisions quickly and he performs effectively. He’s been compared to Lanny Wadkins, but I would more compare him with Arnold Palmer. And here’s why. (more…)

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