Monday after-Master’s meditations

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth

The dude’s 20 … he’s got time, insane talent and the full respect and attention of the golf intelligentsia. Older men, older major champions, have cracked in the crazy kiln of Master’s Sunday.

So it almost goes without saying that Jordan Spieth will have the lead again on the final day of a major, and next time, or the time after that, he’ll close the deal. Until he does, he’ll have another “youngest” distinction clinging to him.

Youngest “Best Player to Have Never Won a Major.”

The Bubba bounce
He’ll be making the rounds of the talk shows, and being Bubba. Am I the only one who’s weary of his Bubba-ness? His schtick got old after his first Master’s … did he hire better writers this year?

Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson

Another question: Where were the veteran pros in contention at the start of Sunday, a bunch of good players, at the end?  Where was the drama? The heat was applied by a 20-year-old, who tied for second with Jonas Blixt, who was a Master’s rookie but nearly a decade older than Spieth.

Miguel Angel Jimenez made some noise for a while, and so did Matt Kuchar, but they couldn’t push through. By all accounts Kuchar is a good guy, cursed for all time, I expect, by being the nicest “Best Player to Have Never Won a Major.”

In the realm of “-est”s,  Jimenez’s is pretty simple: Coolest, attested by the video-gone-viral of his booty-shaking warm-up act.

Insight where you least expect it
Bill Haas was the first-round leader, and was smooth in doing it. By early in Friday’s second round, however, the TV commentators were saying he was too quick, out of rhythm, out of sorts, and as it turned out, the pundits were right. It didn’t show in his score until the back nine, but the bogeys started coming, and by the end of the tournament he was out of contention and damn near out of sight.

Golf has too many elements in play to make commenting on it any kind of easy, but these guys are experts — just ask them. Sometimes, a guy who talks about golf for a living sees something, and it bears out. Who would have predicted that?

Dufner, Mickelson, et al: Play big, or go home

Why not Dufner?

I’ll tell you why … a first-round 80. You can hear a lot just by listening (to the Golf Channel the morning after), i.e., the highest first-round score by an eventual champion at Augusta was 75 by Craig Stadler in 1982.

Dufner started off OK, with an even-par, bogey-free front nine. But he was disgruntled by a double-bogey on the par-4 10th and a 9 on par-5 No. 13, and the PGA champion last year can’t be cheered by his chances for playing on the weekend. Stadler followed that 75 in 1982 with a 69 to shoot himself back into contention, shot 67 in the third round and struggled to a 73 on Sunday to fall into a playoff with Dan Pohl.

Pohl, by the way, also opened with a 75 that year, followed by another 75, then had 67s on Saturday and Sunday before losing on the first playoff hole to Stadler. Pohl only made the cut because almost all the first-round scores in 1982 were high: of the top 10 on the final leaderboard, nobody broke par on the first day. Larry Nelson (T7) had a 79, Tom Watson (T5) had 77.

My crack research team (collectively known as Wikipedia) found five modern-era instances of a player shooting 74 and going on to win The Masters: Tiger Woods in 2005, Mark O’Meara in 1998, Jose Maria Olazabal in 1994, and Jack Nicklaus in 1986 and 1963.

Note to Phil Mickelson (76 on Thursday): History says you’re toast.

Note 2: Who the hell is Dan Pohl? Answer: A pretty good pro, with two wins on the PGA Tour and 70 Top 10s, including seven in majors.

The Masters: Why not Dufner?

Augusta National

Augusta National

It’s not the first tournament on the PGA Tour schedule … but it’s first in the hearts and brains of U.S. golf fans.

For many of us, it’s the real Opening Day of golf, notwithstanding that scary-warm day in January when you had to shed layers. Note: Global climate change is clearly a hoax.

People who say “I love golf but I can’t watch it on TV” watch this. On Sunday, they book their tee time early, let the DVR take the morning shift, then fast-forward to the back nine for the leaders, when it really gets good.

It’s The Masters, and it’s here.

I’d love to see Augusta National, and play it, and watch The Masters in person, but with today’s crazy-good electronics, it’s the major made for TV. Only one other golf tournament in the world – The (British) Open Championship – compares as a television spectacle.

If Augusta had any blemishes, the high-def cameras would pick ‘em up and magnify ‘em for the world to see, like the individual pores on the face of a guy like Jason Dufner. But there aren’t any, and the grass and flowers and water features are posed as if for a spring-issue snow globe, with dogwood blossoms standing in for the snow.

One of my golf buddies says Dufner has a hot wife … well, he ought to. He makes enough money. I like the guy, and I hope he wins The Masters.

Tiger Woods isn’t here, and he’s still the story … because he isn’t here. By the back nine Sunday, he won’t be the guy we’re talking about. It might be Jason Day, or McIlroy, or maybe even Mickelson.

Whoever it is, a win, especially if it’s his first, will forever define him. But he will not define The Masters. It is, all by itself, definitive, even if the azaleas look too good to be real.

The tournament director and her son

Verian Potter

Verian Potter

There might be many reasons for prolonged absences from this blogspace, and all of them, except for maybe one, aren’t worth a damn as excuses. You are lazy, messy, useless in all ways, I remind myself. Make no mistake: You are a bad human being.

The month of February was lost to me for all normal discourse and activity. I was spotty at work, worthless when I was there; a ghost to my family. This Website just sat there. Even the Seahawks’ Super Bowl went by in a haze, though I watched the game, because that was the day Mom went in the hospital for the last time.

In that last month of her life, I was not a bad son.

Part of my mother’s life, a small part, in the final accounting, was a charity golf tournament in Kelso, Wash., in the early 2000s. She knew nothing of golf, nothing about putting on a tournament, but she’d heard somewhere that a golf event was a good way to raise money. So she threw in, all in, and took the lead for the first Habitat for Humanity golf tournament in the Longview-Kelso area.

Mom was a person of ambition and accomplishment, evident in the broad outline of her life: early graduate of high school so she could go work for the wartime FBI in Chicago and Washington, D.C.; Iowa State home economics major, later a home ec teacher, later yet an elementary- and middle-school counselor; mother to five children, grandmother to seven, great-grandmother to two.

We learned later that Mom had a broken back that day at Three Rivers Golf Course. I knew she was in pain, and it was plain on her face, but she didn’t yet know she had a fractured vertebrae and she didn’t tell anyone how badly she was hurting. She hadn’t shirked on the heavy lifting, apparently literally, in the work to get ready for the tournament.

It didn’t make a ton of money the first year — who knows how much? It’s in a ledger somewhere. What’s important is there is still an annual tournament for Habitat, and as far as I can tell it’s grown in size and sponsorships every year. They don’t call it the Verian Potter Memorial Tournament for Habitat for Humanity, but that wouldn’t be a bad name.

Mom died on Feb. 26, 2014. We gave her a hell of a sendoff at her old church in Longview. I did the eulogy for the family. It was an okay speech — it was easy enough to be funny, easy enough to be proud, easy enough to move the audience, that audience, to tears, especially when I was near to breaking any moment. It was a good and proper good-bye to a hell of a woman, and that day, at least, I might have been a good son.

Reed, and the field: The Yahoo way

THE OPPORTUNISTIC Commander Zero will not pass up the chance to start the insanely talented Patrick Reed in his Yahoo lineup for the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Open. I love you, baby, don’t do me bad.

Besides Reed, Zero is calling on guys with names like Moore, Kirk, Simpson, Stuard, Every, English and Palmer (Ryan). Bums, all of them, until proven otherwise. The Commander is not bitter.

Imitation of myself, with liberal use of the strikethrough key, is the sincerest form of laziness.

Anybody who had Patrick Reed Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the lineup had a pretty good lousy Yahoo week at the Humana Challenge Farmers Insurance Open. They got 20 zero points from him them on the weekend for the day’s low round with his 63s each of Thursday, Friday and Saturday and another 20-point and no bonus, nothing, for winning the whole thing missing the third-round cut (Woods) and withdrawing with an aching back (Mickelson).

Commander Zero clocked in with 165 102 points in the Graeme McDowell division, buoyed sunk by an empty final round 25 from Z. Johnson from our heroes, who went low were home by Sunday.  with a 62 and finished fourth in the tournament. If not for Charley Hoffman, a T-7 after a closing 67, the Zeroes wouldn’t have reached three digits.

It wasn’t enough to slide into even get close to the top 50 for the week in the Graeme Mac, but overall, – while Zero couldn’t crack cracked the magic 60,000 barrier,  – he improved improving all the way to 60,534th 58,569th place, ahead of most of the players who forget to turn in a  lineup most weeks, which zoomed inexplicably bumped him up into double digits at to the 14th 21st percentile.

So clearly, going forward, with the value stream duly mapped and all the metrics measured, with the non-linear opposing dynamics factored in direct proportion to their relative weight or lack thereof, the line chart is trending to the northeast  east, which is to say, generally upward no worser. It’s a long season.

Returning to the fore at Southern Oregon’s Eagle Point

Eagle Point Golf Club

Eagle Point Golf Club

This article appeared first in

by Jack Seybold
The development of golf courses in the early-to-mid-’90′s was part of the phenomenon described by Jim Kopenhaver in the September 2013 issue of  The Pelucid Perspective as the “build-a-course-a-day decade.” The supply of golf courses was seen as insufficient, lenders were gung-ho, and Tiger Woods’ dominance of the PGA tour was fueling a surge in the sport’s popularity.

Courses seemed to be popping up everywhere, much to the delight of everyone, from beginners to the discriminating golfer, who welcomed the chance to play more than one course in their area. Eagle Point Golf Club was part of the rising tide of course construction.

Riding the wave
Residents of Eagle Point, near Medford, in Southern Oregon, had long speculated about the Naumes property, known as Melrose Orchard, as a site for a golf course. The little valley had been a hay-growing operation for years when in 1992 Gregg Adams and Dan Bunn announced that they had contracted with Robert Trent Jones Jr. to develop a golf course there.

After breaking ground in 1994, Jones, keeping with his philosophy of course design, created fairways from the natural rolling landscape along with the strategic placement of four lakes, eighty-six bunkers (I think I have visited all of them), and eighteen undulating greens. Keenly aware of the Rogue Valley’s infamous “gumbo” soil, Jones invested over a million dollars worth of special sand, to facilitate drainage, and hydroseeding, to bring forth a verdant topping. Eagle Point Golf Club is only one of 275 course projects Jones has been involved with over his career. Eagle Point holds a special place in Jones’s heart as the only course he actually owned from the beginning.

Jones says he likes to play a golf course that feels like a golf course, which is what he tried to design at Eagle Point. In a recent article in Medford’s Mail Tribune, Jones told reporter Tim Trower, “I fight for the integrity of shot-making. We spent a lot of time here getting it right.  I think we did a pretty good job.”

Eagle Point opened in 1996.  With four sets of tees ranging from a hefty 7,099 yards from the tips to a comfortable 5,071 yards from the forward tees, players of all levels could look forward to an overall distance that catered to their abilities.  Featuring superior drainage, grass in the fairways that held the ball up like it was on a tee, and yawning cape- and bay-style bunkers, the course was quickly noticed as a premier golf facility. Golf Magazine listed it as one of its “Top 10 Public Courses of 1996,” and Golf Digest has ranked it as one of the top-15 “Best Places to Play” in the state of Oregon.

Over the years, Eagle Point has hosted many prestigious tournaments, including the Oregon Amateur Championship and the OGA Stroke Play Championship. Jones was the majority owner for several years before selling his share of the course to concentrate full-time on course design.

Between 2005 and 2010, according to Kopenhaver, the golf-course economy followed the natural flow of supply and demand. The number of rounds played per year mirrored the economic downturn of 2008.  Modern young people and die-hard golfers alike focused on the increasingly weighty tasks of earning a living with little space in their lives for a round of golf.  Financially troubled courses began to close as the industry contracted. Some  courses faced foreclosure, including Eagle Point, where budget cuts and cutting corners left the course in a state of “physical disability.” It was still one of the best courses to play in Southern Oregon, but it had lost its luster.

Noticeable change
Traveling during August and September this year kept me from my customary Monday seniors event at Eagle Point. In early October, my seniors partner, Earle, and I began playing regularly again, and we  noticed that subtle alterations had materialized in our absence. Little things, but definitely different. There was a new man behind the counter at the pro shop, an earnest, robust youngster, who addressed me by name. We picked out a golf cart. Hmm, new seats. It didn’t take long to land in a bunker, and to my delight I found that fluffy sand had replaced the shallow, packed dunes that in the past had sometimes caused me to bounce my sand wedge into the ball and knock it over the green. There were new ornamental plants and shrubs planted around the club house.  A fresh vibe had somehow animated Eagle Point. Soon we learned that the course was under new management.

For the love of golf
The story of Bob Hyer’s acquisition of Eagle Point Golf Club contains notes of serendipity and destiny.  It’s a story of opportune phone calls, chance meetings and timely transactions following unpredictable turns in the path.  Like Arnold Palmer and his Bay Hill, Hyer just wanted a place of his own to play golf. He is an avid golfer — to put it mildly — with an affinity for the courses of Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Robert Trent Jones Jr. (left) and Bob Hyer.

Robert Trent Jones Jr. (left) and Bob Hyer.

A business associate had alerted Hyer about the availability of Eagle Point. In a nutshell, Eagle Point’s owner, faced with foreclosure, had turned the property over to the bank.  Hyer made an offer, but the deal fell through due to a competing offer, which eventually failed. The bank changed hands, and Hyer’s original offer was accepted.

Hyer took possession of Eagle Point on July 30, 2013. That very day, a convergence of circumstances led to a chance meeting with Jones and a memorable round of golf at Chambers Bay, widely considered Jones’s grandest work. The original owner and the new owner immediately became friends, and in October Jones was on hand during a tournament that benefitted Habitat for Humanity.  He spoke admiringly of the course’s return to quality under Hyer’s ownership.

Patrick Oropallo has been Eagle Point’s head pro for eight years. His enthusiasm is evident for the new atmosphere brought about by Hyer’s ownership and the management expertise of Touchstone Golf, the firm hired by the bank, and retained by Hyer, to operate the course. Oropallo assured me the bunkers contain the same type of sand as before, but his budget now allows for more regular renewal of sand and more attention to bunker maintenance. Hyer’s wife, Chana (pronounced Shawna), a landscape designer, is putting her magical touches around the golf course as well.  She re-designed the plantings around the clubhouse, and will be landscaping the area around the comfort station adjacent to the 5th tee box this spring.

The recent attention to aesthetics and maintenance at Eagle Point hasn’t gone unnoticed by the patrons either.  Ray Embree, a retired college professor from Ashland, Ore., says, “Eagle Point is the finest course in the area.” Eagle Point has also made new investments in maintenance equipment and staff overseen by course superintendent Dave Stephens, who has held the position from day one.

Longtime member,Jim Brick pointed out the new introductory offer that aims to increase membership. Indeed, membership fees are lower than most other courses of similar quality, making an Eagle Point membership a great deal.

Offense vs. defense
Jones likes to build courses that require strategic shot-making.  A golfer plays against the course with the goal of getting around in the fewest shots possible.  Jones places fairways, rough and greens, and water and sand, to allow the course to have a chance to compete against the golfer’s attack.  “A course must have its defenses,” explains Oropallo. “Eagle Point is a thinking man’s course.  On any given par-4, it’s not always the best strategy to haul out a driver.”

The par-5, 522-yard 9th hole is particularly well-defended. You have to carry a pond on your tee shot, and cross a creek twice just to be in position for an approach (which crosses the creek again). Then you face the Scylla of a large greenside bunker on the right and the Charybdis of a steep bank on the left. There’s a smaller bunker on the left, too. The same creek you crossed three times lurks at the bottom of the bank.

Jones did not intend to make the course too difficult, either.  Well-placed shots on No. 9 can easily allow access to the putting surface in three and a one-putt for birdie. Risk and reward enthusiasts can go for the green in two, but the consequences can add strokes to your score.

Get through 9, and you arrive at the 348-yard 10th.  It’s a deceptive, short par-4 with dandy defenses.  The fairway bends left, and a long tee shot must fly over the edge of a golf ball cemetery–a jungle of blackberry bushes and tall trees. Long hitters can reach the green, but are more likely to bid adieu to a beloved Titleist. You can avoid the jungle by hitting toward a roomy steep bank down the entire right side of the fairway, often providing a side-hill lie for your approach. From there you must clear a greenside bunker with an imposing lip to a postage-stamp green, and a steep bank running down to more blackberries behind it.

Jones’s other expertise
Prevailing on well-defended holes provides much of the pleasure of a round at Eagle Point. Add to that the agreeable vistas, particularly the view from the 16th tee. I always imagine launching my drive to the majestic peak of Mount McLaughlin in the eastern distance. From the 2nd tee box, I might take more notice of the stolid Table Rocks to the west if two lakes, a creek and greenside bunkers weren’t immediate eye-catchers.  Each hole is unique and offers a singular challenge (or opportunity).

In tribute to Jones’s superior design, and just as agreeable as the vistas, is the smoothness of the fairways. Some golfers note that the fairways are so smooth you can write on your scorecard while in a moving cart.

Totem tells the tale
Oropallo says the totem pole on the property represents what has happened to Eagle Point over the years. During their round

The view to the clubhouse at Eagle Point Golf Club.

The view to the clubhouse at Eagle Point Golf Club.

at Chambers Bay, Jones asked Hyer about the totem pole, a gift from a golf course owner in British Columbia which he had placed near Eagle Point’s third tee box in the mid-’90s. The carved 26-foot art piece had aged and weathered. Hyer arranged for artist Deborah Lynn Hutchings to research the colors and paints on the original.  She treated, primed, and finally restored the pole to brilliance in time for Jones’s celebratory visit in October 2013.The pole is an appropriate symbol for the course’s renewal. It is still visited by acorn woodpeckers, as one can see upon close inspection. Crevices in the artwork, as well as holes chiseled by sharp beaks, serve as woodpeckers’ pantries filled with acorns stored for later consumption. But, the pantry is colorful and attractive, and signifies Hyer’s aspiration to make Eagle Point even more of a golf destination–a place where you feel like you’re at home – the “Cheers” of golf.

Regular Joe
Bob Hyer has made himself a welcome addition to Eagle Point. He is personable and approachable, and members seem pleased with his attention to the course. The whole atmosphere has lightened and brightened. He emphasizes that his attention is directed first of all to the club’s members and their needs.

The employees at Eagle Point mirror Hyer’s familial nature. Robbie Stassi, the new teaching pro, is starting a new instructional program. Chris Berg, the new chef, has turned Talon’s Grill into a first-rate restaurant. Omar at the bar is very attentive and welcoming. Tish, the girl in the hospitality cart, was friendly and good-natured. Hunter DeLange, the sturdy young man behind the counter in the golf shop, has worked his way up from managing the golf carts to now being able to run tournaments. And everybody knows my name. Eagle Point has truly reclaimed the title of “the Cheers of Golf.”

Eagle Point at a Glance

Stay and Play: Lodging

Eagle Point golf has a new stay-and-play partner:  Courtyard by Marriott in nearby Medford. The package ($194, plus tax) includes a room with one king-size bed or two queen-size, free breakfast, a round of golf with cart and a free range bucket.

Contact info:

Eagle Point Golf Club
100 EaglePoint Drive
Eagle Point, OR 97524

The kid takes the lead to the weekend

ANYBODY WAITING on a return phone call from Jordan Spieth should realize a) he’s young and b) he’s busy acting like the best player on the planet.

If you’re Commander Zero, you settle for keeping the dude plugged into the front row on his Yahoo fantasy team. It worked Friday, when the phee-nom, playing with T. Woods, shot 63 at Torrey Pines, good for the day’s low round and the lead heading to the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Tiger his own self shot 71 Friday a day after an opening 72, so he’s in middling shape but in the field. He keeps the starting spot over Phil Mickelson, of the aching back, who actually has a stroke lead over Woods after two rounds but Zero hears what he hears — Lefty is hurtin’.

Status quo works in the B-List ranks … we’ll see who makes a move among Haas, Stuard and Mahan, all of whom are chasing Spieth.

Charley Hoffman, the C-List starter, keeps his spot and looks good heading home in 11th place after a 69-70 start.

Zero just loves these guys, for this week, anyway, and gee whiz, they’re good, so don’t do him wrong or there will be consequences.

Zero is movin’ on up, blowing right past 60,000 all the way to 58,704th place, which, if you’re keeping track at home, is all the way up to the 20th percentile,

Percentile, if you’re wondering, means a certain percentage are above you and a (much smaller) percentage sits below you. Such is the story of Zero’s life.

Tiger and Phil: If you could, would you?

THIS WEEK THE STUDS COME OUT, and so Commander Zero, being smarter than the average Yahoo, will disregard their looming hugeness and go with only dark horses at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Maybe not so much …

If you were the Ryder Cup captain, and you could have Woods and Mickelson on your team, wouldn’t you?

They’re here, and Zero is playing ‘em, at least this week, in their first tournament among the A-List choices in Yahoo fantasy golf.

On the B-List, Zero went with Bill Haas and Jordan Spieth as starters, with Hunter Mahan and Brian Stuard ready to step in. The C-List nod went to fast-starter Charley Hoffman, with Brendon Todd on the bench.

In making his decision, Zero had no season stats to go by with Tiger and Phil. He was forced to fall back on their career numbers, which helped some.

Anybody who had Patrick Reed in the lineup had a pretty good Yahoo week at the Humana Challenge. They got 20 points from him for the day’s low round with his 63s each of Thursday, Friday and Saturday and another 20-point bonus for winning the whole thing … That is, if you had him in,, like Vinnie, boss man of the Tap-in Birdies, who knows a stallion when he’s ridin’ one, all the way to 199 points, good enough for a tie for sixth in the Fans of Graeme McDowell division.

Commander Zero clocked in with 165 points, buoyed by a final-round 25 from Z. Johnson, who went low Sunday with a 62 and finished fourth in the tournament.

It wasn’t enough to slide into the top 50 for the week in the Graeme Mac, but overall – while Zero couldn’t crack the magic 60,000 barrier – he improved to 60,534th place, which zoomed him into double digits at the 14th percentile.

So clearly, going forward, with the value stream duly mapped and all the metrics measured, with the non-linear opposing dynamics factored in direct proportion to their relative weight or lack thereof, the line chart is trending to the northeast, which is to say, generally upward. It’s a long season.

This damn game 4: The survey

I BELIEVE THEY sincerely wanted to know how my golf round went yesterday — so I did the uncharacteristic: I filled out the e-mail survey of a golf course just north and east of Grey Goatee HQ.

I told them I would prefer to play without the rumble and grind of heavy construction equipment close by — but more jarring was the lack of trees. The removal of those hundreds of trees — thousands? — changed the character of a round there. I used to really like the course when meandering through it was a true ”woodlands” experience.

I wrote that it’s not the golf course’s fault — the houses are the product, I know, of some more or less tangential business relationship with a developer. I know the trees aren’t coming back, and the houses are surely coming in.

I hope the houses get sold — what a waste otherwise.

I was asked what might have made my round better … I had to assume the question meant something the course had control over, and I don’t think it has any sway over the weather, so I left that one blank. I doubt the course maintenance guys have as much control over drainage as they’d like, but in any case a half-dozen golf balls between me and my friend were lost in plain sight, presumably plugged too deep to find.

And the greens were s-l-o-w.

The last question of the survey asked what factors are most important in my overall golf experience. I answered, first of all, it’s about who I’m playing with. Yesterday, I went out with Eric T., and that’s never a bad thing.

The second important factor, I said, is that my feet are dry. As for yesterday, it’s sure not their fault I wore the wrong shoes.

Going with the orange

The master manipulator that is me was forced into some hasty Yahoo lineup changes because orange is the new black and Brandt Snedeker is in 113th after one day at the Humana Challenge in Partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Big Bubba is here to justify the longest tournament name on tour, and I do not mean Watson.

Rickie Fowler gets the nod for the A-List spot after a 4-under 68, good for 31st place, while Snedeker gets bumped to the bench after a 72, and will have to get better to make the cut in birdie-happy La Quinta. Patrick Reed, who is on someone else’s team, shot 63 for the first-day lead.

Among the B-Listers, Bill Haas’s 65 moved him past Webb Simpson (69) into play alongside Zach Johnson, who also shot 65. Matt Every made the lineup change a tough call with his own 65.

Harris English earned his slot in the C-List with a solid 67, and I’m with him, good or ill, because Boo, Weekley that is, withdrew with a knee injury.

My loyalty to these guys is unwavering, until such time as they miss the cut or piss me off.

I’m now in 60,828th place, 397 spots below yesterday. And I thought I had nowhere to go but up.