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I’m a Six Handicap on a Golf Course (Again)!

Golf and I have a long history. Some of it is glorious, some sad, and some just plain good. I started playing when I was seven or so and busted a neighbor’s window before I was ten. I really got into the game in my late teens and early 20s when I was doing all kinds of contortions to the club to get the face square at impact on my woods.

In my late 20s, for my career, I started taking lessons seriously. I learned how to play a course from the reds to the golds, the whites, blues and tips. I practiced my short game religiously and was hitting full pitching wedges in my backyard with regularity. I had a club in my hand six days a week and I got good.

As a little backstory, my dad was a highly sought after catcher in high school. He was heavily recruited and was told he had a clear path to the bigs… if he quit smoking. He wouldn’t, so his coach benched him and that was the end of his baseball career before it even started. My dad missed a ride to college and a chance at Major League Baseball because of “don’t tell me what to do”. This is the story of my life. My dad picked up golf and turned me on to the sport in my late childhood years. He passed his love of the sport on to me.

As I grew in my career, I was able to take off from work early on Fridays and take him out golfing. We hit the links together every week, all spring, summer and fall long, for years. His drinking-addled Alzheimer’s eventually made this weekly fun time impossible and I had to stop taking my dad out. It broke my heart. After he passed away in 2014, I went on a trip with a salesman I’d worked with for something like 17 years. It was a massively expensive trip, room included, to Treetops in the upper lower peninsula of Michigan. They have the most famous par-three course in the world on the resort. We played that and the two best eighteen hole standard courses on the property. And, as fun as it was, it broke my heart knowing I’d never walk a course with my dad again. It crushed my spirit and I put my clubs up in the garage. I thought, for good.

Until my eldest daughter asked me to teach her to play.

No way I was turning that down. I just picked it up again this year after an eight-year hiatus and I picked up almost exactly where I left off. I had my dad’s old set of irons extended to fit me (I’m about four inches taller than he was) and re-gripped. I used my old driver and his fairway metals to round out my set. I took my kid out to the range a few times and started hitting courses again, sparsely, with recovery friends.

Last weekend, down in Tennessee with my father-in-law, we hit the course he lives on for a couple of nine-hole rounds. I was crushing the ball. Not quite the 300+ yard drives of my younger days, but they were straight. And my irons were quite deadly.

I entered my scores into Swing U and when I checked my progress after that first day, it showed a six handicap.

Anything single-digit is quite outstanding, but when you’ve only played a few times in eight years, seeing a six staring back at me was vastly better than I’d dreamed possible.

I’ve not quite fully caught the golf bug, I have no plans to go back to how I used to play, but I’m back to having fun again. And now that I can hit the links with my father-in-law, I’m still golfing with a dad. And that’s good times and noodle salad.

Back In the Saddle Again… Well, Ish…

My wife and I took our youngest daughter and her boyfriend to visit with my wife’s father and stepmom in Tennessee over the weekend. No bikes were taken, but I did take my golf clubs for a few short rounds with my father-in-law and we all brought our hiking shoes.

Tennessee is a fantastic state and “awesome” is a great word to describe our long weekend. I found out, with the help of “Swing U”, a golf GPS app, that I’m a 6 handicap, something my dad would have been immensely proud of. The hikes we went on were fantastic and we spent a lot of time with the kids and grandparents, but also taking a lot of photos of us.

Jess and I are healing and learning how to negotiate peace in our marriage – a process that isn’t always pretty. Fairly stated, I can be a pain in the butt and a little on the demanding side, but I’m making steady progress and I’m a vastly happier man – and I believe my wife would agree. Jess has her issues, of course, but the more I focus on them, the more difficult it is for me to focus on mine. This has become an intricate balancing act but I like to think I’m getting better at it – and we’re definitely better at talking things through without attacking each other so issues devolve into fights.

I feel safe in writing that we’re both vastly happier and our marriage is a much friendlier place.

The plan over the next couple of days will involve some cycling, thank goodness. The temps are supposed to hold until Wednesday morning so we’re planning on taking advantage of them while we can. I’ll put in a few miles this afternoon, hopefully with my wife on the tandem if she can get her office work done, but on the Trek if necessary. Then, the Tuesday night club ride tomorrow evening and we’re planning on taking the tandem.

A Couple of Days Off for Golf… Followed by… Tandemonium!

This year is a distinct departure from the last eleven. In an effort to be a better husband to my wife, I’ve let go of my need/desire (take your pick) to be an aggressively fast cyclist. This change in heart has been a long time in coming and, while my previous choices didn’t make me a “bad” husband/father, looking back I don’t think there’s any question I was selfish and self-centered. Now, you may wonder how this runs into golf. Well, I used to golf. A lot. I could regularly shoot in the 70s for 18 holes and would even manage par or one under fairly consistently on moderate to easy courses. I can still remember the first round I beat my dad (who spent double the time I did on a golf course and could kick my butt with fairways and greens). Then Alzheimer’s and what they call alcoholic “wet brain” at the same time for my dad. I met up with my dad every Friday for years for a Friday afternoon round of golf. We’d play 18, then get some lunch or dinner. Then I’d head home to my wife and kids. Speaking of kids, after our first was born, golf took a back seat. Practice four days a week with two rounds a week turned into one practice day and a round or two a week. My dad started breaking down in 2013 and we moved him to a home so he could be looked after. Our Friday golf outing dwindled from 18 holes to 14, to 9… and when my dad started teeing up the ball at me, I pulled the plug and stopped taking him.

Shortly after my dad died, I quit golf altogether. It just wasn’t the same without him and our Friday outings. I quit for a broken heart.

Well, this past spring, my daughter asked me to teach the game to her and, being the dad I am, I said I would. I had to find a way to get my heart back into it, though. I took my dad’s set of Callaway Big Bertha Irons in and had the shafts lengthened and re-gripped and I had a second set of my dad’s clubs regripped for my daughter. With my dad’s spirit in my golf bag, I started practicing again at the local driving range about five miles from my house. I’ve played four rounds in the last, call it five weeks, and I almost feel like my old self. When I get a hold of a drive, I’m hitting 270 to 280 yards (247 to 256 meters) and am starting to get quite proficient with my short irons (my 5 and 6 still need some work). Not bad for a 52-year-old who hasn’t swung a club in eight years.

So, uncharacteristically, twice last week I chose golf, or practice over riding. Once to take my daughter to the range, Wednesday, and once Friday for an invite to a supplier’s golf outing.

I played well, Friday – a four man best-ball scramble. I one-putted for holes to keep our team even or drop a shot – all over 20′ with the longest at least 40′ (12 meters) and hit several fantastic drives, as well as a few good iron shots. I started really getting warmed up in the middle holes, call it six to fourteen before sputtering out because I was hungry.

In that eight hole stretch I felt like the old me again, and it was good.

Saturday, it was time for a rowdy ride on the tandem with my lovely wife – my (new-ish) favorite mode of cycling. We did a nice 46-mile loop with an average pace over 18-mph. We were absolutely on as a couple and the ride showed it. We were laughing and talking and had two long pulls in excess of 16-miles, one dead into a high single-digit headwind. I love it when we’re on like that. The rest of the day was a special celebration for my wife that I need not get into here, but I will say it was a lovely day.

Today will be more of the same – tandemonium, yet again, followed by yard work and some flower planting and yardwork.

More tomorrow.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. That Guy In the Ferrari Could Be Thinking About Wrapping His Car Around the Next Viaduct Stanchion He Sees…

Some of the better advice I’ve ever given newer folks to recovery is “Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know what they have to give up to have what they do.”

I heard a second part to that, though, from Jordan Peterson that I really liked: “Instead, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.”

Another of his favorite tips for creating a better future for yourself is to try to improve just 1% from yesterday to today. It’s such a small, trivial amount that almost anyone should be able to do that, right?

Well, do that for 100 days in a row and see where you’re at then! I can tell you, I’ve implemented that and it works. What a difference just a month or two of sticking to that makes!

Enjoy your Thursday. It’s the only one we get.

A Wonderful Day Off the Bikes…

It’s a rare Saturday after May 1st that we’re off the bikes but yesterday’s weather was intermittent junk. On again, off again rain, clouds, a little peak at sunshine here or there. It was just a mess.

Anyway, there was no riding in the early morning. Too much rain.

My wife and I tended to chores around the house that had been neglected now that she’s working regularly. Jess and our eldest daughter then turned their attention to getting their nails done while I dropped off a few tools to Ukulele Dave who’d loaned them to me as I attempted to sort out an odd click in our tandem. Then we spent some time at the bike shop, working on a few items for the club’s main ride in August, amongst other items that aren’t quite ready for the light of day.

After, we came home to what appeared to be a clearing in the weather. I hopped on my tractor and dealt with the backyard grass – and got about 20 minutes into it before it started raining lightly again. I came in and sat down to a game of Skyjo with my wife and daughter.

Then came date night. My wife and I have instituted date night once a week again. We both need that time together. We’ve got a fairly rocky past with a lot of good and some very bad… I like to think of the coast in La Jolla, California – stunningly beautiful, exciting and fun, but exceptionally rocky in places. We’re now full into working on making our marriage the best it can be… call it excavating some of those rocks from the beach.

We walked around a couple of shops my wife likes, then went to dinner and finished the night playing pool for an hour and some change. Even though walking around shops gives me the vapors because I can’t help but feel like I’m wasting time, I put that f***er in the melon committee in the cage for my wife. If I’ve found anything over the last couple of months, I’ve come to see how self-centered I really am. It was a shockingly eye-opening realization. I’m doing much better, as is my wife, through the process.

Finally, we headed home to watch some of our favorite binge-watching TV show (Castle). I made it one episode before falling asleep on the couch, my wife in my arms. She made it one episode and two minutes. A couple of episodes later we woke up and headed to bed.

It was, unquestionably, as good as it gets.

The Difference Between a Good and Fantastic Marriage As I (Currently) Understand It.

Last night was a Thursday night ride in Fenton, the Lake Shannon Loop, and I wasn’t there. In the last decade+, with a perfect evening for cycling like we had last night, I never would have missed that ride.

Earlier in the day, I’d gone to a meeting at one of my jobsites a couple hours before lunch. Then over to my wife’s office fifteen minutes up the road where I completed some paperwork that needed to be completed for another, just up the road. She was in a Zoom meeting with her colleagues, so I stayed out in the car and worked until she texted me the meeting was over. I got a lot done sitting at one of the spare desks in the open office room – enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about working much the next day. Then we went across the street, holding hands, to get lunch.

My wife and I have been married 25 years and we still hold hands everywhere we go. We both love the connection.

We finished our lunch and I headed over to look at another monster of a job we’ve got nearby. I walked that one and talked to our workers on site, walked with the superintendent, then checked out a second building we’re just starting on the same site. That went well and when I was done, I headed back to my wife’s office to finish up my work for the day.

At a quarter past 3 (I work 6am to 3pm for an 8-hour day in 9 hours), I kissed my wife goodbye. She had some late work to do two towns north and I headed to my daughter’s tennis match. She was not expecting to see one of us at her meet. I’d texted her sister earlier to let her know if she came to the meet I’d fill up her gas tank. She jumped at that offer but was running a little late. My youngest was warming up when I walked over to her court and stood at the fence. It was a sunny, warm, beautiful Michigan afternoon and as she turned and it dawned on her that she recognized the lone person standing at the end of her court, her jaw dropped and her eyes welled up with happy tears. I just nodded and said, “I love you, kiddo”.

My girl played her heart out. In between sets, I spoke with our older daughter about things I’d done wrong in my marriage to her mom. I told her about building up fear-based defensive walls to protect my emotions – and more important, I told her why and how I broke them down, hopefully for good (God willing) and what that meant for her mom and I. I don’t think we’ve ever been as happy, and sustainably happy to be together.

It was an amazing evening.

I met my daughter at a gas station and filled her car up, as promised and she went off to see her new hunk of a boyfriend, a transferred rugby player from Rutgers. I drove home alone, a smile on my face, but a dark cloud loomed over my soul… my wife was working late out of town, from 6pm to 8. She never leaves an event like that on time and we had plans to talk about for the wedding/renewal while she drove on the hour-long drive home. This was why I built up the defensive walls I wrote of earlier. I’m the least important person when she’s in a crowd and that hurts. I tried to stay positive. I prayed about it. I prayed hard

And shortly after 8pm I got a text from my wife that she was on her way and on the phone with her mom and would be calling me when she was done talking to her mom. Now it was my turn for the jaw drop. My wife rarely cared enough to do something like that. She’d always defaulted to, “Meh, he’ll be okay”. I never was. See, I’ve always been excited to see my wife, and it hurts when she’s late and doesn’t bother to call (something I do in the rare case I’m running late). And everything I’d emotionally prepared for, this time, was wrong. She left on time and was going over plans for the wedding renewal so her mom could come down for the festivities next month.

True to her text, my wife called a short while later and we made our plans for the event until she was almost home. I took her choice for dinner out of the fridge and heated it up for her so she could eat as soon as she walked in the door. And I was waiting at the door, dressed to the nines in my best business casual, when she pulled in the driveway – exactly how she likes to see me. I kissed her passionately and told her how much it meant that she texted to let me know she’d call soon, that it felt good to matter enough to warrant the small gesture. She looked me up and down and accused me of flirting and said that I always mattered, but she could see why the text helped. She told me how much it meant to her that I took the night off the bike and went to our daughter’s tennis match.

This is a first for us – to think about the other, and the family, in such depth – it’s those little things that are deep; anyone can be there for the big things. For my wife, just a simple text to let me know she’s on her way and talking to her mom. For me, taking a night off cycling (or whatever hobby of the day I’m into) so I can be there for my daughter.

After my wife finished dinner, we wandered off to bed and fell asleep in each other’s arms, smiles on both our faces. My wife and I had a good marriage. When we think of the other enough to go out of our way, well it’s good times and noodle salad, folks. As good as it gets. The difference between good and fantastic.

A Fantastic Weekend on the Tandem… And My Family’s Golfing Torch is Passed.

This was a crazy, awesome weekend. First, my wife and I have been working on us, intensively, for a month. While we both remained committed to our marriage, let’s say we weren’t exactly working for happiness and peace as we could have for the last few years. No blame to either of us, we just needed to change things up. To that end, I started working with a professional last month and, along with some other means of improving my understanding of what it takes to be a better version of me, I’ve been able to make some much needed progress (think page 60 for those in the program). The difference and transformation has been intense, emotional, and difficult. And it’s been entirely worth the effort – and that effort started paying big dividends Friday. It was a breakthrough for us. Something we’ve needed for a long time now.

We had a busy day Friday, so no riding.

Saturday, my youngest had a big tennis match, so we rode early and logged 26-1/3 miles on the tandem before getting dressed and heading over to watch our girl play. That afternoon, I went golfing on an actual course for the first time in a long time, and it was good… though I was shown yet again that I’m not 40 anymore. I was sore Sunday morning. Being sore didn’t stop us from having an awesome ride on the tandem, though. We rolled out with a friend who’d been battling ailments for a month and was finally ready to give Sunday Funday a try. It went smashingly well – especially after I raised my wife and my saddles a millimeter or two (more on that in another post).

After a fantastic Sunday ride of 32-ish miles, we ate an early leftover roast beef lunch and headed out to a bike parade. After that, I texted my daughter to get ready and I headed home to take her to the driving range for the first time. I was excited, not only for having the opportunity to teach my kid to golf and pass on the torch my dad passed on to me, but to work with an empty canvas – my daughter had, until yesterday, never swung a golf club. She had no bad habits to fix!

She started out sluggish at first, as you’d expect, but as the lesson progressed, she really picked up on what she needed to… and she started striking the ball cleanly and putting exactly the right trajectory on the shot. Her first lesson couldn’t have gone better (heck, I wish I’d had that first lesson when I was a kid!). After the golf balls were all down range, we took our clubs and packed them into the car and headed home.

And my daughter has the bug. It is good.

My First Round of Golf Since My Dad Died; The Good, The Bad, and The Happily Unexpected…

My friend, work partner (and mentor) and bowling teammate was talking to another teammate about hitting the local course, the namesake of my hometown, Saturday afternoon. It’s a rare day he’s golfing in the afternoon but the way things worked out in his day, that’s how it ended up. Now, Dale was has been a friend for 25-years. We’ve bowled together for almost as long, he and his wife, my wife and me, for years. He was directly responsible for getting me into the company that would give me a career. So, when the opportunity arose to golf with Dale and his brother-in-law, for my first round since my dad passed in 2014, it had the makings of a great story.

Now, I know the course in question from having played it a few times in the past. I don’t necessarily love the course because the opportunities to pull the driver are limited. It’s very much a placement course. Too long on several holes (which is easy to do), and you’re in the creek. Too short and you’ve got a big three or five metal into the green that’s got to be perfect. Not exactly the best choice for a first time to the course after a long hiatus – but, the story trumped the course’s difficulties.

The weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, either. 60 degrees, a bit below room temperature, cloudy and breezy out of the south – an interesting wind direction as the course is almost entirely east/west.

We teed off with the wind crossing from our left. I ripped a 7-metal down the righthand side, pushing it just a bit, but I hit it so hard I was sitting in perfect position under a weeping willow, about five yards from the stream and a hundred uphill yards from the hole. I pured a sand wedge right at the hole but came up a little short… it was a miscalculation on the uphill. I should have hit pitching wedge. A bad chip and a two-putt and I was sitting on a bogie.

I double-bogied the second, but parred the third. A nice little par four. I ripped the drive, snuggled up the second shot and two-putted with the last well within gimmie range. I dropped it in the cup. I bogied four but parred the fifth, a 133-yard par three. I tucked a 9-iron up close with a wicked cross-headwind from my right. Where that par gets interesting is that I have a beautiful draw swing on my irons. I can hit them a mile with a quaint draw… which gets wild with a crossing headwind going with my draw. With the right wind, like yesterday’s, I have to aim 10-yards right of the green and let it draw in, and that’s exactly what I did. An easy two-put and I was down.

The next round of fireworks hit on the eighth hole, a short 140-yard par three. We had a crosswind (no headwind with this shot), so I chose a nine iron and aimed 10 yards right of the green. I set, started my swing, and absolutely pured it – dead center of the face. The ball started up well right of the hole, then drew in toward the hole nicely. The ball dropped on the green just right of the hole and rolled just past it within inches and stopped just four feet from the pin. I almost hit a hole-in-one my first day back after eight years off. I tapped that one in for a birdie.

I closed out the ninth with a bogie for a 4-over 40… I was over the moon.

Well, I was over the moon for about ten minutes – until we headed over to ten. I blew up over the next two holes. I don’t know what happened, but I was mishitting everything. I even topped a couple of shots. Whatever went wrong with those two holes, I did something to fix it on twelve. I was right back into form again, hitting pars and bogies… till we got to 17. Rather than trying to drive the green, which I’d have been short on, I opted for a saner approach; five iron/nine iron in. See, going with a driver carries a risk – especially on one’s first day back. God only knows what I’d have done! Instead, I laid up with a seven iron well before any trouble, then had a nice full nine iron into the green. I dropped it on the green in my normal fashion with a big crossing headwind. Started right, let it draw right onto the green. I had a 20-footer left, though, and it wasn’t an easy putt. The greens had been unbelievably fast all day long – in fact, I only left two putts short all day long.

For this one, I got the roll and line perfect and the ball dropped right in the center for a second birdie on the day. I parred the 18th for a not-too-fantastic 46. I have to look at the bright side, though; save two blow-up holes on 10 & 11 and I’m down around 40 for the back nine as well. I hit my irons excellently and I had some fairway metal shots that were quite good (and one or two that were straight-up bad. I also had a couple of really nice drives.

In short, it was a great first day back. As one would expect, I’m quite sore today but those kinks will work out on the tandem. Sunday Funday rolls in less than two hours.

Good times indeed.

My First Time Back on a Golf Course In Eight Years

My wife and I talked about taking the tandem out for a spin before I had to bowl yesterday, but instead I ended up doing a considerable amount of maintenance on the bike. I cleaned and lubed the bearings in the steering assembly, cleaned and lubed the bottom bracket bearings, and cleaned and lubed the seat posts – all trying to do away with an annoying tick we’d developed. I hit the issue with the shotgun approach. I’ll know how I did shortly…

The big news of the day for me is that today I’ll return to the golf course for the first time since I hung up my clubs after my dad passed away and I lost my best golfing buddy. It’s going to be a fitting return, with my dad’s old irons fitted for me (and re-gripped) and I’ll be golfing with the guy who helped get me into my career with the construction company I’ve been with for the last 25-years. That friendship probably deserves its own post. I’ve mentioned Dale a few times over the years in blog posts.

I’ve practiced quite a bit at the driving range and I’m ready to go… but that’ll be later this afternoon.

For this morning, my wife and I are heading out on the tandem for a quick ride with a couple of friends. Then we have to head straight over to my daughter’s tennis match to watch my kid. And sadly, I’m going to have to start getting my yard ready to mow. I’d guess I’ve got about a week before I really have to get out there, but time is getting short.

And so, without much further ado, I’m out.

The Best Part of Being A Cyclist Part 2,487; Picking Summer Shorts at 50+

Getting ready for the summer season, I only have a couple of decent pairs of shorts. I’d picked up an exceptionally nice and comfortable pair of Lee Extreme Comfort shorts at Kohl’s last year that I like a lot and wore regularly… until the other day when my wife and I went out to eat at Wendy’s for lunch and the soda fountain machine spit orange syrup at me instead of in my cup. I was certain my shorts were ruined. My wife ordered a pair on the way home, then two more pair for good measure; Sonoma Goods for Life. I accidentally had my wife order 7″-long shorts instead of 9″ based on the photo.

Those are not the 7″ shorts. They’re the 9’s. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the package and saw what looked like, effectively, the men’s version of short shorts. I chuckled inside as I went into the bedroom to try them on. As you would imagine, they’re incredibly tight in the thighs… cyclist legs. Other than that, though, they fit pretty well and I exited the bedroom to model them for my daughter. They’re fairly high cut, but they’re the fashion lately, too.

And that’s exactly what my daughter pointed out.

My wife was skeptical when I tried them on for her later on, after she got home from work and I got back from the driving range… but my daughter fixed everything. My wife asked me to try on the 9″ pair I’d stained for contrast (believe it or not, at my wife’s urging, I soaked the stained shorts in Tide for a couple of hours, then washed them – the soda syrup stain came out. Entirely. Not a trace). My wife liked the longer pair, but my daughter said bluntly, “Dad, the longer shorts make you look about 20 years older. The normal shorts make you look younger. Go with that.” My wife agreed, hesitantly.

I took a walk over to one of our full-height mirrors and gave a look-see… and my legs looked phenomenal. Even with my extra winter weight this year. I mean fantastic. I was happily surprised.

And so this post was hatched in my melon; the best part of being a cyclist #2,487; your legs will look amazing…