Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Awesome Trip

My trip to Chicago and Milwaukee was a lot of fun, despite the 6 inches of snow that fell as soon as I got to Chicago.  It was an easy drive there, except for the last 30 minutes when the snow started to fall.  My girlfriend Kristine accompanied me on the trip and the first stop was lunch at Gino's East Pizza.  In response to an earlier post, Ghiradino's is probably better, but it was still good.  It was fun watching the snow deluge outside as we ate… the not so fun part was having to drive in it.  Fortunately, the hotel was only a couple blocks away and we made it there pretty easily, despite some of the street signs and One-Way signs being covered in snow.  We met up with my friend Kenny for dinner at the Metropolitan Club which is on the 67th floor of the Sears Tower.  It was pretty awesome, despite the fact that we were eating in clouds and couldn't see a whole lot.  We spent the next morning walking up and down Michigan Ave before we headed up to Milwaukee for dinner at the AMU.

We met up with my mom and headed over to the Former Marquette Players dinner, which my mother was invited to since she was the SID from 79 to 89 at MU.  It was cool to see so many former players come back for the dinner and for the acknowledgement they all received at halftime of the game the next day.  The oldest player at the banquet was from the 1945 team, and he received alot of applause.  Probably 150-200 players came back to be recognized and it was really neat to see so many players coming up to my mom and talking to her about their time at Marquette and how they appreciated what she did for them.  We met up with some of my MU friends, including my other former roommate Brendan, who flew in from DC for the weekend, and had some good times catching up.

The game the next day went well, even though Kristine, a Pitt alumni, wore her Pitt stuff to the game as we sat in the former players' section, haha.  We stopped at Kopp's (obviously) for lunch before the game.  Fortunately, Marquette pulled out a 5 point win.  I met up with Coach Bailey at halftime and some former golfers, along with current players, Matt Haase and Ryan Prickette.  I dropped off a caddy bib autographed by Ricky Barnes and myself for the MU Golf Outing this summer.  I'm sure it will be the hot ticket item at the auction…

We went to dinner that night with Kenny, Liz, Tony, and Alana at a cool place in the 3rd Ward called The Screaming Tuna.  We all got sushi which was fantastic, it was a much different view of the city than I was used to seeing, and it was really fun.  Monday was spent driving home, as Kristine had to get back for the night shift at Children's Hospital where she's a nurse.  

Since then I've been continuing my workouts at ESI, which are going great.  It already is paying off in my golf practice, as alot of the pain in my back has subsided, while I also feel in more control of the golf club due to my added strength.  Things are really going well and my game seems to be only getting better since Q-School.  This is going to be an exciting year.  I've been trying to contact TaylorMade to se if they are interested in signing me on again this year, but haven't had anyone call me back over the last week.  Regardless, it's going to be a great year.  Off to hit some balls at the Neville Island Dome!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Great Workout Today

I had a great first workout at Evolution Sports Institute (ESI) today.  I worked out with a guy named Cole who's super nice, but also super knowledgable.  We did a great 10 minute stretching routine which had me feeling really loose.  We also worked some lunge work with weights that had my quads on absolute fire.  We also worked the area around my scapula's as that is a spot that'd been pinpointed before I even went there.  Although it wasn't a terribly strenuous workout, it really had me going and I'm looking forward to strengthening there over the next month.  I'm headed back tomorrow for another 9AM workout.

They also team up with a chiropractor who was amazing.  According to him I had a rib out of place by my left scapula, which would certainly explain some of the difficulties I've had with that specific area over the last 2 years.  He popped it back into place and I'm hoping that is going to solve the issues I've been having there.

I'm actually going to be headed back to Milwaukee for the Marquette-Pitt basketball game.  I'm headed out Thursday and driving to Chicago.  Then getting into MKE on Friday afternoon and staying until Sunday.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Almost Course Record

We went back to Mountain Shadows this morning, the cool par 3 course, well it has two par-4s, but it's in really good condition.  When we checked in, I noticed that they had their course record scorecards sitting in the pro-shop.  Three guys had shot 48, or 8-under, in the course's history.  I thought, 8-under? That's doable.  And I got off to a great start, birdie-ing 3 of my first 4 holes.  I continued without a blemish and a couple more birdies until my 14th hole, where I was 6-under.  A tough par-3 with a very narrow green, and the toughest part was that the wind had picked up over the last hour and was blowing close to 15 or 20mph.  I hit it into a bunker that apparently had very little sand in it and I thinned it over into the next bunker, where I got it up and down.  Back to 5-under.  Four pars to finish saw me close with a 5-under par 51.  A great round in windy conditions, but I was hoping to get my card in the pro-shop.  The key on the day was making putts.  I rolled in a couple 20-footers which always helps.

Our friend Doug played with us, and again we went to De Falcos for lunch, a grocery store that has great subs.  Blue 32, a sports bar, would be our next stop to watch the Steelers-Broncos game.  It's called Blue 32, besides the obvious football reference, because it has 32 flat screen TVs.  It's mega sweet.  The game however, was not.  The bar was mostly Broncos fans, so we made sure to cheer extra loud when we could, which was mostly just the 2nd half.  The place erupted on that 80-yd TD pass to end the game in OT.  All I could do was drop my jaw in disbelief.

The evening ended with a great workout at 24-hour Fitness, a fitness club near our Fairfield Inn, which our front desk gives free passes for.  I'm going to begin working out with trainers back in Pittsburgh at a place called ESI.  I was told about it during a lunch I had with Neil Walker.  He said that's where he trained and highly recommended it.  So I'm scheduled for my first session Tuesday and we'll see how it goes.  They have their own chiropractors there and the trainers also have a PT background.  It seems like a really good setup and I'm excite to check it out.

My dad and I also went to Anthem yesterday where I played another really solid round, shooting a 3-under 69.  I just played solid golf, making 4 birdies and 1 bogey.  I missed a number of makable putts, but overall it was a good round, hitting 13 greens and making a few really nice up and downs.  It just seems like I've really solved some issues and made the appropriate corrections.  I'm really excited for the season to begin.  We fly home tomorrow at 4pm

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Coveted Blind Squirrel

And I got one!  That's what the closest to the pin contest on all par-3's during the Desert Marlin are called, but more importantly, they're worth a grand for the wallet.  I hit a great, high, soft 6-iron on the par-3 5th hole, after just eagling number 4, a 580 yard par-5.  It turned towards the pin and stuck pretty much right where it hit, a difficult task with how firm the greens were.  When we got up there it looked like it might have a chance, and fortunately, the previous leader was only 8'11'' and my ball was at 8'2".  A good shot to the tucked middle-left pin.

Anyhow, we played with John Adams, a former Tour pro who played at ASU back in the day.  My dad and I played solidly for 14 holes, but just didn't get very many putts too fall.  There is a good deal of Valley effect that you have to factor into the putts, and many times I had myself getting the general read of the putt correct, but not the exact read, which led to some lipouts and burned edges.  We were -4 thru 14 and then unraveled a bit on the last 4 to total a -1, 71.  I tossed a couple drives in the desert while pops made a couple bogies from the middle of the fairway.  There was a good possibility that my Eagle 3 on number 4 might get a skin, which would be about another grand, but unfortunately it didn't hold up, but two of the easier par-5 eagles did.  Oh well.

Our partners in the practice round, Ricky Barnes and brother Andy were the eventual champions at -25, a scant 17 shots ahead of us.  Phil Mickelson and brother Tim were surprisingly not in contention.  All in all it was a really fun week, and more importantly it was a good opportunity to test my game early in the year, and it's clear that I've made a lot of progress.  I'm looking forward to more competition this year!  And the way my game is headed I'm hopeful of Monday-ing into some early Nationwide events.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Opening 65 not enough

My dad and I combined in the 2-man scramble portion of the format for a 7-under par 65, which places us a little below the middle of the field.  We just plodded along on the front nine, birdie-ing just about every other hole.  One of my best shots of the day came on our second hole, where I hit a 3-wood from 255, needing to hit a baby fade, and hit it pin-high on the par-5 11th green.  Our big problem on the day was a lack of made putts.  My dad destroyed the back of the cup on a made 25-foot, downhill birdie putt on our fourth hole, as the ball popped up and dropped back in the hole.  On the next hole we had a 50-foot uphill putt, which my dad left short, to which Tom Pernice Jr joked, "If you had hit that putt as hard as the one on the last hole you probably would've got it there."  Unfortunately, that was my dad's only make outside 6 feet on the day.  I made a couple 15 footers for birdies on our back side, but we gave a couple shots away with missed birdie opportunities on the last 4 holes and had to settle for pars.

There are 5 groups that shot 59, so we are 6 shots back.  It will take a special round along with some ham and eggs tomorrow to catch the winners, but a few hot putters could do that.  We both hit it solidly today, and we tee it at 9:24 tomorrow as the format switches from the 2-man scramble to a straight Best-Ball

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Played with Ricky Barnes today

Today was the practice round of the Desert Marlin and my dad and I didn't quite score as well as we would have hoped.  Not a lot of putts dropped as we got used to the greens at Grayhawk and we didn't take care of the par-5s.  We put up a best ball 70.  But we did get to play with Ricky Barnes and his brother Andy, who is an assistant coach at Arizona.  It's always a great experience to play with guys that have made it to the Tour and have had success.  I picked his brain a bit about a few things, although most of the days conversation was just about tour life, family, and where he went on his honeymoon, haha.  We did have one thing in common that we realized pretty early though…we both won the All-American event in El Paso.  So we talked about that for a couple holes.

After the round was the Dry Heave, a 100 yard closest to the pin where everyone in the field gets one shot.  The highlight of which was when it was Phil Mickelson's turn to hit and Gary McCord is announcing him and says, "And now the highest ranked player here will hit in the Dry Heave(which you think is Phil)… MARTIN KAYMER, GET UP HERE!!"  And then, out of the crowd, to much laughter and applause, Martin Kaymer came out and hit a shot.  Kaymer's not in the field this week, but he lives in Scottsdale and came out for the evening's festivities.  Phil's playing with his brother Tim, who I was paired with in the final pairing at the Porter Cup one year.

I feel like I'm as prepared as I can be for tomorrow's first round, which is a 2-man scramble.  We are playing with Tom Pernice Jr and partner.  We tee it up at Grayhawk in the final group of the day at 1045 MST

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Seville again

Didn't quite play as well as the last couple days today, but Seville has great practice facilities and I had a really good practice session after we played today.  Figured out what was happening out there today and made a minor tweak and hit it great after that.  The putter is starting to feel really good in my hands as well.  Did a couple putting drill games with our buddy Doug who joined us again today.  Went well for me, not so well for Doug, haha.  We went to Grimaldi's for dinner afterwards, after Doug foolishly boasted, "This is the BEST pizza you'll ever have."  Really Doug?  Look at me, I obviously know my pizza.  He wasn't far off though, it's definitely worth a stop if you come out to the Phoenix/Scottsdale areas.  I wouldn't say BEST though, which got me thinking, what's the best pizza I've ever had…

1. Uncle Tony's in Milford, CT  -maybe I'm biased because I grew up with it.  But I remember it being the most amazing thing ever
2. Ballistreri's in Milwaukee, WI  -Not going there before a Kopp's stop, but it's next on my Milwaukee Must list
3. Gino's East/Giordano's  Chicago, IL  -Both have great deep dish, I'm sure Chicago residents have their opinions, but they're both really delicious and not really all that different
4. Oregano's in Scottsdale, AZ  -Chicago style in the desert, authentic all the way to the 45 minute wait. Probably would stop here before Grimaldi's, but it's close.
5. City Oven in Wexford, PA  -Best stop I've been to in Pittsburgh, granted I haven't made it to too many non-chains i.e. Lucianos, Monticellos, Sir's, Pizza Hut, but it is really good stuff and they have some great options. Plus it's owned by a PR family, the Matsons… Go Rams!

Honorable Mentions
Domenicos in Cranberry Twp, Grimaldi's in Scottsdale, Sal's at 2040 Wisconsin Ave Milwaukee, maybe Lou Malnati's in Chicago? Funny story about there…
We tried to go there 2 summers ago and it was myself, my friend Kenny and his lady Liz, Peter Malnati and his girlfriend.  They tell us it's an hour and a half wait.  Well forget that, but wait, Peter has an idea.  So he walks back up to the hostess and says, "Hey this is my Uncle's place, any chance you can find a table for us?"  And he hands her his ID.  She looks at it pauses and says, "Sure, can you just have him call down for you."  Rats!  Good try though Peter!  haha

Those are my favorite pizza stops, how bout you?  What am I missing and where do I need to go?

Monday, January 2, 2012

More great days in the desert

We've had a couple more great practice days out here in Arizona.  We played at Palm Valley, Athem, Mountain Shadows, and Gainey Ranch these last three days.  My game seems to be in great shape as I continue to shoot under par almost every round.  The biggest positive has to be the short game, as my chipping has been quite good thus far.  In my first two rounds, as I shot 67 and 69, I chipped in a total of 4 times.  A continuation from Q-School where I chipped solidly as well.  I holed out twice during that 65.  I suppose when you hit it not so great for 2 years, the short game is going to get a lot of practice, haha.  I've really been hitting it solid though and am really excited to play this week.  We met up with Doug Schwimmer, a friend of ours that lives out here and played at Mountain Shadows before grabbing lunch at a great little sandwich/grocery store called De Falcos.

We are sitting in our room now watching the Rose Bowl.  About to start the  4th quarter…wonder if they're playing Jump Around in the stadium?  38-35 right now, Badgers leading.  Good game thus far… oops nevermind, 42-38 now.  TD Oregon.