Saturday, July 30, 2016


I first played the game of golf in 1939, when my Uncle Emmett Sullivan let me swing a few clubs at the Ridgetown Golf and Curling Club, a few miles inland from our rented cottages at Rondeau Provincial Park on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie.

In those days, it was a scruffy nine hole layout. Holes were referred to by their names, rather than numbers. At each tee there was a bucket of sand and a bucket of water. You took a handful of sand, soaked it, and made a small pyramid on which to tee up your ball.

On the first tee there was a pipe into which players could drop a ball. When their ball came out the other end, it was their turn to tee off. Unfortunately, in those days, the English golf ball was a tad smaller than the American ball, which didn’t fit in the pipe.

As a result the Americans had to wait until all the Canadians had hit their drives.

My fascination with the game blossomed in the preteen years. There was a driving range in our Detroit West side neighborhood. It had no floodlights, and closed at dark. Some of us lads used to play at being commandoes, don our black softball sweaters, darken our faces and crawl on our bellies under the fence to liberate golfballs.

We needed plenty. The municipal course at Rouge park, about four miles away by the Plymouth bus, crossed over the Rouge River about a dozen times.

When I graduated from Law School at the age of 23, my darling wife gave me a two wood. I loved that club, and spent many an hour wailing away with it at the driving range on Meyers Road.

For my sixtieth birthday, my family gave me a set of Ping irons. They had to be fitted, and it took several weeks before they were to be delivered. In great anticipation, I asked our golf Pro, Bill Morey, if I could become a scratch golfer. He said that if I could reach the greens in regulation, the rest of it was a matter of practice.

So I developed what I called my PICK system: Practice, Instruction, Conditioning and Knowledge. Over the next weeks, I practiced every day, took lessons every few days, worked with bar bells and exercises and acquired a small library of golf books and tapes.

One day, as I was about to practice, the Pro told me that my irons had arrived. My son Tom insisted that we immediately go out and play. I shot 37 on the front nine, just one over par. On the back nine I was lying 37 in the green side bunker on the eighteenth hole. I took out my new sand wedge, which I had never swung before, and knocked the ball into the hole.

37 – 38; 75. The best score I ever had in my life. I promptly added two more letters to my PICK system: E for Equipment and L for Luck.

It is now the PICKLE system. Appropriate, since golfing is such a pickling game. I have never been better than a bogie golfer. Still I have experienced the amazement of scoring five holes in one. Go figure.

Earlier today, I posted a blog borrowed completely from my good friend, Brian Cairns, head professional at Fox Hills in Plymouth and 2015 Senior PGA Professional of the Year. To his astute counsel on the need to control your emotions on the links, I add my own version of the 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my caddie: I shall not yip.
He getteth me down in two on green places
He keepeth me away from the still waters
He restoreth my game: he leadeth me in the paths of birdies for his name sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of divits, I will fear no whiff; for thou art with me; my woods and my irons they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of my opponents; thou annointest my head with sunscreen, my cup runneth over.
Surely birdies and bogies shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will always play better tomorrow.

Managing Your Emotions on the Golf Course

Sometimes it erupts openly and, at other times, anger is camouflaged and covertly undermines your life. Some experience anger as strength and power. They feel it is necessary in order to maintain control. Others assume they have the right to express anger toward the bad shots they hit. These are some of the lies anger tells us. In fact, when we are angry we are out of control and our ability to make decisions wisely is diminished.

Here are 7 steps for handling anger on the spot:
Step 1: Realize that anger is a choice you make. Anger is not a form of power, strength, or control. It is a toxin. Sometimes it provides a temporary high. But after the high subsides, we are weaker and more uncertain than before. Not only that, there are often negative consequences that have to be handled.

Basically, anger narrows your focus, creates confusion and limits your ability to find constructive solutions. When anger arises, stop, breathe deeply, and immediately look at the larger perspective. Put the incident in context. For a moment, allow the bad shot to be all right. Tell yourself right after it is possible that I will hit some good ones. Your main goal is to have the anger subside so you can see the whole picture clearly.

Step 2: Become aware of the various forms of anger. Anger camouflages itself and finds covert ways of manifesting. Unrecognized anger turns into all kinds of unwanted behavior. When these behaviors are not understood, it is difficult to correct them. Awareness is important in making necessary changes.

Some forms of anger are: depression, passive-aggressive behavior, compulsions, perfectionism, gossiping and certain kinds of competition at the workplace. When you realize that these are being fueled by anger, you can take appropriate steps to handle them.

Step 3: Start balancing. Balancing is the natural flow of energy, support and inspiration inside of us. When this flow is balanced we operate at our maximum level. When the flow is blocked or out of balance, we will become depressed, apathetic, sick and resentful. 

When one feels accepted and acknowledged for the way they play golf, there is no end to their ability to tap their full potential. Write down what this means to you and notice how it compares to the reality of your particular golf game as it exists today. This initial step provides a map and new focus. It provides a direction to move in.

Step 4: Discover your balancing quotient. List each shot that you hit during a round of golf. Score each shot on the following questions from 1-10. See for yourself what is going on.
a) I feel at ease with this shot. 
b) I trust in my swing with this shot. 
c) I swing naturally when I am faced with this shot. 
d) I understand what this shot means to me. 
e) I am able to except the outcome of this shot. 
f) I am able to give my full commitment to hitting this shot. 

Assess exactly what's going on in your mind and body during the round. Take a look at what you want from a round of golf. Separate yourself from the outcome and what you need and want. Start communicating your feelings in a responsible manner and ask what you really need and want. Start truly listening to the voices inside your head and change the self-talk to quiet. You will start to see who you really are on the course and not the images that you make up. 

We can often be playing a round and not even begin to know who we truly are as a golfer and a person. As you begin taking the above steps, you will make natural adjustments in getting yourself and your golf game back on track. 

Step 5: Stop casting blame. Blaming the golf course for a bad bounce or someone for talking too much is one of the largest factors in causing imbalance in your game and keeping the anger going. Stop casting blame as you are only dis-empowering yourself. By taking responsibility you are retaining control. Stop for a moment and see the situation through your playing partners' eyes. When you do this blame dissolves immediately. Also remember that the best defense is to feel good about yourself. 

As you stop casting blame you will be letting go of all kinds of resentments. Resentment inevitably affects our well-being and always bounces back on us. Look for and find what is positive in each hole that you play, and find the good in the people you play with. Golf is a social game. Tap into it and you will start to have more fun. Focus on that. 

Step 6: Create realistic expectations. There is nothing that makes us more angry and hurt than expectations we've been holding onto that have not been met. It is important that you become aware of what your expectations are for your round of golf before you start. Are they realistic? If not, let go of these unrealistic fantasies. Once this is done, anger will start to diminish. 

Step 7: Develop a grateful mind. See what this round of golf truly is giving you. We often take many things for granted and are not even aware of all that we receive each and every day. Take time to write down what you are receiving and be grateful. Make a point of giving thanks. Thanks to the new friends you met on the course, and thank the course. Thank it like you just got to play a round in the Garden of Eden. 

The more we thank others, the happier we become. Also, take time to write down all that you have given that day. It may surprise you. We often think we are giving so much and receiving little. This is a great cause of anger, deprivation and the emptiness within. However, when we take time each day to look at it carefully, we are often surprised at how much we have received and how little we've given in return. As we look at it carefully, and balance these two activities, we learn to take pleasure both in what we have given and what we've received.

Courtesy of: Brian Cairns, Head Professional, Fox Hills, Plymouth, Michigan; Senior PGA Professional of the Year, 2015.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


Donald Trump is a billionaire. Some of his wealth was inherited. Most of it was made in real estate investments. Mr. Trump buys and builds and sells. That is how he makes his money.

Hillary Clinton is a millionaire. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are reputed to be worth around 80 million dollars.

I asked myself, “How did, how do, they make their money?”

Bill Clinton has clamed that when they left the White House they were “dead broke” and in debt.

ABC News has reported:

After they were criticized for taking $190,000 worth of china, flatware, rugs, televisions, sofas and other gifts with them when they left, the Clintons announced last week that they would pay for $86,000 worth of gifts, or nearly half the amount. Their latest decision to send back $28,000 in gifts brings to $114,000 the value of items the Clintons have either decided to pay for or return.

Both Hillary and Bill Clinton are lawyers. Both of them make speeches for compensation. In short, they make their money by performing personal services. The only product they have to sell is their time, attention, advice and influence.

The Clintons are the quintessential career politicians. People give them money in exchange for ‘access.’  People give them money for what they know and for what they can do. People give them money because they have political power and to influence the way they exercise their political power.

That may sound like a fancy way of saying that they take bribes. It isn’t. No one has ever suggested that President Clinton or Secretary Clinton have taken bribes from anyone. But neither does anyone insist that money doesn’t affect what they do.

Much has been written and said about the power of money in politics. There is an almost universal abhorrence of lobbying by the ‘big money.’ Still, the same politicians who rail against ‘big corporations,’ ‘Wall Street,’ and the influence of professional lobbyists are typically engaged in the same business of selling access to political power.

Despite the hoopla of an apparently successful nominating convention in Cleveland, the Republicans are still deeply divided. A long list of supposed Party leaders remains opposed to The Donald.

Perhaps the most puzzling is Ohio Governor John Kasich. His snubbing of the GOP convention was more than mere political pique; it was a failure to represent the people of Ohio in his official capacity as Governor. If it had been a convention of any other organization; the American Bar Association, for example, that was bringing thousands of people and millions of dollars into Ohio, the citizens of the Buckeye State would expect their Governor to extend an official welcome. And to do it in person.

John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are not the only big name Republicans who are sitting out the election in a tissy. The two party system establishment in Washington that has inspired the Tea Party and the Donald Trump “Outsiders” is a combination of career politicians and inbred elitists from both major political parties.

To say that the ‘system is broken’ is almost a cliché these days. The House is supposed to represent the people, the Senate is supposed to represent the  States, the President is supposed to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, and the Supreme Court is supposed to protect the Constitution.

They don’t.

Donald Trump and his supporters are fond of saying that his candidacy represents ‘a movement.’  Whether it does or not, one thing is clear. Trump doesn’t need the job. He already has fame and fortune. He already has a private jet airplane.

It looks to me like the choice will boil down to this: Do we want a career politician who has amassed a fortune by selling access and influence and who promises to deliver the same old, same old; or do we want a political neophyte who has amassed a fortune in private enterprise, and who promises to shake things up?

I think it’s time to declare that Hearts are Trump and run the table.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


In the waiting room at the hospital while Polly was enduring yet another MRI in the seemingly endless quest for relief from pain, I stumbled onto a three year old copy of Forbes Magazine that yielded a treasure worth sharing.

It was an article written by Steven F. Hayward, author of a two volume biography of Ronald Reagan and a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado. His subject was immigration, and he included a quote from a 1988 speech by President Reagan which really caught my eye and attention.  Here it is:

America represents something universal in the human spirit. I received a letter not long ago from a man who said “You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk” but then he added “Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.

Hayward went on to say that a person becomes an American by adopting America’s principles, especially those principles summarized in the “self evident truths” of the Declaration of Independence such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

Then he quoted Carl Friedrich, who wrote “To be an American is an ideal, while to be a Frenchman is a fact.” Hayward then quoted a friend, who told him: “I was always an American; I was just born in the wrong country.”

I can remember filling out an application for something or other back in the middle of the last century, and the form asked two questions: What is your citizenship? and What is your nationality?

It seemed odd to me that citizenship was something different from nationality. So I wrote: Citizenship – USA. Nationality – Irish.

It seemed logical. My father was proud of his Irishness, as was his father before him. Truth is, our Brennans came over in the famine times of the early nineteenth century. My mother was a Sullivan, another good Irish name, but in fact no ancestor of mine on either side had stepped a foot on the old sod in nearly two hundred years.

Still, the idea of “American” being a nationality remains an uneasy truth. We call Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and others the ‘founders of our nation.” But were they, really? Did they think of the United States as a nation, or something else?

The fact is that they were almost all Englishmen. They spoke English. They talked about their rights as Englishmen. They studied English law, and treasured English civil liberties. The constitution they wrote did not say that they were founding a nation, or creating a new nationality. They called it “a more perfect union.”

It wasn’t until 87 years later that Abraham Lincoln claimed that they had “brought forth a new nation” and that the Civil War was testing whether a nation founded on the novel idea that all men are created equal could possibly last.

The indigenous population of our land never thought of themselves as Americans. Their nationality was tribal: they were Cherokees, Ottawas, Seminoles.

‘American’ as a nationality was conceived in the slaughter at Gettysburg, born on San Juan Hill in 1898, matured in the Argonne Forest in 1918, and at  Omaha Beach in 1944, tested in Korea and Viet Nam in the 20th century, and confirmed in the sands of the Middle East in the 21st.

In our day, the name ‘American’ is reserved for men and women who believe that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights – rights that cannot be sold, surrendered or stolen; that among these are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the right to establish the kind of government we want by means of a written Constitution which is the Supreme Law of the Land.

We live mostly on the North American Continent between the 49th parallel and the Gulf of Mexico and the Rio Grande River, and between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

We speak English and we worship the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ. We are Americans, and so are a lot of other people who adopt the American dream of freedom under law.