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[whitespace] Notes From the Underbelly
Photograph by Eric Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Seeking Mavericks

By Eric A. Carlson


"Never break your putter and your driver in the same round or you're dead."

--Tommy Bolt


THE ROUSING SURF instrumental "Walk--Don't Run 64" (Johnny Smith), played by the Ventures, resonated in the cockpit of the Metro News Chopper, a fiery-red Bell 206 JetRanger III piloted by Tom "Whisky" Fallon. I was tasked with reporting on the giant waves at Mavericks Beach in Half Moon Bay during the recent storms of February. This is not a new concept; Bay Area television stations, with the regularity of Capistrano swallows, dispatch designated "poet" field reporters to Mavericks to wax on the majesty of it all, and measure the response of awe-struck tourists. Channel 7 (or was it 4?) reported, "The waves take a piece of the earth as they retreat, but each wave brings with it something for the human soul."

The idea is to capture on video some guy from Firebaugh saying, "This ain't nothin'; last year, the waves were much bigger." Just as a mammoth wave crashes down on the poor bugger and water-sucks him out to sea. But no laughter in the Bell 206, as Tom circled lower, just above the cresting maelstrom, where I took the photo shown above. Some might argue the photograph looks suspiciously like the graphic on the beer coasters at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, advertising Mavericks Amber Ale. That is just a "coincidence."

On the way back to the helo-pad, cruising over the Santa Cruz Mountains, my thoughts turned to mavericks and eccentrics who have played on the PGA tour, such as Mac O'Grady, who went to Q school 17 times under his birth name, Phil McGleno, and briefly tasted glory in the late 1980s. Mac philosophized like a king and once promised that he was going to rejoin the tour as a left-handed player because the right side of his brain had too many bad memories. And Tommy Bolt, who threw and demolished golf clubs in fits of rage rivaling an angry Zeus. Tommy, inchoate, once shook his fist at the heavens, after six-putting, and shouted, "Why don't you come down and fight like a man!" Tommy's caddy once refused to hand over a club that Tommy requested, and when Tommy asked why, the caddy replied, "We're going to need that club later on."

The arrival of the Masters will reveal if Phil "BPNTHWAM" Mickleson will slough off his curse. Never winning a major is still a sight better than the horror attached to Bobby Wadkins--The Best Player Never to Have Won a Tournament, or BPNTHWAT. Bobby came in second 897 times, or so it seemed. When he limped into the Senior Tour, he won his first event. A PGA tour website states that Bobby's hobby is "hunting." I suspect murdering innocent animals, in their natural habitat, is Bobby's way of compensating for being the world's greatest "show" player. His brother, Lanny, won countless times on the PGA tour, which must have been a bitter pill. Bobby is making millions on the Senior Tour--euphemistically called "The Champions Tour"--so don't feel sorry for Mr. Second.

The recent controversy involving Davis Love III and a scumbag heckler is troubling. Hecklers don't belong at golf events; it detracts from the sanctity of the game. Davis insisted the man--who was yelping, "No Love!"--be removed from the premises. Yelping may be appropriate for World Federation Wrestling tournaments, but respectful silence is appropriate at a golf tournament. Davis was not being overly sensitive; silence is one of the hallowed conventions of the game. The heckler sacrilege did bring to mind a description of an overly sensitive golfer as described by P.G. Wodehouse, "The least thing upsets him on the links. He missed short putts because of the uproar of butterflies in the adjoining meadows."

The Masters is nigh. Be prepared for sports ignoratti making mock of William "Hootie" Johnson. Hootie's crime is he has a funny name and is chairman of the Augusta National Golf club--all men, all the time. And will Martha Burk, crusader and nattering nincompoopess, rear up as azaleas bloom at Augusta? Tiger will not prevail. He has fallen into the trap Jack Nicklaus blundered into oh so many years ago, which is Not Playing in Enough Competitive Events--or NPIECE. April will tell.


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From the March 31-April 6, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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