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Photograph by Eric "ug" Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Pin High in Alviso

By Eric "ug" Carlson

"If I ever find my inner child, I'm going to kill it."
Indian Larry, on "Monster Garage"

DON'T GO LOOKING for your inner child on a golf course. Golf isn't about spiritual growth; it's about pain and public humiliation. Golf is a grim business where human imperfections are exposed immediately in the form of errant shots, and tantrums and grumpiness overtake otherwise stolid and cheerful men. (I have never seen a woman throw a tantrum on a golf course with the exception of Danielle Ammaccapone, who pistol-whipped an 11-year-old girl into submission for stepping on her line in the 1999 British Virgin Islands Invitational.)

As in all pursuits requiring repeatable physical motion, practice is a good thing (assuming one is practicing proper technique). And the Pin High Golf Center in Alviso is an excellent place to improve all aspects--short game area, putting green, huge driving range with grass and mat tees, fully stocked pro shop, capable golf instructors and the ever important bar and grill. Pin High also features a world-renowned three-hole practice course that wends around the driving range and offers breathtaking views of Alviso. On an extraordinary day in September, I would experience the full fury of this course.

Eric Rumpf, Brian Webster and Gary Quigley were working at Pin High when I arrived, and provided valuable information. "Is Tiger Woods really in a slump?" I asked. The general consensus was that Tiger is not in a slump, but that many other players are "stepping up." This is bad news for Bay Area sports writers and other shallow golf fans who follow the game only if Tiger is leading. "What's the course record at Pin High?" I inquired of Brian. "Six," he responded, and pointed to Gary. "By that guy." Gary went around in 2, 2, 2. A record that will likely stand until the end of time. I proceeded to the tee box to see what I had.

The first hole at fabled Pin High is Pickerel Weed, a 235-yard par 3. A long par 3 is not the easiest way to ease into a round of golf. Perhaps distracted by the awe-inspiring $700,000 homes on North First Street, my 3-metal malfunctioned, causing my Maxfli to slice dramatically into the adjacent driving range. Pickerel Weed ate my lunch.

The second hole, Clapper Rail, provided some respite from the pain, and I was able to negotiate the 131 yards with a wedge, before 3-putting from 20 feet. The third, Alviso Slough, is a short par 4, but treacherous on account of Highway 237 construction to the left of the fairway and a towering driving range net on the right. The yardage is listed at 265 yards, but looks and plays longer. My drive hooked just enough to skitter under a chain-link fence, where the ball came to rest next to a construction worker eating lunch in the shade of his truck. The man was friendly, and we noted that it was unseasonably hot for September. I played on, repeating the three-hole cycle with Steve and JK, Koreans who were enjoying an up-and-down-and-sideways day like myself.

Pin High Golf Center (www.pinhighgolfcenter.com) opened in August 1994 and is ideally located for those living in the Bay Area. Pin High's motto is "A little slice of Turf, in the heart of Tech." An upside to the location is that it is nigh-on to Vahl's Restaurant (and bar), where I went for a cheeseburger to cheer myself up.

The usual suspects were in attendance at the bar, including Warren, Roger and Paul, the superlative bartender/sleight-of-hand genius. Paul and Roger locked horns on the 2004 Golden Tee golf machine in the corner, and on this particular day Paul had his way with Roger, trouncing the former Romeo of the Slough soundly. Roger's lack of focus may be the result of recently being smitten by a woman named Kathy. Love and infatuation are simply not conducive to good golf.

Paul's brother Frank once ruled at the Golden Tee machine, but Frank's initials are not to be seen on the high-game list. Talk in the bar is that Frank no longer has the ability to take on Paul or Roger. Surfeited with this latest gossip from Alviso, I got into my Stang and drove home to soon-to-be-developed (destroyed) Sunnyvale.

Final Note: Amelia Vahl, who has been feeling poorly of late, was back at work in the Restaurant. Indomitable.

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From the September 11-17, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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