Thursday, December 07, 2017

 

The Hero World Challenge



                                             Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler    

I trust you are enjoying this incredible early December weather. I am certain that some of you wish that you could get out on the golf course one last time before the snow flies. Some of you might be lucky enough to escape to the south to play. Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, and many places in Florida beckon to relieve you of some of your hard-earned cash as you meander around those links.


There are plenty of wonderful golf courses in the islands of the Caribbean. The Bahamas is a favourite location for golfers from all over the world. The Hero Wold Challenge was played last week in New Providence in the Bahamas. It is a PGA event. Sort of. It is an invitational event, with only 18 players invited to play.


Golf Channel carried hours of the event, and they were rewarded with some exciting play at the event. Some of you may contest my use of the word exciting in relationship to the game of golf. Be that as it may, many of you love the game, and were following the exploits of Tiger Woods at the event.


The tournament was Tiger's first opportunity to play four rounds of golf, in tournament play, in an awfully long time. He has been nagged by an aching back, and has had extensive work on it, including surgery. He is now 41 years old, not necessarily ancient by golfing standards. But he realizes that the young Turks are barking at the door to become the leaders in the game. He has his work cut out for him if he wishes to compete at the highest level.


Tiger more than proved himself last weekend. He scored well on the first two rounds to be in contention for the lead. The third round, however, was his undoing, as he shot 75 in blustery conditions. A good score on the final round resulted in his tie for ninth in the tournament. Rickie Fowler torched the course on Sunday, shooting a 61 to win the tournament.


Charley Hoffman finished in second place. Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood tied for third. Hideki Matsuyama. Patrick Reed, and Justin Rose finished together in a tie for fifth place.


Most of the attention was focused on Tiger Woods. I assure you, if he stays healthy, that will be the case the entire 2018 season. For several reasons, the golfing public is fascinated by Mr. Woods. He is a controversial figure, loved by some, shall we say not so loved by others.


One of my good friends in Belleville is my golf consultant. His name is Al Stitt, and he is a student of the game. He is also a fine player, regularly shoots his age, (75), and has won several championships. He believes that Tiger could win a PGA event this season. He also feels that age will play a part in Tiger's continued golf career.


Several years ago, at the annuak PGA Golf Show in Orlando, Al spoke at length with one of Tiger's former golf teachers, Hank Haney, about life on the golf course. Haney's book, “The only golf lesson you will ever need” is a good one for all golfers. Haney teaches that a “one plane swing” is critical to your success. Essentially, your arms, the shaft, and the club face should move in a straight line for consistent success.

Haney became Tiger's former coach when he tried to get Woods to change his swing. He wanted a more fluid motion, one that would put less stress on the body to make his career more sustainable, with perhaps less stress on his back.


The proof will be in the pudding. In the meantime, hit 'em straight.


James Hurst
December 4, 2017

Sunday, December 03, 2017

 

Grey Cup Weekend-2017


                                                                 With Mark Seale


It is true that the Grey Cup game on Sunday was another wonderful sporting event, and well worth the writing.

I would like to begin this column with a note about the Vanier Cup, the championship game held annually to decide the best team in Canadian University football. The Western Mustangs from London, Ontario defeated the Laval Rouge et Or to win the Cup this past Saturday. Both of these teams have always been perennially strong. Laval won the title in 2016, but also won in 2013 and 2012, looking back over the past few years.

I have attended several Vanier Cups, going back to the days in the late Sixties when my alma mater, Queen's University was a force. I had attended Western after I had completed Teachers' College in Peterborough in 1963. Queen's had great football teams in those days, led by quarterback Cal Connor. They also had magnificent festivities after the games, enough to induce me to transfer to the Kingston campus. I went to the Vanier Cup to see Mike Schad in his final college game as a Golden Gael, only to discover that he would be watching the game in a wheelchair.

My brother David and I sat with our wives in the end zone at Varsity Stadium on Bloor Street in Toronto. It was a nasty day, so bad that those in charge were letting field goals and converts remain in the stands. The Gaels lined up a field goal aiming directly at our section. The batter fluttered up towards us. I took out a would-be receiver so that my brother could catch the ball. I would have been penalized were I on the field.

David caught the ball, and darted out the exit to put it in his car. As he left the stadium, two mounted Metro policeman cornered him, asking for the ball. After a short pursuit, which ended at a locked residence door, David had to give up the ball. Adding insult to injury, he had to pay to get back into the stadium top join us.

The Mustangs defeated Laval 39-17 for the 2917 championship, the first title for veteran coach Greg Marshall. He has been in the coaching ranks in colleges and the Canadian Football League for many years-finally a title.

We flew into Ottawa a couple of days before the game. We ran into Mark Seale, who was on our flight. He was roughly 6' 6”, and a shade over 250 pounds. Leave it up to me to ask the obvious: “Did you play football?” Indeed he did, for several years in the CFL, winning a Cup with Winnipeg in 1988. He also told me that he played Pee Wee hockey in Belleville, a few years ago.


On Sunday afternoon, the rest of the nation prepared for the 105th Grey Cup. The Toronto Argonauts had risen from the depths earlier in the season to challenge for the title, although they were clearly the underdogs in this game. Their manager Jim Popp, and their coach Marc Trestman signed on this year, after years with the Alouettes. The Calgary Stampeders came east to Ottawa to avenge a difficult loss in the Grey Cup game last year. They were favoured to win the game.

There is an expression related to Hogtown called “The Argo Bounce”. The ball does not always fall in favour of the Double Blue. But on Sunday, in the heavy snow falling in Ottawa, the Argonauts clearly got the breaks.

Playing conditions were dreadful. Most of the lines, and the advertising markings on the field were covered in snow. Commentators suggested that ball control would be a key factor to the game. No kidding. And yet, there were no turnovers until late in the fourth quarter. Calgary fumbled near the Toronto goal line, Cassius Vaughn scooped up the ball and ran 109 yards to the Calgary end zone. The two point convert tied the game.

With 49 seconds left in the game, Lirim Hajirullahu punched a 32 yard field goal through the uprights to seal the deal for the Argos, 27-24. A last ditch effort by the Stamps resulted in an interception in the End Zone. Heartbreaking for the Westerners.

Half time entertainer Shania Twain was brilliant. A step or two above Gordon Lightfoot!

The parties have just begun in Toronto. Meet the team on Tuesday at the City Hall Square. The same location where the Leafs will celebrate, some day!


James Hurst
November 27, 2017.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

 

CME Golf Championship 2017



The weather has been perfect the past four days in South-West Florida for the final event of the year of the LPGA Women's Golf Tour. It takes place in Naples, just south of Fort Myers, at the fabulous Tiburon course at the Ritz-Carlton.

I am certain that course preparation was a challenge this year. The course was affected by Hurricane Irma. There were many trees down once the storm had passed, and conditions were soggy. But the crew worked hard, and the course is in perfect condition. Mind you, golfers still face those nasty bunkers with the three foot lips, similar to the pot bunkers in Great Britain. Quite often, players must hit away from the hole in those bunkers, to get the ball in play.

Brooke Henderson entered the week with a decent shot at the tournament title. If she had won, she would also receive the CME Globe bonus prize of one million dollars. She played consistently all week, recording the score of 70 on her first three rounds; however, the competition is fierce at this level, and Brooke's game was not quite good enough to bag the big prize. Please remember that this girl is but twenty years old, and undoubtedly will retire some day as Canada's best female golfer, ever.

Michelle Wie entered the last round tied for first with Kim Kaufman, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Suzann Pettersen. Wie had missed several weeks on the tour, after an appendicitis attack at the Canadian Open. “It was a shock. I was in contention in Canada, and then it happened. I didn't expect to be out six weeks.” Incidentally, Wie is a member of the “P2 Putting Army”. Translation? She is using the P2 Putter grip which comes out of the Quinte Area, from Steve Auger and company!

All told, there were 14 golfers within two strokes of the lead going into Sunday's final round. The CME company announced that they had extended their endorsement of the event at least until 2023, which is exciting for those of us who are in the area.

Brooke finished the tournament at six under, and the other Canadian in the event, Alena Sharp finished at one under.

As the golfers entered the final stretch, the wheat began to separate from the chaff. S. H. Park took the title as the “Rookie of the Year”, but was out of contention following a disastrous round of 75 on Saturday. The Korda sisters, daughters of Peter Korda, a long-time tennis professional, played well up to the final holes.

But it was Floridian Lexi Thompson, with a strong contingent of fans on hand, who entered the final holes in the driver's seat. She birdied the 17th to take a one stroke lead on the field. She played the 18th hole well, and rolled a long putt to within 18 inches. The crowd hushed as she tapped in the short putt to sew up the victory. There was a group gasp as the putt rolled past the hole.

Moriya Jutanugarn is Ariya's sister. She was waiting patiently for her sister at the 18th green. Ariya shocked the crowd by rolling in a 20 foot putt to birdie the final hole and take the championship. Thompson had to settle for second place. She also was the winner of the CME globe, with the million dollar bonus.

All the ladies now take a break until the next season rolls around. Not quite as much pressure in the off-season!!!


James Hurst
November 19, 2017.



Saturday, November 11, 2017

 

Floyd Crawford-A Hockey Icon.

(Belleville Sports Hall of Fame)



  • Belleville's Mr. Hockey is dead.
    Floyd Crawford, the talismanic captain of the city's most accomplished sports team, died early Saturday, surrounded by members of his family. He was 88.
    "Floyd died peacefully, he didn't suffer,” said Bobby Crawford, one of Floyd Crawford's nine children. “He had a great life.”
    Great was a word often associated with Crawford — great leader, great coach, great father and grandfather, great man.
    Recruited to Belleville in the 1950s to help build a team that could challenge for the Allan Cup, emblematic of senior A hockey supremacy in Canada, Crawford captained the McFarlands to a national title in 1958 and a world championship gold medal one year later in Prague. At that time, senior A hockey in Canada was only one or two steps below the NHL.
    Many members of the Might Macs team remained in Belleville to help guide the next generation of hockey players in the city. Crawford was foremost among them.
    He coached, managed and mentored hundreds of young athletes through the Belleville minor hockey system and on into junior. Some would go on to the highest levels of the sport. Many would stay behind and become contributing members of their community, passing down the lessons they'd learned from Crawford during cold winter mornings at Memorial Arena.
    Crawford's playing, coaching and life philosophy was built on the cornerstones of faith, loyalty, hard work, determination and optimism. His words of encouragement were often delivered in harsh fashion, but the intended goal was always the same — be your best.
    Together with his wife and household manager, Pauline, Crawford raised nine children — Susan, Peter, Michael, Bobby, Marc, Louis, Todd, Danielle and Eric. Three of the boys — Bobby, Marc and Louis — would go on to play in the NHL.
    Marc won a Stanley Cup as bench boss of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and is now an associate coach with the Ottawa Senators. Louis coached the OHL Belleville Bulls to their only league title in 1999, with Floyd as chief scout.
    When he was inducted into the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, Crawford — born and raised in Toronto — recalled walking down a busy Front Street on his first Friday night in town after being recruited from the old Quebec senior league to join the Macs, now more than 60 years ago.
    "I liked Belleville,” he said. “I thought it was a good place to raise a family.”
    Thanks, Floyd. We're glad you stayed.

    Notes from Paul Svoboda-The Intelligencer.


    Wednesday, November 08, 2017

     

    National Hockey League 2017-2018



                                                                  Auston Matthews 2017-2018 opc


    With the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights this year, the National Hockey League now has 31 teams. Each team carries about thirty players, with a few on the bubble, not always dressing for each game. So now we are saddled with about 900 players to keep track of, each year.


    One of my strategies to help muddle through the process is to purchase a couple of sets of hockey cards. I have done it for years, and it helps. Without resorting to the computer, I am able to lock down plenty of information about every player. As an example, Joe Thornton is featured on card # 327. On the front of the card, Joe is pictured heading up ice with his trusty CCM stick. You can easily identify him by his beard, which rivals that of the big ol' guy that visits most of us on Christmas Eve.




    On the back of Thornton's card, in writing that almost requires a magnifying glass for a septuagenarian's eyes, is a complete record of all of Joe's pertinent stats for his entire career!! Nineteen seasons boiled down to fit on the back of a hockey card. A true hockey warrior.


    On the other hand, there is only one season's experience listed on the back of Auston Matthew's card. But in his first magical season with the Leafs, Matthews managed to score 40 goals, had 29 assists, and firmly entrenched himself as a superstar in the NHL. Those are powerful words coming out of this laptop so early in his career. So far, very well deserved.


    The O-Pee-Chee set does not include the cards of every player in the NHL. There are 600 cards in the set. One card for each team is dedicated as a “Team Check List”. There are special cards for “League Leaders”...goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, save percentage, etc. There are ten cards dedicated to “Season Highlights”. There are also 50 cards of the young players in the league called “Marquee Rookie” cards. Some of these players may spend considerable time in the minor leagues this year. For those of you wintering around Belleville, you can see these young stars in action. Ottawa's Colin White is pictured on card # 505.


    The cards become available just before the season breaks; therefore, there are several players shown in last year's uniforms. That will all change with subsequent printing. As well, there are no Vegas players in the set. A bit of a disappointment.


    Card companies are also affected by trades. In a recent three-team trade, Ottawa's Kyle Turris ended up in Nashville, and Colorado's Matt Duchene has become a Senator. There are several other players involved in the trade, including Andrew Hammond, an Ottawa goalie who was expected to see plenty of ice time with the Belleville Senators. He is now with Colorado.


    Duchene, a Haliburton native, seems pleased with the trade. “I'm excited. It will be amazing to be close to home. They've got a team that can win the Stanley Cup. But it was a real pleasure to have player in Colorado.”


    Turris and Duchene will face off against each other this coming weekend in Stockholm, Sweden at the Ericsson Globe Arena. All part of the expanding world of hockey!


    When I return home, I will bring all of my traders with me. We roughly estimated almost 2 million cards, in that category. There will be a reduction this summer. I promise!


    James Hurst
    November 7, 2017







    Tuesday, November 07, 2017

     

    Doc Halladay

    Such a loss.

    Condolences to his family.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2017

     

    World Series-2017 Three Games Each

    World Series-2017

    I have found several friends and acquaintances who watched the entire Dodgers-Astros game on Sunday night. I know that it broke all kinds of records, especially for the being the longest nine inning World Series game ever. They call this thing the Fall Classic. That game was far from being a “Classic”.


    There were errors, hit batters, good calls, bad calls, reversed calls. After more than 160 games, fatigue becomes a factor.


    The pressure was on late in the game. A ball was hit to the Astros' centre fielder, George Springer. Springer made a very poor decision, misjudged the flight of the ball, and dove to make a spectacular catch. He watched the ball trickle by him all the way to the wall. By the time the other fielder got to the ball, the batter was jogging safely into third base.


    Up came Springer at a critical stage in the game,the very next inning. He atoned for his error with a crushing drive into the seats. And that was the essence of that game. Four times the game was tied, there were five lead changes, and seven home runs to break another World Series record.



    The Astros caught a break when the Dodgers opted to sign Yu Darvish at the trading deadline. They passed on Justin Verlander and the $ 56 million that was owed to him on his contract. Big Mistake? It looks that way right now, but the game on Tuesday night is pivotal. By the time this piece of parchment reaches your hands, Verlander could be on top of the baseball world. Or he might be in the dungeons, having lost game six.


    Many of the ballplayers, including Blue Jay Marcus Stroman, believe that the league has changed the nature of the ball to “create more offence”. Stroman believes that the balls are slicker, causing more blisters this past year. Verlander faces Rich Hill this evening. Hill does not believe the balls have changed. This controversy arises every now and then, mainly as a distraction.


    Most prognosticators felt that the Series would be long, six or seven games. These two teams are evenly matched. Many fans thought other teams would be in the finals: Jays? Possibly. Yankees? Had their chances. Red Sox? Not this year. Cleveland? So close. Twins? Showed great promise. Nationals? Wasn't it supposed to be their turn?


    When Spring rolls abound next year, there will be plenty of baseball activity here in Florida, and in Arizona. Each and every team knows, that with some slight wrinkles and a few breaks, they could be on top of the baseball world.


    After tonight, we will have a better idea!!!


    James Hurst

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