Monday, February 25, 2013
South West Florida Hockey
In the past two weeks, several products from the ranks of Quinte hockey programs have enjoyed sunshine in South West Florida.
Last weekend, the Evansville Icemen faced off against the Florida Everblades on Friday and Saturday nights, at the Germaine Arena. Two players from the Icemen are familiar to hockey fans from the north: Dylan Clarke and Kevin Baker.
Baker, a Kingston native, played for the Belleville Bulls. Clarke played all of his minor hockey in the Quinte area, then headed off to Trenton to play his Junior hockey there. Two others were expected to hit the ice at the Germaine: Nathan Moon and former Dukes’ goalie Paul Karpowich. Both had been called up and did not skate here.
Nick Walsh and his aunt, Christine Shannon
Last Tuesday, Nick Walsh was in town as a member of the Gwinnett Gladiators. Following the game, Nick greeted a host of friendly faces---family and friends from Tweed, Latta, Read, and metropolitan Marysville. Teams in the East Coast Hockey League have played more than fifty games, well into the season. Walsh has a dozen games to his credit, and is earning his ice team gradually.
Early in the third period, he scored a nifty goal for the Gladiators, and immediately gained the favour of the coaching staff. Midway through the third period, he knifed through the Blades defenders, but was thwarted by their goalie.
Walsh told me after the game that he enjoyed the extra playing time he was getting, also due to the fact that the team is a little short-handed. He gave credit to his linemates, Doug Jones and Casey Pierro-Zabotel for their efforts on the goal he scored. “They just told me to drive to the net and cause a ruckus.”
Walsh played his minor hockey with Johnny Foley. When the opportunity to move up to junior arrived, they both headed to Cobourg, and Walsh played four seasons with the Cougars. He moved on to the ECAC, and played four years for Dartmouth, once making it to the finals in Atlantic City.
Dylan Clarke also completed his education in the U. S. at the State University of New York at the Plattsburgh campus. Prior to that, he spent three full seasons with the Kingston Voyageurs.
Kevin Baker spent a season with the Trenton Sting, then three full seasons with the Belleville Bulls. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1999, and played a couple of seasons in the American Hockey League. He then headed east to Acadia University, before continuing the hockey wars in the States and in Europe. Check “hockey db.com” to learn the other dozen teams that Kevin has skated with. He played two seasons with the Everblades, and enjoyed the return visit last weekend.
Coach Rich Kromm was thrilled to pick up four points for the team’s efforts on the weekend. On Friday night, there were 20 attempts to score in the shootout before the IceMen triumphed. He commented on the play of his players from the Quinte area: “We picked up Dylan a couple of weeks ago, and he was the “Player of the Week” shortly after arriving. He said that the team traded for Baker from Orlando because “he is a proven scorer and a real character guy”.
The Gladiators return to the Germaine Arena this coming weekend. See you there!
Monday, February 18, 2013
The Champions Tour at Naples-The Aftermath
Jay Don Blake was featured in last week’s article. He was one of the first players on the practice tee on Monday, working on his technique. During Thursday’s round, I heard him smack a drive off the tee, but lost it in a cloudy sky. When it cracked the palm tree just above my head, I had a pretty fair idea where it might have landed. He appreciated our assistance in locating his ball.
He finished the tournament with one of the best rounds of the day, just one shot off the winner, Bernhard Langer. Blake did fire a 68, and Langer a 72, but Langer haled off the entire field from start to finish.
Jay Don Blake and Mark O'Meara
Brendan Cunningham announces every golfer at the first hole, supplying a brief biography. One of the marshals told me that Cunningham has been announcing since time began! In the final round, you could hear his rasping voice back at the 16th hole, as he greeted contestants arriving on the 18th green.
We wandered from hole to hole, marveling at the consistency of the players. Drive, chip, putt. On to the next. Mark Brooks escaped from a nasty lie in a sand trap with a fine wedge. But he lipped a relatively easy putt at the 6th hole. Twice he mumbled, “I don’t know why I would expect anything else.”
Rocco Mediate won the previous tournament, and was sizing up a putt on the 16th green. He consulted with his caddy. I heard his caddy plead, “I’m trying, I’m trying!” Players rely on their caddies for advice, which they sometimes ignore. Mediate sunk the putt for a bird, to put him 6 under par. Marshall Pat Minty, who spent the weekend on that particular hole, remarked that the threesome with Mediate, Cook, and Funk had the best shots of the day. John Huston’s group followed. Huston came into the 16th at 8 under, double bogeyed, and shot himself out of contention.
The day cooled as the sun began to set. Palms shimmered in the slight breeze. Langer, Pernice, and Chien Soon Lu were the last to tackle the par 3 16th. Langer parred the hole, laid up at the 17th for another par, and coasted to victory. Well, not exactly coasted. He pushed a fifty foot putt to within inches of the hole to seal the deal.
It was his second ACE Group Classic win in the last three years. Even though he hails from Berlin, his German accent is barely noticeable. He suggested to the announcer, that since he has lived in Boca Raton for so many years, they might now introduce him as a Florida resident.
Bernhard Langer with his wife and son.
The tour makes two Canadian stops this summer, in Montreal, and in Calgary. Canadian Jim Rutledge fired a strong 69 over the last round and picked up more than $ 18 000 for his efforts.
A great way to enjoy fine golf in the Florida sunshine!
Sunday, February 17, 2013
The Kincardine Scottish Pipe Band in South West Florida
Far from the shores of Lake Huron, the Kincardine Scottish Pipe Band is spending a few days in South West Florida. Most Saturday nights in the summer, members of the band parade the streets of Kincardine, and entertain at Victoria Park.
This weekend, they piped the grounds of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, much to the delight of tourists gathered under the sprawling banyan tree. For the record, the tree covers almost an acre, but was a mere sapling when presented to Thomas Edison by his pal Harvey Firestone in 1925.
Thomas Alva Edison and his wife Mina thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Actually, Edison was enjoying his 166th birthday, so a representative stood in for him. They were accompanied by Henry Ford.
There were a few Canadian flag wavers in the crowd. Naturally, and typically, Canadians are not prone to boast their colours. On this occasion, one could spot a shirt or two with the red and white flag.
One of the members of the band, Keith Davidson, has been piping with the band for many years. I must confess I was tipped to his whereabouts by a mutual friend, Peter Carver. Carver introduced Davison to me, by telephone, as the “Prime Minister of the Leafs’ Nation”.
I spoke with a few members in the crowd who knew Carver, a long-time history teacher at the local high school. “He taught all of our children,” was a comment expressed by many.
“Many of us have worked diligently to try to get Carver to see the light, and support the Leafs. To no avail. It is never a shock to see his name pinned to a letter to the editor to stir the wrath of the locals. He is a die-hard Red Wings fan, and that’s not about to change”, Davidson told me after the concert.
Carver had told me about Davidson’s excellent hockey prowess. “I played a little Intermediate hockey. That’s about it”, he told me modestly at the entrance to the Estates.
Following the concert, the band enjoyed an afternoon on the shores of the Caloosahatchee River, as they toured the historic site.
The following evening, the band walked the streets of Fort Myers, as part of the 75th Edison Light Parade.
A weekend to remember in South West Florida!
ACE Group Championship-Second Round Results
The Devil's Pupit's David Hurst, at TwinEagles
The Champions Tour is restricted to professional golfers who have reached the half century point in their lives. Although that seems to be a given, my point is that these players are experienced.
The importance of experience became evident today, as the winds of change swept across South West Florida. All afternoon. Every player had to make adjustments for every shot. Shots that would have landed on the green under normal conditions were held up by the wind, and landed in nasty bunkers. Others were blown off course into the rough.
Bob Tway paid a severe penalty when he was found guilty of playing an illegal shot from the rough. It was studied carefully, and he was assessed a two stroke penalty. He ended the day with a 79, 14 strokes above his score the previous day. His judgement in that situation was undoubtedly affected by the wind conditions.
Cien Soon Lu came in at five under par after the first round. A native of Taiwan, his name has rarely appeared at the top of money boards on the tour; however, after taking a double bogey on the first hole Saturday, he birdied seven of the next ten holes. He fished three strokes off Langer’s pace, tied with Tom Pernice Junior.
Very few players bettered their scores from the first day. Bernhard Langer, the first round leader with a 62, played brilliantly the second day, and managed a 72. With that, he still maintained the lead he had at the beginning of the day.
Kenny Parry, last year’s ACE champion, is certainly the tournament favourite. In fact, in a tongue-in-cheek gesture, he was announced on the first tee as the “Mayor of Naples”. Parry has opted to use a cart for the tournament. He is no doubt in some pain, as he is scheduled for knee surgery next week; nonetheless, he soldiers on, and has posted very respectable numbers.
Kenny Parry, "Mayor of Naples"
Palm branches sweep across the greens, driven by the breezes that are measured near forty miles an hour. There are a few spectators enjoying Domincan cigars, and the aroma wafts through the crowd. A crsip February day, but certainly not worth a winter jacket.
Phil Stambaugh and Bernhard Langer
Get real, folks, it’s Florida. Throw a blanket on the orchids, and head for the first tee.
Friday, February 15, 2013
ACE Group Classic-Naples 2013
The rains stayed well away from South West Florida until yesterday. Almost three inches drenched many areas, including the Talon Course of the TwinEagles Golf Course in Naples. The course is the site of the ACE Group Classic Golf Tournament, with $ 1 600 000 up for grabs. The winner’s share is $ 240 000. The tournament is for those graying slightly at the temples, those over 50 years of age, and is a stop on the Champions Tour.
Following today’s play to open the tournament, Bernhard Langer emerged at the top of the pack. Par for the course is 72, and he ended the day ten under par, and flirted with that magical score of 59. “I missed the putt on the 17th for a bird. I knew I had to finish eagle-birdie to get 59.”
Langer is enjoying the tour immensely. He said that he did not make any significant adjustments for the weather, slightly chilly for the season. “I called my wife and asked her to bring me a sweater. It arrived when I was on the tenth hole. But it is her birthday, so that was that.” During the evening telecast on the Golf Channel, Langer sang “Happy Birthday” to his wife. I recommend that he stick with his day job.
“I love the camaraderie with the other players and their families with this tour. I know that I only have so many years left (to play the game at this level).” His son sat in on the media scrum. After he left the microphone, he chuckled and asked his son, perhaps 12 years old, “Why didn’t you ask any questions?” There is an element of levity at the event, far less strenuous than the regular PGA Tour events. Mind you, there is plenty at stake, and players need their “A Game” to succeed.
Canadians Rod Spittle and Jim Nelford failed to qualify, and likely moved on to prepare for next week’s event. Victoria’s Jim Rutledge remains as the only Canadian in the event, and posted a respectable one under par in the opening round.
Jim Rutledge, heading to the 18th tee.
Langer heads into tomorrow’s event with a three shot lead. When asked if that is enough, he replied, “It might be if there were two holes remaining!”
The sun broke through the clouds after play was completed. A significant change in the weather is expected. Langer shrugged when asked about it. All players will play the same course, in the same conditions. I am certain Langer will be ready.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
ACE Group Classic-Champions Tour 2013 Naples
They are lining up the troops here in South West Florida for the Ace Group Classic Golf Tournament to take place this coming weekend. There are five contestants who will tee off at TwinEagles in Naples this year as newcomers: Rocco Mediate, Steve Elkington, Bart Bryant, Duffy Waldorf, and Gene Sauers.
Mediate won the Champions Tour event last weekend, on the east side of the state in Boca Raton. His pockets were a little heavier as he headed west to the Gulf side. He picked up $ 270 000 for his win. Not exactly chump change. Bernard Langer, who is always a contender on this tour, finished second, and picked up $ 144 000 for his efforts.
Other strong finishers last week included: Mark O’Meara, Corey Pavin, Fred Funk, Tom Lehman, David Frost, Larry Mize, and Jay Don Blake.
Blake was ten strokes off the pace, and pocketed $ 31 500. He was one of the first players to head to the practice tee on Monday morning. Most of you who chase the little white ball without a soul know that there are always adjustments to be made to get to the top. Blake strapped a device to both arms to keep them from flying as he stroked a few irons onto the fairway.
On Tuesday morning, the battle began for the pros who would like to have their names announced later in the week. Fifty-nine players headed out to another fine local course, Old Corkscrew, to qualify for the ACE Tournament. Only five made the grade. That’s pressure. Consider this as well: Last week Fuzzy Zoeller did not finish well, and was rewarded with $ 738. Many others finished out of the money. Now that’s incentive to drive long and straight.
Last year we followed one of the Canadians on the tour, Rod Spittle. He and Jim Nelford, originally from Burnaby, British Columbia, are in the hunt for one of those qualifying positions. Make the grade, and you might have a nice payday. Come up short, and head to the range, to try to tweak your game to play later at other events on the tour.
Chip Beck, Bobby Clampett, Bunky Henry, and Tom Byrum are also trying to qualify. A tough field.
The whole tournament experience is something no golfer should miss. There are plenty of sponsors on hand to share the news about their products. For $ 25, you can spend the entire day, quite relaxed, basking in the Florida sunshine, watching these pros at work. For fifty bucks, you get admission for the entire week. Wear pants with large pockets. You will be presented with all kinds of trinkets, as souvenirs.
SUBWAY Restaurants are also involved in the tournament, with a “Family Putt for Dough Challenge”. There is a three hole challenge, which must be covered under par (five strokes or less). Successful candidates then enter the long putt round, fifty feet. The winner of the Grand Prize receives $ 50 000. Not too shabby.
On Tuesday, prior to the main event, PGA TOUR Superstores participated in a “Play Golf America Day” at the TwinEagles Club. Many of the popular manufacturers, including Mizuno, Nike, and the like were on hand to debut their new products. Spectators received free raffle tickets, and the lucky ones were rewarded with merchandise and tournament memorabilia.
Jim Rutledge hails from Victoria, British Columbia. According to the media guide, he will be 54 this year. At the end of last season, he earned a fully-exempt status card for the 2013 Champions Tour events by finishing fourth at the National Qualifying Tournament. He won the Canadian Seniors Championship last July in Milton, Ontario. He opened the event with a ten under par 62, then broke the tournament record with a 17 under par 199 total for three days.
He lists Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash as his favourite athletes. He adds that his favourite team as a kid was the Harlem Globetrotters, and his favouite player- “Meadowlark Lemon”! What’s not to like!
I plan to cover the final two rounds of the tournamnent, which will be shown in the evenings on the Golf Channel. I’d best have a bowl of Wheaties to prepare. The course is more than 7 000 yards in length.
Hit ‘em long and straight!
Monday, February 04, 2013
Super Bowl XLVII The Aftermath
It is Monday evening, and the lights are out at the SuperDome in New Orleans. Intentionally.
Yesterday, they lost power during the game at the Super Bowl, and there was cause for concern. Fortunately, the lights came on about half an hour later, and the game continued. A great game, by the way, in doubt right down to the final seconds. When the clock read zero, the Baltimore Ravens edged the San Francisco Forty-Niners 34-31.
Fifty years ago, in 1952, the Grey Cup was played in Toronto. Halfway through the game between the Hamilton Tiger Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, fog rolled in from Lake Ontario. With nine minutes and 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter, officials postponed the game. They played the final minutes the following day. When the fog interfered with play, the Bombers led 28-27. The same score held up until the end of the game the next day.
Despite the fact that the Ravens were considered to be underdogs by the majority of football fans, they dominated the first half. Quarterback Joe Flacco, who was named the game MVP, outperformed his counterpart from the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick. Flacco threw three touchdown passes, and led the Ravens into the locker room at half time with a 21-6 lead.
To complicate things for the 49ers, the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones took the kickoff deep in his end zone, and wove his way through the centre of the field to the 49er end zone. The final determination was that he had covered 108 yards in his journey, a Super Bowl record. By comparison, he would have covered 128 yards on a Canadian football field. The field of play is 110 yards in the CFL, and the end zone is 20 yards deep, as opposed to ten in the NFL.
The 49ers were stunned. At that point, they trailed 28-6. Following the kickoff, the lights went out. I could almost hear “Dandy” Don Meredith, the iconic Monday Night Football announcer howling out his patented song , “Turn out the Lights, the party’s over”! I would not have been a bit surprised if the game had turned out to be a blowout.
Such was not to be the case. Thirty-five minutes later, the 49ers rallied to score 17 straight points. With the Ravens ahead in the fourth quarter by six points, the 49ers headed to the line of scrimmage inside the Baltimore ten yard line, with a first and goal. Most armchair quarterbacks assumed that coach Jim Harbaugh would elect to run the ball, either by Kaepernick or by running back Frank Gore. The 49ers elected to pass, four times, and the Ravens defence, including Ed Reed, thwarted all attempts. They pressured Kaepernick, and that was “all she wrote”. Ravens took a safety to end the game harmlessly.
It was the first time in football history that two coaches who were brothers, Jim and John Harbaugh, faced each other in a championship. Ravens’ Ray Lewis played his final National Football League game. He announced his retirement several weeks ago, and many of his teammates wanted to win one for Lewis. Ed Reed
Twelve years ago, Lewis led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory, and was the game MVP. Controversy surrounded his career; several years ago, he was implicated in a double homicide that has yet to be solved, and during the past week he was accused of using deer antler spray to help rehabilitation with a torn bicep muscle. As a sidelight, golfer V. J. Singh recently admitted to using deer antler spray. I am sure that would raise a few eyebrows in Bancroft!
Kaepernick made his debut as the 49ers QB in mid season. His debut has been nothing short of spectacular. He broke several records with spectacular performances. He is now 25 years old, and has a bright future in the game. But the day belonged to Flacco, who completed 22 passes out of 33 attempts.
A most entertaining end to the season.