Doing nothing.

Last night, I unrolled my yoga mat in the hot room. For an hour, I breathed, stretched and strengthened. Sweat poured out of my body and, for the most part, I didn’t think about anything else.

After going to yoga several times a week over the winter, I have slipped of late. I only went twice in May and didn’t go at all in June. That needs to change.

In the past week, I’ve been on my bike three different times for about an hour each time. Like when I’m on my yoga mat, an hour on my bike does wonders to clear my head. Again, this is something I need more of.

While coincidental to what’s been going on in my life, there was this wonderful piece recently in the New York Times. Called simply, “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” it has been all over social media of late (I would bet $5 that at least one of your Facebook friends linked to it).

One paragraph I liked: “It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Essentially the piece talks about finding the elusive balance between work and life. While I’m not sure how realistic it is — we all can’t be authors — there is some nice perspective in it. And it arrived at a perfect time for me.

When I leave the office today, I will begin five days away from the office, five days at home. I have very little planned. It is going to be awesome. I have some tee times and a couple of tasks on my to-do list, but that’s about it. I have four library books on my iPad that I’d like to read. I’m a month behind in reading Sports Illustrated and want to catch up. I want to visit the Fulton tap room for the first time and eat pizza at Black Sheep afterward. I might see a movie. I don’t want to wear a watch. Let me rephrase that, I’m not going to wear a watch.

This isn’t going to be a vacation that’s go-go-go every day. I’m not going to log hundreds of miles behind the wheel of my car. Nope, I’m going to get off of the treadmill for a few days, play a little golf, have few expectations and breathe.

When I return to real life (and the office) next week, I need to remember to not be so busy. Not be so scheduled. I need to get on my mat and get on my bike. I need to breathe and I need to sweat. I need to read and I need to chill. (I also need to blog more, but that’s another story for another day).

Because sometimes you get the most out of doing nothing.

A very good few days

It has been a pretty good run of late for this guy.

Thursday: Covered Michigan vs. North Dakota in the Frozen Four.

Friday: Worked a half day. Went to the Twins home opener as a fan. Had good seats, the weather was better and a good time was had.

Saturday: Played my first Minnesota round of golf at Logger’s Trail in Stillwater. Hit it OK for April 9. Since I was so close to Wisconsin, I drove to Hudson, picked up some New Glarus beer (unavailable in Minnesota) and smuggled it back across the border. Tonight, I’m covering the national championship hockey game between Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth.

Sunday: The weather is supposed to be dreadful, but I’m OK with that. Why? Because I’m going to watch every shot of the final found of the Masters. It will be glorious.

 

A long and fun day of sports

I almost never miss my life as a sports writer. That’s been pretty well chronicled in other spots on this blog.

But I do kind of miss Final Four Saturday. In part for the atmosphere, but also in part for the fun. It was kind of my unofficial start to the golf season.

With the first game of the day beginning at 5 or 6 p.m. (depending of the time zone of the host site) and no pregame access, there’s a good bit of time to kill. So what to do? Make a day in which I would have to cover two games on deadline (even the first game was a deadline event because of Sunday state edition press times) even longer by getting up early and playing golf.

So the goal was to tee off around 9-10 a.m., play 18 holes, grab a quick lunch afterwards, zip back to the hotel, clean up, head to the game, cover two games, write two game stories and finish about 11:30 p.m. At that point, I’d meet fellow reporters in the hospitality room, have a few cold beers and fall into bed totally exhausted. I did this for five consecutive years.

Most years, we played again on Monday morning (though not as early) before the national championship game. A couple of years, I played on Thursday afternoon before things really got going on Friday or I played Tuesday morning before catching a plane back.

In 2003, I played a place called Willowdale CC in Lulling, Louisiana before a night at the Superdome (Kansas crushed Marquette in one semifinal and Syracuse with Carmelo Anthony beat Texas). We were going to play on Monday, but it poured that day. On Tuesday, I played the very solid Money Hill Golf and Country Club across the lake in Abita Springs, LA. I also had a nice lunch at the Abita Brewery brewpub before catching a flight back.

In 2004, my friend Herb and I played a very solid public course in San Antonio called The Republic before heading to the Superdome to see UConn and Georgia Tech win games. I think UConn beat Duke and GT beat Oklahoma State, but I’m too lazy to look it up. I remember flying to Austin instead of San Antonio that year because I got a better fare. I played The Golf Club at Circle C in Austin on Thursday, we played the very strong The Bandit (Keith Foster design) on Monday and I played Briggs Ranch (a Golfweek top 100 modern) before heading home.

2005 saw the Final Four in St. Louis. I played GC at Pevely Farms after landing, Stonewolf GC Fairview Heights, IL on a cold Saturday and Gateway National (which is quite good) on Monday afternoon before North Carolina beat Illinois.

In 2006, the weather was a little sketchy in Indianapolis. I played the quite good Trophy Club just northwest of Indy on Thursday afternoon. On Saturday morning, my buddy Herb and I joined some of the people from AP in playing at Brickyard Crossing, the upscale public course that has a handful of holes inside the track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That was a really cold round. There was no golf on Monday or Tuesday because of cold and rain. That was a bummer because I had a hookup to play at Crooked Stick on Tuesday.

The trip to Atlanta in 2007 was my last Final Four and I got three rounds in. I played  Cobblestone GC, a pretty good public course in the northwest suburbs on Thursday. On Saturday morning, we joined the AP guys and played a place called Eagle Watch GC, which is one of the Cannongate clubs. On Monday, my friend Herb and I played at Wolf Creek, a pretty decent public course near the airport that was designed by Mike Young.

So I’m not going to lie, I kind of wonder where I would be playing if I was in Houston right now. I’m sure I’d be knocking it around somewhere. That doesn’t mean that I wish I was in Houston right now. I’m in a much better place.

 

The dangers of having two work sites. Or Jeff is a moron.

As some of you know, I have multiple worksites for my job. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been almost exclusively at one location because of a specific project. But as a general rule, I spend Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in Bloomington and Tuesdays and Thursdays in St. Paul.

So this morning, I had a 9 a.m. meeting. It was organized by one of my colleagues in St. Paul. The last meeting like this that we had was in St. Paul.

As a result, I got up this morning and drove to St. Paul. I parked my car, walked to the office, but it was locked. I figured my colleagues were already down in the meeting room. I hung up my coat, pulled a couple of things out of my bag and pulled out my phone to figure out what room the meeting was in.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

I unlock my iPhone to see where the meeting is and guess what? Yep it was in Bloomington.

Yeah, not the best start to my day. Yeah, I was late. Yeah, I felt/feel like an idiot.

Why I think some gamers are going to be bummed out

I admit that I am excited about the release of Tiger Woods 12. I preordered my copy and it should be at my house when I arrive home from work Tuesday night.

I also think the folks at EA Sports have done a great job creating buzz for this game. Between Tiger Woods being on Jimmy Kimmel, constant video updates on Facebook and their site, Twitter driving traffic, media relations all over the place, the placement in the Best Buy weekly ad and the like. It has been a remarkable job.

The idea of being able to play Augusta National Golf Club — one of the most exclusive clubs in the United States and the course that golfers watch year after year — will be an automatic hit for EA.

I know people who aren’t as sick as me and don’t buy the new Tiger Woods game as soon as it is released who are fired up about this release. They are buying it for the first time in years. They are fired up.

But don’t be surprised if you see a little complaining later this week. Because there’s a little something that seems to being lost in the excitement.

That is that golfers aren’t going to be able to open the box, pop the disc in and suddenly tee it up at Augusta National. Like other Tiger Woods games, there’s much content that has to be earned. From what it seems, that will be the case with Augusta National.

I’m excited about trying to build up my career and tee it up at Augusta National. But I’m guessing there will be a lot of more casual players aren’t going to be so excited.

When I know I’m in a real pizza place

I love pizza. It is a fact that is undisputable.

Like everyone, I like going to a place that makes a fantastic pizza. But I love pizza far more than that. I will order pizza at a bar. I will buy pizza at a sporting event. There are even plenty of frozen pizza options out there that are excellent.

I’m not sure there is such a thing as bad pizza. OK, that might be going a little too far.

But as a fan of pizza, nothing makes me happier than to see this:

Take a close look at this small glass container filled with crushed red peppers. Do you see the slots on the top? That is what I am talking about.

Nothing frustrates me more than a pizza place that puts the lid with the small holes in the shape of a star on the jar with the crushed red peppers. Why? Because you can’t get anything out of them. It’s great for parmesean cheese, but not for crushed red peppers.

Yes, I realize that this is a completely ridiculous post. But it is my simple way to applaud those forward-thinking, pizza experts who realize that a customer who gets his or her crushed red peppers on their pizza is going to be a happy customer.

Eight hours in the car to play golf? Crazy or genius?

This crazy idea started with a Facebook post from Twincitiesgolf.com. They posted Wednesday afternoon that there are now some golf courses opening in the Des Moines, Iowa area. I followed that up with a stop at weather.com that indicated a Saturday forecast of a temperature in the mid-50s with sunny skies.

I haven’t played golf or hit a golf ball since a Christmas Eve round in Arizona. I am pretty much dying to play. I can’t deny that for even a second.

And I’m going to come clean. After seeing the forecast, I immediately emailed two friends of mine to see if they wanted to experience a scenic drive down Interstate 35. One can’t do it as he has plans. The other one is spending the weekend in Palm Springs (and, yes, I used profanity upon hearing that news).

At that point, I started really thinking about this. The best option might be the Tournament Club of Iowa, which is between Ames and Des Moines. It is 241 miles from Golden Valley to Polk City, Iowa. Google maps says it is a four-hour drive. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I would probably be looking at 3.5 hours at least.

The golf course, which I played once several years ago, is pretty good. The spring rate of $44 isn’t bad.

The longer I’ve thought about it, the more I’m leaning toward staying close to home and hitting balls here. If I had somebody to drive with, I would probably do it. But I’m not sure that I want to make the drive by myself. Also, I have to be back in the Twin Cities by 4 p.m. on Sunday, making a two-day trip more of a challenge.

So as much as I want to play my first round of 2011, I’m going to have a rare moment of being responsible. If it was Mason City or Albert Lea, I would probably do it. OK, I would certainly do it. Instead, I’m going to hit balls at least once and maybe twice. I’m going to try to work off some of the rust.

And then hopefully we’ll see some courses a little closer to the Twin Cities open next weekend.

New Golfweek classic/modern rankings

If you pay even a slight bit of attention to golf, you know that everybody is in the ranking game. Golf Digest has been in the game for a long time. Golf Magazine has their own rankings. Even business journals do ridiculous rankings based only on course ratings (and are kind of worthless in my estimation).

My favorite rankings, however, come from Golfweek. The weekly publication’s biggest two rankings are its listing of its top 100 Classic courses and top 100 modern courses. I like these because classic courses and modern courses are two totally different animals. For a Minnesota example, how exactly do you compare Interlachen Country Club, which was built in the early 1900s and Spring Hill Golf Club, which is around 10 years old? One was built when technology didn’t exactly allow for a lot of earth moving, the other during a time when dirt was so easily moved that visual deception is part of the designer’s game.

I, personally, am a fan of classic courses. I love how they fit pretty naturally into the earth. I like that in many cases controlling your golf ball is as important as attempting to overpower the course. I like that classic courses are much more walkable and very few are cart-path only or feature long green-to-tee walks.

The other cool addition this year is that they also ranked the next 100 modern courses and the next 100 classic courses. So we essentially have 400 courses ranked.

For my Minnesota friends, here are some findings:

Courses on the Classic list:

52. Interlachen

61. White Bear Yacht Club

72. Minikahda

93. Northland

147. Somerset

172. Golden Valley

176. Woodhill

On the modern list:

59. Spring Hill (making its debut in the rankings)

83. Hazeltine National Golf Club

115. Windsong Farm Golf Club

What I’ve played:

Classic

17. Pinehurst No. 2

52. Interlachen

58. Lawsonia (Links)

70. Pine Needles

72. Minikahda

78. Rolling Green (Pa.)

93. Northland

101. Kirtland Country Club

136. Idle Hour Country Club

147. Somerset

159. Mid Pines Club

172. Golden Valley

176. Woodhill

188. Lake Merced

Modern

12. Muirfield Village Golf Club

46. Blackwolf Run (River)

58. Paa-Ko Ridge

59. Spring Hill

77. Kapalua Plantation

80. Briggs Ranch

83. Hazeltine National Golf Club

85. We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

88. Cog Hill #4 (but prior to recent renovation)

93. Valhalla Golf Club

109. Harvester

115. Windsong Farm

172. Sugarloaf Mountain

176. Musgrove Mill

Newspapers on my Nook Color

 

Here is how I've been reading the newspaper of late -- on my Nook Color

 

I have pretty much always loved newspapers. When I was very young, I would lie on our living room floor and read the sports page in front of me. I read about the Twins more than anything. And I’m talking about the mid-70s Bombo Rivera, Lyman Bostock, Craig Cubbage Twins.

My first “job” was delivering the West Central Tribune. I started on the first day of school in fourth grade. Obviously it became what I did for a living for a long time. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t get a newspaper delivered to where I was living. When I was traveling, I was the guy who would buy multiple newspapers at every stop just to see how different papers were doing things.

But now a couple of months into an experiment of not reading an actual hard-copy version of the newspaper. This past fall, I purchased a Nook Color, the nifty e-reader from Barnes & Noble. It’s really an e-reader plus, but I will get to that in a later post.

I initially started getting just the New York Times delivered daily to my Nook Color. It was, and is, great. One of the best things about my previous job in higher education was that I could pick up the NYT on campus for free. I find it to be a joy to read as there are always interesting stories. I would bring it to lunch, find a table by myself and read while eating lunch.

With the Nook Color, I get the benefit of getting a much later edition of the newspaper than the national edition — yes, there are actual sports scores in there — while also not being overwhelmed with unread sections of the paper piling up each day.

Starting around Christmas, I added the Star Tribune to my Nook subscription list. I wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable getting my primary newspaper electronically. But I figured that since it is available for reading at work as well that I would give it a chance.

The bottom line is that I really like it. I usually get through the main things I want to see in the Star Tribune before I leave the house or right when I get to the office. I mix in some of the NYT in the morning and look at more of it at lunch. There are some days when I don’t get to as much of that as I would like.

Here’s a quick look at pros and cons (and some photos) of my move toward a paper-free life.

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Finding my Minnesota golf answer

I am a fan of lists. I’ve been tracking where I’ve played golf and how many different courses I’ve played each year since 2002.

I would love to know how many different courses I have ever played in my lifetime, but that seems very difficult to get a complete picture of. It at least seems like a very time-intensive process.

Yesterday, I received the latest issue of Minnesota Golfer in the mail. As is generally the case this time of the year, the issue included a directory of all of the MGA member clubs in the state. I went through the list and put together a new page at the top of the blog that includes my best estimation of every course I\’ve played in Minnesota.

Apparently there are more than 400 courses in the state that are MGA members. They range from little 9-holers to courses that are ranked nationally for various reasons. There are places on the list where playing shirtless in the summer is acceptable attire to places that are quite stuffy and smell of money.

Among those 400 are courses I would love to play (or play again) and others that I don’t have much or any interest in. After all, I do believe that life is too short to play bad golf courses.

 

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