Pine Valley. Finally!

23 08 2008

So, anyone that knows anything about golf knows about Pine Valley. The southern NJ golf course is always atop every golf magazine’s yearly list of “best courses in the US.”

It is also impossible to play, if you’re not a member of the ultra-exclusive club.

I’ve played Winged Foot and Baltusrol. I played Bethpage Black the day after the 2000 US Open. But I probably have no shot of ever playing Pine Valley.

Till today.

I just had to fly 8000 miles from New Jersey to do it.

It was quite the day. Star-Ledger reporter Kevin Manahan and I called for a taxi at about 6:30 this morning for the 30 minute ride from the Super 8. The first taxi pulled up, we showed the driver the directions. He looks at the sheet, grunts something in chinese, hands Manahan back the paper and floors it.

Without us.

This happened for 3 more taxis.

Finally, we get a guy to take us. The ride cost approx $13 usd. In NY, that ride would have been $70.

So, we get to the gate, and the guard speaks zero english. After 10 minutes of pointing and talking slower and louder, a golf cart pulls up and takes us away.

We’re in!

Apparently, this place isn’t easy to get on, either.

After checking in, it turns out we had the course to ourselves. We didn’t see another golfer on the course the entire day.

Manahan was writing about this for the paper, so we needed photos. There’s just one problem. Every time I picked up the camera, they told me “NO PHOTOS!”

I had a bad feeling this would happen, so i grabbed a tiny point and shoot before I left the hotel. I was able to sneak it out every once in a while and take a few pictures.

After grabbing rental clubs and shoes, we met our caddies. They were women, which is something I have never seen in the US.

They would jump on the back of the cart and say about the only thing they knew of english, “OK,” once they were on securely, so that I could pull away. After the first couple holes, they sized up our games pretty well. They had a good idea which club we’d need. They raked traps, filled divots and repaired ball marks. Not only did they read our putts, but marked, cleaned and aimed the ball for us. I tried to do this once for myself, but that clearly was offensive to them, so who am I to argue.

My favorite part, they were cheerleaders. Every good shot left them giddy with excitement! I stuck one close on a 197 yard par 3, I swear I have never heard 2 women make noise like that at the same time!

(Sorry honey 🙂 )

They read putts very well, though Manahan’s caddie was a much better green reader. She helped me on 3 putts, I made all three. Manahan gave me crap for stealing his caddie.

They would even yell at the ball for us.

“Go, go, go, go!”

They clearly took pride in their work. At one point, my caddie over clubbed me on an approach shot. I thought it was too much, but she tossed some grass in the air, “wind, very” she said as the grass came back towards us. I listened, but hit the ball 20 yards over the green. She was quite upset for talking me out of hitting the shorter club.

We made it to the 9th hole, a 563 yard par 5, the longest on the course. Before handing us the driver, our caddies gave us each a can of Red Bull! Not sure what they were trying to say, but it was hilarious.

Above, Manahan did a little dance after hitting the green on the 17th hole, a little island green. His caddie joined in.

In the end, it was quite the experience. We played 18 in a very un-New Jersey-like 3 hours. I wish we brought a change of clothes so we could have taken advantage of the spa.

Oh well, maybe next time.

I wasn’t keeping score, but they did it for us. I shot 83. Made a birdie. Made a few putts. Not bad for strange rental clubs.

So take that Pine Valley of NJ, we don’t need you!

But if you have an opening next Thursday…


Cold war battle

22 08 2008

Today, I shot men’s volleyball semifinals. USA vs Russia. If this were 1980, I could say something like “we kicked some commie ass today” or something like that. But it’s not, so I won’t say that.

I’ll just say that the crowd was mostly Russian. After the US won the first two games, Russia came back to win the next two and force the 5th game. Russian fans were pretty rude, booing every US serve. Or maybe it wasn’t a boo, maybe it was like at Yankee Stadium, when the fans yell “moooooooo” when Mussina pitches. Maybe it’s a Russian thing.

Or maybe they’re just rude, and we kicked their commie asses.

I need to get some sleep.

I have a tee time tomorrow.


21 08 2008

Today, I went to the women’s beach volleyball gold medal game. USA vs China.
I knew it was supposed to rain. It pretty much poured the entire match. Of
course, I forgot my rain gear for the cameras, but I had enough plastic to
get by. Besides, it was all loaner gear! I had a rain jacket, but I rained
so much, it didn’t matter.

I was so wet, I don’t think there was a part on my body that isn’t still

The match ended 4 hours ago.

My poor photo vest, which I am required to wear when shooting, is pretty
wet. I came back to the super 8 with hope that there’d be a clothes dryer,
but alas, the nice young man behind the counter said something like “sorry
sir, you must wear wet clothes.”

I made a trip to the local WuMart and picked up a fan, which is currently
hopefully drying my vest. I have to shoot track tonight, which is outdoors.
It’s supposed to rain tonight.

Of course, my shoes are soaked, too. So much for goretex, but I guess when
you step in puddles that are 6 inches deep, there’s not much you can do.

I saw Politi after the match, he didn’t have a drop on him, which means that
wuss probably didn’t leave the press room.

The good news, it finally stopped raining.

Just as I got on the bus to leave.

Ref, move.

20 08 2008

I don’t know why I went to basketball tonight. The above frame reminds me of any other basketball game I have ever shot.

I have been having all kinds of focusing issues here with the canon cameras.
Somehow the frame below of Carmelo Anthony was sharp.

Usain Bolt won again. Another world record. But I set my own world record for soft frames.
Somehow the best frame of him celebrating was the one that was sharp.

Tomorrow is a really busy day. Gotta run.

Make it stop!

19 08 2008

Been here for 16 days, and my patience is wearing thin.
In the main press center, there are probably 1000 journalists, maybe more, working at any given time. You can’t imagine how many of these idiots leave their cell phones at their tables and walk away. Then, of course, the phone rings. All of these stupid custom ring tones. And when they don’t answer, people call right back.
It’s impossible to get anything done with all that noise.
Politi has officially turned off 2 foreign journalist’s phones.
I can’t blame him.
If you can’t take your cell phone with you, don’t be surprised if we have to throw it up against a wall to shut it up.

I went to the Olympic superstore today. It was an absolute zoo. There had to be 500 people in this tent at one time. People were grabbing entire racks of pins and trinkets and putting them into shopping bins. Talk about turning shopping into an Olympic event.

This is where I tell everyone, I am not getting you anything!

Today, I covered some diving and wrestling. US won gold in wrestling. Henry Cejudo beat a guy from Japan, then ran around the ring with an American flag, crying. So far, the moment of my Olympics.

Sorry Michael.

One last tidbit. Manahan, who has written about 14 first-person accounts from Beijing is having computer trouble.

It seems that his “i” key fell off.


Hmm, what should I have for lunch…

18 08 2008

Finally got 8 hours of sleep.

Woke up about 11am. Could have slept 4 more hours. We walked across the
street for lunch. After a look at the menu, with things on it like fried
donkey meat, stewed yak with flavoring, and my favorite, steamed balls, we
decided to pass. I was concerned that we didn’t know who’s or what’s balls
they were steaming. More importantly, we weren’t going to find out.

Went to another place, food was great. Moment of hilarity, trying to order a
diet coke, or coke light as they call it here. The waitress spoke very little
english. She kept pointing at the bottle, I swear she kept saying “Yao
Ming?” which I guess was her way of making sure we wanted the big bottle of
coke. Needless to say after a couple minutes of this, we opened the coke and
moved on.

It’s about 6pm as I write this, and I haven’t done a damn thing! Trying to
plan out the next couple days. Tonight I am going to the men’s table tennis
team finals. Apparently, China playing for the gold in their sport on their
home turf is not compelling enough for one of our writers to leave track and
field for a night. Oh well.

Here are my 5 favorite pix.

So, now what?

17 08 2008

So, I’ve been told that the first 9 days of the Olympics were not about my
crappy hotel, or housekeeping folding my dirty underwear, or even the
international incident that almost occurred when the very nice volunteers in
the cafeteria tried to help a colleague pick his ice cream.
I guess it’s really all about Michael Phelps. The guy is a freakin machine.

And I can blame the last 9 really long days on him.

10am finals every day are a bitch when you have to be there hours before to get a spot. But the last two days he made the hours worth it.

I spotted his mother and sisters, tearing up in the stands as he was getting his medal.

Then, every other photographer on the planet did, too.

Shooters were climbing over the rails to try to get close to the Phelps
family. A lot of these international photographers are just flat out jerks.
I saw one guy punch another in the face because he accidentally bumped into
him coming down the stairs. Another almost get tossed off the railing
because he was invading a photographer’s spot.

Me, I got 3 hours of sleep last night, so I was staying back.

The bad news, while I was shooting the scrum around his family, someone
knocked my laptop to the ground. I have a nice dent in the corner, but
thank god, it still works.

After the race, we hit our new favorite restaurant in the world. We found a
pretty high end buffet in a hotel attached to the press center. It’s about
$50 usd, but who cares. It’s the only meal I’ve eaten every day for the last 3 days.
There’s a sushi bar, a noodle bar and they’ll grill anything for you.

And, there’s ice cream.

Today, I had chilled lobster for lunch.

In other words, paradise.

I am actually typing out this blog from the last row of the Bird’s Nest stadium as the
men’s 10,000m race is running. It takes about 27 minutes. Which compared to
the race before, the women’s 100m, it’s an eternity. I wish these guys would
finish soon, so I can make my photo of these guys passing out over the
finish line.

Dammit. They just ran 10,000m, is no one tired? SO much for that photo, but
all is not lost. I got this cool shot while I was up here.

Tomorrow, I am sleeping in!