Making the Odds Work FOR You

This past weekend I played in a golf scramble in Wilmington, Ohio, hosted by Kerry Steed, owner of nationally recognized “Generation’s Pizzeria.”

A scramble is a team format based on each player executing a shot.  But, instead of the players playing their own ball, the team chooses the best shot and all players play their next shot from that point.  The process is repeated until the ball goes into the hole and one score for the team is recorded.

On one hole late in the round, our team had to choose between a downhill and an uphill putt. The lengths were similar and the amount of break was minimal for each. The rationale favoring the uphill choice was that “pros prefer uphill putts.” While this may be true, here are some thoughts about that perspective:

  • Professional golf is usually an individual competition (i.e. they play their own ball.)
  • This preference is a generalization, a rule of thumb, and not a hard and fast rule.
  • Pros have a more consistent putting stroke, especially when they need to strike the ball harder (as you would expect with an uphill putt.)
  • Pros “read the greens” better and have better distance control.
  • Pros have more skill and confidence in making come-back putts after going past the hole.

Based on years of watching, playing, and studying golf, here’s my Uphill vs. Downhill scorecard in the context of a scramble format, where you are trying to make every putt (not just get it close) and you have multiple chances to do it.

  • Uphill putts come up short more often than downhill putts. (Downhill 1, Uphill 0)
  • Firmer putts reduce the bend in a breaking putt. This is one reason uphill putts are preferred. (Downhill 1, Uphill 1)
  • Amateur golfers are short on their putts more often than pros. (Downhill 2, Uphill 1)
  • The harder an amateur strokes the ball, the more likely he/she will push or pull the ball away from its intended target. (Downhill 3, Uphill 1)
  • A putt that is short, NEVER goes in. Some putts that start offline go in anyway if they have enough juice to get to the hole. (Downhill 4, Uphill 1)


It’s true that the severity of the bend or steepness of the slope can change the Uphill/Downhill scorecard.  A severely breaking putt of any length is probably the most challenging kind to make.  In our case, there was very little break to negotiate.

Finishing the story, the members of our team agreed on the uphill putt AND as my analysis predicts, only two attempts of four got the ball to the hole or beyond.  None went in.  20/20 hindsight seems to be saying that we would have been better off with the uphill putt ONLY IF the green had a severe slope.

“These greens are so fast I have to hold my putter over the ball and hit it with the shadow.”— Sam Snead

But, with four attempts (plus some ‘do-overs’ that we purchased), I believe we would have increased our odds, with very little extra risk, by choosing the downhill putt and getting every attempt to the hole.

The lesson is that any expert advice can be helpful if considered in the context of one’s specific circumstances. Generalized advice from experts isn’t automatically good for everyone, every time. That is, the “why, who, where, and when” factors are just as important as “what and how.”  Also, remember what baseball legend and philosopher Yogi Berra said, “90% of short putts don’t go in.”

“That’s Entertainment!”

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

Business entertainment is largely about expanding the business playing field. Meeting clients in venues outside company walls allows business to be conducted informally and in more subtle ways. For the most part, entertaining clients is about showing appreciation for past business deals with the hope of maintaining and expanding the relationship. However, as long as the intentions are made clear in advance, it is appropriate to make product announcements, present company news or engage in business discussions. “Can we discuss this over lunch?”

“A dinner lubricates business.” — Lord William Stowell

When entertaining prospects and recruits, business discussions are the norm. An entertainment venue is chosen to create an environment where the parties can get to know each other and determine if there is a mutual fit. A job applicant can decide if he would enjoy working for or with this person. On the other side of the table, the recruiter has the opportunity to look beyond the résumé. To ensure team chemistry, the recruit will need to fit into the company culture. (Note: We’re not talking about attributes like ethnicity or gender.) For example, the way a person plays golf helps reveal aspects of his character. The shine on a person’s professional image will be enhanced or tarnished depending on his conduct on a golf course.

“If there is any larceny in a man, golf will bring it out.” — Paul Gallico

“Eighteen holes of match or medal play will teach you more about your foe than will 18 years of dealing with him across a desk.” — Grantland Rice

A professional does not let his guard down, even when the entertainment is purely personal. You never know who is watching or listening. Oh, how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Pardon me, but I couldn’t help noticing …” Professionals never takes a timeout from professional behavior, even in seemingly insignificant situations.

“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.” — Ronald Reagan, source: Observer, March 29 1981

Professionalism means having an attitude of respect for yourself and others — it does not mean being stiff and boring. One of the reasons for business entertainment is to have fun and be a professional simultaneously.

“If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.” — Herodotus (484 BC – 430 BC), The Histories of Herodotus

“Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.” — Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD)

When entertainment and business are combined, a meal is usually part of the package.

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” — James Beard

What a person remembers about a business meal is a testimony to the professionalism of his fellow diners. Few people will notice or remember who used the wrong fork. But, certain errors have the potential to become indelibly etched onto their memories.

1. Talking with food in your mouth (“Close your mouth, Michael; we are not a codfish.” — Mary Poppins)

2. Coughing or sneezing across the table (“Exposing others to your germs is the ultimate discourtesy” — Peter Post)

3. Not washing your hands after using the restroom (“the single most important thing anybody can do … to safeguard themselves against unnecessary infection is washing your hands.” — Dr. Philip Tierno)

4. Double dipping and touching other people’s food (“That’s like putting your whole mouth right in the dip!” — episode of Seinfeld)

5. Eating like a glutton (“Gluttony is not a secret vice.” — Orson Welles)

So, allow others to enjoy their food, your company, the ambience, and the conversation instead of tolerating your disgusting table manners.

“Good company and good discourse are the very sinews of virtue.” — Izaak Walton (1593 – 1683), The Compleat Angler, 1653

“A smiling face is half the meal.” — Latvian Proverb

Whether you are the client or the vendor, the prospect or the company, or just along for the ride, there are three things to keep in mind about business entertainment. Certainly, enjoy yourself within the bounds of professionalism. And of course, use the opportunity to accomplish your business purposes. But, above all, be good company.

“People may not remember what you did or said, but they will remember how you made them feel.” — Attributed to Maya Angelou

“Your skills can get you in the door; your people skills are what can seal the deal.” — Source: http://www.EmilyPost.com

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Golf Memories

Golf is a uniquely alluring sport without a rival as far as I’m concerned. It’s much more than a game. Golf is a character tester and it can be a character builder. A golf course is a place to conduct business, have a date, get exercise, spend money, enjoy nature, unwind and make new friends. A golf course is where memories are made.

Golf is primarily an individual sport. Golfers sometimes lose sight of this amidst all of the two-man best ball and Texas scramble events. Even though I like team events, I play golf primarily because it’s a one-on-one game. In fact, it’s really several one-on-one games rolled into one. It’s me today against me yesterday. It’s me against my best ever. It’s me against the course and the forces of nature. It’s me against my own mind. And of course, me against each of my rivals. The challenge is to win one or more of these battles. I don’t have to win them all to have a good day.

“There’s something intrinsically therapeutic about choosing to spend your time in a wide, open park-like setting that non-golfers can never truly understand.” — Charles Rosin, Northern Exposure, Aurora Borealis, 1990

While total score is the competition benchmark I value most, there are actually 18 competitions — 18 opportunities for victory and a story in the clubhouse. Come to think of it, each shot affords such an opportunity. It only takes one special shot to earn bragging rights and bring a golfer back again.

Golf has a strange tradition where a player scoring an ace buys a round of drinks for his/her playing companions (in some places for the entire clubhouse). In spite of this hit on the wallet, a golfer rejoices when he/she gets the opportunity to lift the ball out of the cup and scratch a “1” on the scorecard. Such a “stroke of luck” (pun intended) gives a golfer the right to describe how he carefully lined up the shot, accounted for the wind and struck the ball with great precision. Somehow, the double skip off the lake and friendly kick off the tree never make it into the clubhouse version.

“Man blames fate for other accidents but feels personally responsible for a hole in one.” — Martha Beckman

Like a theatrical production, a round of golf can be a comedy or a tragedy. When my opponent hits his ball out of bounds it’s his tragedy that often results in some spicy golf language and possibly a physical act more appropriate for a track and field meet. I can’t help but see this same scene as a comedy. In my younger days, I put on some great theater for my playing companions, like the time I unofficially broke the world javelin record with my pitching wedge.

“They throw their clubs backwards, and that’s wrong. You should always throw a club ahead of you so that you don’t have to walk any extra distance to get it.” — Tommy Bolt, about the tempers of modern players

There is an immediate bond between golfers.  So the question, “Do you play golf?” is a great icebreaker at parties and business functions. A particular line that makes me laugh inside everytime I hear it comes from non-golfers. When asked if they play the game, some will say, “Just miniature golf.” This is like Chuck Yeager asking someone, “Are you a pilot, too?” followed by the response, “No, but I make great paper airplanes.”

The game never gets boring because there are so many ways to play it and so many different tracks to play. I’ve played night golf, one-handed golf, golf with only two clubs, and golf in the rain. I’ve played golf when it was 10 degrees as well as barefoot golf (not on the same day.) Some claim to have played naked golf. (I cannot.) I’ve played 150 or more different courses, including some nice private clubs like Muirfield Village near Columbus and Country Club of the North near Dayton. I’ve been thrown off two golf courses (not these.) — stories I’ll save for another day.

“Golf is a game in which you claim the privileges of age, and retain the playthings of childhood.” — Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

“The reason the pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can’t see him laughing.” — Phyllis Diller

“If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt.” — Dean Martin

What is the most alluring part of the game?  Why, the memories, of course!

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

BRAGGING

In college, we played a bragging game based on the concept known as the “six degrees of separation.” To play the game, we would take turns “offering a brag” about a supposed relationship with a well-known or interesting person. The brag judged to be the most interesting or convoluted earned the player bragging rights for the day. For example, “My friend’s cousin knows the brother of Bill Gates’ neighbor’s gardener.” It was a silly game, but we enjoyed it.

Golfers love to brag. At the 19th hole, golf buddies replay their favorite shots with great fanfare. Each time they repeat a story it becomes a little more spectacular. Fishermen are also notorious for bragging. In fact, fish tales are as much a part of the sport as the actual catch. Without the exaggerations and the half truths and the honest-to-goodness bragging, it wouldn’t be fishing. The picture below (from my family’s archives) shows three fishermen recounting a recent expedition.

Grandpa telling a whopper!

In business, bragging is called marketing. Sometimes marketing is an opinion-based self-claim, such as “We serve the tastiest burgers in town.” Other times it’s based on the opinions or findings of a third party as in “Independent research shows …”

For the most part, we generally tolerate these types of boasting. But, personal bragging can be obnoxious or worse when it is over the top or incessant. Muhammad Ali is well known for his claim, “I am the Greatest!” In 1966, John Lennon proclaimed that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” Many have said, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” I, for one, say it’s still bragging.

Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between marketing and bragging.

“The Rush Limbaugh Show … is hosted by America’s Anchorman, Rush Limbaugh, also known as: America’s Truth Detector; the Doctor of Democracy; the Most Dangerous Man in America; the All-Knowing, All-Sensing, All-Everything Maha Rushie; defender of motherhood, protector of fatherhood and an all-around good guy.” — Source: RushLimbaugh.com

For this post I’ve selected quotes addressing the art of bragging.

“None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear.” — Ferdinand Foch (1851 – 1929)

“He who boasts of his ancestry is praising the deeds of another.” — Seneca (5 BC – 65 AD), ‘Hercules Furens,’ 100 A.D.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” — Bible, Proverbs 27:1

“A true history of human events would show that a far larger proportion of our acts as the results of sudden impulses and accident, than of the reason of which we so much boast.” — Albert Cooper

“Never be haughty to the humble; never be humble to the haughty.” — Jefferson Davis

“It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.” — Saint Bernard (1090 – 1153)

“Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble,
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror,
‘cause I get better looking each day.”

— Excerpt from a song by Mac Davis

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright June 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com