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.”

The Finish Line

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

I’ve heard it said, “The fortune is at the finish line.” The best example I can think of is farming. The farmer can plant, water, and fertilize, but these activities mean absolutely nothing unless the farmer harvests the crop. The harvest is at the finish line — success is all about finishing.

“There is no bigger waste of time than doing 90% of what is necessary.” — Thomas Sowell

Swimming champion Michael Phelps is an expert finisher. In Beijing, the Men’s 100 meter butterfly final was decided by a hundredth of a second. Phelps and Milorad Cavic approached the wall both needing a partial stroke to finish, with Phelps still trailing. Cavic coasted. Phelps drove hard into the wall. I believe it was the instinct of a master finisher that caused Phelps to take that extra short stroke and make up the deficit.

“Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.” — Mark Spitz (on Phelps winning his 7th gold medal)

While people continue to talk about the photo finish, Phelps actually out-finished his opponents at the other end of the pool as well. World-class swimmers know that the end of each length is actually the start of the next one and an opportunity to build momentum. Phelps reigned supreme in finishing every length, not just the final one. Going back to the race of the century, Phelps was said to be in seventh place going into the turn. Coming out, he appeared to be in fourth. Without two strong finishes, he would not have earned the gold.

So many people never put themselves in position for a strong finish because they never even get started. If I had been born as Yogi Berra, I might have said, “70% of success is showing up. The other half is finishing.” To become an expert finisher, first become an expert starter. As long as you develop the mindset of a starter, you are positioned to finish. Then, as you become a consistent finisher, you can learn to do it faster and better.

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

To finish first, you must first finish.” — Rick Mears

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s satisfaction in finishing if for no other reason than the objective can be crossed off the list.

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.” — Arnold Bennett

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” — William James

In other cases, satisfaction is found in the task itself. In fact, rushing through the task can result in missing the enjoyment.

“Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” — Greg Anderson

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza

Based on this concept, one would have to conclude that the old adage about success and paying the price is all wrong. Zig Ziglar explains, “You do not pay the price of success, you enjoy the price of success.” Struggles and challenges become part of the adventure. When this attitude connects with a vision, a champion is born.

“Don’t be content with doing only your duty. Do more than your duty. It’s the horse that finishes a neck ahead that wins the race.” — Andrew Carnegie

Your GPS

Keeping promises is an example of finishing. Whether it’s a promise, a small task, or a major goal, the objective needs to be following through to the finish line. There is no integrity without finishing and no professionalism without integrity. To become known as a person of integrity, one must develop the good habit of finishing.

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” — Vince Lombardi

“Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it, and doing it.” — Frank Tyger

“We are judged by what we finish, not what we start.” — Anonymous

Find that to-do list. Get busy crossing off the artifacts of your procrastination. Don’t worry about perfection. Perfectionism is a stumbling block for finishing. Many times, my late father-in law used the following expression to make this very point.

“It’s good enough for who it’s for.” -– Donald P. Nock, teacher and coach

Fear of imperfection is a poor excuse for not starting and not finishing. Approach every task in four parts: get started, make mistakes, learn from the mistakes and finish strong.

“It’s not where you start it’s where you finish.
It’s not how you go, it’s how you land.
A hundred-to-one shot, they called him a klutz,
He can outrun the favorite all he needs is the guts.

“Your final return will not diminish
And you can be the cream of the crop.
It’s not where you start it’s where you finish
And you’re gonna finish on top.”

“It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish)” Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

God bless,

— CC

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

Time Out for Laughter

This post is dedicated to the premise that it’s beneficial to take a break and enjoy a good laugh. It’s one way we can “stop and smell the roses.”

“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.” — Mark Twain

Despite the fact that it’s impossible for me to know what tickles your funny bone, I’m optimistic that you will enjoy the humor contained in the selected quotes. Here’s an idea. Pause for a few seconds before reading each joke and try to imagine the person to whom the quote is attributed. Why? Because much of the humor is found in the delivery — these people are masters of delivery. This technique may bring the joke to life.

Woody Allen:

“What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.”

Dave Barry:

“The only really good place to buy lumber is at a store where the lumber has already been cut and attached together in the form of furniture, finished, and put inside boxes.”

Steven Wright:

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.”

Ellen DeGeneres:

“I was coming home from kindergarten–well they told me it was kindergarten. I found out later I had been working in a factory for ten years. It’s good for a kid to know how to make gloves.”

Yogi Berra:

“Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.”

Groucho Marx:

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

Erma Bombeck:

“Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead.”

George Carlin:

“One out of every three Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of two of your best friends. If they are OK, then it must be you.”

Jack Benny:

“Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Bill Cosby:

“I wasn’t always black… There was this freckle, and it got bigger and bigger.”

God bless,

— CC

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