Looking forward to what’s next

Labor Day will be upon us in a few days and summer will soon be in our rear view mirror.

It’s been a great one in all regards – work, art and family, though not necessarily in that order since family is always first.

Though we didn’t have any extensive travels, we did celebrate a memorable weekend in Chicago attending a Cards-Cubs on my daughter’s 20th birthday and thoroughly enjoying ourselves as the Cards bashed the Cubs, 18-5. Once they reached their 14th run, we were really hoping they could post a 20-run tally but 18 was more than sufficient.

Our visit to Wrigley Field was extremely enjoyable.

Our visit to Wrigley Field was extremely enjoyable.

This was also our first summer in our new home and we finally christened it by hosting a  25th Anniversary celebration-Open House combo on perhaps the nicest day that July had to offer. Attending the PGA on three different days also was great fun.

Any time you can get this close to Tiger Woods, it's a good day!

Any time you can get this close to Tiger Woods, it’s a good day!

Work continues to roll along and it’s what’s on the horizon that has me excited. I continue to serve a few key accounts and there are some potential great new client relationships that hopefully will become reality over the course of the next few weeks. BloodLines Creative will be entering its 8th year in business and though I’m not creating an abundance of TV and radio commercials anymore, I still enjoy the creative challenge that each and every assignment brings.

One of a series of email reminders that go out to Ad Club members encouraging them to play in the upcoming Ad Club Fall Golf Classic.

One of a series of email reminders that go out to Ad Club members encouraging them to play in the upcoming Ad Club Fall Golf Classic.

It’s always the chance to do the best work you’ve ever done and a continual opportunity to learn something new every day. I love to create and I love to turn marketing challenges into opportunities. That will never grow old.

Painting has also been a joy this year. I continue to take on paintings that challenge my skill set and I feel as if I’m becoming better as a painter. I love to paint the impossible or at least the highly improbable. Though I continue to explore many of the same concepts as Magritte once did, I think I am developing my own, unique style.

A painting of a painting showing what you would see if the painting weren't there.

A painting of a painting showing what you would see if the painting weren’t there.

I am thrilled to have received more than 20,000 views on my Tom Blood fine artist website. I was honored to have recently sold four of my paintings to one of the largest collectors in the Midwest. And I am looking forward to some exciting coverage of my work and announcements about it that will be coming in a few short weeks.

I have been blessed in so many ways. Yet you never know what lurks around the corner. So I’ll end with this simple thought. Cherish your memories. Look forward to the future. But always live in the present. For what we do each day matters. Somehow, someway, each day, try and make a positive difference in someone’s life.

You’ll be glad you did.

Golf needs another Tiger

The golf world is in trouble. Sales of major brands are way down. The number of people who play the game continues to drop. New courses? Here’s a sad fact: there were a grand total of 14 new courses opened in the U.S. last year. Combine that with 160 courses that closed their doors and the downward spiral is in full swing.

What’s the problem? Actually there are quite a few.

It takes a long time to play 18 holes. Five hour rounds are about normal on public courses unless you play early or late in the day. Add in the travel time to get to the course and it’s almost like a work day. With everyone’s schedule in a constant state of being overbooked, it’s tough to fit in a round of golf.

Golf is an expensive game. Green fees have dropped a bit over the past few years because demand has dropped but it’s still a chunk of change. And when you factor in losing a few balls during the round and having a lunch and a beverage (or two), you’re dropping about $50 bucks each time you play.

Golf is a tough game to play. It’s hard to be good. It takes time to practice and you can really only get better if you practice a fair amount and that takes time – and money.

You can’t just go to a driving range and wail away, either. You have to work on specific aspects of your game. I’m not a very good short game player (just ask anyone who’s played with me). Last night, I was at the range for more than an hour and all I hit were nine irons, wedges, gap wedges and sand wedges. The result of all those shots? I need professional help.

I need some short game lessons. But that will take time. And money. And commitment.

Which leads to another problem. There aren’t enough young kids being attracted to the game. Because it takes time and money and commitment.

They see the game played on TV and it looks easy. They try it for themselves and they discover it’s not. So they give up.

Even golf video games aren’t that much fun to play and from what I’ve seen, those are tougher to master than FIFA or Madden or MLB The Show.

And who can EA Sports call on to be the big seller for golf video games?

Certainly not Tiger. Tiger is past tense. Tiger is past his prime. Tiger may never win another major. If his back doesn’t rebound, Tiger may never even return to the PGA Tour.

That’s got to be frightening. For quite a few years, the PGA was living and growing courtesy of Tiger Woods. His downfall has been the downfall of the PGA. It’s been a major blow to Nike and their golf ambitions.

And there is no one on the horizon ready to step up and ignite the golf world again.

Jordan Spieth? Great guy. Great golfer. Full of potential. But he’s not a Tiger.

Tiger Woods was brash. He was young. He was an ethnic mix with universal appeal. He was a risk taker on the course. He was fearless and he’d let his emotions show. He was great to root for or against – either way, you wanted to see what he’d do.

His Tiger Woods Foundation helped bring golf to the inner city. He made the game popular and made kids dream about growing up to be the next Tiger Woods.

Then that dream got shattered.

And there’s nobody next in line.

Golf needs another Tiger.

The Tiger-less Masters

Tomorrow morning will be the first time in 20 years that Tiger Woods isn’t teeing it up at the Masters.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Tiger and the Masters just naturally go together but this year, he had to back out – literally – as his contortion-heavy golf swing may have finally caught up with his spinal column and now it’s been surgically repaired and a lengthy recovery period awaits him.

First lightning strikes down the legendary Eisenhower tree that kept even the longest hitting pros from cutting the dogleg on the 17th. And now Tiger’s bad back leaves Augusta National and the Masters lacking a guaranteed story line.

It will still be a great tournament. The patrons will still respectfully clap when appropriate. There will be some sort of drama. Somebody will be going for the par 5 in two and end up in Rae’s creek – a familiar spot that has sealed the fate of many a would-be green jacket wearing golfer. Rory or Bubba or Phil may do something stupid or something absolutely brilliant.

It’s hard for me to root for anyone as there just doesn’t seem to be any golf competitor quite like Tiger in his prime. He was so intense. So focused. So easy to hate for some – but to me, Tiger was always the guy who would not back down. Tiger almost always went for it. Pin in an impossible position? Fire at it. Stuck underneath a pine tree with a terrible lie? Wail away and somehow, land the ball on the green.

Sure I like a lot of golfers on the PGA tour but there’s no dominating presence when Tiger isn’t teeing it up.

I know he’s past his prime. He’s 38 years old. In this year’s Masters, 16 of the 97 players haven’t even turned 25 yet. There’s a new, up-and-coming group that is fearless – and so far, somewhat emotionless.

The tour needs another Tiger and I’m sure somewhere out there, one will soon come along. Some phenom who has been playing since he was old enough to walk. Some young upstart who will come out of nowhere and roll off two or three Majors in one year to get everyone’s attention. I can hardly wait.

When I was a kid, Jack Nicklaus was by far, my favorite golfer and I actually think it’s pretty cool that probably not even Tiger will ever break his record of 18 Majors. I can kind of remember a young Jack putting on the Masters jacket and an older Jack, donning one, knowing it would probably be the last time he ever got that opportunity.

I hope Tiger returns and gets at least one more.

But for now, I guess I’ll have to try and get fired up for Jordan Spieth.

Enjoy the tournament.


Tiger’s two-stroke penalty changed my game

The Masters is now over and for the first time, an Aussie gets to wear the green jacket. Tiger Woods finished tied for fourth and many will point to Tiger’s two-stroke penalty he received on Friday as the reason why.

Some say that Tiger should have been disqualified because he knew he was hitting his fifth shot two yards further back of where he had hit just moments earlier, when what seemed like a perfect shot bounced once on the green, caromed off the flagstick and rolled back into the small pond guarding the green.

That third shot of Tiger’s turned into a four-stroke swing which just so happened to be how many strokes back Tiger finished to Adam Scott.

At the time, I was amazed at his composure though I’m sure he was boiling on the inside. His fifth shot landed about two feet from the pin and he went on to make bogey on the hole. That was as good as he could do. But those additional two yards were noticed by some television viewer and the whole matter was brought to the attention of the rules committee and they assessed Tiger the two-stroke penalty after the round was completed.

All I can say is that I’m glad my rounds aren’t broadcast on TV. I’ve been playing golf since I was eight. Which means I’ve probably been violating the rules of golf for more than 45 years.

Somehow, the integrity of the game was never quite passed on from father to son. Maybe that’s because growing up, I generally played on golf courses that were closer to cow pastures. So if you hit the ball into a patch of mud, you moved it. If you hit the fairway but didn’t like the dead grass lie you had, you bumped it. If there happened to be a tree in front of you, it wasn’t for long.

The whole, ‘play the ball as it lies’ just never quite took in my family. Until yesterday – when my son, Michael and I were heading out for an afternoon round. After discussing Tiger’s penalty, we agreed it was time we stop fooling ourselves with our so-called pars, bogeys, doubles and higher and see what a true score we’d get without improving any lies, taking any mulligans and making every putt, even if it was less than a two-footer. It was time for us both to uphold the true integrity of the game.

I’ve tried to play the ball down but even when I have a perfect lie in the fairway, I have this irresistible urge to move the ball. My wife, Chris, still brings up a simple question she asked when we were playing on our honeymoon right after I had hit a miraculous shot from out of a deep ditch and onto the green.

“Did you move that ball?”

“No,” I replied with what was probably one of the most guilty looks I’ve ever given.

I remember another infamous incident, when I was down in a creek, alongside a green. I spotted my ball embedded in a mud bank and moved it to a clump of grass in the middle of the creek, took my shot and landed it inches from the pin. It became known as the “clump shot” and was talked about for years among my playing partners. There have been foot wedges, miracle ball discoveries and off the green shots that somehow found their way onto the fringe.

Yesterday, I dealt with reality from the first swing of the round to the last putt of the day. I ended up with a 92 – twenty strokes over par.

I opened my round by three-putting from two feet. I had another instance when I was hitting off of bare dirt and skulled it into a trap. But I also holed out from off the green from an absolutely terrible lie that, had I fluffed it, there’s no way I would have had the same shot. Bottom line, I think it might have cost me about four strokes.

We played the game with integrity. Did those four additional strokes matter to me?

Not nearly as much as they did to Tiger.