Courses & TravelApril 13, 2008

Yelling Into A Pillow . . .

Dear Matty G,

I'm the travel editor for the number one golf publication in the world. I throw my bags in a cab two to three times a month and fly on planes to find an assortment of golf stories. I take nothing for granted and I know how good my life is, however, I'm coming to you because you might be the only one who can feel my "pain".

I have the usual complaints: People on planes who don't cover their mouth when they cough, take their shoes off exposing the confined space to a dump funk, or the ones who don't understand the arm rest needs to be shared, not commandeered as though you've claimed that territory on behalf of your native country.

I've played some unbelievable courses and met some great people, some of whom you can read about in my blog, but life on the road has its potholes. Some of the lowlights:

-I've showed up at an empty course in Arizona late in the afternoon with a credit card and 11 anxious golfers in tow and been told by a grumpy old pro that we'd have to wait awhile before they could get us out, as if we were an inconvenience.

Rain

-I've been rained on, waited an hour at the turn to wait out a rain delay and had a flight canceled due to heavy rain when I was in Miami.

-I've tried to check into a hotel late at night only to find that they were closed.

-I've been rushing to catch a flight and I returned my rental car to five Avis agents in Birmingham, Alabama. There wasn't another breathing soul within a mile of the parking garage, and I was told I wouldn't get my receipt until I put the GPS system back into the bag it came from.

-Alabama was also where I was issued two speeding tickets in three days. One coming after I landed (85 in a 65) and one on my way out of town (90 in a 70). You can understand the urgency to get home. I passed a giant billboard just off the freeway that featured a demon with a pitchfork and it read, "GO TO CHURCH OR THE DEVIL WILL GET YOU." An Alabama ultimatum.

-I broke two toes coming out of a shower in Destin, Florida and then slipped on the wet bathroom floor while hopping on one leg reeling in pain. Lying there on my back in my birthday suit, I assessed the damage. My toes hurt and so did my ego but did I do something more severe such as injure my back or my neck? Nope. But what if I had and I couldn't get to a phone? What if I had been knocked unconscious? This was the same hotel that closed at night and the same one that hadn't come to clean the room in two days. I might still be there.

-The worst of my travel troubles came last week.  In the process of scouting a future U.S. Open course for an upcoming Away Game in Golf Digest, American Airlines lost my golf travel bag. That was where I had my clubs of course, as well as my rain gear and two pairs of golf shoes. I played 90 holes in 3 days on four different courses with four different rental sets. I fell asleep one night on hold with the people who track bags. The phone was by my ear looping elevator music. My trip is over and American Airlines still doesn't know where my bag is. I picked a bad week to be calling to complain. You know you're headed for travel troubles when the airline you're flying is the lead story on CNN. It was the week they grounded over 1,000 flights for safety inspection. Somehow a loyal Platinum member putting with a Bulls Eye, using regular flex shafts and getting blisters the size of silver dollars on the back of his feet from the new shoes he had to buy was not high on their list of things they cared about.

So that's me yelling into my pillow. Thanks for being a bag of feathers.

Matt Ginella--New York, NY.

Dear Man In The Mirror,

Every year, when the fair came to Sonoma County and I'd tag along to the horse races with my Uncle Tony, he'd tell me, "You can win a race but you can't beat the races."  His point of course, bet all 12 races and you'll go home a loser.  Or, in this case, travel three times a month and you're bound to have travel troubles.

Some lessons learned:

-Grumpy pros are like a Starbucks in Manhattan. There's a lot of them. We paid the man and had a fun round at a great golf course regardless of his negativity.

-A rain delay in Miami is like a Starbucks in Manhattan. There's a lot of them. And if you wait them out you're often rewarded by blue sky and the big yellow ball shining down on the rest of your round.

-Let the hotel know in advance you'll be a late check-in. This is when you'll find out if and when they close the check-in counter and when you'll have to shine your rental car headlights on the lock-box around back so you can retrieve the key to your room.

-Even if Avis tells you they won't give you a receipt if you don't put the GPS back in the bag, they will.  They just won't hand it to you at the car, they'll email it to you right about the time you're getting to your gate.

-There's a reason why there's no more tour players using the Bulls Eye but it's possible you'll hit the ball better with regular flex shafts. It forces you to swing easy.

Flag_3

-If you're packing two pairs of golf shoes and rain gear put one pair of shoes and the rain jacket in your luggage and the other pair of shoes and the rain pants in the golf bag. This way, if you get one bag, you're still up the creek but you'll have one paddle.

-Here's another Alabama ultimatum I'm now very familiar with. Drive slow or the cops will get you.

-Flying the same airline every time may result in redeemable frequent flier miles, an occasional upgrade and you can board the plane with people in business class but it doesn't mean they find and deliver your golf bag. After 5 days it's been turned over to something called central baggage located in Dallas, Texas. It's a warehouse the size of an airplane hangar. I'm told they scan in any information they can find in the bag to increase the chances of matching the description you provide. I'm also told golf bags almost always get back to their owner. I figure odds are good for me. My name is stitched into the travel bag and my business card is in the clear business card holder.

-And lastly, if you catch some little pigs on the corner of the bathroom wall, don't start hopping in pain until you get to the carpet.

--Matty G.

Captions(from top to bottom): A Miami rain delay; A picture of a flag I snapped while a badged man with a tall stiff hat ran my information for the second time in three days.

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