Well, that’s a wrap on another year for this millennia. It was a year that was different, but, with a hint of eerie familiarity. There were highlights and there were low-lights. So as I sit here quietly in my office writing, occasionally looking up at bottles of Crown Royal, other spirits, and some Triple Bogey beer let’s think back to 2021 and how the year was from a golf standpoint.
First things first. In no way am I attempting to make any golf-related New Year’s resolutions. Over and over again I fail to keep them, leaving myself disappointed. Take the first low-light for example.
Low-Light #1 – My health. In what comes as no shock, my health continues to be the biggest obstacle that I face. For the most part, it kept me off of the course in 2021. Nearly every round that I played was only 9 holes. First there was my procedure in February for numerous Peripheral Arterial blockages in my right leg. It took a little longer than expected to heal, which wasn’t a huge deal because low-light #2 came along and we couldn’t play golf anyway. Then a new saga began with masses and cysts on my spine and spinal cord. I spent most of the year searching for a swing that would be somewhat functional. How hard could it be? I mean I was able to find a swing after my stroke in 2018. It was more difficult. I didn’t find anything resembling a swing until November. How much golf did I play? Not much. 172 holes. Way disappointing in what I was dubbing an important year for me.
Highlight #1 – I attended my first official media release day with TaylorMade Golf Canada. I got the opportunity to see and strike the new P-790 irons and Milled Grind 3 wedges. The sticks didn’t disappoint either. Look for a review of the latter in January.
Low-Light #2 – Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Ontario played mind games with golfers and the golf industry alike. Freakishly warm weather in March caused an itch. And golfers scratched it in Ontario. Ranges and golf courses opened but off on the horizon you could see the faint silhouette of a giant padlock. After the success of golf in 2020 amid the pandemic, in 2021 courses and practice facilities had to close as quickly as they opened. Golf would resume – like it did in 2020 – right around the May long weekend. So, predictable. I hope 2022 isn’t more of the same.
Highlight #2 – If I were to omit this highlight, any credibility that I’ve earned with any of you would be lost. Phil Mickelson winning the PGA Championship at the age of 50 was a win for the ages. His victory at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course was brilliant. Phil just went out and did Phil things. He’s fared fairly well on the PGA Tour Champions as well with multiple victories in limited action on the “senior circuit”.
Low-Light #3 – Oh how three little letters can be such a nauseating thing. P.I.P. (The Player Impact Program) was a shank as far as I’m concerned. The PGA Tour contrived a plan consisting of a prize purse of $40M dollars with $8M going to the winner. The “PIP” was a joke and was nothing more than a popularity contest. Some of the parameters included television time, Google searches, and reach over social media. Phil, well he was on television a lot and his engagement on Twitter was not lacking and not to mention some commentary. One question though, I wonder how much the “Brooksy” nonsense netted DeChambeau and Koepka? Tiger didn’t do too bad for a guy that played in how many events? Who knew that a car accident could… Shhh Alex, we’ll get there. At any rate, if they had $40M to burn there were better ways to spend it and invest in the game. The PGA TOUR is not for profit, right?! In a way, it felt like a quasi money-laundering scheme.
Highlight #3 – Just like Phil becoming the oldest Major winner, I’d be remiss if I failed to touch on Hideki Matsuyama’s victory at The Masters. It was a great victory for Hideki and when thinking about it, 2021 was a great year of golf for the island nation of Japan. But, it wasn’t necessarily his victory that stood out for me. Etched into my memory will be one lasting image. It was that scene of Matsuyama’s caddie Shota Hayafuji. The display of class and respect as he bowed after placing the pin back into the 18th green of the 72nd hole. That feeling will never be duplicated. It was raw and emotional.
Low-Light #3 – “Brooksy” or as I liked to refer to it “Brookson”. The faux feud that wasn’t. A feigned rivalry with animosity. Then suddenly, at the Ryder Cup (which does not make my list) they’re the best of friends. I said it all along that it was a stunt and I also said that if there was no PIP, then there’s no feud. What a crock! Like I stated above, the program was a shank by the PGA TOUR. It even got to the point that the PGA TOUR made a statement to the effect that any fans that say “Brooksy” at any event would be ejected. Unreal!
Highlight #4 – Personally-speaking, it was a successful year as far as my website is concerned. It was a tough, grind of a year with no in-person PGA Show in 2021. It’s a place where I get most of my review material. Most of my “First Impressions Reviews” come out of Demo Day. So testing and reviews were hard to come by. Many thanks go out to Jon Claffey of Tour Edge Golf, Clean Flight Golf, Dave Wheatley of Medi8 PR, Blue Tees Golf, Sunday Golf, Vanessa Price, TaylorMade Golf Canada, Nick Obritsch, and so many others. I don’t make it a habit to seek out items to review, but maybe I should. 2021 also marked an extended beta test for a podcast of mine called “TeeBox Chatter”. My first ever guests were Vanessa Price and golf course architect Agustin Piza of Piza Golf. Folks, remember the name because he is a bright, shining rising star and his vision for design is mind-blowing. Thank-you Augie! I learned how to do a podcast and it resulted in making some changes moving forward, namely, length of podcast. I want to thank everyone of you who took the time to visit the pages at Until The Next Tee. 2021 was a record-breaking year for views and I’m so encouraged with the annual growth. I thought my re-brand in 2017 was a mistake.The first year the views were low. Who would’ve thought that the 8,338 views in 2017 would turn into 140,339 (at the time of writing)? All of the views, organic. In 2021, I also launched a lifestyle-brand as well. Figuring out the right materials was a steep learning curve. I have it all figured out and I even have an actual t-shirt press. I wore many hats as it turns out.
Low-Light #5 – I’m a man of conviction and this could be perceived as a major character flaw of mine. This one might piss off some people but I just say it how it is. Tiger’s accident was a low-light. By all accounts this accident was self-inflicted. Driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone? He’s lucky to be alive and more importantly his kids are lucky to have their father in their lives still. I’ve refrained from speculation but my investigative side (I’ve done studies in Forensics) has always felt like something was left out. This accident was avoidable on so many levels. I appreciate a good comeback story, crap, I have empathic qualities. I have a soft spot. I had no problem being a fan of his comeback after his spinal-fusion surgery in 2017. But to champion a comeback from an accident that was totally and unequivocally self-inflicted? Sorry. Not on-board. Until December’s PNC Championship Tiger had played in 3 events. Yet, he still took home a cool $5M thanks to a second place finish in the PIP. Much of it on the heels of a few swing videos and the PNC Championship with son Charlie.
Highlight #5 – In a weird way, the pandemic has been good for the golf industry because it’s caused a golf explosion. New and former golfers continue to take up or come back to the game. The industry is healthy with manufacturers reporting record-setting sales. Tee sheets are continuously booked solid. But a positive could also be seen as a negative too! Just as long as the industry doesn’t get too consumed within itself and start to out-price themselves. I’m not talking about the likes of equipment, but I’m also including the club level. Expect increases, it’s fair to increase costs because the cost of everything being manufactured and shipped costs more just from a fuel and resource standpoint. I hope that my predicted price for a driver (off the rack) in the not-so distant future will cost $1000 CAD. We’re getting close though.
Low-Light #6 – “The Match”. Bryson vs Brooks. It’s time to change it up and get some LPGA exposure. Period!
Highlight #6 – You know? I’m as surprised as you are. When I was brain-storming earlier tonight for this article, I fully anticipated there to be way more negatives than positives. Lo and behold, there were more positives. Some of these include the continuing growth – in a way it’s accelerated growth – of brands like Tour Edge Golf and Sub 70 Golf. It goes to show that you can provide premium golf equipment to the golf masses without the hefty price tag. I didn’t see any new Sub 70 products this year, but, I did test the Exotics C721 driver. All that I will say is that I’m excited to learn everything about Exotics 722.
Highlight #7 – Speaking of those brands Tour Edge Golf made huge news by signing the legendary Bernhard Langer to an endorsement deal who then later won the 2021 Charles Schwab Cup. Sub 70 Golf saw their first success on TOUR as Zack Fischer won medalist honours at the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Q-School. Not to be outdone, New Level Golf also saw success as New Zealander Steven Alker claimed a victory on PGA TOUR Champions and had multiple Top-10 finishes.
Highlight #8 – Increased purses for the LPGA. I implore everybody that enjoys golf to start watching the LPGA. Their respective golf games are more relatable to the average golfer. Yes fellas, I’m looking right at you. No, you likely don’t have their savvy or short games but your clubhead speeds and distances are more akin to what the ladies do than say, Rory McIlroy. Tempo, balance, and game management. If only Nelly Korda would have been seen more during the PNC Championship. Her golf swing is… Magical!
All in all, despite the challenges that we’ve seen this year it’s been a pretty positive 2021. New endeavors have presented themselves to me with Claudio DeMarchi and The Traveling Golfer. Who knows where that road will lead? Who would have seen that coming during a outing for the Golf Journalists Association of Canada? I played two new courses The Pulpit Club – The Pulpit and Copper Creek. The Pulpit Club was everything that I hoped for and Copper Creek was no slouch by any means. Both courses have been on my list for a very long time – especially, The Pulpit Club.
On behalf of my family, Happy New Year to you and yours. All of the best in 2021 in health, happiness, and golf.
(P.S. Thank you once again for your time everyone. Please spread the word to your golf friends and family about the existence of Until The Next Tee)