Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Mission

     Although I am not currently in Nepal I am going to post an update to this blog as I intend to return to my second country one day, and to continue to make a difference. However, I am currently in Portland and on the periphery of the golf industry, at best. As a brief update I was offered a job in California after a stint at Diamond Woods Golf Course as the Head Professional. I accepted the job and headed back to the desert. After approximately three hours of working back in the desert/country club atmosphere I knew it wasn't for me and that I had made a huge mistake. Back to Oregon it was, this time to Portland. Now.....
     Kissing up to old people simply because they have more money than you and will raise a stink if they aren't pampered is NOT what golf is about. It isn't what working in golf should be about. It isn't about everyone wearing the same uniform, and making sure your name tag is just so. If any assistant professional or head professional believes that they are making a real difference or influencing the game of golf for the better by being a good company man, and just acquiescing to the standard that is put into place by corporate entities then they are lying to themselves and to anyone else they come in contact with. If they say they love golf but are standing behind a counter for 50 hours a week and never playing, they are not being true to themselves. If they love golf and are stuck running tournaments and pulling their hair out because the latest shipment of TaylorMade crap hasn't come in with the right displays, they are doing themselves a disservice.
     You see, this is what I realized in California. I was lying to myself. I thought I needed some position at a well known country club in the mecca of golf for the United States. I thought some new title would make a difference. Clearly it did not. I joke with my roommates that I had to go back to the desert to take back my soul. It's really not so much of a joke.
     In the Coachella Valley - Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, etc., there is golf and there is booze. I would argue that nobody would stay in the desert if the exact same job were available in almost any other spot in the country. People down there lie to themselves, whether they know it or not. There's nothing to love about that place, or what golf means to anyone down there. It is simply a business. There is no heart, no soul, and no caring that goes on that is done for anything other than money.
     Maybe it's the same in places like Iowa or Nebraska. I don't know, and will never know. But I do have a suspicion that in most other golf markets in the world there is more of a human connection than there is in Palm Springs. How the hell did this turn into an assault on the desert? Okay, re-focus.
     I recently watched an espn short documentary on golf in India. Or, more accurately, a particular golfer in India. He is extremely poor, living in filth in the absolute gutter belly of India. He worked as a caddy at a course in New Delhi, playing golf in his free time in the dirt streets of the city with hand fashioned clubs and what amount to ping pong balls. Playing through traffic, through raw sewage and through the tents that house many in the ghetto. He played at whichever club would let him play when he could afford it. He was eventually offered a sponsorship by a member at his place of employment. This super rich person would pay for this caddies tournament expenses, which included entry fees, travel and lodging. The caddy would make no money for himself unless he won or placed well enough. Sounds like a good deal, right?
     Not so fast. You see, he didn't win any money, and hasn't yet, on the Indian Tour or any other. There are literally hundreds of thousands of golfers as good as this man, and many of them have more resources, financially and otherwise. He does have one thing that a lot of these others don't however. He has a family at home. In the Ghetto. While he is out trying to live an absolute FUCKING dream, they are starving and mostly homeless.
     This is what golf has become. Corporate advertising, selling the one in a million dream, buy our shitty products, wear our shitty clothes, become ELITE. But you see, this man will never be elite. His daughter, whom he claims wants to be a golfer when she grows up, will never be in that elite world. They will be ghetto rats. Until things change. There needs to be a co-op in each community, centered around a driving range at least. One where children learn how to teach golf, to repair clubs, to run a business in the golf industry. Where the teenagers have a chance to find college scholarships, not to play golf for a living after college, but to make a living for them and their family. It will take generations, but this needs to begin now. Before that little girl, learning golf in the dusty streets of Delhi, becomes just another ghetto rat with a love for golf, no skills, and no roof over her head.
     This is my new mission. I don't know where it will take me, and I don't know how I'm going to get there, but if I can be so bold as to save some people while saving golf in the process, I'm gonna give it a shot.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Inaugural Nepal Junior Tour Event!

Okay, where to start? Today marked the Inaugural Nepal Junior Tour Event. We had a huge turnout and the main thing about it is that it's not just a random junior event, but we have a sponsor for the next years worth of events, so the kids will continue to be able to have something to look forward to besides more practice. I already thanked everybody who helped put this together in person so now it's time to feel good and gloat a little. And that means only one thing... I rule!!!..No wait, that's not it...Picture Time!



Sachin explaining the rules to the marshalls.

First swing of the tournament
These are the participants. We had an additional 30 kids who participated in skills contests, but were not quite ready for the course

That's right, I gave an interview.

This girl won the longest putt contest I believe.
Pretty awesome to be able to walk around and watch these kids enjoying actually playing golf instead of practicing

The best thing is that they will now be able to do it every month

Total concentration

Fore!

We had to keep them away from the prize table.

What a great moment!

You can see why they were so interested in the prizes. Shiny!


1000 words

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Touchdown!!

     Okay kids, it has finally happened. The unthinkable has occurred. I have managed to bring together The NGA, HYGA, Gokarna Forest Resort, and The Faldo Series. Nepal will be hosting a Faldo Series International Event in October of 2012! This is a huge moment for Nepal as far as golf is concerned. There are many people who made this happen, although I'd like to take some time out to pat myself on the back....... Alright, enough of that. My only regret is that I won't be able to meet Nick Faldo himself on March 16th, as I will be back in the states. A member of the NGA will announce the event with Sir Nick at the series championship at Mission Hills in China in front of international press. I guess the fact that it's getting done should be reward enough for me, I mean I was here for Nepal Golf and not just myself, right? Right.
The kids from the Saturday clinics who will now have a chance to play in a monthly tournament
     Moving on.....We will also be able to use the facilities at the driving range in Pokhara, The Fulbari Course, and the Himalayan Course in order to conduct tournaments, clinics, and intensive junior camps. This is all excellent news for the future of golf in Nepal. I'm glad I could have a major part in changing the course of how things are done here, and I'm glad that the kids will have a chance to pursue golf in a more aggressive manner. This is also great news for the existing golf pros in Nepal. They will have a chance to participate in building the future of golf, will learn how international tournaments are run, and will gain knowledge as well as having more opportunities opened to them, should they choose to pursue a career that doesn't involve simply playing golf for a living.

One of the kids who will get to play in the Faldo Event

The driving range in Pokhara can now be used for HYGA purposes

The driving range at The Himalayan Course is now being expanded and will host some of our Junior Camps

The Himalayan Course, and eventual site for monthly junior tournaments in Pokhara
     One more note...the next pro here better not fuck it up. (you knew I couldn't be positive for the entire post)
    

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Story Time

     Okay, yesterday the government in Nepal raised the price of petro Rs 4, only two weeks after dropping the price by Rs 3. They had dropped the price in reaction to student protests about a previous price hike. Reading about this in The Himalayan Times yesterday I was equal parts amused and saddened to read successive paragraphs that went something like this - Student leaders were told about the price hike and have agreed not to protest. Student leaders were not told about the price hike and are now planning massive protests. This is how Nepal "works", and this is how the government works. The govt already loses money each year on the import of kerosene, diesel, and petro. Raising and lowering the price of these essentials is not going to fix the deficit, as it is in the billions of rupees. Clearly, I am not an economist, but I do like to read economists in order to try to understand the world better, because let's face it- if there's a problem somewhere, just follow the money trail and you will almost always find the answer. (the other answer is religion, but let's not go there right now)
     I recently read an interesting piece about how modern style dams, built by foreigners and with foreign aid, actually do more harm than good, but older Nepali style water systems somehow work better. The reason is that in order to maintain the older systems, farmers down stream needed help from the farmers up stream in order to maintain the equipment. In return, the farmers downstream would basically subsidize the upstream farmers for their efforts. With modern equipment, there was no need to maintain it, and so the subsidies stopped and the upstream farmers gained nothing. It's a fairly simple case of modern technology upsetting what was a decent balance between towns.
Maoist combatants
     After winning The Peoples War, the Maoists basically control the government in Nepal. Sure, there is the NPC, and some other factions, but the prime minister and nearly 2/3 of the government is from the Maoist camp. Here is how they operate. A big part writing the constitution (which was supposed to be completed about 6 months ago, but is nowhere close) deals with integration of the Maoist army into the Nepali army, and payouts to those who chose to retire. Basically, the Maoists wanted to be integrated at their current rank, while the Nepali army wanted them to pass certain tests in order to assure that rank. Well, this didn't sit well with the Maoists, as many of them are uneducated, or at least not to the standard that would allow them to become Captain or Generals. So there were a lot of bandhs, and eventually a payment system was worked out and integration details were "agreed" upon. (in quotes because nothing is ever really agreed upon, as you will see) As the settlement checks started to come in, former fighters, many of the retirees were women, lined up to accept payment. But there was a hitch - the Maoists in charge of the army were demanding 50% of the payment as payment for negotiating the deal. This didn't sit well with the combatants, and they organized their own bandhs in order to protest this bit of robbery. In fact, they stopped lining up for their checks altogether, and basically refused to retire. I think this is where we stand today.
Smoked that drive
     What in the world does this have to do with golf, with your hero, and with this blog? After negotiating the Faldo Series contract, which as the President of HYGA put it "would be one million times bigger than anything that has ever happened to golf in Nepal", it is sitting at Gokarna Forest Resort, stalled and waiting for one simple signature. I am not exactly sure why it hasn't been signed, but I have some ideas. The first is that it wasn't their idea. I think they would feel slighted because they didn't come up with it. Despite the fact that they would get international recognition, would make money from souvenir sales and lodging, and would push golf forward in a gigantic way, ego is somehow an issue here. The second issue is that everyone in Nepal is an expert. It doesn't matter if you are a dentist, or a laborer - your ideas and thoughts must be heard heard relating to golf. And there is no shortage of people who believe they are experts, and they form committees, and these committees sit around and argue and talk and eventually do nothing.
     Maybe this thing will happen, maybe all the work I have put in to getting it done will amount to something. I want this to happen, not for me, but for the kids here, and for the golf pros in this country. They are some of my best friends, and this would be huge for them as well. They deserve some recognition of what they have done for golf in Nepal, and this is a chance at that.
     Not to be a downer, but I am constantly reminded of what Leonard Cohen once said when being identified as a pessimist, "A pessimist is someone who is waiting for it to rain. I am already soaked to the bone."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Don't read this if you can't take a joke. Or do, whatever....

     Okay...as my departure date becomes closer, I am wrapping up at least a couple of the things I set out to create here in Kathmandu. On March 3rd, RNGC, the NGA, and HYGA will host the first tournament of what should be a continuous Nepal Junior Tour. However, I'm still waiting for Gokarna Forest Resort to sign the contract the The Faldo Series and I have worked out. It's important for them do this in a timely manner, as I have managed to get one of our juniors invited to the FSA championship on March 16th, should we complete the agreement. I was also invited to meet Nick Faldo himself and announce the tournament to the international press. Sadly, I don't have the funds to make the trip back to China to do this. It's entirely bitter, but the whole point is getting golf to grow in Nepal, right? Right? Well, even that won't happen if the contract doesn't get signed. Why wouldn't they sign this?, you may ask. Well, there's no reason besides ego and pettiness and bickering. These three things could derail the entire thing. If this happens, I would really have to question coming back to Nepal for anything to do with golf. For now, please think some good thoughts, and let's hope we can get this done. It's soooooo close, I can see it....
     Now it's time to complain about some shit....This is some of the worst advice I have ever read.  It is supposed to be travel advice, but what it really is, is an insult to the people of any country you're visiting. The first thing it says is to wear clothes that make you blend in. Here's the thing - you're not going to blend in unless you have been living in the country for at least a year and can speak the language fluently. Wearing native clothes makes you look like an asshole. Another thing this "article" suggests is to wear make-up that makes you look darker. read that again out loud and see if it passes the common sense test. The indigenous people already know you're a tourist from 50 yards away, just own it and be polite and stay alert is all you can really do. Also, take language lessons and make some local friends. That's it. That's the big secret to getting along well in a foreign country.
     I think what set me off on that little paragraph is seeing idiots (foreigners) walking around in sandals in streets that could give you five or six diseases from simply touching them. Then they put on the local clothing and become easy marks for anyone who would like to charge the highest possible price for goods. Next.....
     English people mainly suck. I know they're our best ally and everything, but enough with the pretending to be polite, and then acting quite the opposite. Nobody gives a shit that you're English. You're no more special than anyone else. Pastier, yes. Shittier food, yes. And louder, YES. but you're definitely not anything great. I'm pumped we beat your ass down. Is it the Fourth of July, yet? It's my new favorite Holiday. Here's another big secret revealed - English people want you to think they're smarter than you because they have an accent. Well, they're not. I've become friends with people form Bangladesh, Australia, Nepal (obviously), South Africa, India, and Ireland on this trip. Yet there are a ton of English tourists. You should here them talk at any "pub" they manage to find. Think in an English accent for a moment...
"Oh, you're from Yorkshire, then? Which part?"
"Southern, mainly, that's where the culture is, wouldn't be caught dead anywhere else."
"I've heard that. Shame, really about the rest of the area. How much is a flat there?"
"Don't know, me mum pays for it. I need it for university, mainly and then I'll move to London and live properly."
Now think of my voice, inside my head, "SHUT THE F*CK UP BEFORE I LIGHT YOU ON FIRE"
     That was all unwarranted and I'm sorry it wasn't said sooner. Now on to some pictures of kids enjoying golf in the sun.....



They lined up from tallest to shortest for no reason.

I swear I will get these kids to flip clubs before I'm done.

I remember when golf was fun. It looks like this.

 
     
     

Friday, February 24, 2012

a brief time out to think

     Okay, as I sit here thinking back on the last 10 months of my life, which has included preparing for and subsequently traveling to Nepal, I am trying to prepare myself for the most inevitable question when I return- "Well, how was it?" Where do I even start in answering that question. For a while I thought of answering with "Have you ever been to Cleveland?", and then walking away. This would leave the interviewer shaking his head and wondering what the hell just happened. Which is exactly how I am feeling right now. I wish I could sum this whole thing up in a neat, tidy sentence or even paragraph. It would be easier for me, for everyone in my life, and for this blog.
     As my time here winds down I am more and more aware that I don't know how to answer the big how was it? question. It has been equal parts terrifying, beautiful, heartbreaking, painful, exciting, fun, and overwhelming. I don't know that I've become  a better person, or that I have some new understanding of human nature. I'm still a selfish, snarky dude who thinks people are mostly awful but pretend to be otherwise when there is something to be gained. I said most. I do like the idea that character is what you do when no one is watching. I don't subscribe to that line of thinking in order to not incriminate myself, but I like the idea.
Two layers of Kathmandu.
     Do you see what happens to my brain when I take playing golf out of the equation? Man, I gotta go hit some balls......

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nuts And Bolts And Fish Heads Between Friends


     Okay, I was all set to write a seething, unpleasant blog post a couple of days ago, and had about three pages of venom all edited and evil and ready to post. I was upset with the Nepal Golf Association, with being back in Kathmandu, and just wanted to take a hot shower. I was told thought I was told that the NGA would no longer be able to pay for the housing for HYGA professionals.
I like this kids swagger
This was on the heels of being told that I couldn't use any of the sponsors that we had lined up for the junior tour, despite being willing to actually buy the tee times. Why, I asked, couldn't we use the sponsors? The problem is, according to some people in charge of golf in this country, that it would make us all look bad if we ahd to use multiple sponsors. Basically they would lose face somehow. Clearly this is different than America, where if someone is willing to even toss in ten cents to help sponsor an event, we'll take that shit with a smile and not think twice. So I swallowed that bitter pill, and we eventually came to an agreement that I could use the sponsors, but it had to be a maximum of one sponsor per tournament. Is this boring you yet? No? Okay then.....
     I had a meeting with the head of the NGA just this morning to clarify everything, especially the not being able to house the pro thing. The real problem with this is not the money, as HYGA could afford to pay, but it's that this needs to be a partnership, with both groups working together, not a one way street. I was told that I misunderstood what I was told. Got that? I won't go into all of the details of the meeting, but it was mostly polite, sometimes volatile, and ended up in a good way, with a clearer understanding on both sides regarding communication and follow through.
Kathmandu marathon. Those aren't vehicles helping the runners. It's just traffic!
     Next order of business- The Faldo Series Tournament. After quite a few emails with Tom Phillips, the CEO of Faldo Series in Asia, and some meetings with NGA people, I have brokered a contract that has Faldo waiving the $5000  ($10000 total) sanctioning fee for the next two years, as well as getting Gokarna to waive the normal $1000 competition fee in order to bring a truly international tournament to Nepal with players from Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Northern India. All that's left is to get all three parties to sign the contract. If I can at least accomplish this before I go, it would be a giant success for this country.
You know you can't get enough of this mug.
     Sorry for the nuts and bolts type of post this time - next one to include a festival where all Hindus are allowed to smoke hash without penalty for an entire day, babies lying naked on the side of the road, and the three hour walk I took around Kamaladi trying to find a miniscule airline office that was closed due to a Buddhist holiday.





I never want to see this bathroom again. Neither do you, I'm sure. And I know Becks has no interest, with the amount of time he spent in it!

Left to right - Deepak, Ramesh, your hero, Pashupati holding a fish head, and Sachin