Thursday, October 30, 2008

This week's "Dorm Days" Flashback!

In light of my last post on my new job as the new Associate Head Coach for Men’s and Women’s Golf at Westminster College, I figured that I’d dig up an old entry from my old blog over on So this’ll be my first “Dorm Days Flashback” for the new site. I’m pretty far removed from the guy I was back in 2000, although I can understand why some might think that my new coaching gig might be a “fox in charge of the henhouse” kind of idea. Anyhow, enjoy this “Dorm Days Flashback”…

"The Wacky World of College Athletics"
(October 2000)
Now, during my years at Westminster, I did a lot more than drinking, raising hell with the fellas up in room 302, getting yelled at while working for the basketball team, and occasionally attending class. I also competed as I did at both the high school and junior college levels on the varsity golf team. Golf on the college level was much different than it was back in high school. You played a practice round on Sunday, followed by a thirty six-hole marathon session on Monday and then a final eighteen holes on Tuesday. No carts either, it was all on foot. Four of your teams' individual scores comprised your team score. There were kids in a lot better shape than I was literally crying in pain after the Monday rounds. College golf was more of a physical and mental endurance test than it was based solely on skill. But the trips themselves were a nice chance to get away from all the pressures of college life and decompress. Well, they usually were, but here is one example of a trip that did not exactly go as expected.

I had just turned 22 years old and was the old man of a pretty green group of men and women college golfers. You had the innocent, church going folks in T-Sick, The Juice, and Meg, Bradford the rocket scientist, a savvy and highly touted freshman player in Rache, Brightie the private school princess with a wild streak, and a stereotypical redheaded kid in Loony Zack. And then there was Golf Girl. Ahhh yes, Golf Girl, a kind of goofy, but drop dead gorgeous 6-handicapper transfer student from Idaho State. She was a total knockout with an unbelievable swing to boot. She was just what the doctor ordered for this old, rotten bastard to finally put my failed relationship with Jules behind me and move on. She was any serious golfers dream girl. And we were about to embark in a five day van trip to Billings, Montana to wrap up the Fall-half of the Frontier Conference golf season.

Coach DP thought it would be a nice idea if we left a day earlier than what was typical. We took off from Westminster on Saturday morning so we could spend a relaxing day seeing the sights in beautiful Yellowstone National Park. I was especially excited because I hadn’t been up to Yellowstone since I was in the 9th grade. Outside of the mountains in Alaska I have always thought that our nation’s first national park was the most beautiful place on Earth.

As bleary as I felt that morning, my mind was still sharp as we played a little game during the drive using Trivial Pursuit cards. We split into two teams, if your team could answer all six questions on a card, you earned a point. I scored the first point of the day answering a question regarding Yankee pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson swapping wives before the 1973 season. "Only Nickas would know something like that." Coach grumbled as he honked the horn displeased that his team was now down 1-0. Ten of us, crammed into a fifteen passenger van with all of our equipment. It almost felt like family.

We pulled into West Yellowstone early in the afternoon and received our room assignments. The girls were all stuffed into one unit, and the guys ended up divided by, well, cultural lines. T-Sick and the Juice doing their bible study, while Bradford, I and Loony Zack piled into a room. Now, Loony Zack's shtick was, well, he made everybody a little nervous. He had transferred to Westminster from Dixie College, where one of my old Junior College coaches at Eastern Utah had taken a job a year earlier. The kid was what we call in the team golf world, a horse. Always came through with a solid round no matter what. He was what you would think would be the ideal teammate. And from a purely competitive standpoint he was. But there was also something a little bit off about the kid. He would wear these clear sunglasses that magnified his eyes as he stared at you. He also had a nice little habit of getting just a little too close to you when he would talk to you. He wasn't exactly standing on your toes or anything, but he was just close enough to make you uncomfortable. That was when he talked which he didn't do very often. Mostly he would sit on the back bench of the van chanting along to his latest trance-music CD. I would wager to say that at least 90 percent of the team thought he was some kind of a serial killer or something. I was pretty much the only guy that was not scared shitless about rooming with the guy. I thought it was hilarious.

Bradford, who may have been psychic or something based on what happened later asked me if I would be offended if he roomed with the other guys. He had a huge physics exam when we got back into town and wanted to spend his off-course time studying. This left me alone with Zack. "No problem at all bro," I said, "but I think it would be a good idea if you went to the park with the rest of us today. You know, get to know everybody a little better." I just wanted the whole team together. Build some unity.

"Sounds like it might be some fun," he replied.

We drove into Yellowstone and cruised to my personal favorite feature of the park, the Norris Geyser Basin. Norris is a wide valley full of hot springs, low clouds, bubbling geysers of many beautiful colors and herds of bison walking around. We hiked along the wooden trail, checking out and taking pictures of one of the widest actively volcanic areas in the country. I sat down on a bench as one of the biggest buffalo I have ever seen walked no more than ten feet away from me. Goddamn I love nature! Of course, no trip to Yellowstone is complete without a stop at Old Faithful where we wrapped up our afternoon as I snapped our unofficial team photograph right in front of the world famous geyser.

Back in West Yellowstone, the team split up for dinner, T-Sick, Bradford and The Juice hit a diner with Coach, while the rest of the squad and myself took up residence at a local bar and grille. Something about a gigantic buffalo steak and a couple of cool brews with my teammates made me put school and the hijinks of Room 302 behind me. At the time, I was all about putting on a good show to impress the girl. I would get kind of loud and a little obnoxious, kind of like Vince Vaughn as Double-Down Trent in Swingers. I was putting on a show tonight! Pretending that I knew a damn thing about the one or two rotguts on the wine list, and trying to be semi-refined, but acting like a know-it-all jackass, I was an idiot. But Golf Girl seemed to dig it. I knew she was a good girl, and your typical Utah cultural issues doomed any hopes I might have had, but dammit, I had fallen for this girl. Eventually the beers mellowed me out a little bit, and we had a nice conversation once the food arrived.
We finished dinner and walked back to the hotel. Zack, Brightie and I stopped along the way at the local grocery store. Now for those who don’t know, in Utah our beer selection is pretty sparse. And it is a weak 3.2 percent ABV to boot. So I always made sure to take an extra large clothes bag on these golf trips in order to bootleg some of the good stuff back to Utah. Stuff like that sweet golden elixir known as Alaskan Amber. While at the store Zack and Brightie picked up some items and I snagged two cases of my favorite sweet, sweet microbrew. We got back to the hotel where I left my contraband by the back door as I was not sure the prying eyes of Coach needed to see anything like that.

I finally got the stuff up to the room and was packing it away into my clothes bag when Loony Zack suddenly appeared about three inches from my face. "Hey, man." He asked quietly, "Brightie and I are hitting the hot tub. You want to join us man?"

"Naw dude," I said taking a step back, "I'm just going to take a bath in some Icy-Hot and hit the sheets. My knee is killing me." I was out of shape, unless round is a shape.

"Oh. Hey man." He got in close again, "Can we borrow some of your beer, man?"

"Knock yourself out dude. I'll catch ya in the morning."

After a nice long bath, I felt relaxed enough to hit the sack. I made the rounds to my teammates rooms wishing them all a good night. My old ass was like the team dad or something. I wanted to be a leader so bad, sometimes I overdid it. I went back to the room, flipped on the television and cracked a beer. Nothing was on, except the Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck vehicle Armageddon. Not the greatest movie of all time, but a nice chance to see my future ex-wife Liv Tyler looking as stunning as ever. As they were drilling the asteroid, I passed out. It was 12:30 in the morning.

I am a shitty sleeper, so when my eyes opened and saw the clock still read 2:30 am I was not too surprised. I rolled over and was welcomed with a sight somewhat common on your average rock band's tour bus, but not seen pretty much ever in my traveling career. There on the bed next to mine, were Loony Zack and Private School Princess Brightie knockin' the boots! And what was that on top of the television? Yup, it was Loony Zack’s mini-camcorder, and the red recording light was definitely on. Holy shit! Those two crazy bastards are making their own homemade porno in here!

Now, here I was, faced with a decision. What do you do in this kind of situation? I kind of had to take a whiz, but obviously for them anyway, there was a beautiful moment going on, and who am I to screw it up? I had no aspirations of becoming a movie star anytime soon either. And those two had kind of been putting on that whole Woody Harrelson/Juliette Lewis "Natural Born Killers" vibe all afternoon, listening to their trance and Fugazi discs. There was that off chance that if I interrupted, I may be the unsuspecting victim of some kind of ritualistic blood orgy or some shit. Who knows? All this shit was running through my head as I shut my eyes and tried like hell to fall back asleep. The last things I heard between the moaning and grunting as the NyQuil kicked back in and I drifted back to slumber was Brightie whispering to Loony Zack, "Isn't it kind of weird, with somebody else in the room?"
"Yeah man. It’s kind of a turn-on, man." Zack replied. He really did talk like that ALL of the time.

I woke up the next day, and sauntered down to breakfast. I was nibbling at my toast and pounding coffee when the remainder of the girl’s team nearly knocked the table over sitting down. The inquisition began. "Brightie never came back to the room last night, what happened?" "Was it her and Zack?" "What happened?" Over and over again they asked the same question as I stared blankly into my coffee cup. I finally looked up.

"Ladies, put two and two together and subtract me because I didn’t have anything to do with what those two did last night."

"You mean they...?"

"I'd rather not talk about it," I said as I nodded my head and took another sip of coffee. “Let’s just say that was possibly one of the weirdest fucking nights I’ve ever had." They knew my reputation and got the message. If I thought it was strange, it would probably be traumatic to most god-fearing people.

Something about that night kind of took my head out of things that weekend. I played a hell of a practice round, my best round of the year actually that day, a 6-under par 66 at the Peter Yegen Golf Club in Billings. I had high hopes going into the tournament. Coach must have had a losing night playing cards with the other coaches the night before, because suddenly there were all five of us guys crammed into one room. No way Zack would be nuts enough to try it again with and extra four guys stuffed into the room. But who knows? I fell asleep not feeling right at all. Must have been something I ate.

The tournament started the next day, I warmed up great and managed solid pars on the first two holes when it hit. It felt like I was being repeatedly kicked in the gut. I barely made it to the bushes when the vomit started to flow. Yup, it was food poisoning. I was on hole-three of thirty-six for the day and I could barely stand. This wasn't going to be a good day at all. Pretty much every other hole we played, I would honk in the weeds. We finished the first 18 and as we were checking our cards I was shocked to see I had managed a 73. I signed my card and handed it to Montana-Western's coach who handed me a bag lunch in exchange. The second that turkey-on-a-roll hit my gut it was on its way back up again. We still had 18 holes to play, and I had no way to refuel. "You okay man?" Western's coach asked as I shook my head.

"How's my score matched up with my teammates so far?" I asked.

"Yours is the second lowest round carded on your team," he replied. "One of your guys got D-Q’d though. Are you sure you’re going to make it?"

"Got no choice now, if we don’t post a tournament score, we can’t go to the Regional. Going to have to gut this one out." I wish I had felt as confident as I wanted to sound.

Round-two wasn’t much better than round one. Although about six holes in, I was able to keep a little cone-cup of water down. My drives were getting weaker, my vision was blurry. I felt like I was turning into a 90 year old man. Montana-Western's coach rolled up again about eleven holes in to the round and stuck a bottle of Gatorade from his team's own stash into my bag. "Just try it, see if you can keep it down. Some of the other coaches and I are taking bets on if you're going to finish."

"How are my odds?" I asked weakly.

"Well, I'm pretty much the only one banking on ya."

"What does my coach think?"

"Don’t know. Nobody’s seen him since the first round." He replied.

Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen hide or hair of my own coach since the driving range that morning. Glad to see he cared. Maybe I should have played for Montana-Western. "I’m so taking this program over after I graduate!" I thought as I took down a baby-swallow of Gatorade.

We finally hit the eighteenth hole of the round and thirty-sixth hole of the day. And I had to take a knee to tee the ball up. At that point I felt so weak; I could barely hit the ball across the street. I popped the ball out into the fairway. Thankfully it was a short hole and I only had about 140 yards in. By then a small crowd of about thirty already finished players was surrounding the green. I embarrassingly grabbed a 6-iron out of the bag. Ordinarily that was way too much club for this shot, but in my condition, this was barely going to get there. I swung the club back and threw my hands at the ball. Thinned the piss out of it. That ball barely got three feet off of the ground and landed about twenty yards off the green. Surprisingly, it bounced forward, nearly rolling off the back of the green and left me with about a 45 foot putt back to the front-left hole location. Two putts to go and I can finally lie down. The other two guys in my group, Chad from Rocky Mountain and Colt from Carroll had both knocked wedges to inside four feet. I could barely see the damn hole from that far away. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied Golf Girl in the crowd. I was suddenly overcome by a familiar feeling of calm. Good lord she was beautiful. "Man up dude! Just get it close." I thought as I jabbed at the ball. "Aw hell!" I hollered, as I saw the ball burn a trail to the hole, "that better hit it, or it’s off the fuckin’ green!" Maybe it heard me, because next thing I knew my ball slammed into the back edge of the cup, hopped in the air a little bit and then settled at the bottom of the hole as a collective shriek went up in the crowd, which to my blurry eyes and ringing ears, looked and sounded like Sunday at Augusta. I staggered forward to snag my ball out of the hole, but Chad from Rocky already had it.

"You are the toughest son-of-a-bitch I've ever met." He said as he handed me my ball.

We sat down at the scorer’s table to sign our cards, when I finally realized after adding up the numbers I had shot a 1-under par 70. My pen had barely finished autographing the scorecard when I blacked out.

The next day I felt a lot better, but could not get the putter to work. I struggled to a 76. But I had still managed one of my best three round tournament scores in years. Not that I really cared, I was just happy to hold my lunch down. Unfortunately my coach wasn't as impressed. He came up to me while I was happily crushing some Taco Johns with my teammates. "Nickas, if you would have shot 74 today, we would have taken 2nd place. I’m going to need better scores from you down the road." He said matter-of-factly and walked out of the restaurant. Dude couldn’t have saved it for his office when we got home. If we weren't 700 miles from home, I would have throttled him right there. Let’s just say things were a little cold between coach and me for a long time after that.

The ten hour ride home was long and quiet. Where things were jovial a few days earlier, everybody kind of did their own thing. While Juice and T-Sick read their prayer books, Zack and Brightie shared a blanket in the back giggling. Bradford and Rache studied physics and Meg and Coach talked basketball. I slipped my copy of Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid into my Discman and did some thinking. "Am I just spinning my wheels here? Is this even worth it anymore?" Then I looked over at Golf Girls sleeping head next to me. "Are you kidding," I thought, "this weekend was the time of my life!"

Since that was the final trip of the fall, we all kind of went our separate ways for the winter. Zack and Brightie broke up something like three days later and nobody ever heard from them again. They did not return the next semester. T-Sick and The Juice both went on church missions, so I never got the chance to play with them again. Coach stuck around for a few more years before moving on to bigger and better things. After the events of that weekend, I figured I had absolutely nothing to lose. I had seen it all so I worked up the gumption to ask Golf Girl out to the homecoming ball. But that is a story for another day.

Here's a photo of that team:

Back Row: Meg, Brightie, Golf Girl, Rache, Coach DP, Bradford, Juice
Front Row: Loony Zack, The Golf Monster, T-Sick

Coach Nickas! I kinda like the sound of that...

Earlier this past summer I received a phone call from an old college acquaintance She had heard about some golf classes that were being offered by our alma mater, Westminster College; and was wondering if I was the one they had tabbed to teach them. I wasn't even aware they were teaching classes down there. Now, I do teach some classes at the University of Utah, but up until that point, I was completely unaware that Westminster was offering any classes. Three days later I got a call from the Athletic Director from Westminster asking if I'd like to go to lunch and discuss a few things. I'd been working during the winters as a public address announcer for the basketball teams ever since I got out of school and I assumed that they were going to talk to me about teaching some of their golf classes.So we sat down and talked a little about basketball, and how awesome the teams are going to be this year when we were joined by the women's basketball coach, JD. He'd also been the men's and women's golf coach on the side ever since my old college coach, Coach DP quit. The team had recently risen up to become pretty successful, placing 2nd at the NAIA regional tournament just 2 years ago. So imagine my surprise when he said that he wanted to scale back his involvement in the golf program and concentrate on basketball full time. I asked him why, and he replied, "Because we think you can get them to the next level." Without any kind of a formal interview or application or anything, they offered me a coaching job. I don't even think they got the actual sentence out before I said I'd do it.
The hitch though, I didn't exactly inherit that awesome team from a couple of years ago. In fact, only two players from that Men’s team remained, and they were both graduating in December. There were only three returning ladies from last year’s women’s team! We actually had to do an on-campus recruiting drive to fill the rosters! It was not exactly a moment that most of the big-time programs have to deal with. Anyway, we managed to find five more guys that could shoot reasonably well for that side of things, but the women's team is a different story altogether. 5 out of the 8 gals on the roster had absolutely no competitive experience whatsoever! And 4 of those had been playing for 4 months or less. I always had a desire to coach the program, and I’ve been pining away for the gig for years, but in every vision I've ever had I was inheriting an established team. They were asking me to basically build the thing from scratch and we had less than 1 month until our first tournament at Montana Tech.
To top it off, I didn't quit my Assistant Pro job at the University of Utah, I've been doing both. But what that meant was that every moment I wasn't in the shop or teaching private lessons, I was basically teaching the bulk of my team how to play golf. Which is a gargantuan task compared to just making a few swing tweaks. But for a solid month, those kids worked their asses off, probably slacking off on their studies to learn how to play the game properly. They practiced hard almost every day and I put my social and professional life on hold to get them ready. They were primed to take on the world, and as we rode the same bus I never thought I'd ever thought I'd ride again six years ago, I couldn't help but beam with pride.
So they competed, and I coached my ass off. In fact, I seemed to be about the only coach that was out on the course with the players. I had always hated the fact that I rarely ever saw my coach out on the course, so I made it a point to spend at least a hole per round with every one of my kids. Actually I pretty much decide that my coaching strategy was to do pretty much everything the opposite of what he would’ve done. While the other coaches were holed up in the clubhouse watching football, "waiting for scorecards" I was out reading putts, getting yardages and delivering snacks and drinks for the kids. And the end result of my awesome coaching job? The Men took 7th out of 9 teams and the women took 8th out of 9 teams after the first tournament.
That was pretty punishing to the old ego. There was one bright spot, one of my guys won the individual! But overall I was kinda down on myself. But then I remembered the words of my old Junior College coach, the only coach I've ever really gotten along with, when he said, "you can't hit the shots for them." I flashed back to when I was in school and how I never really felt like I played up to my potential because of the weight that class, work and relationships had on my mind. And I realized that those kids were going through the exact same stuff that I was going through a few years ago. So on that long-ass bus ride home from Butte, Montana, I talked to the kids about what they felt that I was doing right, and what they thought I could do better. Together, we kind of re-designed our practice sessions to make them more efficient, and by the end of the ride home we were talking about just about everything BUT golf. Damn, I felt like I was back in college again!
The next week the men managed to improve by one spot in the standings, and while the ladies didn't move up, they dropped a full ten shots off their stroke average as a team! And the following week, at the Rocky Mountain Invitational, at the Peter Yegen Club in Billings, MT, they gave me what might be my finest hour as a golf pro. Going into the last round at the same course I once littered with vomit (see tomorrow’s “Dorm Days” flashback story for the full skinny), the men trailed the hated Carroll College by nine shots for 5th place (the top-4 teams are unbelievably loaded this year). Carroll had been taking us out behind the woodshed all season long, and had been doing a fair amount of shit-talking along the way. I really wanted to beat those guys, so I gave a couple of the guys my first f-bomb laden pep talk of the season. I was trying to channel Al Pacino from "Any Given Sunday" but sounded so ridiculous that we were all cracking up! It must've loosened them up a little bit because those guys ended up breaking one of my old teams' single day scoring records, 4-under par as a team! We also edged Carroll by twelve shots on the day and 3 for the tournament! The ladies, well it's not important where they placed, but out of the fifteen rounds (3 apiece) that the 5 team members played, there were 8 personal best rounds recorded! Their team average was now down by 30 shots better than the 1st tournament. Pretty insane! I don't even think they realize how proud of them that I am.
The Fall college golf season has concluded, but it picks back up in the Springtime. But unlike in previous years, I'm not going to break this team up. We're going to keep working at it through playing and practice until the snow flies, and I’m going to try to hire a trainer to write them up a weightlifting and cardio program for when there's snow on the ground so we can hit the ground running come April. I'm also setting to work on recruiting, which is something I've never done before. It's out of control, but I've got to say, the last two months have easily been the most rewarding of my entire career and maybe my entire life.. Our Sports Information Director is a little swamped, so our team website hasn't been updated in a hell of a long time, but here's an article about us. It's a .pdf file so it might take a few minutes to download. Scroll down to page 6:

Here's a few photos of myself and some of the kids from this past fall season:

The team stuffed into a little bus (a short bus if you will) on our first trip

Throwing out a little encouragement to one of our men's team, Nick CruzDiscussing a little strategy with one of my ladies, Jesika Hilton

Go Griffins!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Welcome to my nightmare....I think you're gonna like it....

Hey Folks!

I’m kind of in a weird stage in my life right now. For those of you that know me, I just hit 30 last week. Now some people say that the 30's are the new 20's; and yet others say that the 30's are when things start to go downhill. I think it may be somewhere in between. But after the last couple of months, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more alive than I do right now! Now, when I’m feeling good, I feel creative. And after a few years of posting a few stories here and there on my old blog, and a few videos on, I felt like making a webpage that isn’t hampered by the limitations of those particular sites, and can reach the widest audience possible. So please, welcome to my new blog: The Wicked Life of a Golf Monster!

Now, that’s not to say that golf is the only thing I’m going to be writing about. I mean, it is my job; I am a Golf Professional and a college Golf Coach. And tales from that world are going to pop up from time to time. But I’m not the type of guy that feels good about pigeonholing myself under any type of category. One of my biggest regrets in life is never keeping any kind of a real journal over the years, so that’s kind of what this is going to be. Although, I’ll be honest with you, I’d have a hard time reading about my day to day life too. So what this is going to be is a place where I’ll occasionally tell the more interesting tales of what’s going on in my life. I’ll also have the occasional commentary on what I think is going on in the world, share some interesting reads and views from all around the web, and even post a few of the other projects I’m working on, i.e. videos and such. I’m also going to share a few tales from past days, hearkening back to the college and high school days, including some reworked versions of tales from my old blog. This is going to be the new home of "Dorm Days: The Penthouse Chronicles." It should be an interesting mishmash of stuff, and I hope you all enjoy it.

Oh yeah, if you’ve got virgin ears or eyes, I’ve got to warn you. I write the way I speak, and a lot of times, I tend to artfully drop a little salty language when I’m speaking. But if you want to be entertained, just sit back and enjoy the ride with me! Coming up first, a little description on what’s been going on in my latest career venture; that of the Associate Head Coach for Men’s and Women’s Golf for my alma mater, Westminster College…