Blog 94, 2/1/11 - Please Welcome Guest Blogger Jason Sobel

Hi there. My name is Jason and I'll be your guest blogger for the day. Allow me to start with an admission: I've never been to Bellingham. Never seen it, never zipped past it, never even flown over it. Which makes me about as qualified to write for this blog as one on the main import business of Curacao or the architecture of Luxembourg. (And no, I've never been to either of those, either.)
However, I do know a little something about Bellingham. Or rather, I know something about the city's golf community. You're a diehard bunch who love the game to its core. You inhale its essence. You exhale its virtues. How do I know? Well, because that just about sums up the tight-knit golf community of any city or town in the world. In your unique fervor toward the game, Bellingham, you're just like everyone else.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
In fact, it's more important than ever to remember that passion for golf and all the happiness it has rendered. The time you played 54 holes in a fivesome on an otherwise empty course. Or when you treated Dad to that special round on his favorite track. Or sitting around the television watching your favorite pro drive home a clinching putt on the final hole to win a big tournament. It's important to remember these moments because it seems like all we hear about these days are the negative things about the game.
Courses are going bankrupt by the dozen. The decision to shelve construction of Tiger Woods’ longstanding project in Dubai drew major headlines recently, but it should only serve as a microcosm for what’s taking place around the world. More often than ever before, courses are being built upon or simply forced into foreclosure. As for new endeavors, well, let’s just say they’re not exactly sprouting up every day.
While this phenomenon can be written off to the poor economy, the real reason is that fewer people are beginning to play the game and more of 'em are stopping. If you’re reading this, you likely know the unrivaled feel of a crisply struck iron shot or the innate thrill of sinking a 30-foot birdie putt. Think about it, though: How many people do you know have never experienced such joys? Just because golf is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, too – and the more fun it is, the more people will start to play.
Of course, to the casual observer taking up this game is a daunting task. That’s especially the case when even some of the world’s best professionals have been getting disqualified from tournaments for signing an incorrect scorecard after a television viewer phoned in some guiltless rules violation. Try explaining these situations to a non-golf fan; you will no doubt be countered by the most quizzical of expressions.
It’s all part of golf, though, the proverbial bad with the good. And there is plenty of inherent goodness in this game of ours. We’ve all closed a poor round with a surprisingly efficient shot on the final hole, prompting a playing partner to coo, “Well, that’ll keep you coming back!” But the truth is, you were coming back anyway. Those of us who love and understand – and yes, even sometimes abhor – the game still continue on a neverending quest to figure it out, once and for all.
That’s what relates the golfers of Bellingham to those in Seattle or Portland, or Los Angeles or New York, or St. Andrews or Melbourne. We are united by the common bond of golf. We play it, we watch it. We live it, we breathe it.
And just because we don’t always appreciate every aspect of the game, we remain devoted to everything that attracted us in the first place.

sobelI first met Jason Sobel in the press tent (maybe it was a media center) at the Sony Open in Hawaii in 2005, the year Vijay Singh won. Jason had just started at ESPN and since then has become one of the most respected voices (pens?) in the game. I always check out his columns and 'Weekly 18' at, but his best stuff is reserved for Twitter (@jasonsobel). About the time we met, Jason was offered a job at the 'New York Sun' but had to turn it down because of his role at ESPN. He put the 'Sun' in touch with me and I went on to serve three years as the newspaper's golf correspondent before it closed in September 2008 (not, I was assured, because of the golf coverage). I still owe Jason a big drink for that, and now I owe him two. 

I trust Jason won't mind my tacking something on to the bottom of his page, but Western begins its spring season tomorrow with perhaps the most prestigious tournament in the school's history. The Vikings, ranked a school-best No. 3 in the latest Golf Coaches Association of America Div II Top 25, and No. 1 in the NCAA Division II Golfstat rating, tee it up at the 21st Ameri Ari Invitational at the Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Big island of Hawaii, alongside 18 Division I teams and just one other Div II school - host, the University of Hawaii. Among the Div I teams are four of the five top-ranked schools in the country - No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Florida State and No. 5 Georgia Tech. The University of Washington, currently ranked 24th in the nation on Golfweek and Golf World polls, is also in the field.
Representing Western are Sam Ayotte, Xavier Dailly, Dylan Goodwin, Nick Varelia, and Sandy Vaughn. And as if being part of so talented a field wasn't enough, the Vikings go out in round one with Oklahoma State, Southern California, and Oregon. Get tee times and scores at



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