Monday, March 24, 2014

Christina Kim

I first kept score for Christina Kim  in the 2009 J-Golf tournament at Papago.  That was the "old" Christina, famous for her attire, for hitting the ball a country mile, and being free to express her feelings.  She was fun to walk with and it was fun to watch her play.  She had been on the Solheim Cup Team in 2005, and would be again in 2009 and 2011 (some thought she should have been a Captain's pick in 2007), and was one of the top 30 players in the world.

In Fall 2010 her back was injured during a massage.  She lost 2-1/2 clubs distance and in 2011 struggled to play without her customary length.  She made only 14 of 21 cuts, had no top-10s, earned just over 1/3 as much as 2010, and fell from 26 to 58 on the money list.

2012 was even worse.  She made only 8 cuts, her best finish was a tie for 49th, her scoring average went up more than a full stroke, and she had to return to Q-school, where she qualified in category 16.  What that meant is that if the field were 156 players, and 83 or so of the ones ahead of her didn't want to play, she was in.

Christina was diagnosed with depression.  She took medications for a while, and then stopped, and (it seems to me as a non-medical professional) has found within herself the courage and strength to cope with her condition, at least partially.  Her game is better now, though not up to her previous standards.  In 2013 she finished 76th on the money list.  The top 80 earn full status on the LPGA Tour.

Christina has a blog that has not seen updates for quite a while, and is active on Twitter.  The blog includes her perspective on her illness.  She writes very well, and has authored an autobiography.  Twitter is not worthy of her writing talent.  She took some flak for saying this, but it is indicative of her wit, imagination, and verbal skills that she once described a fellow-competitor as "slower than evolution".

Christina shot 69 on Thursday, 3 under par, and worked hard to shoot 37 on the front nine Friday afternoon.  At the turn it was looking quite sure that the cut line would be -2, and she was right on it.  She 3-putted #10 for bogey, and after getting up and down for par on 11 and 12, made a birdie on 13 to get back to -2 for the tournament.

On 15 she hit her 2nd shot to the par-5 into the desert left of the green, and then hit a provisional to about 12 feet.  As we walked up to the green, the discussion was about whether or not she even wanted the first ball to be found.  Before this, I would have said that it's never an advantage to not find a ball.  If this one were found, and was unplayable, her best option may well have been to take the stroke and distance penalty, because the places to drop and get a good lie and room to swing in that area of the course were precious few, and her chances of improving on, or even duplicating, her provisional shot were not high.  Thursday, on 5, Xiyu Lin had played a ball from under a bush in the desert, and succeeded only in getting it into an unplayable lie a few feet away, and made double bogey.  Christina opted to try the par putt, and yelled to the marshals to please, stop looking for her ball.

Her back nine so far had been peppered with cries of anguish at her missed shots, which mostly missed only by a little bit (except for the 2nd at 15), but were, nonetheless, misses by pro standards.  That would continue.

She missed the par at 15, but came back with a birdie at 16 to get back to -2.  Par at 17, and then up-and-down from the fringe at 18 to make the cut on the number.

Lee Trevino was asked about the pressure of playing in the final group on Sunday.  He dismissed it, saying famously that pressure was playing a $5 Nassau with $2 in your pocket.  Christina's back nine on Friday was some of the gutsiest golf under pressure I've ever seen.  She proudly tweeted that she was 1-for-1 in cuts made this year.

Christina was in the first group out on Saturday, and shot 70-70 on the weekend, finishing T50.

I'm going to try to reach her on Twitter so she can read this, because it is to her as much as about her.  I have long admired your game, Christina, and now your writing (I wish you would continue the blog) and most of all your personal strength and courage.  The LPGA frowns on walking scorers hugging the players, so I give you a hearty virtual hug, filled with encouragement.  You rock.

JTBC Founders' Cup, Round 2

I am truly smitten.  Natalie Gorgeous - I mean, Gulbis - is not only the prettiest golfer who ever walked a fairway, but one of the nicest.  To start, at the first tee, many of the golfers will introduce themselves to their walking scorer and standard-bearer, some do if they are reminded by the starter, others do it as an afterthought, and some don't.  Natalie makes sure to do it, as part of her routine for getting ready to play.  Nobody else ever said another word to us on the tee, but Natalie asked if we lived locally.  When I told her I lived in an RV full-time, her face brightened perceptibly (she was already smiling) and she told how she had enjoyed traveling with her Father in an RV to Junior Golf events.  On 13, when she had finished the hole she stood next to me to watch the others putt out and inquired about my shoes, saying they looked like hiking shoes, and she was thinking of getting some.  (They are hiking shoes, Vicki gave them to me for Christmas so I wouldn't get blisters when we went hiking.  They work.  I didn't get blisters this week until the back nine Sunday, about 22 miles into the hike.)

Christina Kim.  I'm going to devote another entire blog entry to her.  There's just too much, too important.  I haven't had golf channel since shortly after the last time I kept score for her, at Papago in 2009, so just today in researching this blog entry I've learned a lot about her experiences since then, which gives me a very different perspective on today's walk with her.

Mo Martin started the day at -5, and had a solid, if unspectacular 71, with two birdies.  She was the short hitter off the tee, consistently 10 yards behind Natalie and 30 behind Christina, except when she hit driver off the tee and they didn't.  She reminds me of me playing with Cactus Dave, except she scored only 2 shots better than Natalie and Christina :-)

Stupid tax trick

In college I worked part-time for H&R Block, doing people's tax returns, and some of my economics courses covered tax law.  We're doing our income tax these days, and trying to answer the questions that the online 1040 program asks, 99% of which don't apply to us, and I was explaining to Vicki about state tax refunds being taxable income this year if (and only if) you itemized and deducted them the previous year.  And it occurred to me that the scheme the government uses in trying to recapture that revenue could easily be exploited to create a very effective and possibly legal tax shelter, or at least tax deferral instrument, modeled on the cattle feeding shelters of the 1950's.

Back then, when the ordinary income tax rates went up to 91%, but there was a lower rate for capital gains of more than 6 months, rich people could buy cattle in July and feed them until January, deducting all the expenses of the operation on the first year's return (against 91% income) and then in the following year report a capital gain when they sold the fattened cattle, and be taxed at the lower rate.  The whole operation might even lose money, but the tax savings could be much larger than the operational losses.  Since those days, the code has evolved so that such schemes are no longer viable, or else are outright prohibited.  Transforming ordinary income into capital gains is one of the things they scrutinize very closely.

But, suppose in one year you have a higher than normal income, perhaps a "stay bonus" from a failing company (cough-cough DHL), and then in December you're laid off and don't work for a few months.  Or maybe you retire, or you plan to retire next year, and next year's income will be much less.  You change your W-4 to withhold extra state tax, or file an estimated tax payment to the state (if you live in a state without an income tax, you might even do it as a non-resident of a neighboring state that does have one) in December, in the amount of, say, your bonus.  Suppose it's $50,000 and your Federal tax rate is 25%, and you were going to itemize anyway.  In January you file your Federal taxes and deduct the $50,000, and get your refund of $12,500.  And you file your state taxes, on which you get the whole $50,000 back, because you didn't really owe it in the first place.

Then the next year, that $50,000 refund is additional taxable income, but you're no longer in the 25% bracket, maybe it's 15%.  So you pay only $7,500 tax on it (instead of $12,500) and you pay it a year later.

Even if you'll still be in the same tax bracket a year later, you'll have the use of the money for a year, which is worth something.  At 0% interest, it's not much, but it's something, perhaps only the peace of mind of having it in your savings account, just in case.  Or you could use the $12,500 to pay down a loan that carries a higher rate, maybe your mortgage or your child's student loan.

I can't think how this would be prohibited, or even detected, at least on a small scale.  Using a neighboring state might give away the secret, if the computer were looking for it.  But with the documentation of the W-2 all the computer matching they could do will look completely legitimate.

Too bad I didn't think of this 5 years ago.

Friday, March 21, 2014

JTBC Founders' Cup round 1

As expected, I kept score for Kelly Tan, Kathleen Ekey, and Xiyu Lin.  Kelly is from Malaysia, Xiyu from China, and both are LPGA rookies.  Kathleen is in her 3rd year on tour.   

The group carded three birdies on the first 9, all by Kathleen, after making bogey at the first hole.  She made two more birdies on the back, but also two bogeys, before coming to the last hole.  It was a sad saga.  She pull-hooked her drive into the hazard, a dry wash filled with a mixture of coarse sand and small pebbles.  The ball was in a hole, but on the upslope where she could get a club behind it, and far enough away from the tree to make about a half swing.  She played an explosion shot back into the fairway, a nice recovery.  A spectator told her "That's why you're a pro, you can get out of spots like that".  (And I told my standard-bearer "yeah, that and 5 birdies".)

Her approach was 2 yards long and 2 yards left, coming to rest in the back fringe, but on the upper tier of the green, with the pin on the lower tier.  She played a delicate chip shot which took a 90-degree right turn and just before taking the 90-degree left turn toward the pin, stopped at the edge of the precipice.  She barely touched the ball to get it going down the hill, and it rolled 6 feet past the cup.  After that, it was the old story:  "How did you make a 7 on that hole!!??"  "I missed a 6-footer for my 6."

So, with 5 birdies, Kathleen shot 73, one over par.  Kelly had 75 with one birdie, and Xiyu 76 with two birdies.  All of Kathleen's over-par holes started with a drive that missed the fairway (or on one par 3, missed the green), and ended with a chip and two (or three, at the last) putts.  She had 31 putts, only 1-for-5 scrambling.  Like they say, the game is as much about how bad are your bad holes as it is about how good are your good ones.

Mirim Lee, another rookie, led the way with 8-under 64, but the big story was Morgan Pressel shooting 29 on the back nine (her first 9 holes) and making birdies on 1 and 2 to go 9 under par for 11 holes (the same score as her team in the scramble on Wednesday, 29 on the back 9 and birdies on 1 and 2), setting up a "59-watch".  She couldn't keep it going, though, and made two bogies to shoot 65.

JTBC Founders'Cup pro-am

We didn't win.  Details are sparse, but 18 under won the gross in a scorecard playoff, and somebody else won the net - no mention of the score.

Morgan Pressel and Meena Lee were the pros.  Here's a picture of them with the Real Housewives of LA:

I'm going to have to defer more of the pictures for a while.  My bandwidth is limited in this park, as is my time until the Tournament is over.

Morgan shot 65 Thursday, and is in 2nd place.  She was -9 through 11 holes before making 2 bogies.    Mirim Lee, a rookie, shot 64.  Morgan was hitting a lot of approach shots dead-on pin high Wednesday, which is a good sign.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

LPGA Founders' Cup

The LPGA Founders' Cup is this week.  In the Pro-Am today, my group included Morgan Pressel.  This was the third time I've kept score for her, and she was just as gracious and delightful as ever.  The amateurs were the Real Housewives of Los Angeles - four friends who were there because one's husband wanted to go fishing for her 50th birthday.  They were pretty good, and finished T13 at 14 under par, gross.  The lead was -18, and nobody knew anything about the handicaps.  Their handicaps were about 60 total, and if it was 10% or more, they have a chance.  Each pro plays 9 holes with the group, and Meena Lee was the back nine pro.  I'll post pictures tomorrow.

According to the schedule, which can always change, I will be with Kelly Tan, Kathleen Ekey, and Xi Yu Lin at 8:30 tomorrow, and on Friday, at 1:05, on the Golf channel:  Christina Kim, who I've scored for before and is the most entertaining player on tour;  Mo Martin; and (drum roll) Natalie Gulbis.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Kingston Trio

We went to the Kingston Trio concert last night.  They weren't the originals, there have been many changes of Trio members over the years.  One of them had been a stand-in before the originals retired, and the others had been in the Limelighters and the New Christy Minstrels.  The only living member of the original trio, Bob Shane, was there, and came onto the stage with his guitar and oxygen tank, told some old corny jokes and sang two songs.  He introduced Tom Dooley:  "Two chords, three verses, three choruses, 25 million records.  Been looking for another one like that."

They played Tijuana Jail, Zombie Jamboree, Greenback Dollar, The MTA, Scotch and Soda, Turn Around, The Merry Minuet (an eerily timeless lyric, written in 1949), Early Morning Rain, and Where have all the Flowers Gone.

And one I hadn't heard before, A Much Better View of the Moon:

If I lose my jobI'll sleep till noon
If the news is bad, I'll watch cartoons; 
If my house burns down, I'll have lots more room, 
And a much better view of the moon.

There's a 2-hour PBS pledge drive show in the works for this year.