Long time golf pro, Grover Bullin of the Wilson ( N.C.) Country Club, had a pat answer when asked about the weather: “If it rains it’ll be a dry rain.”
Part of joining the ever present “old geezers” golf group at any club is listening to tales of geezers past. Or passed. This one comes from STAR HILL down on our coast in North Carolina. It was “…told for the truth.”
Two “super seniors” played almost daily together. They rarely spoke. Both had senior health problems. One had narrowly escaped earlier cardiac failure.
The guys in the pro shop swore they made no comment about the steady rain as they paid up and headed to the tee.
One of the two recounted the scene later. After a few holes the two hit tee shots in opposite directions. As he approached his next shot the witness said he heard a harrowing sound from his playing partner. When turned he saw him clutch his chest and fall to the turf. The stricken player was barely audible, yet trying to speak. Putting his good ear close to victim’s mouth, the survivor swore he heard the final words: “You can have my rain check”.



Several earlier blog articles have their origins in observations of play at Wimbledon. THE CIRCLE STINGER ( 9 ) suggested how Nadal used a “stinger” that proved troublesome for Federer. THE NEXT LEVEL OF TENNIS ( 10 ) concludes that Djokovic’s super ability to hit deep balls in either corner made Nadal’s “stinger” less effective. MOVING ALONG (37) extols the virtues of the drop shot in big time men and women’s tennis. And the speculation that more and more great players will use “all four corners”, as well learning how to defend against drop-shots. Allow me to notice the accuracy of these contentions.
This year (2014) called on THE JOKER once again for an area of improvement. But first, go back with me to an early 1970’s clinic at the USTA’S Teacher/Coach held in conjunction with the U.S.OPEN TOURNAMENT. The clinic topic was a question: “Which is the more important shot for men’s singles at Wimbledon, serve or service return?” The two clinicians were Jack Kramer and Don Budge. High Cotten for tennis commentary. Long clinic short; both “legends” agreed, for several reasons the return was more important. CERTAIN VOLLEYS BEAR STRIKING RESEMBLANCES TO CERTAIN SERVICE RETURNS.
A all levels, most volleys are underspin. Common volley instruction advises one to “block the volley”, or to “punch” them. I prefer the term “touch and tighten”. Remember there are a variety of volleys (forehands, backhands. low ones differ from high ones, two overheads are most often hit out of the air, and the instinct, or “belly-button volley”, for examples). And they can vary in length.
There is an old baseball saying that applies here : “Never say never in baseball”. Still here are a couple of principles that apply to volleys : 1. The harder they hit it, the easier you swing”. 2. And while “an approach shot is an elongated volley”, some balls hit at you at the net allow for very little “swinging”, or “blocking”, or “punching”. Maybe one should just get it in the perfect “volley-spot” and touch it away from your opponent. I think good volleys are made with a little tightening in the hands.
Back to Wimbledon. In the semi-finals against Dimitrov, it seemed to me “THE JOKER” used a very similar touch and tighten technique while returning certain well hit serves. On many returns (at crucial times and very effectively) he concentrated on movement, more than stroking the ball. Having watched Novak play a lot, I felt that in this match he upped the percentage of “touch and tighten” service returns. That so, Novak?
CONCLUSION: “TOUCH AND TIGHTEN” works on certain well hit passing shots AND service returns. Good tool for your tennis bag.


looking for lizards (92)

With only one grandchild I don’t get as much time to comment, as some other grandparents.    Andre Parham lives in Boulder, Colorado.  His Father, Tee  Parham, hooked us up with SKYPE ( now FACETIME).   Andre thought we “”…lived in the box.”    They visit our beach home in  the summer mostly.   At age 5  Andre and I “skyped”  about his interest in golf.  Lots of golf plans for his summer visit.  I  cut down an old putter to meticulously fit a five year old beginner.  Golf pro, Harvey Penick,  advised starting young golfers “…from the cup back.”   As  I waited at the putting green for Andre,  I placed about a dozen balls in a circle, up close to the cup ( so he could “…experience immediate success”).   After helping him line up,  I watched him putt the first ball.  IN!    However he then spied an  inch worm near the next ball.  He put down the putter and watched “inchy” do his thing.    He asked if we could take the worm back with us?   Sure.  I picked up the “shag” balls and his putter, so we could “…take him back to the ocean with us.”

Dr. Jo Watts Williams, “MATRIARCH EMERITUS”,  Elon  University,  said kids today  (as always)  need time to “…look for lizards.”

Coach Ron Smarr and wife, Becky invited us to play golf in Georgetown, S.C.   The old municipal course (  Wedgefield Plantation ) is a treasure.   The endearing feature that attracted me was the tons of beautiful old LIVE OAKS trees.   My wife caught me staring at the trees,  trance-like:  “… what are you thinking?” she puzzled.  ” Tuddy ( Sterling, now) Webster and I  would have climbed everyone of these trees daily”.

I  don’t see kids climbing trees today.  Maybe TARZAN movies encouraged us to climb and yell.  Famous  Physcial Educator,  Jesse Feiring Williams,  said climbing was one of mankind’s natural activities.

Tuddy and I roamed the banks of  the recently befouled Dan River.  I never pass an empty grassy lot that I don’t speculate that it would be a good field for our pick-up football games.

Tuddy and I  aren’t climbing many trees now days.  He is struggling with health issues.   But we fell out of enough trees to toughen up.


” I loved you then,  and ever shall.  But there’s no one left to tell.  The world has gone black before my eyes.”


PS.  Otis Ritter was the best tree climber I EVER  witnessed.  By far.







Being a sports fan and a life-long North Carolinian, my induction into the N.C. Sports Hall of  Fame was a true “life-time high-light”.   My picture is next to Micahel Jordan.  I keep waiting for someone to ask me “…who is that guy next to you in the Hall of Fame?   Anyway it is cut, I am proud to be among these familiar legends,  some I happen to know.  One support that aided my selection was revealed later to me.   Senator Sandy Sands and his wife, Jenny, became FRIENDS  as “tennis parents”.  Our sons, Dan Parham, and Andy Sands, were in the same age group.  And among the best players.  They played often.   Senator  Sands, as a member of the NC Sports Hall of Fame selection committee, told that group this, about  of one of their matches.   Andy twisted his ankle pretty badly.  I had taped a zillion ankles, so we took some time out while I taped my son’s opponent.  I asked Dan recently if he remembered the match, or who won,  as I, frankly, had forgotten it.   Dan, too, had forgotten.  Thanks, Senator.  Those were fun days with your family.

Here are some of the legends  I grew up admiring:  “Choo Choo” Justice,  Dickie Hemric,  “Bones” McKinney, “Peahead” Walker, Jim Beatty, Dave Sime, “Meadowlark” Lemon, Arnold Palmer, Richard Petty,  Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Leon Brogden, David T. and MJ.  Sam Jones,  Jerry Richardson,  and other greats.

And some  I was fortunate to know:   Alan White, Jerry Steele, Dave Odom, Jack Jensen,  Dean  Smith, Charlie Adams, Mary Garber, Jack McKeon,  Jim Mills,  “Big House” Gaines, Walt Rabb, Dr. Leroy Walker, Lou Pucillo,  Terry Holland, Herb Appenzeller, Woody Durham, Danny Talbot… .  Some Wilson, N.C.  BROTHERS:   This year—the Godfather–Lee Gliarmis, and Carlester Crumpler, Bill Brooks, Tom and Bill Davis, Coach Harvey Reid.

Marshall Happer is to be inducted in May.  Great Choice.  Allen Morris, “BO” Roddey, Whit Cobb, and North Carolina’s TENNIS  MATRIARCH,  Mildred Southern, represent N.C. tennis’ great history.

Not everybody, but a gym full of the best.

The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in Raleigh, N.C. museum of sports treasure.  Visit it.  AND SUPPORT IT.
























My Wife, Margaret, was born in Ontario, Canada.    Kirkland Lake is about 5oo miles north of Detroit.   The fifth of six, she has three older brothers with the twins about a year older, then Jim who is less than a year older than the twins.   Jim lives in the Yukon.  He told me once he went there because “… survival is challenging  here.”  While the boys were tough youngsters, Margaret didn’t back off much, they told me.  And, in a letter we found written by her Mom, and describing each of her six, briefly says of her fifth one (Margaret, at age 4)  only that “… this one is a little rip.”

Margaret loves to travel.    Two weeks  ago she was in Tampa.  Easy trip.  Next was a trip to Detroit, leaving from Chapel Hill,  N.C.    As the “southern storm of the century” began developing and heading our way , we observed closely.

My Father, a Southern Baptist minister, responded succinctly when I told him my newly betrothed Margaret was “Catholic”: I’d rather you be Catholic than whatever it  is you have been!”   Ouch.  I did walk away with  some of it.   Beseech seems to be the best biblical word for begging.   As the storm gathered  I went from suggesting  (“that storm is big and really is headed our way”),  to  advising (” this one looks too strong to risk”) and finally to “beseeching” (“baby , please don’t go”).

Perhaps the wisest thing I have done in our marriage is to not try to harness this spirit.   Yet at this moment I pressed beyond the limit.   Her stated response was something like  “I can do this.  I’ll be careful.  Someone really needs  help now”.   The upshot of that really meant “go back and sit in your chair, I’m on my way”.  Chapel Hill from our home is about three hours.  Six hours after leaving she made it.  And  she is home safely.

I thought about the bus that couldn’t get Duke to Chapel Hill…Margaret could have driven that bus.  I guess that says it all:  Duke vs Carolina cancelled.  Margaret didn’t.

And to think, they gave me awards.

Valentines Day, 2014.  “…my gift is my song, and this one’s for you”.   Elton John



My Mom was a Phillips from Onslow county, N.C.   The government “condemmed”  their land and that of a lot of other people, to build Camp Lejeune—the Marine base.  Somehow Mom never thought much of government after that.  She had five siblings, four sisters and only one brother, my “Uncle Lindsey”.  Lindsey was not only naturally hilarious, he often enhanced that quality with substances, i.e., RWL (or RUN, WALK, THEN LAY DOWN LIKKER).

I was recently reminded of Lindsey’s humour.  Golfer friends were talking about a fellow player who had just endured multiple and complicated back surgeries.  Friends said the patient said the drugs had caused him all kinds of weird dreams and he had seen”…dead friends, his parents, multiple scenes from days gone bye”, etc.  My cousin and Lindsey’s  son, Henry Phillips, told a similar story on his Dad.  Having complications after major surgery, Lindsey was strictly prohibited from any drugs or alcohol.   Henry asked his Dad  how things were, since they had taken  drugs and booze from him?   Lindsey’s reply:   ALL THE GUESTS HAVE GONE.