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El Paso Golf

Originally published August 9, 2012

All my articles on the BeyeNETWORK are about technology. But every now and then my mind wanders.

I grew up in El Paso, Texas. When I was 10, someone put a golf club in my hands and it was love at first sight from that moment until now.
Growing up a golfer in El Paso is not quite like growing up a golfer anywhere else. El Paso is hot and dry, just north of the Great Chihuahua desert. Among other things, grass does not grow easily in El Paso.

The local course I grew up playing was called Ascarate. It is still there. It has been years since I have been down to Ascarate, but when I played there it cost 75 cents for all the golf you could play in a day.

Ascarate was immediately adjacent to a dike that was next to the Rio Grande. Immediately on the other side of the dike and the river was Mexico. On a really windy day if you sliced badly enough, you could actually hit a ball into Mexico.

The interesting thing about Ascarate was that grass was a precious commodity. We had a local rule – if you were in the fairway, you could put your ball on grass (if you could find any). Some fairways were just plainly bald, and on those fairways you were out of luck.
In addition on the greens, if there was a mud spot or a bald spot between you and the hole, you could move your ball so that it didn’t have to travel on mud or dirt.

On occasions they would water the green. When you tried to hit a putt through mud, your ball would start to pick the mud up as it rolled. After your ball completed a few rotations, it had a brown stripe on it. In addition, when you putt your ball through mud, it really slows your ball. Trying to judge your speed when your ball was travelling through mud was almost impossible to do.

Moving your ball to grass when you were in the fairway and moving your ball on the green so that you didn’t have to putt through mud was simply a fact of life. That was Ascarate.

Imagine my surprise when I went away to college and started to play golf there. I will never forget the time when I picked by ball up (it was in the fairway) and moved it about ten feet. My opponent nearly choked. It was then I found out about a whole new set of rules for golf. I really thought that as long as you were in the fairway, anything goes (as it did in El Paso).

One of the interesting shots we learned in El Paso was hitting off of what is called hardpan. Hardpan is the dry earth that results when all the sand has been swept away by the wind. Your ball just sits there on hard earth. What is interesting is that hitting off of hardpan is actually easy. You can get really good backspin if you hit the ball just right.

Speaking of hardpan, we used to hunt it all over the course. Once your ball starts to roll on hardpan, it just doesn’t stop. In the right circumstance, we could hit a ball Tigeresque distances if we judged the hardpan correctly.

I shall never forget the day that I played a 540-yard, par five that doglegged left. Outside the dogleg was hardpan. The best shot for that hole was to hit is as hard as you could into the rough and pray for a good bounce. On one such day, I had a driver and a chip shot to get on the par five – all because of the hardpan.

But the hardpan could be your enemy as well as your friend. On other days, I would hit the same shot and end up 200 yards in the rough when my ball didn’t bounce correctly.

In the time that I was playing in El Paso, there was a young pro that no one could beat. They even brought Raymond Floyd off the tour to try to teach this young pro some manners. But even Ray Floyd could not beat him.

I played with the pro one May, and he (cheerfully) beat me, as usual. But he was always fun to play with, and he was a nice guy. Imagine my shock when three weeks later he won the U.S. Open, beating Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. His name was Lee Trevino, and he went on to win four more major championships.

But I shall never forget that he was as content playing me – a local high school golfer – as he was playing the PGA tour.

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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