Guest Guru: Jason Sobel
Just a couple of years ago, Jason was a golf scribe for ESPN.com with a quirky style and an innovative “live” blog. Who would have thought golf would lend itself to realtime social media? Well apparently Jason did – and a passionate, boisterous following developed. His fans were even doing crazy things like creating theme songs for him.
Flash forward to the present, and Jason’s current life as a Senior Writer and on-air personality for The Golf Channel. 44,532 twitter followers (and seemingly growing by the minute). Regular appearances on “Morning Drive,” “Golf Central,” and “Grey Goose 19th Hole”. And perhaps the highest “Q” rating of any golf writer on Tour. The quirkiness, however, remains…and that’s why we love the guy.
We won’t take a stab at producing a new theme song for the omnipresent Long Island (Islip) native – but since he’s paid to talk about the games of others, we were interested in hearing about his. Jason played one year of college golf at Brandeis, and it seems like he’s still got it. As you’ll also learn, he’s a bit superstitious on the course, once had two birdies in one hole (it’s possible – read), and cannot understand why Kelly Tilghman keeps ducking him.
Join the wave and follow Jason on Twitter (who am I kidding? You probably do already): @jasonsobelgc.
GOLF QUESTIONS FOR JASON SOBEL
SOMETHING I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD SEE COVERING GOLF… “I’ve covered Super Bowls, World Series and more major championships than I can count on my fingers and toes, but one of the most lasting images of my career took place on a summer morning in Connecticut three years ago. My job for the day was to pick up Arnold Palmer at the airport, shadow him for the day and write about it. (Yeah, I know. Tough gig, huh?) So I was waiting that morning on the tarmac and this Citation 10 with the famous umbrella logo on the tail comes drifting down and stops with a perfect landing. In the pilot’s seat was Mr. Palmer, who walked down the steps, waved and introduced himself. An iconic legend at his coolest, just two weeks before his 80th birthday – and I was the entire audience. That’s something they don’t prepare you for in college journalism classes.”
IF I COULD DESCRIBE MY GAME IN ONE WORD, IT WOULD BE… “Fleeting. I actually spent some time on this one. It has two meanings. One is ‘vanishing quickly’; the other is ‘to move swiftly.’ That pretty much sums up my game. It comes and goes like everyone else’s. Unlike everyone else’s, though, at least I get the pain over in a hurry. I played nine holes at my home club recently in 38 minutes. Granted, I took a cart and may have run over a sleepy alligator, but I didn’t dawdle. Never do.”
WE NEED TO SEE MORE ______ IN THE SPORT OF GOLF “Positivity. Everywhere I turn these days, someone is complaining about anchored putters or courses becoming obsolete or even the general yet absolute decline of golf. Maybe it’s just the way our society is wired these days, but if we collectively took all of the time spent complaining and instead put it toward thinking of creative ways to better the game, we’d all be a lot better off in the long run. Of course, that can probably be said for more important matters like politics, but hey, you ask a myopic question, you get a myopic answer.”
IF I COULD PLAY ONE ROUND WITH A PGA TOUR PLAYER, IT WOULD BE… “I cover the PGA Tour full-time and I’ve never been one to get too starstruck anyway – my earlier Arnold Palmer story notwithstanding – so the conventional answer of Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy doesn’t appeal much to me. There are some players I’ve become pretty friendly with on Tour, so maybe I’d pick one of those guys. But really, I like winning – and I know I can’t beat any of ‘em. I’ve actually been trading messages lately with an older, injured player who doesn’t hit it too far. I won’t say his name because I don’t want to give him any bulletin board fodder, but if he gives me enough strokes, I feel like I can take him. And this isn’t some nobody. You’ve heard of him. He’s won some big tournaments. We’re scheduling a round soon, so if I do in fact win our match, I’ll release his name. If not, forget I said anything.”
IF I COULD PLAY ONE ROUND OF GOLF WITH A CELEBRITY, IT WOULD BE… “I once played in a tournament behind Charles Barkley. Afterward, I met up with him in the parking lot and asked a question about Tiger Woods for a feature I was writing. While we chatted, kids were asking for autographs and he would sign for each one, then give ‘em a club. He kept doing this until all 14 were gone. Apparently he enjoys traveling light. That didn’t really answer the question, but I figure I can take Barkley on the course. Especially if he doesn’t have any golf clubs.”
IF I COULD PLAY ONE ROUND OF GOLF WITH A MEMBER OF THE GOLF CHANNEL, IT WOULD BE… “I’m going to be absolutely, completely, 100 percent honest here: When I came to Golf Channel last year after 14 years with ESPN, the people here could not have been any nicer to me. Such a cool working environment. And yet, nobody will play golf with me. OK, that’s not completely true. Some of ‘em will. But many won’t. Kelly Tilghman just happens to be one of my favorite people in the world. Dry, acerbic wit. Always has a smile on her face. And she’s a former pro, so you know she’d crush me on the course. So why won’t she tee it up with me? I don’t get it. She’s always ‘working’ or ‘on TV’ or ‘going to a tournament.’ Think she’s just blowing me off? I’m only going to ask her, like, 10 more times. OK, 15, tops.”
CRAZIEST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO ME ON A GOLF COURSE: “It was the afternoon of August 13, 2007 at Gillette Ridge Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer design in Bloomfield, Conn., and I was playing with my buddy Matt. We get to the 13th hole, which is a short par-4. I hit a low, piercing 3-wood off the tee. Tiger Woods would call it a stinger; I’d call it about a millimeter away from topping the ball. Anyway, there was a bird just about to settle down in the middle of the fairway and – BOOM! Feathers everywhere. We got there and it wasn’t moving at all. I felt awful. Matt and I used a couple of long irons like salad tongs and moved him to a nearby bush. I then hit a little flip wedge to about two feet and sank the putt for – that’s right – two birdies on one hole. Not sure whether I felt worse for killing the bird or using that pun. Maybe both.”
MY 150-YARD CLUB… “If there’s a little wind at my back, it’s definitely a 9-iron. I’d probably play it back in my stance with an overlapping grip. But with a left-to-right crosswind, it’s an 8-iron, played off my front foot with an interlocking grip. Wind coming at me? It’s a cut 7-iron. Big breeze behind me? Hard, high draw with a pitching wedge. And if I’m really playing badly – I mean, as badly as I can possibly play – it could be a three-quarter punched 6-iron that’s meant to land short and run its way toward the cup. So… long story short, I’ve got issues.”
THE GOLF COURSE THAT HAS THE MOST MEMORIES FOR ME… “Six years ago, I covered the U.S. Women’s Open at venerable Newport Country Club in Newport, R.I. Due to some weather issues that included extremely foggy conditions, both the third and fourth rounds were being played on Sunday. I arrived at the site around 7 a.m. that morning, in foggier condition than the course. I sat down in an empty shuttle bus to take me from the parking lot to the front gates and within a few minutes, a man sat down beside me and started talking. Him: ‘So, should be a great day of golf, huh?’ Me: ‘I guess.’ Him: ‘Sure is a great leaderboard, isn’t it?’ Me: ‘I suppose.’ Him: ‘What brings you here?’ Me: ‘I write.’ I swear I’m not a complete jerk. I was just really… foggy. He continued: ‘Well, I’m a member here, so if you’d ever like to play, just let me know!’ Me: ‘Hey! It’s great to meet you!!!’ The man was Turner Scott, a local attorney, and we became fast friends. Later that year, I returned to Newport with a buddy and we had a fun match on the course. It became an annual trip and we forged some terrific memories there. I always say that Augusta National and Pebble Beach are 1A and 1B on my hitlist of favorite courses I’ve played, but Newport isn’t very far behind.”
MY FAVORITE GOLF COURSE IN THE TRI-STATE AREA… “I’d be remiss if the first course I mentioned wasn’t Tower Ridge Country Club in Simsbury, Conn., which was my home course for a decade when I lived there. The entire place is built into the side of a mountain. It wasn’t until I moved down to Florida that I realized golf isn’t supposed to be played with one foot about 18 inches above the other on every single shot. I grew up about 20 minutes from Bethpage Black and I’ve really enjoyed covering two U.S. Opens and a Barclays in my old stomping grounds. But I never play there when I go back home to visit. That’s because if I’m there, I’m pegging it with my parents, who play most of their golf at a track called Brentwood Country Club. Maxing out at 6,173 yards from the tips and with no bunker rakes because the local kids were using ‘em to beat each other, you’ll often be serenaded by the sweet sounds of guys racing ATVs down the fairway. And yet, I still love the place. Or maybe I just love playing with my parents, who can each make Kevin Na look like he’s in a hurry. Nah, that can’t be it. Gotta be the course.”
THE HARDEST SHOT FOR ME TO HIT ON A GOLF COURSE… “Seriously? The hardest shot? Well, let’s start with a 300-yard drive, work our way down to a two-foot par putt and include everything in between. They’re all hard. And you know what? They’re all reading this, too. You know who I mean. The golf gods. If I say a knockdown 6-iron into the wind is my bread-and-butter shot, I guarantee the next time I’m faced with that scenario, the golf gods will rip the ball from my clubface and shoot it in all kinds of precarious positions. So I’m not going there. Not going to tempt the fates. They’re all hard shots for me. Damned near impossible, really. I’m just hoping to keep the gods on my side. ”