Breakfast with Mike at the Arctic Circle

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2012, 4:00 am

On the night before our last day of driving, as we sat at a picnic table on the edge of a gravel parking lot, enjoying some brats grilled in a frying pan and drinking wine as if we are in a fine restaurant, we made two promises.  The less monumental promise was to eat breakfast at the Arctic Circle. The more monumental was that we’d open Mike up.

Dawn breaks in Eagle Plains, Yukon in the same gorgeous manner it has for most of the trip – sunny and still like a day in the Caribbean.  When the sky is like this you can see as far as you wish, making one wonder if eyesight is limitless.  The horizon is clearly defined and even the smallest of nature’s wonders, the pebbles at your feet and the spider webs stuck in the eaves of the building pop out of the background. As for the temperature, it hovers around 50 degrees.  A tee-shirt and shorts are inappropriate.

Last night, Jim, Dan and I slept in the manner of Cub scouts bunked up in one room to save on the motel expense.  The proprietors aren’t shy.  They get what they can from the passersby, owning the lone oasis in 500 miles between Dawson and Inuvik.  We went to bed late, drinking cognac and Scotch in a lounge that looked as if Ruth Wilkinson decorated it, with a worn-out plaid carpet and a stuffed animal’s head tacked to the wall above an out-of-tune upright piano.  The location has wi-fi, but it doesn’t work all the time.  Patience, as would be the case in anyplace way out of the way, is one of the Yukon’s prized virtues.

Come the morning, Dan sees what it is in the way of food that he can scrounge up from the kitchen.  He manages to purchase six eggs, some potatoes, a slab of ham and a few links of sausage for $41 from the cook, who is busy preparing pancakes for truckers.  This being Canada, the bill comes close to $50 American.  We have fixins’ for toast in the RV and coffee. By 9:00 AM, after waiting 30 minutes for the crew to assemble, we’re on the Dempster again.

The Arctic Circle is designated by a circular wooden sign that Jim calls the Arctic Half-Circle.  The marquee proudly states Latitude 66 Degrees North.  There’s one picnic table in the parking lot and another down a short hill in the scrub bush behind it.  Armed with charcoal and lighter, Dan is worried we’ll start a forest fire.  The nearest forest is 250 miles away.  Ridiculous as this seems, he decides that the table down the hill is the one for us and falls on his ass in a heap trying to get there.

Failing the first attempt, we climb back up the hill and ignite our charcoals where the Arctic Half-Circle sign is.  Dan cleans out a wound on his hand with peroxide as the bricks turn from black to black with an edge of gray at the edges.  It’s not a bad wound, but it gives a chance to use the first-aid kit that we brought.  We’re so hungry and eager to get going again that we begin cooking sooner than we probably should.  Inuvik lies 10 hours ahead, maybe more.

I turn Mike’s urn over like an egg that is fried to the point that it’s ready to be eaten.  You must open the  box from the bottom.  Three Phillips-head screws hold the hexagonal base in place.  The screws turn easily.  Under the lid, there’s a pad of pristine white cotton – a wig of sorts – and beneath that, a plastic bag holding ashes.  I dip my finger into the light gray cremains and anoint my sun-tanned forehead as if it was Ash Wednesday.  It’s a Monday.

The ashes are silky and have the substance of flour.  There’s no odor.  We leave the urn open and watch as the wind whips the top of the opened bag.  All is still, except for the sound of the plastic moving against itself.  But the ashes stay put where they are.  Mike is happy.  The four of us take our places for breakfast, saying nothing.  Three of us eat as the fourth sits at the head of the table.

Dan takes charge of the mise en place.  He is a tireless worker, the kind of man that any woman would want to marry if handy fits her description of romance.  Jim and I attend to closing Mike up.  The screws are missing. I am certain I placed them on the table next to him, but all I find there instead is a dime.  The dime is Canadian, left there by some traveler before us, but I know that people like Cheri Allen and Leslie Johnson, who believe dimes that appear where you don’t expect them are signs from the dead, would think otherwise.  I place the dime in Mike’s ashes before sealing him back up.

Dan admits that he picked up the screws being afraid that we’d lose them.  Nevertheless, we apply duct tape to make Mike secure for the trip’s grand finale.  The day is sad in a lot of ways, not the least of which is that we know that our trek to the end of the road is near over.  A similar resignation is what Mike must have felt for his last 20 years.

Till Next Time,


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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.