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Archive for August, 2018

The inattention being paid to production of The Star’s print edition is really starting to piss me off.

You might remember a few years ago when speculation was rife that the Kansas City Aviation Department was intentionally cutting back on maintenance of KCI in order to convince people of the need for a new terminal.

I never did put any stock in that — the city’s maintenance of everything under its 300-plus-square-mile purview is always in flux — but now I’m beginning to wonder if The Star is letting the print edition slide as part of its and parent company McClatchy’s big push to switch readers from print to digital.

More and more, the print edition — for which The Star’s asking price is $60 to $70 a month — consists of column after column of black type, with relatively few photos, graphics, quote boxes and other visual elements that would make it much more appealing.

But that’s not the worst part. More stories with big holes are popping up. I mean figurative holes that leave you scratching your head and wondering why the stories don’t make sense.

I’ll give you two examples.

Example No. 1: A few days ago — I believe it was Monday but I’ve recycled the paper — medical affairs reporter Andy Marso had a front-page story saying an auditing firm had discovered that nearly 70 percent of the patients whom Truman Medical Center officials had deemed eligible for help with their bills by the city were, in fact, not eligible.

The subsidies come from a city health levy that generates about $50 million a year. Marso did not estimate how much money the ineligible payments was costing taxpayers, but my guess is it could easily be several million dollars.

I wasn’t far into the story when it began alluding to someone named Walsh, who clearly was the primary source of information.

However, the story was missing a “first reference” to Walsh, that is, Walsh’s full name and title.

Paragraph after paragraph cited information provided by “Walsh,” but the reader never learned the full name or title.

Naturally, the story left me frustrated, so I went to kansascity.com and looked up the story to see how the online version compared.

As I expected, the online version contained the first reference very high in the story. The mystery source turned out to be Elizabeth Walsh, a Kansas City Health Department statistician.

Walsh was so important to the story that the online version also had a photo of her.

Elizabeth Walsh, mystery source (Photo by Andy Marso, KC Star)

Now that photo would have really helped the print-edition story, but I would have settled for a simple line saying, “Elizabeth Walsh, a statistician for the Kansas City Health Department.”

…What probably happened, I can tell you from experience, was an editor inadvertently cut the first reference in an attempt to make the story fit into the designated news hole. It was the worst possible cut and had the effect of making a muddle of the story.

Example No. 2: A story on Page 4A of yesterday’s paper ran under the headline, “Man stole KCPD car, drove wrong way.”

Well, you don’t have people stealing police cars every day, so that piqued my interest.

The writer was longtime police reporter Glenn E. Rice, who, like Marso, is a very able reporter.  Rice recounted how 30-year-old Keith A. Conner of Kansas city stole a cop car and took police on a 15-minute chase on the west side of downtown and then into Kansas City, KS. At one point, he was driving the wrong way on Interstate 35.

Naturally, I was very curious as to how the chase ended and where.

Alas, I and other readers of the print edition were not to find out.

Here are the last two paragraphs of that story on Page 4A:

Conner eventually drove west toward Avenida Cesar E. Chavez, where he allegedly ignored a stop sign and continued into Kansas City, Kan. Other law enforcement, including the Kansas Highway Patrol and Kansas City, Kan. Police Department, joined the chase.

Authorities estimated that the chase caused nearly $6,000 in damages to the patrol car.

Now, the story started out naming the driver (Keith Conner) and saying he was facing criminal charges. So, how was he apprehended? And where?

Again, I had to go to the online version. What I found was that two paragraphs near the end of the story had been cut.

Here are the two pivotal paragraphs print-edition readers didn’t see:

Police said Conner drove through a barricade at S. 18th Street Expressway and Kansas Avenue and continued for about half of a mile before crashing into a guard rail.

He jumped out of the car and ran. Police arrested him after a short chase.

**

The foot chase might have been short, but for readers of The Star’s print edition, the chase never ended.

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In the latest Country Club Christian Church newsletter, our senior pastor, Rev. Carla Aday, relates a startling and unsettling experience with Catholicism.

Listen to what she wrote in this piece dated Aug. 23:

I’m at St Benedict’s Monastery in Colorado. I longed to visit here for 32 years. When I heard Father Thomas Keating, the abbot, present a guest lecture in graduate school, I was mesmerized by his passionate approach to prayer and contemplation. Nestled in a wide valley surrounded by mountains, the monastery stretches the heart to inhale God’s boundless beauty.

Posted on the doorway into the chapel is a small notice that says, “The bishop of Denver wants us to remind you…the bread and wine are only to be served to the Catholics.” As I listen to the monks in white robes sing the glorious liturgy, I meditate. And then my mind wanders back to that little sign. Somehow I am not worthy of the feast. My Protestant spirituality is not good enough. I remind myself that no church is perfect. But still I wonder, do they know I am a minister? And who gives them the right to separate me from God’s holiest of gifts?

After the service, a monk greets me kindly. I want him to say, “It’s ok if you want to take communion…we have to post that sign but truly, you are invited, you are welcome, you belong.” But he doesn’t. Maybe he thinks I am too much of a sinner. Or not even a Christian. And so I leave, feeling like an outsider.

Rev. Carla Aday

I think you’ll agree with me that the humble and unemotional way Rev. Aday describes her experience accentuates how repulsive it is.

It was like a smack in the face to me, too, even though I was a Catholic for about six decades and have experienced similar instances of exclusivity in Catholic churches, such as priests telling those assembled at funeral Masses that non-Catholics are “welcome to come forward for a blessing” at communion time.

Here’s the issue: What in the world makes Catholic church leaders — like the bishop of Denver, former Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn and former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick — think that what they’ve got is so special that only card-holding members of “the club” can participate in all club-related events?

Continuing the question…

…especially at a time when the church continues to be exposed as being led primarily by a bunch of blowhard men who have covered up sexual abuse by priests (and in some cases themselves) for decades?

**

In recent weeks, the Catholic church has been dragged down into a new, deep round of turmoil over sex abuse of children and seminarians. First there was the grand jury report out of Pennsylvania that said bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in several dioceses in that state covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years. (More than 1,000 victims were identified.)

Then yesterday, before Pope Francis returned to the Vatican from a trip to Ireland, a former top Vatican diplomat claimed that the pope himself was guilty of covering up McCarrick’s abuses.

Archbishop Vigano

The former top Vatican diplomat in the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, alleged in a letter that he had personally told Pope Francis about McCarrick’s history of abuse in 2013. Writing in The New York Times, reporter Jason Horowitz said Vigano’s claim “seemed timed to do more than simply derail Francis’ uphill efforts to win back the Irish faithful, who have turned away from the church in large numbers.

“Its unsubstantiated allegations and personal attacks amounted to an extraordinary public declaration of war against Francis’ papacy at perhaps its most vulnerable moment, intended to unseat a pope whose predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years.”

Back in Rome, the pope refused to address the controversy.

**

The juxtaposition of Rev. Aday’s experience and the new sex-abuse-coverup allegations is striking because it amplifies the church’s head-in-the-sand insularity in ways both large and small. While Pope Francis beats his breast, asking the Irish to forgive the church’s misdeeds, the church as an entity maintains strict barriers between itself and what it views as unenlightened outsiders…like Pastor Aday.

That sign. “The bread and wine are only to be served to the Catholics.”

God, it is galling!

It must be galling to God, too.

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Like a sunset, The Kansas City Star’s circulation continues to disappear on the horizon.

Between June 30, 2017, and June 30, 2018, home delivery of the Sunday Star fell by nearly 13 percent, from 92,247 copies to 80,444 copies.

During the same period, home delivery of the Monday-Friday Star dropped by slightly more than 16 percent, from 74,660 to 62,470.

In addition, the much-touted — and highly hoped for — transition from print to digital wheezes along, with The Star reporting slightly less than 7,700 stand-alone, digital subscriptions.

The Star, along with almost all other U.S. papers, reports its circulation data to the Alliance for Audited Media, an industry trade group that publishes quarterly circulation reports.

Meanwhile, The Star’s owner, McClatchy Co., continues to flag, with second quarter revenue down more than 9 percent from a year earlier, including a decline of nearly 15 percent in advertising revenue. The company also remains buried in more than $700 million in debt, dating to its ill-timed purchase of the KnightRidder chain in 2006.

But let’s get back to those raw home-delivery numbers…We’re talking about 80,000 Sunday subscribers. As recently as 10 years ago, home delivery of the Sunday Star was in the 300,000 range. That’s what you call a nosedive.

McClatchy executives keep talking about the company’s “digital transformation,” but I don’t see significant evidence of one.

Company wide, McClatchy reported 122,400 digital subscribers. With either 29 or 30 daily papers, that’s about 4,200 per paper…I don’t know how Craig Forman, McClatchy’s president and CEO, can look at that number and say, as he did in a recent earnings-report statement, “We continue to be excited about our digital future and to invest in the growth engines of our business.”

I’ll bet if you asked every remaining editorial employee at 1601 McGee (1729 Grand is in the rearview mirror) for their assessment of The Star’s future, not one would say he or she was “excited.”

**

On the positive side, The Star announced on its website today the introduction of a sports-only digital subscription. The cost is $30 a year, which amounts to a very reasonable $2.50 a month.

That sounds like something that could be a big seller. And this is the right time to introduce it, with the start of the regular NFL season just around the corner.

The down side of it (leave it to me to find one, eh?) is that more and more moms are not letting their sons play football because of the high incidence of long-term brain injury. Because of that and increasing, general acknowledgment of the sport’s toll on the body and brain, football will probably give way to soccer as the nation’s most popular participatory and spectator sport in the coming years.

…Just yesterday, ESPN reported that former NFL offensive lineman Richie Incognito was arrested Monday in Scottsdale, Arizona, on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and making threats at a funeral home where his father’s body was being held. Police were called after Incognito told an employee he had a “truck full of guns” in the parking lot. (He did.) Incognito has a history of erratic and volatile behavior and very likely suffers from football-related brain injury. Some of these former players are not only a threat to themselves but to others as well.

**

Ryan

One more less-than-cheery note: At least one more KC Star editorial staff member has been discharged. Kelsey Ryan, who was hired 18 months ago as an investigative reporter, said on the Kansas City Star bylines Facebook page she had been laid off and was looking for work.

I have no inside information on why she was let go, but I can tell you it’s unusual for a relatively recent hire to be laid off. Most of those who have been laid off over the years have been long-term employees with significant salaries. And those that were replaced were supplanted by younger, lower-paid employees, like Ryan.

Ryan’s layoff comes on the heels of the departure a few weeks ago of Op-Ed columnist Mary Sanchez. That one took a lot of people by surprise, including former Star music critic Paul Horsley. On the “bylines” Facebook page, Horsely seemed to disbelieve my report that Sanchez was out.

He wrote, “Can anyone confirm this from the “inside”?

His question was met with silence. Inside, they’re shakin’, not talkin.’

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A few years ago, a good friend of ours — a woman we’ll call Suzanne because that’s her name — used to read my posts regularly. Occasionally, however, she’d urge me to write “more positive things.”

I told her I did write positive things and that I thought I struck a pretty good balance. It wasn’t good enough for her, though, and when we were together one time a year or so ago, she somberly said to me, “Jim, I stopped reading your blog; you’re too negative.”

Well, that hurt — it always hurts to lose a reader — but I powered on, continuing to write what I still consider a fairly good balance of negative and positive reports.

And that brings me to today, which marks a seminal occasion in the eight-plus-year history of JimmyCSays:

This is my 1,000th post. It all started March 23, 2010, with my “cub blogger rollout” column.

Number 999, about the random killers loose in Nashville, was decidedly negative, but it took a good turn yesterday when Nashville police arrested one suspect at a residence and another turned himself in.

Today’s post falls in the “all-positive” category because it’s about an acclaimed hamburger restaurant, Shake Shack, that is opening in Kansas City early next month.

Shake Shack got a lot of publicity when the announcement came early this year one would be opening in the former Talbots location at 47th and Central. I drove by the location recently and noticed that significant progress had been made.

Then, yesterday, on the way to Country Club Bank to cash a check, I did a double take when I drove by the location again and saw that the sign was up and a couple of guys were wiring the sign for lighting. I parked in an alley off Central and went back to get a photo. I struck up a conversation with one of the workers, who said, “Come by tonight and take another picture; it’ll be all lighted up.”

On the way back to the car, I saw that a space immediately north of the restaurant has been converted to a job-application site for Shake Shack. I stuck my head inside and saw a couple of people filling out applications and a couple of other people who must have been with Shake Shack’s human resources department.

“When is it going to open?” I asked.

“Sept. 6,” came the answer.

…This is exciting. A local website called Feast wrote temptingly about Shake Shake in February:

These are fast food burgers, yes, but ones made with vegetarian-fed, hormone-free Angus beef. The crinkle fries have no artificial ingredients, the frozen custard has no corn syrup, and beer and wine are served. Shake Shack’s workers make $2 or more an hour above minimum wage and can qualify for monthly bonuses. And as with their other stores, Shake Shack pledges to build its store using recycled and reclaimed materials. In the case of this new KC store, its tables will be made with lumber from old bowling alley lanes. So yes, it may just be fast food, but it’s fast food that you can feel (a little) better about eating. It helps that the food lives up the hype.

Shake Shack has several other sandwiches besides hamburgers, and Feast said the frozen custard at the Plaza location “will be developed in collaboration with a local partner.” I’m curious to see which local frozen-custard operation will be involved.

**

According to the Shake Shack website, the chain “sprouted from a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park in Manhattan to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation. The cart was quite the success, with Shack fans lined up daily for three summers. In 2004, a permanent kiosk opened in the park: Shake Shack was born.”

Now Shake Shack has more than 90 locations in the U.S. and about 19 abroad. A Shake Shack opened last December in the Central West End district of St. Louis.

Danny Meyer

That was fitting because Shake Shake’s founder, 60-year-old Danny Meyer, was born and raised in St. Louis. According to Wikipedia, Meyer graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, with a degree in political science. He took a fling into politics in 1980, working as Cook County (Chicago) field director for John Anderson’s independent presidential campaign. (Personal note: I attended a wedding reception in Chicago’s 74-story Water Tower Place about the time Anderson ran for president, and Anderson was one of the guests.)

Meyer got his first restaurant experience in 1984 as an assistant manager at Pesca, an Itialian seafood restaurant in the Flatiron District of New York City. After studying cooking at Italy and France, he opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in New York in 1985. In addition to Union Square Cafe and Shake Shack, Meyer has several other restaurants, all of which operate under the corporate umbrella of Union Square Hospitality Group, of which Meyer is chief executive.

Today, then, we celebrate the positive. For myself, I’m thrilled to be publishing my 1,000th post. And for Kansas City, I’m thrilled we’re getting a Shake Shack…I don’t have much reason to go to the Plaza any more, but I’ll be down there Sept. 6.

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Nothing makes people feel quite as helpless, and nothing unnerves a city quite like a random shooter or shooters — one or more people who target others seemingly for the hell of it when they are unlucky enough to enter into the assailants’ demonic sphere.

Scott

We’ve seen it happen in Kansas City a couple of times in recent years. Last year, a young man named Freddie Scott, now 23, terrorized the south part of Kansas City for six months when he randomly shot and killed several people in the Indian Creek area. He was caught after he came up behind a man and shot him in the back of the head on 67th Street, just off Troost Avenue.

“They didn’t see it coming,” Scott said under his breath while being questioned by detectives. He’s now charged with six counts of first-degree murder.

(His attorney, whom I know, says, with all sincerity, “He’s a nice guy.” Of course, she sees and visits him in a safe setting, the Jackson County jail.)

Whitaker

In the spring of  2014 we had “the highway shooter,” a man named Mohammed Whitaker, who shot at several people as the were driving in the Three Trails Crossing Area, also in south Kansas City. Fortunately, police nabbed him before anyone died. Whitaker, now 32, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The most infamous random killers in the last 20 years were the Washington D.C. “Beltway snipers,”  John Allen Muhammad, 41 at the time, and Lee Boyd Malvo, 17 at the time.

Living out of their car, they pulled off a series of coordinated shootings that occurred during three weeks in October 2002 in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. They killed 10 people and injured three other critically, mostly along I-95 in Virginia. Their terrorizing run came to an end at 3:15 a.m. Oct. 24, 2002, when officers found them sleeping in their car at an I-70 rest stop in Maryland.

…Now, regrettably, it’s Nashville that has had its sense of communal security shaken to the core.

In the last 10 days, a woman has been shot and paralyzed; two young men and a young woman have been gunned down and killed in robberies; and a young man was beaten by two men who attempted to rob him. The incidents have occurred in East Nashville and the suburb of Madison.

Police are feverishly looking for two black men, one of whom has shoulder-length dreadlocks, as well as a small, dark Chevy the men are believed to have been driving.

The first incident occurred around 12:30 a.m. Aug. 8 when a 39-year-old woman was walking her dos near her home when she saw a dark-colored sedan drive by her and circle back and come by again. After she told the men to leave, they shot her in the lower back. She managed to call 911 but is paralyzed.

On Tuesday morning, about 5 a.m., Kendall Rice, 31, was walking to a bus stop, on his way to work, when a dark-colored sedan drove up behind him and two men inside shot him with a rifle. His personal belongings were missing when police found him. A few minutes earlier, a man reported that two men armed with a rifle assaulted him and tried to rob him outside an apartment complex.

The latest incident occurred about 3:30 a.m. Friday in a parking lot outside a bar called The Cobra. Jaime Sarrantonio, 30, and Bartley Teal, 33, both of Nashville, had gone to a nearby convenience store for snacks. After walking back to The Cobra’s parking lot, two men in a dark-colored sedan pulled up and got out of the car to rob them. The assailants shot and killed Sarrantonio and Teal but spared the lives of a 34-year-old man and 32-year-old woman who were with the two victims. the victims’ belongings were later found in a North Nashville alley.

Sarrantonio

 

Teal

Rice

On Friday, a Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman said, “Officers throughout the city are on the lookout for two cold-blooded killers who obviously have no respect for the sanctity of human life.”

Today, the spokesman said police had active leads in the homicide cases. Meanwhile, The Cobra was closed to the public tonight because it was hosting a private gathering for friends and family members of Sarrantonio and Teal.

What a tragedy, and what a senseless series of events. Once again, in our country, friends and relatives of innocent victims are hurting, angry and frustrated, and residents of a major city are taking cover and hoping the latest round of madness will soon end.

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Now that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has edged out Gov. Jeff Colyer for the Republican nomination for governor, I am becoming increasingly convinced that Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly is going to be the next governor.

As loathsome as Kobach is, it’s important for those of us who ache for a resounding shake-up in Kansas government to take the longer view. Kelly, a state senator the last 13 years, strikes me as a latter-day Kathleen Sebelius, that is, a moderate Democrat who understands government and makes sense.

Laura Kelly

Kelly, 68, has a much better chance of defeating Kobach than she did Colyer, who is more moderate than Kobach but does not strike me as willing or able to lift Kansas out of the quicksand.

Keep in mind it was Colyer — not former Gov. Sam Brownback — who led the effort to privatize Medicaid, birthing the certifiable disaster known as KanCare.

Of course, even if she wins, Kelly would be stuck with a Republican-dominated Legislature, but at least she would project a much more professional image for Kansas nationally, and she would be able to make some improvements through regulatory changes.

Kelly has a wealth of life and political experience. She was born in New York City and comes from a Republican military family. She studied at Bradley University in Peoria, IL, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology. She went on to get a master’s of science degree in therapeutic recreation at Indiana University.

She moved to Salina in the mid-1980s and is married to a physician, Ted Daughety. They have two grown daughters and live in Topeka.

From 1988 to 2004, Kelly served as executive director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association, a non-profit that represents myriad agencies with the aim of “improving the quality of life in Kansas by providing high quality park and recreation services.”

In her 2004 state Senate race, Kelly prevailed by just 98 votes. She credited her victory to campaigning throughout her district in Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties, including rural areas.

As a senator, her successes include advocating for the establishment and funding of Early Childhood Development Block Grants, which she says have prepared thousands of Kansas children for kindergarten. Last fall, her prodding contributed to the revelation that more than 70 children were missing from the state’s foster care system. That bombshell led to the ouster of Phyllis Gilmore as leader of the woebegone Department for Children and Families (DCF).

In a July 15 profile of Kelly, Wichita Eagle reporter Jonathan Shorman said Kelly has become one of the most prominent Democratic lawmakers in Topeka, serving as the highest-ranking Democrat on two budget committees and a health and welfare committee. Her status, Shorman wrote, “puts her squarely in the middle of discussions over spending and social services, such as Medicaid.”

Kelly is hoping to become the third woman to serve as Kansas governor, after Joan Finney and, of course, Sebelius.

Kelly and Sebelius are good friends, having met after Kelly moved to Topeka. They were neighbors for years, and Sebelius encouraged Kelly to enter the governor’s race and has endorsed her.

**

From arm’s length, Kelly looks like a substantive, no-nonsense politician who doesn’t shrink from hard work and has Kansans’ best interests at heart.

I’m certainly no expert on Kansas politics, but I would expect Kelly to win handily in Johnson, Shawnee (Topeka), Sedgwick (Wichita) and Douglas (Lawrence) counties and do well enough in the rural areas to prevail.

I know Kobach has deep support in the reddest, most regressive, parts of the state, but I can’t believe — just can’t believe — a majority of Kansas voters will make Kris Kobach the state’s next governor.

Show Me, Kansans, you aren’t that dumb.

**

Here’s a link to Kelly’s campaign website.

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It’s always fun to get away for a couple of days, and over the weekend I headed over to St. Louis for the 100th annual PGA Golf Championship.

The PGA Championship is one of the four major tournaments on the tour, with the others being the Masters Golf Tournament, the U.S. Open and the British Open. (The Brits call theirs simply The Open, implying it’s the one, true open.)

The Masters, of course, is always played at Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, GA. The British Open moves from course to course in the U.K., and the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship move around from place to place in the states.

Having one of the latter two tournaments come to a golf course in the Midwest is unusual.

The tournament was played at Bellerive Country Club, which was carved out of prime farm land in the late 1950s and opened in 1960. This was the third major championship the club has hosted. Previously, it hosted the 1965 U.S. Open and the 1992 PGA Championship.

Even though I had been thinking about going to the PGA tournament for two or three months, I didn’t take any action toward getting tickets until last week. Then, when I went to the tournament website, I discovered it was sold out.

That sent me to Craigslist, where I connected with a young man from Liberty whose plans to attend the tournament had been disrupted by his sister’s decision — after he had purchased several tickets — to get married on Saturday, the third day of the tournament. (The Liberty guy told me he was still planning to fly over to St. Louis for Sunday’s finale.) I paid him $125 each for a Saturday and Sunday ticket — slightly above the face price of $100 each plus tax.

It was a good thing I got those tickets in advance, because if I had gambled on getting tickets outside the gates, like I often do at the Kentucky Derby and other sporting events, I probably wouldn’t have gotten in. In two days, I never saw a ticket being offered for sale.

The event was an economic bonanza for St. Louis. Out-of-town visitors and local residents alike went crazy over the tournament, with tens of thousands of people attending each of the four rounds. Among the biggest beneficiaries of the economic windfall were Uber and Lyft drivers, some of whom made dozens of runs a day to and from a special rideshare lot about three miles from the golf course. (I was skeptical about how that was going to work, but good planning and preparation made it go very smoothly, for the most part.)

Here’s a picture (not mine) of part of one day’s crowd…

A major reason for the throngs of people was the fact that Tiger Woods, the best golfer of his generation, had been playing well leading up to the tournament. Although I have not been a hard-core Tiger Woods fan, it was impossible not to get drawn into the drama and excitement on Sunday, when he moved to within a shot of leader and eventual winner Brooks Koepka with just a few holes to play.

When Woods made his big move, I was sitting on my wobbly, three-legged golf chair, just outside the rope line on the 15th hole. It was a good vantage point because it offered not only a good view of the competitors but also of a large, manually operated leader board on the other side of the fairway. As play progressed, scoreboard attendants would climb a stepladder and change the names and numbers associated with the leaders.

Brooks Koepka, waiting to hit a drive. (JimmyCSays photo.)

When I first got to that location, Woods was 11 under par, three shots behind Koepka, who was at 14 under. A few minutes later, the “11” came down and a red “12” went up (red indicates strokes under par), triggering a huge cheer. That was followed several minutes later by a wild eruption when the “12” came down and the number 13 went up…The “14” beside Koepka’s name, meanwhile, had not changed.

When Woods got to the 15th hole, we who were lining the ropes watched him hit a breathtaking iron shot that soared over two sand bunkers guarding the elevated green, landed softly and rolled to within a few inches of the cup. Another wild eruption — and yet a third when he tapped in the putt.

But Brooks Koepka, a firm-jawed, straight-faced sort who had already won the U.S. Open this year, apparently wasn’t intimidated.

When he got to No. 15 a few minutes later, he got a nice round of applause when he put his approach shot 10 feet from the cup. He got a bigger cheer — but nothing like what Woods had received — when he holed that putt to take a two-shot lead.

He also birdied the next hole, No. 16, effectively sealing the victory, which became official after he parred No. 18.

**

Now, here’s a sidelight to the main action

Earlier in the day, I was sitting under a line of trees bordering a fairway when I noticed a man and a woman come up behind me. As I turned, I noticed that the woman was exceptionally attractive and was wearing a short orange-print dress. A few minutes later, I turned around again, hoping to catch another look at her, but she was gone.

About two hours later, after Koepka holed out on No. 18, I saw from about 100 yards away the woman in the orange dress come running out of the crowd and into Koepka’s arms. Lifting her slightly, he kissed her, and she proceeded to greet members of Koepka’s family and others who were celebrating on the green. Later, as I was leaving the course, I saw her and Koepka on an overhead walkway as they went from the scorer’s area back to the 18th green for the trophy presentation.

The lady in the orange dress was Jena Sims. She’s 29 and is an actress, model and former beauty pageant winner. She and Koepka have been dating more than a year.

…Here’s the prelude to that kiss. (Again, not my photo.)

 

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