So-Called Expert falls again in week 8, Week 9 prognostications

By Randy Youngman

Another week, another one-game loss by the So-Called Expert, another shipment of free golf balls going out to another happy guest prognosticator.

During a charity tournament at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach earlier this week, my bosses pointedly asked me why I kept losing my weekly one-on-one Pigskin Challenge in this space.

And here I thought the idea was to give away as many golf balls as we could, considering they were donated by our generous corporate sponsors at Srixon, TaylorMade, Callaway, Bridgestone and Nike.

After all, if the balls weren’t put back into play, how would anybody see them? Ditto for the Winn Grips and Aldila shafts we give out as prizes. And, of course, we encourage all of our winners to use their prizes at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, another major sponsor of my weekly showdown against a reader and our increasingly popular “Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge.” (Go to register and try to win our weekly easy-to-win prizes!)

But, OK, if my bosses don’t want me to lose every week, I’ll try harder this week against guest prognosticator Rick Lancaster of Irvine, a self-employed insurance agent and an avid recreational golfer.

Lancaster, 58, was chosen to challenge the So-Called Expert in Week 9 because he wasn’t too ashamed to send in an anecdote about an embarrassing experience on the golf course that led to his being saddled with a new nickname courtesy of his buddies in the men’s club at Diamond Bar Golf Course.

A few years ago, Lancaster and playing partner Dan Jimenez were competing as a team in their annual men’s club weekend getaway tournament in the desert – this particular year at Shadow Ridge Golf Course in Palm Desert.

It was the third day of the event, and Lancaster and Jimenez had a comfortable lead coming down the stretch. It should also be noted that the format the last day was aggregate scoring, meaning both players’ scores on each hole counted. Say, if they both made a par on a par-4, their team’s score for that hole was 8.

And everything was going swimmingly for the leaders as they came to the 17th hole of the day: No. 2 at Shadow Ridge, a 549-yard par-5 that was rated as the toughest on the course.

“We had the tournament won. It was a slam dunk,” Lancaster recalled. “If I had made par, I think we would have won by eight shots.”

But . . .

“On my third shot, I hit into a deep bunker fronting the green,” he said. “It was hardpan, wet hardpan, and the bunker had a huge face in the front, about 10 feet high. It was one of those if you didn’t make it out, the ball comes right back and rolls into your divot. And that’s what happened.”

Over and over and over again . . . and over and over and over again . . . and over and over and over again. . .

Lancaster kept swinging and the ball kept coming back to his feet. He felt like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.”

“I kept swinging and digging deeper and deeper,” he said. “I was almost all the way to China. . . . And I remember looking up and seeing the look on Dan’s face.”

Finally, Jimenez suggested that Lancaster try to hit the ball out of the bunker sideways.

“So I did and then chipped onto the green and then 2-putted,” Lancaster said.

Then he added up all of the strokes.

“I made a 21,” he said.

And now you know why the guys in the club started calling him “Blackjack.”


Their last hole of the day was the 278-yard, par-4 third hole, where Lancaster drove the green and made birdie. But it was too late. The damage had been done.

There was no title. Only a new nickname.

“I just felt bad for my partner,” said Lancaster, an 11 handicap. “Needless to say, I cost him the championship.”

A couple years later, Lancaster actually returned to the scene of the crime and got revenge by making par on No. 2, making certain to take more club on his third shot to avoid the cavernous bunker.

“But I’ll never live that one down,” he said. “I’ll never forget that day.”

And, yes, there’s still one guy in the club who calls him “Blackjack,” even though another club member actually took him off the hook with a 22 in another event.

If it’s any consolation, most longtime golfers have horror stories even if they’re too embarrassed to talk about them. Lancaster was bestowed with the honor of picking the games this week because he shared his nightmare with us.

Ready or not, it’s time for this week’s NFL predictions, with a lot of golf balls on the line, as always.

I lost last week’s contest to Bill Murray on Sunday night, when I foolishly picked the Saints to upset the Broncos. But at least I had distinguished company: Former NFL great Phil Simms, who picks the games for Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” also went 7-7 last week – one week after going 13-0. That’s how unpredictable the NFL has been in 2012.

Here are the So-Called Expert’s picks and comments for Week 9, noting the five games on which Lancaster and I disagree:

Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) at San Diego Chargers (3-4): Chargers. Why do I keep picking the Chargers? Two weeks ago, they blew a 24-0 lead against Denver. Last week, they lost, 7-6, to a 1-6 Cleveland team. How many lives does Norv Turner have? I’m guessing he’d rather not be the topic of discussion in Thursday night’s NFL Network telecast.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) at Oakland Raiders (3-4): Buccaneers. (Lancaster picked Raiders.) If Bucs can win at Minnesota, they can beat the wildly inconsistent Raiders.

Arizona Cardinals (4-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-3): Packers. How many of you remember Arizona started 4-0? And how many 4-0 teams wound up missing the playoffs? It’s going to happen again this season.

Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Indianapolis Colts (4-3): Colts. Would have picked Dolphins if QB Ryan Tannehill was healthy, but he bruised his left knee and quadriceps last week and his status was questionable. Did you notice that Andrew Luck has same record as Peyton Manning going into Week 9?

Denver Broncos (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-4): Broncos. (Lancaster picked Bengals.) Peyton Manning has Broncos rolling; their only losses were to Atlanta, Houston and New England – all first-place teams. Cincy is 0-3 since 3-1 start.

Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-6): Ravens. But I’ll be pulling for Browns to pull the upset against the Team Formerly Known as the Browns in division rivals’ first matchup in Cleveland since Art Modell died.

     Buffalo Bills (3-4) at Houston Texans (6-1): Texans. Mismatch of the Week, with Houston favored by a whopping 11 points. But in the Year of Parity, does that mean Texans should be worried?

Minnesota Vikings (5-3) at Seattle Seahawks (4-4): Seahawks. (Lancaster picked Vikings.) Seattle almost pulled out a victory in Detroit last week and is 3-0 at home, with wins over Dallas, Green Bay and New England. Still can’t figure out Vikings, though.

Carolina Panthers (1-6) at Washington Redskins (3-5): Redskins. Game within the game is the showdown between the past two Heisman Trophy winners: Carolina’s Cam Newton (Auburn) vs. Washington’s Robert Griffin III (Baylor). I’ll take RGIII to win the battle and the war.

Detroit Lions (3-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6): Lions. In this battle of last-place teams, Detroit has far superior personnel. My advice to Jacksonville is to move the franchise to Los Angeles and start over.

     Chicago Bears (6-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-5): Bears. It took a big comeback to squeak past Carolina last week, but da Bears keep finding ways to get it done.

Dallas Cowboys (3-4) at Atlanta Falcons (7-0): Falcons. (Lancaster picked Cowboys as his Upset of the Week.) Undefeated Falcons still have a lot of doubters, probably because they won close games against Panthers and Raiders, but I’m going to keep riding them. Tony Romo has NFL-leading 13 interceptions. Enough said.

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) at New York Giants (6-2): Giants. Should be a great matchup between Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning and two hard-hitting teams with swagger. No offense to Falcons, but I still think Giants and Niners are the teams to beat in NFC.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (2-5): Eagles. My Upset of the Week. (Lancaster picked Saints.) Yes, Eagles have lost three in a row and Michael Vick is struggling mightily, but Saints also have NFL’s worst defense.

Byes this week: San Francisco 49ers (6-2), New York Jets (3-5), New England Patriots (5-3), St. Louis Rams (3-5).

Last week: Bill Murray, famous-name tax accountant, 8-6; So-Called Expert 7-7.

Season totals: Guest prognosticators 68-50, So-Called Expert 66-52.

Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge winner: Philip Hankin 12-2 (won four-way tie in random draw).

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