So-Called Expert falls short again in week 5 of NFL/Golf Ball Challenge

Aside to Chargers coach Norv Turner: Thanks for nothing last week.

After losing back-to-back contests by the narrowest of margins, the So-Called Expert knows how Angels manager Mike Scioscia felt during the disappointing 2012 season.

Another week, another loss by one game, the latest administered by golf company sales manager John Chapman, whose 10-4 record propelled the guest prognosticators into a one-game lead in the NFL regular season heading into Week 6. (It also probably helped ease the sting of Chapman’s 18 on No. 18 at Meadowlark GC in Huntington Beach, an embarrassing feat that earned him his spot in my weekly one-on-one Pigskin Challenge.)

Unlike Scioscia, who has to stay home and watch the baseball playoffs proceed without him, the So-Called Expert gets another opportunity every week. And he gets to pick his competition.

This week it’s Hank Aschbrenner of Anaheim Hills, a retired Concordia University vice president and self-described “fanatical 49ers fan” who was chosen to challenge the So-Called Expert because he sent in an anecdote demonstrating his ability to entertain a crowd while on the golf course.

A little background:  While Hank was living in Northern California during the 1980s, he belonged to the Alameda County Golf Club and served as its tournament chairman for 12 years. Every month, the group had a club tournament in the area.

We’ll allow Aschbrenner to pick up the story there and set the scene for his crowd-pleasing play.

“On this fateful Saturday, we played San Ramon National in San Ramon,” Hank wrote. “The ninth hole is a short par-4 with a lake encircling much of the green. Behind the green is the clubhouse facility with a large banquet room and an outside deck, which is often rented out on weekends for wedding receptions.”

See where this is going?

“Of course on this day there was a reception in progress, and the outside deck was filled with revelers, many of them watching the action on the ninth hole (below), as I approached the green,” Hank continued. “I was about 110 yards from the pin for my approach shot  . . . and took out a 9-iron and proceeded to hit my approach into the lake. There was an audible groan from the clubhouse deck.”

Everybody’s a critic. I know that, too.

“I then proceeded to hit four additional balls into the lake with three different clubs,” Hank wrote, demonstrating his ability to adapt and creatively try to solve problems. “With each shot, the groans from the clubhouse deck got louder. And by the time I was addressing my 12th shot, even the bride and groom were watching the action.”

Some people will do anything to get attention.

“When my 12th shot landed safely on the green, the ovation from the clubhouse deck was unbelievable!” Hank recalled.

Naturally. When “Tin Cup” McAvoy made a spectacular 13 on the finishing hole in the U.S. Open, the gallery also went bonkers.

Appropriately humble, Hank remembers bowing and doffing his cap before heading to the green, where he 2-putted for a memorable 14 on the hole. It was a tournament, so he had to count ’em all.

“When the ball dropped into the hole, I got another long ovation and was even offered a drink or two before I started the back nine,” he said.

I’m surprised he wasn’t named best man at the reception.

And now when he goes back to play San Ramon National with a friend named Bill Casper (no not that one) who still lives on the course, everybody reminds him of the day he entertained at a wedding reception.

“Now they call it ‘Hank’s Hole’ or they say, ‘Here comes ‘Hank’s Hole,’ ” Aschbrenner said, laughing. And, yes, sometimes it’s “Hank’s Pond.”

So if you’re ever looking for entertainment at an outdoor wedding reception – Tustin Ranch Golf Club in Orange County comes to mind, with lakes fronting the greens on No. 9 and No. 18 – give Hank a call. He’s 74 and retired now, with the exception of one week a month when he does work for the Concordia University Foundation.

On second thought, it better not be a Wednesday or Friday, because he has regular golf games on those days, and of course he has to watch the 49ers on Sundays. He’s originally from Iowa, so he also likes the Kansas City Chiefs, even though he moved to Northern California in 1960 to begin a career as teacher and principal at several Lutheran schools and relocated to Southern California in 1994 to work at Concordia University in Irvine.

Though he retired at Concordia in 2001, he still follows the Eagles sports teams and proudly reports he went to Kansas City last year to watch Ken Ammann’s basketball team win the NAIA national championship. Doesn’t sound retired to me, and hopefully he was distracted when he made his picks this week.

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

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

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-4): Steelers. (Aschbrenner picked Titans as his Upset of the Week.) Steelers are always vulnerable when Troy Polamalu is out, but Titans have injuries, too, so I’ll go with Pittsburgh in the Thursday night showdown.

New York Giants (3-2) at San Francisco 49ers (4-1): 49ers. Game of the Week. It’s a rematch of last season’s NFC title game, an overtime thriller won by the Giants, 20-17, but the Niners will be ready to exact revenge. Jim Harbaugh will see to that.

Oakland Raiders (1-3) at Atlanta Falcons (5-0): Falcons. OK, maybe I was crazy when I picked Washington to upset the Falcons last week, but I’m not crazy enough to pick the Raiders.

Denver Broncos (2-3) at San Diego Chargers (3-2): Chargers. (Aschbrenner picked Broncos.) Chargers let me down in New Orleans, but Saints weren’t going to stay winless forever. I’ll give Norv Turner one more chance Monday night.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (0-5): Bengals. It’s called the Battle of Ohio, but it hasn’t been much of a battle of late. Bengals have won four in a row, seven of past eight and 12 of 15 since 2004, including a 34-27 victory in Week 2.

Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Baltimore Ravens (4-1): Ravens.  Dallas and Tony Romo are overrated and over-hyped until proven otherwise. Ravens can win high-scoring or low-scoring games.

Detroit Lions (1-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2): Eagles. What’s the over-under on Michael Vick turnovers in this one? So far, he has fumbled eight times (losing five) and thrown six interceptions. That’s a 35-turnover pace for the season. That’s excitement!

Indianapolis Colts (2-2) at New York Jets (2-3): Jets. (Aschbrenner picked Colts.) I was impressed by Colts’ inspired effort for ailing coach last week in upsetting Green Bay, but rookie Andrew Luck and Colts still have to prove they can win on the road.

St. Louis Rams (3-2) at Miami Dolphins (2-3): Dolphins.  Rams are dramatically improved, as demonstrated in upset win over previously unbeaten Arizona, but Dolphins are a heartbeat from 4-1 record because of two overtime losses.

Buffalo Bills (2-3) at Arizona Cardinals (4-1): Cardinals. Arizona will bounce back from upset loss in St. Louis – at least I got that one right – by burying Bills. Try saying that fast three times.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3): Buccaneers. (Aschbrenner picked Chiefs.) Flip a coin. Two dog teams, but I have to go against a team whose fans cheered when starting QB Matt Cassel suffered head injury last week. Absolutely unconscionable.

Minnesota Vikings (4-1) at Washington Redskins (2-3): Vikings. Like I said last week, I believe in Christian Ponder. I believe in Christian Ponder. If I keep saying it, maybe it will sink in.

New England Patriots (3-2) at Seattle Seahawks (3-2): Seahawks. My Upset of the Week. (Aschbrenner picked Patriots.) It seems like I’m never right when picking Seahawks games, but they are always tough to beat at home. And it’s always fun picking against Bill Beli-cheat.

Green Bay Packers (2-3) at Houston Texans (5-0): Texans. Green Bay managed to blow a big lead in Indy last week, and their injury list keeps growing. Let’s ride Texans as far as we can.

Byes this week: Carolina Panthers (1-4), Chicago Bears (4-1), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4), New Orleans Saints (1-4).

Last week: John Chapman, Quality Golf sales manager, 10-4; So-Called Expert 9-5.

Season totals: Guest prognosticators 44-33, So-Called Expert 43-34.

Week 5 Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge winner: Chris Sathre 12-2. (He won five-way tie in a random drawing.)

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