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Friday, July 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Grip on Sports: Forget the robins, it’s another type of birdie that really lets us know spring is here

Francesco Molinari, of Italy, watches his tee shot on the second hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Monday, April 8, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
Francesco Molinari, of Italy, watches his tee shot on the second hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Monday, April 8, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The Norway maples in the backyard are blooming. You know what that means, right? In six months there will be leaves everywhere. If your glass if half full, though, you might be thinking about the Masters. Read on.

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• There are many harbingers of spring, from the first crocus in the yard to all the rocks and dirt under what was once a 6-foot-high pile of snow. But none is more iconic, to the golfer in your family at least, than the Masters.

The perfectly manicured fairways. The pimento sandwiches. The huge bunkers. The patrons. The ice-quick greens. The undeniable snootiness. The inevitable back-nine charge on Sunday. Jim Nantz and his signature catch phrase about the tradition.

It is a tradition like no other but not just because of the golf tournament itself.

Like spring training, much of what makes the Masters the Masters, has to do with when it falls on the calendar. Spring is beginning to take shape all over the nation, though in the colder parts – of which we can say we share – it is still more of a whisper than a shout. Watching the world’s best golfers (and a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of – Eddie Pepperell anyone?) walk a course that has been part of our spring traditions on TV since the medium was young, lets us know that warmth will be here soon.

The golf is not immaterial, because the golf rarely disappoints. But it is, to many who tune in, more of a backdrop to a long-running television show starring Tiger Woods and whoever else is actually playing well.

• For a place that is pretty hidebound by tradition, Augusta National and those who run the Masters have been pretty open to technology. Oh sure, no one can bring a cellphone onto the course while watching, but those of us who only view the tournament from home have been allowed increasing access as the years have rolled past.

The Masters was one of the first major tournaments to embrace streaming, as its website offered extra coverage years and years ago – so long ago I was still working in the S-R offices and had figured out how to hide the feed from the big boss as he wandered around the place.

As I write today’s post, I can watch Woods hit wedges from the range, Tony Finau drive the ball into a fairway bunker and Sergio Garcia miss birdie putts.

•••

WSU: The Cougars have added another walk-on for next basketball season, Clarkston’s Brandton Chatfield. New coach Kyle Smith has honored an offer from the former staff. Theo Lawson has the story. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, even though the conference’s schools don’t take spring football as seriously as, say, their counterparts in the SEC, but it is still important. There is news from Washington, which held practice yesterday, and from Utah’s workout. There are stories from Oregon, Colorado and Arizona. … UCLA has its new coach but the search didn’t make the Bruins’ management look all that professional. … It’s been a long time since Arizona hired a coach with a Final Four on his resume. … NBA decisions are tough for everyone. … Not everyone at Colorado had a great year.

Gonzaga: Around the WCC, after weeks of waiting, BYU finally hired the basketball coach everyone though it would, Utah Valley’s Mark Pope. A guy from Bellevue is going to lead the Cougars.

Chiefs: Everett spent the entire season building a resume that seemed unbreakable. But for the last three games, Spokane has broken the Silvertips. Kevin Dudley has the coverage of last night’s 3-1 victory that gave the Chiefs a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven WHL second-round playoff series.

Preps: Warmer weather (relatively) means more high school competitions, including roundups from tennis, soccer, softball and baseball action Wednesday. … We also have a couple tennis features, including Steve Christilaw’s story on a Mt. Spokane player and Justin Reed’s piece on a couple of foreign exchange students competing. … Luke Byrnes has a feature on a Post Falls softball player. … Ryan Collingwood has his track and field notebook.

Mariners: Listening to the post game show last night, I was struck by how many times Dave Sims and his cohorts used terms like “spectacular” and “amazing.” Hyperbole is undefeated this season, but may not have 12 wins as the M’s do. They picked up their 12th with a Mitch Haniger ninth-inning home run the key blow. That gave them home runs in each of their first 14 games, which ties a Major League record. … Jay Bruce is a Ken Griffey Jr. fan. Who isn't? … Gene Warnick has his usual Out of Right Field summary.

Seahawks: Dave Boling was one of my favorite coworkers in the 30 years I worked for the S-R, mainly because he was like Mikey from the old Life cereal commercials. But also because his writing style was so tight, so earthy. It still is. His latest book was done with Curt Warner and his wife Ana. The Warners and Dave will be in town Sunday for the latest Northwest Passages Book Club event. Dave has a story about the Warners and spoke with Larry Weir for the latest Press Box pod. … Earl Thomas wouldn't mind retiring in a Seahawk uniform. No, not playing in Seattle again, but a ceremonial thing. … The Hawks are in a pickle with Russell Wilson. … Kam Chancellor never closes any doors.

Sounders: Did the Sounders win last night in Colorado? Uh, they didn’t play. It was snowed out and rescheduled for later in the year.

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• When I was a young man, watching the Masters meant turning on CBS on the weekend and seeing the players on the back nine. That was it. Those nine holes are as familiar to me as the back nine at Hangman. Since the advent of the Internet – thanks Al Gore – we’ve been lucky enough to watch the front nine as well all four days. I’m getting better at recognizing them as well. Until later …

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