• Sky Mountain Golf Course, Hurricane, UT

  • Maureen O’Shea at Torrey Pines

I started playing Whist as a young girl with my Mom, Dad and brother Jim. Whist was a good card game for learning the concept of taking tricks or not taking them. If you bid to take tricks, you learned how to play the cards in order to win the hand. If you passed, you could easily learn how to throw away your high cards on higher cards. The experience of playing cards in Whist was very helpful when I started to learn the Bridge game.

The Bridge game

A random Bridge hand

It Takes Four to Play Bridge

I lived with three other girls before I was married and we sometimes played bridge together. It takes four to play, or multiples of four, and we even played bridge sometimes with a foursome of football players from the Saskatchewan Roughrider football club!

I bought a booklet on the Goren Convention System when I started playing Bridge.  It was only about 30 pages long but it served me well. Many people play only Duplicate Bridge, and both Duplicate and Standard are played competitively.  At the Huntsman Senior Games in St.George, Utah where I competed in golf last year, Duplicate Bridge is one of the categories.

Bridge Became an Occasion

In 1960, I first joined a bridge club that consisted of seven other gals. Now Bridge was a big occasion, and it was a seriously big night out! We got dressed to the nines and arrived at the home of the hostess at 8:00 p.m. Drinks were served (not your regular iced tea, either) and we played bridge for several hours. THEN a delicious “lunch” was served, but that was closer to 11 p.m., and afterwards we’d have dessert and coffee. We were pretty buzzed when we got home, around midnight.

Our group of eight played together for several years and each of us would eagerly await our turn to be hostess and show off our hostessing skills. Although each of us tried hard to do our best and the food on hand was always beautifully prepared and delicious, we never once thought about putting together a book of favourite recipes the way a group of women from Calgary did. The Best Of Bridge cook books are still being published, and are go-to books for many cooks I know, not just bridge-players either.

Being the Hostess

Being the hostess, back in those days, meant a great deal of work. First you thought up the menu, then you bought the food and drinks, then you prepared the food, cleaned the house, got your husband out of the house for the evening, threatened your children to stay out of site, got out the card tables and folding chairs from the basement or borrowed a set from a neighbour, made sure the cards had no sign of wear and tear on them and, if so, you’d need to buy new ones… and then you were ready to open the door for your guests, who would all arrive promptly a few minutes before 8:00 p.m.

Grand Slams and Finessing

Many of my friends have passed on now, but one of the bridge clubs I started up in Regina is still active. The joys of those grand slams that you made stay in your memories. I will never forget one evening when I had spades in every hand all night. I had one grand and one small slam in spades that night and four spade games as well. What a night!

Sometimes it is not winning games that is the challenge, but how you play the hand. With so many possibilities in the cards, every hand is different and your challenge is to try and make the best plays. Sometimes it is a finesse you made that you remember. To finesse (in Bridge or Whist) is an attempt to win a trick with a card that is not a certain winner.

Lunch after Bridge

Mary Jane, Linda, Lilles and Irene

Here in Calgary, I am lucky to have friends to play Bridge with every Monday. Times have changed and we seniors have traded in the Wednesday nights for playing in the early afternoon. Coffee and tea (regular or decaf) and a small lunch is served now, and none of us serve alcohol! After decades of play, I am always still learning. Sometimes I will have three friends over for dinner and we will play for an hour after dessert. My friends will do the same at their house.

When I am watching sports on TV, which I often do, I will deal out four bridge hands and bid each of them. I will even play these hands as the contract winner and figure out the best way each trick should be played. It is just another challenge. A lot of people I know play bridge on line.

Bridge and Mental Fitness

Call your friends and invite them over for a game of bridge. It is good brain-work and maybe a delicious dessert too!

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When you look at the scorecard for the Sky Mountain golf course, you may think this it’s an easy peasy track. 6392 yards from the tips.  To anyone who thinks that, all I can say is “Yeah, right!” Here are my views on Sky Mountain – The Course.

Sky Mountain

Sky Mountain Golf Course – Photo courtesy John Armijo

Even from the forward tees at a distance of 5044, Sky Mountain is a challenge.

There are no easy par 3’s, and the terrain plays tricks on your eyes.

Take the second hole, at 100 yards for example. Standing on the tee box, the hole looks like it’s downhill and that may make you change your mind about which club you’re going to take on the tee. Bad choice. Walk the hole and you’ll see: it’s actually uphill!  After playing it a few times you decide to take a longer club and of course you nod up in the bunker at the back of the green.

The eighth hole is from an elevated tee to an elevated green from all tees except the forward tee.  From the forward tee it is uphill 112 yards to a green that is almost impossible to keep a ball on it once it has landed unless it comes in really high.  This green slopes drastically from left to right and the best way to attack this hole is to land it three feet from the green and have it roll on!

The 12th hole, 131 yards, has a lake along the left side to a bunker protecting the green and desert is to the left with an outcropping of rocks and a few trees.  Long and right are out of bounds.

The 16th hole, 151 yards, is so well bunkered that you need to land the ball on the left centre of the green to keep it from rolling into a bunker.  When I first played this hole there was NO bunker on the left and you could land the ball short and left and it would roll onto the green.  Not now.  They added a bunker there to compliment the two bunkers in place both to the right of centre.  Long is OK as there is plenty of grass behind the green.

The ducks at Sky Mountain.

My duck friends. They would come running! to meet me when they heard my voice as far away as 150 yards. !

When I play from the forwards, the par 4’s are all reachable with my second shot.  The first hole, 296 yards, is definitely an iron off the tee to around 110 yards.  With a driver or three wood the ball ends up in the valley that is sloping to the left.  A wedge from there is pretty tricky to the green.  The green slopes AWAY from the fairway.  Land on the green and your ball may just go into the desert over the cart paths.  An iron from 110 is a much better choice to keep the ball on the green.

To read about Sky Mountain and Spring Break, click here!

Number three is 226 yards and driving this hole is possible but the hole is a dogleg and you need to carry a bunker at the green.  A better choice is to play a wood or an iron so you can use a short iron into this green.

The 4th hole, 293 yards, has been my achilles heel from the very beginning. It’s a dog leg to the left with an uphill green protected by bunkers. Although the hole was re-shaped a couple of years back, it’s still a little devil of a hole. It has a two-level green with quite a bit of undulation.  In order to place your tee shot for easy entry into this green you have to be able to draw the ball. From the tee you must carry the hill that is at the 150 yard marker.  This hill slopes extremely to the right and a tee shot straight or with a fade will end up in the right rough.  Good luck on this one.

Sky Mountain scorecard

My second Eagle at Sky Mountain Golf Course Hole #9

The  5th, 11th, 13th,15th and 17th are not long par 4’s.  These holes are comfortable lengths and give you time to enjoy the course and the views.  The 7th hole, 356 y arms is almost impossible to get on the green in two shots.  From the 150 yard marker it is downhill all the way to the water!  This pond goes all the way across in fron of the elevated green.  A bogey is good.

The 14th hole is 347 yards but a dogleg to the left with bunkers along that side as well.  The hole is downhill, then uphill, then slopes down to an elevated green.  Par is great on this one,

The par 5’s are not too long, but each one is a challenge just the same.

The 6th hole, 406 yards.  The 9th hole, 437 yards.  The 10th hole, 368 yards and the 18th hole, 401 yards.  All thes holes you can be on in regulation.  Birdies can be had and even a few Eagles.

The views of the desert are always changing depending on the light on the red rocks and the time of day. It is truly amazing how different it can look from one day to the next. The desert is very appealing in that way. If I could put my finger on it, I’d say that’s what makes Sky Mountain Golf Course the most beautiful course in southwestern Utah.

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Some really exciting things are happening for 78 MPH and I’d like to tell you about where we’re at. I say “we” because honestly I would be lost if it weren’t for the help of my oldest daughter, Colleen, and she’s never without an idea of what I should be writing about next, or how to find new readers.

Double Ace

Brian Harman’s double ace feat is on display at the World Golf Hall of Fame

She isn’t scared to ask people things, either. Like the World Golf Hall of Fame – they let me use a picture of one of the golf balls that professional golfer Brian Harman used on the final Sunday of the Barclays when he had two holes-in-one for my story on aces. They said, no problem – and it’s quite the stunning image!

Sir Nick Faldo

Adam Long, Director of Golf at The Wilderness Club

Adam Long, Director of Golf at The Wilderness Club

Or The Wilderness Club in Eureka, Montana. The truth was, I nearly got back in the car to drive back to The Wilderness Club to see Sir Nick Faldo put on his golf clinic on the 3rd of September, but since I didn’t, we asked the Director of golf there, Adam Long, if he would take some pictures for us that we could use for the blog, and he did. Thanks, ADAM!

Greg Norman

And then there’s the Greg Norman story. He’d made some comments about the state of golf and I found that I agree with him, and have some ideas of my own as to how we could better be growing the game. We tweeted it out to the Shark himself, and put it on his Facebook page too, and he commented “Great post, Maureen, thanks for sharing” and, as you can imagine, did that ever make my day.

Phil Mickelson

Here in Calgary, we’re going to have a new golf course and it’s going to be called Mickelson National. It’s currently under construction, and will be Phil Mickelson’s first Canadian signature course. I’m going to follow the development of the course for my blog. (Pssst, You may not know this, but Phil and I go way, way back, in fact, all the way back to 1991 – but that’s another story, and you’re going to want to keep your eyes peeled for that!)

78 MPH’s Millstones

How to make a golf car seat cover

Me on the Golf Car cosy on a cool Calgary day

If you think that my blog is just for friends and family, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, friends and family do follow sometimes, but since June 7th, which is the day I posted my first blog, there have been over 7,500 readers and over 150 comments. One of my most popular posts is about positional vertigo and golf – and I meet people all over who tell me they have it and had never heard of the Denver doctor’s solution. And this week, the Quilting Board lit up my post about how to make a golf car seat cover as many quilters have decided that would be a great present to start making now for someone on their Christmas list.

This is my 57th post, and I think we have nearly a dozen in reserve. Each post requires a lot of work, including finding appropriate images, putting in the right links, sometimes they need interviews — and then after publication, we need to let the world know, on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. We’ve grown my Twitter following from 1 (thanks, Abigail) to 100, all organic followers, which is great (that means I didn’t pay for anyone, which apparently is a common practice!)

I really appreciate all the comments, the encouragement, even the surprise that some people have expressed about me writing a blog. It’s fun to write, but my editor is really tough on me, forcing me to get to the point. That’s why I’ll be doing mini-series on some of my favourite topics, like Sky Mountain Golf Course, and why I love it so. It’s nearly a mini series already!

Looking Forward

On October 7th, the blog will be 4 months old and I will turn 81. My wishes for my 81st year is to continue to be in good health, to be able to golf good courses, and hang out with my friends, meet new ones too and shoot my age again. With a bit of luck, all those things will work out, just fine.

Keep on reading on!


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