Too cold to play golf? Then try fantasy golf

January 11, 2011 

It might be time to wind down your fantasy football season when you find yourself agonizing between Brandon Manumaleuna and Ben Hartsock for your last pick of the playoff draft.

Another clue: You know how to pronounce Manumaleuna.

Worst of all: You’re seriously upset when they both get picked before your turn.

Maybe it’s time to start watching real football teams … or turn back to what you really care about.

Golf. Fantasy golf.

It’s not real golf, hence the name. But this time of year, it’s warm and dry and your team (if not you) is in Hawaii.

“It gets me through the winter when I can’t play real golf,” says Vince Caronna, 59, of Olympia. “I’m a golf fan, and it keeps me in touch with what’s going on in the golf world.

“It bridges the gap between fantasy football and fantasy baseball.”

Fantasy football is the unquestioned king of the fantasy world. Even in the stands at Qwest Field, at a real football game, the guy next to you with his nose in his smart phone is likely checking his fantasy stats. Scoreboard-watching takes on a whole new dimension.

A fantasy football owner’s loyalty to his guys is measured in, “What have you done for me lately?”

Fantasy golf will never be as huge as fantasy football, but it’s popular: A quick keyword search turns up seven fantasy golf web sites on the first Google page alone. There are at least a dozen more.

Some are sponsored by recognized entities – Sporting News, USA Today, the Golf Channel, the PGA Tour itself – and some operate independently - kerplookee.com, protourfantasygolf.com, rotowire.com, rotoworld.com.

Some sites invite you to join existing leagues or pools, or form your own with your buddies. Some are free, some are pay-to-play.

And some live to serve the leagues and owners of Fantasy Golf Nation with “expert” analysis and predictions.

It’s a crapshoot.

“It’s very random,” says Caronna, who plays his fantasy golf through Yahoo! Sports, the official fantasy site for the PGA Tour.

“That’s why I’ve never won it. You can look at the expert picks and get some insight into each tournament, but they’re not always right.”

Caronna’s team, the Tap-in Birdies, plays in the Fans of David Toms league, one of dozens of leagues offered through Yahoo.

It’s free to play - a single winner each week wins a dozen golf balls. Yahoo offers prizes for the winner of the first third of the season, the second third, and the whole season.

Caronna, a Louisiana native, chose Toms because the former PGA Championship winner played his college golf at LSU. It’s just the name of the league - the owner can play Toms or not on any given week, just like any other tour player.

Caronna, who’s been playing fantasy golf for at least five years, tends to pick Steve Stricker for his team when he can. He says Stricker’s well-established work ethic keeps him consistently around the top 10.

“I ride him a lot,” says Caronna, “unless he goes bad, and that’s not very often.”

Stricker did well by his owner at last week’s Tournament of Champions, finishing in a tie for fourth place at 20-under par. The Tap-in Birdies finished in the middle of the pack among the 226 teams in the Fans of David Toms league.

Besides Stricker, Caronna went with Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk from the A-List; Bubba Watson, Justin Rose and Camilo Villegas from the B-List; and Anthony Kim and Adam Scott from the C-List.

Four players are active from your team each day of the tournament, and alternates can be subbed in for starters after every round or put back on the bench, at the owner’s discretion.

“A lot of times I’ll just let ’em ride,” Caronna says. “But if I’m on the Internet and I see a guy shot 5 over, I’ll put him on the bench.”

The tour stays in the islands this week for the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Caronna will try to know the unknowable, predict the unpredictable. Like when a Hartsock (backup Jets tight end who caught one pass for 7 yards in 2010) will rise up from nowhere and score fantasy points.

One website, www.oobgolf.com, serves the fantasyland blogosphere. One blog respondent, mjaber, joined a Yahoo league but found he didn’t have time to make sure the guys he picked were in the running or made the cut.

“It’s fun,” he wrote,” it’s just too time-consuming. I’d rather be out on the course.”

GONZALES ON HOLD

Capital High graduate Andres Gonzales, who earned full-fledged PGA Tour status last month at qualifying school, was listed as an alternate to get in the field for this weekend’s Sony Open in Honolulu.

If he doesn’t get in this one, the next two dates on the tour are the Bob Hope Classic, Jan. 19-23, in La Quinta, Calif., and the Farmers Insurance Open, Jan. 26-30, at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

He’s already circled Feb. 3-6 on his calendar – the Waste Management Open at TPC Scottsdale, where the crowds are among the largest and loudest of the tour season.

Olympia freelance writer Bart Potter can be reached at greygoatee06@comcast.net

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