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Saturday, March 31, 2007


Cactus Dave Scores at The Safeway

Saturday Morning
I walked around 1.3 holes with Laura Davies (-2) , Shi Hyun Ahn (-2) , and Heather Young (+10). They were already on the green -- had marked their balls the night before. Heather Young was already in the hole . . . the other joked that she might not show up at all just to finish one hole . . . Laura Davies & her caddy were ebullient, boisterous.

It was raining, or misting heavily, if you prefer. It was very eerie out there in the half-light of a rainy dawn, just the 3 golfers, 2 caddies (the other huddled under a tree by the next tee), the hole scorer, and me, the walking scorer.

When the hooter hooted, Ahn stepped measured her putt, a nasty down-hill 20 ft. slider, and holed it, very business like. Davies quit joking then, but missed her birdie putt, a nasty side-hill 15 fter. Then, as she lined up her l-o-n-g come-backer, the wind gusted and my umbrella, open, on the ground, moved. I grabbed it and stood perfectly still, but we (me and my umbrella) happened to be right in her line of sight. I was standing right beside the hole scorer, 30 feet from the hole, but she still glared at me, then missed the par putt. She tapped in, and they raced off to the next tee while I fumbled with the paperwork.

Heather and Ahn laced their drives right down the middle on 18, but Laura, in a manner I was ascribe as petulant of a duffer, made her tee by slamming her driver in to the turf, teed the ball up on the incipient divot, and without ado hit a 300 yard drive out into the middle of the pond on the left.

It all made me feel a little shakey.

I think Ahn and Heather made pars, and Laura made bogey . . . while I fumbled with the paperwork, they raced up to the scorer tent and were well into their reading of scores by the time I got sat down. . . .
"4-4-4" read Ahn.
"No!" said Laura, that should be "4-3-3 -- what do you have, Scorer?"
"U-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h, what hole would that be ma'am?"
"Yes, ma'am, that is what I have: 4-3-3."

I am definitely feeling somewhat lightheaded now . . .

When the scoring was complete, Heather stood up, presented me with an autographed ball and a 10,000 Watt smile you could steer thru fog by, and left.

Ahn stared at me inscrutably, to use a cliche, while Laura looked at me like a landlady at delinquent tenant. "Thank you, Scorer!" she boomed. . . then they were gone.

I went on jelly legs back to the scorer's tent and turned in my sheets. In addition to reading my scores in I did a couple of others, too, to help out, which I found very educational as to the standard of neatness and accuracy. Very Helpful to myself. I felt like I had been bloodied in battle.

Saturday Afternoon

I scored for Brandie Burton, Jennifer Rosales, and Victoria Zorzi. Brandie is a veteran of many campaigns. Rosales looks like one the new wave juniors that seem to be taking over now, except that she seems a little hardened by years on tour that don't show yet. Zorzi has the kind of long, lanky Swedish Academy swing that stops men in their tracks, causes them to lean sideways to watch, causes their mouths to fall open from the distance she gets.

Rosales started out hot, 3 under after 5 and 4 under after nine, with 2 really swell par saves, including a sandy, but she was even par on the back 9, which made her temperment swing wildly from cockiness to surliness.

Zorzi seemed to come up short on every approach on the front 9, but then she got hot on the back and made some birdies that made her light up with self satisfaction common to Scandinavians, if you know what I mean. . . as far as I know she does not speak English . . .

Burton was cranky the whole round, asked us to move once, rather impatiently . . . she did not commune with her younger competitors or me at all, except once on the back 9 to ask rather peevishly if anyone had seen her ball when it went left of the green. She never showed pleasure once, not after birdies nor difficult par saves.

After our 18th hole, I made for the scorer's tent with an alacrity that bordered on the pell-mell. Each golfer read her score to her marker without acknowledging me. I merely nodded silently my confirmation, just in case anyone cared. When done, Burdon looked at me, just as Davies had done, and said "Thanks for showing up." and left. Zorzi made an embarrassed, abrupt departure. Rosales sat slumped, with her chin on her fist, then said, "May I see the stats, please."

I gave them to her, but I was embarrassed at the 4 or 5 mark-outs I had -- then I was humiliated when she absent-mindedly made a correction on my sheet. Sheesh!
I reckon she was only ruminating on chances she let slip away on the back 9 . . .

I wobbled back to the main tent, turned in my scores, gnoshed a cold sandwich like a refugee, then left with only the most insincere promise to show up the next day. I had had my fill of cranky women.

Sunday Morning

My twosome was Hall of Famer and the 2006 Safeway International Champion Julie Inkster and another one of the ubiquitous swedes Louise Stahle. Right away, I figger I am in for another funfilled morning, as this is the first group, the worst scores that made the cut. I am making all kinds of excuses for the women while I waited on the first tee for those reasons, and sure enough Stahle's handshake was perfunctory, but Inkster shook hands with the standard bearer and all the 1st tee marshals and announcers, but not me -- OK! I said, I'm Invisible! I dig it!

Inkster had a roller coaster day, at one time 3-under, but wound up even par. Stahle wound up -2. She seemed to be having a wonderful time, in excellent spirits. At one point she turned to me and said "Isn't it a gorgeous day?" I was struck dumb, so the only other time she spoke to me was after she'd spun a hook in tight on a par 5. "Ooooh," she said, while she futilely tried to stuff her shirt tail back into her hip-huggers, "my pants almost fell down on that one!" I'm afraid my barking laughter put her off after that.

Inkster was un-social, except at times with Stahle. Usually she marched off in the lead of our little coterie, as if she would still be champion, out front to recieve her accolades, separate from us, except there was only ever a scattering of observers. It seemed to me that she'd resolve to hit nothing but fairways and greens, and get the heck out of Dodge. But on the first hole, from the middle of the fairway, she pulled her approach into a cavernous bunker left of the green. I winced from the psychic vibration I felt from her, but she made an outstanding sandie par: that trap was so deep we couldn't see her hit the ball.

But she played the kind of game that defines the difference between the winner and the also-rans, as an also-ran: she was on the wrong side of the hole for several birdie putts she missed; when she missed the greens she sometimes failed to get up and down on those greens that were running 13.5 on the stimpometer; she didn't hit loose shots, but some approaches were "just wrong". As the round went on and her hard-won strokes slipped back away, her frustration rose.

She made impatient gestures and grotesque facial expressions; she raged inarticulately after approaches -- not curses, nor keening ululation, just exasperations; she tossed her club once after a poor shot; she slammed her clubs into the ground -- once after a missed birdie, she slammed her putter into her foot so hard I was sure she would break something. She suffered terribly, as if the competitive fire within her was consuming her instead of fortifying her.

In the tent, I nodded silent assent to the scores they read each other. Inkster tossed her card to the Scoring official and sagged in her chair morosely staring off into nothing for two long minutes, then jumped up and left without a word. Stahle made gracious sounds then asked me if I wanted a ball. "No, thank you," I said, "just a handshake. It was a pleasure walking around with you today."

She signed a ball and gave it to the standard bearer, along with a grandaughterly hug. I decided I wasn't young enough to be interesting to my golfers, nor old enough to be safely grandfatherly, just that awkward age of the assholes that pester them everywhere they go.


I was finished by 11 am. They hadn't gotten lunches for the volunteers out yet, so I just grabbed some cookies, an apple, and some water and headed home. Took a shower, went to lunch and a movie with my wife, and got home by 4 pm, in time to see the leaders in the tournament play the back 9. Very satisfied to see Lorena Ochoa win, but Petterson looks to be formidable in the near future, too.

I've had time to think about Julie Inkster since then. It would be so easy to talk about her childish behaviour, her self-absorbed, self-pitying poor sportsmanship, but I don't think it would be correct.

There was something profound and eternal about her situation, champion last year, last, this year. . . but it is not that neat, she finished ahead of many golfers by playing even par on Sunday . . . .

Perhaps it should fall to the walking scorer to whisper into the ear of the champion on the 18th green, as if to the Tribune in his chariot in his Triumph, "Sic transit gloria mundi" to prepare these young women for the turn in fortune -- rarely is that turn so wrenching as Inkster suffered this year.

Trying to access the profundity of what I had witnessed, thinking over it this week, this is what I came up with from "To an Athlete Dying Young" by A.E. Housman:
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

I remember from Jim Bouton's Ball Four his review of this conceit, "Crap", meaning it could be true only if one romanticizes success in ways that professional athletes do not. As if from the school of sappy sports journalism of George WIll or Doris Kearns.

I think the Truth I can't quite get to lies somewhere in between the privlege of throwing a competitive tantrum and the agony of falling so short of personal standards that feels like Death, but is not quite. But, when I tho't the Insult of Irony could not be more ham-handed in its treatment of Inkster, I was wrong, because on each hole of her back 9, we could see the tv cameras being turned on, in preparation for the competitors to follow. Ouch, baby, very ouch.


This baksheesh of giving an autographed ball automatically is a tiny thing, and I know Mr Science treasures his collection, but I don't like it. I gave him my Heather Young, which he took because the signature was remarkably legible, but, he said, he prefers those balls he's gotten himself, those hold the memories.

I did get a ball from Inkster: her caddy gave one to me and to the standard bearer on the 18th fairway, not very graciously. He put the ball in my hand with a jab like he was paying off a bad bet. He thanked us too, for her, like you'd thank your bookie.

I hope it is not too much "sour grapes" if I say that it was not an autographed ball -- I really have no idea if she even actually used it. That's ok, I'm no collector and I can always use a good ball, practically new.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Arrowhead Country Club

7001 Yds, Par 72, Slope 124, by Arnold Palmer

They Say: "This course features fast greens that are sloped and difficult to read. In addition, water hazards come into play on several holes. Many holes offer fantastic views. This club plays host to a Phoenix Open qualifier every year. Members of any American Golf course are allowed to play here. The course is open to the public on Mondays."

A lush, well-designed, well-maintained facility that is ultimately a little ordinary, despite the Palmer Star-power. In the end we (The Defenestrator, Ricky, Billy, and myself) decided that the layout just wasn't as interesting as the Legends at Arrowhead Golf CLub, almost next door, also designed by The King. There were similarities, of course, and it took 5 hours to get around, and in-the-final-analysis, the CC just lacks the je nais sans quois of even the GC.

Not to say that there aren't some very good holes here . . .

The par 4 # 5 is sorta long (433 yds) but the challenge here is the soreful temptation to cut the corner of the dogleg right -- it "looks" like you can drive over the huge bunker that runs down the right side, and it looks like you could drive thru the dogleg otherwise, but you can't and you probably wouldn't . . . the trap runs along the inside of the dogleg all the way to the green, which you can't see from the tee, so two of us were in the trap and two of us were actually right of the trap, behind trees that hide the green. I hit a thin three iron thru the trap just short of the green, then hit a miracle pitch up on the same tier as the pin, and made a long par putt, but I don't recommend that strategy . . . too many uncertain variables, if you see what I mean.

The par 4 #8 is maybe the most interesting hole on the course, and not just because of the way I played it . . . I skied my drive straight at the green, barely over the water that I had hubristically believed was "no problem". When I saw my ball had rolled to the base of a tree I was kicking myself for not going around the water, staying with the fairway, but the water on the right looked reachable from the tee -- not sure it is, it's really more up by the green, but if you hammered one with a lot of roll, the water might be in play.

From back in the fairway, the green looked impossible to hit: small, with a steep fall off on all sides from the turtle-back middle. Sure enough, even Billy's ball, the best of our shots rolled off the side. I had a turrible shot: I could make a pass at the ball and I was only 160 from the green, but the tree was right there and the water up on the right was definitely in play. I needed to hit a cut shot but if it sliced at all it would be wet, but I hit a perfect half-4-iron that wound up on the front of the green.

From there, the green looked even more impossible, with something like a 4 foot difference between the middle where the pin was and where my ball was, plus my ball sat astride a ridge between two swales, which if either grabbed my ball, I'd be looking at a 5 putt. Billy made a good lag putt for tap-in par, but I was still too timid with mine, and it fell off 12 feet off-line, even tho' it made it to the top tier. I missed that putt, too.

The par 4 #10 is the longest on this course, 446 yds, with a long sweeping turn left around a large pond. The advice we got was to aim for the 2nd tree from the left on the right -- if you see what I mean -- which would mean to skirt the water without actually crossing it, and theoretically ending up in the middle of the fairway. We wound up with one in the water, two on the wrong side of the dogleg and my little unexpected draw about 8 feet above the water inside both trees, around the corner of the pond, behind some sort of willow tree. When I looked at the semi-bare lie, the tree, and the hook lie, I figgered it was trouble. I sliced at it for all I was worth but it still hooked on me. Wound up pin high, left of the green, on the downhill slope of a mound with a swale between me and the green. Odds are the next shot would be in the swale (chunk) or over the green (blade), but I managed to average those two wrongs for a semi-right approach . . . missed the putt tho'. Good hole.

So there's some good holes, but most are sorta straight, and sorta obvious. . . .I wish I hadn't had so many 3-putts, so I could assert the course's ordinariness more forcefully, but that's the course main defense, I think . . . most of the greens are not as contortured as #8, but they did seem hard-to-read. I wound up 45-45=90; Billy wound up with an 83, he said; The Defenestrator struggled to a 97, despite driving the ball spectacularly all day; Ricky suffered a 104, but netted out a 66 in the Peoria System Scoring they used for the tournament, and won a dozen balls -- he says he won't use them until his game is back in shape .

I liked the par 4 #16 which has water at some indefinite distance in front of your drive, but I hit a toehook down the right hand side that left me a short-iron in. Thinking birdie all the way, I was confident, but oddly enough, my short-irons toe-hits don't hook as much as my woods, so, bogey.

I quite liked the par 5 # 18, too, tho' it is very short, 477 yds. I skied my drive then laid up in front of the water with a 5 iron to the left side of the fairway (not on purpose) . . . next time I'd hit more club and go way right, to the fairway that you can't see, cuz I was left with 190 over water to the green. I clouted a 5 wood and tho't I was over the green, but I caught the front bunker (musta been bad trajectory). Billy was in there too, after 2 perfect shots and a wedge that came up short. I got up and in for my 3rd sandy in 5 opportunities, which when I think about it seems awfully good for me. . .


Safeway International Day 4

Mr Science, Our Intrepid Reporter, concludes his coverage:

I forgot to tell you about Taylore Karle, the 16-year-old amateur from Scottsdale. She was 5 over par on Friday night, with 4 holes to go and the cut line at +3. Saturday morning in the cold rain she birdied 15, bogied 16 (toughest hole on the course), and birdied 17 and 18 to make the cut. Watch out.

I had Johanna Head and Sarah Lynn Sargent today, two delightful young ladies. I should say that Vicki, Jackie, and Christa are delightful as well, and consummate professionals, although no longer in the "cute" category. Sarah is a rookie, playing in her 4th LPGA tournament. Her father was caddying for her. He stood behind her to help line up her shots, but on the 13th tee he was in the blue box while she was hitting, and she had to do it herself. She busted one about 260 down the middle, a pretty normal drive for her, and when he caught up I told him he'd better show up on the tee from now on, or she'll figure out she doesn't need him anymore. There was lots of joking about his pay, too. He was having a great time, but with the limp and the leg brace, and struggling with the big bag, I think she'll probably have to find other help for most of her tournaments.

Dave had the first group off the tee this morning, including defending champion Julie Inkster. I haven't talked to him about it yet. How about filling us all in, Dave?

Lorena Ochoa again proved that no lead is safe. You may recall this tournament two years ago, she had a 4 shot lead on Annika with 3 to play, and lost in a playoff. Today, she was 4 ahead of Suzann Pettersen on the first tee. Suzann birdied 2, 3, 4, and 5, and after Lorena bogied 6 Suzann was leading by 1. Suzann was in the group ahead of Lorena, and when she birdied 14 she was 2 up with 4 to go. And then Lorena birdied 14, 15, 17 and 18 to win by 2. Jeanie and I watched both of them play 14, and saw the rest of Lorena's birdies. Jeong Jang was playing with Lorena, and having a tough day, but she also birdied 14, 17, and 18 to shoot even par 72. We were on TV at the end, on the right side of the 18th fairway with about 30,000 other people. It wasn't a close-up shot, so you have to look carefully to see us.

I'm still digesting my experience . . . I noticed my listeners' eyes glazing over at work today as I told my story, so it needs work . . .


Safeway International Day 3

Mr Science continues:

We started out this morning on Round 2, which was called on account of darkness last night. I was there at 6:00 in the cold, wet darkness. Waiting for a ride out to 13, I saw Christa Johnson, who I kept score for on Thursday and who, you will remember, had the high round of the day with 85. She was still only 13 over par, and was there to play her last few holes in the rain before going home for the weekend. I said to her, "It must have been tempting to call in sick this morning". And she said "Champions don't do that". My kinda gal. I heard later on that the guy with her is not her husband, but that they were planning to get married this weekend. I wonder how that would have worked out if she had made the cut.

Vicki Goetze-Ackerman didn't make it. She has an 18-month-old son who had gotten sick back home in Florida on Thursday night, so she withdrew and went home after play was called on Friday. Her ball was still on the 13th fairway, though, where we had left it. So I got to keep that one, too. They had all three given me a ball Friday night, because I
didn't think I would be back with them this morning. So, now I have two of Vicki's. She marks them like this:

Friday, March 23, 2007


Safeway International, day 2

MR Science replays a long, weather-tortured day:

I had Vicki Goetze-Ackerman, Jackie Gallagher-Smith, and Aram Cho today. We got to the 13th fairway when they blew the horn for darkness. It was a late start because they didn't finish yesterday.

Aram was hanging close to the cut line, but made a bogey on 12. She's 5 over, when she was +4 she was tied for 74th. Vicki and Jackie are both +10, and still having a good time. You don't see that on the PGA tour. Vickie is the president of the LPGA. When they called play, they sent carts out to pick us up, and I rode in the front seat with Vickie and Jackie and the driver. There were 10 of us in two carts.

I helped Paula Creamer make a par on 3, before my group went out. She had hit onto the green, about 30 feet from the pin, and then Nicole Castrale hit a shot that hit Paula's ball and knocked it about 15 feet farther from the hole. They couldn't see from the fairway what had happened, so when they arrived at the green they just marked their balls and got ready to play. Paula's caddy was standing near me, so I told him what had happened, and helped her (so did some other spectators) replace her ball where it had been before it was hit. She made a good first putt, and tapped it in.

I was thinking I should get an autographed ball or something, but all I got was a thank you from the caddy. I'll have to track them down tomorrow or Sunday and ask about that. Paula is -2, tied for 12th.

I watched Annika, too. She shot 32 on the front to get to -3, and is tied for 8th. On 11, we heard a roar when Lorena eagled 13 to go to -9, leading by 2 (just 1 now, though).

I talked to Taylore Karle's dad. They live in Desert Mountain. She's 16 years old, and is +5 with 4 holes to play. Christa Johnson is even par today through 16, and no longer in last place, or even 2nd to last. Natalie shot 72 today but missed the cut (+6).

Cactus Dave is walking tomorrow. He's going out pretty early, and his favorite golfer, Hilary Lunke, is on the cut line at +3 through 10 holes today.


Israel's Sacred Golf Course Converts Bomb Craters Into Bunkers

By A. Craig Copetas
March 22 (Bloomberg) -- It's a soft 3-iron shot between miracles along the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus of Nazareth walked on water and New York-based Americas Partners LLP General Partner Joseph Bernstein is spending $46 million to build the first 36-hole championship golf course in Israel.
``This is God's proving ground and the most exciting deal I've done in my life,'' Bernstein says of the Galilee Golf Club seaside course atop Mount Arbel. Construction begins after the holy days of Passover and Easter, with celebrated golf architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. sculpting fairways from the ``green pastures'' that inspired the Jewish King David to compose the 23rd Psalm and where the multitudes gathered beneath myrtle trees to hear the Christian savior deliver his Sermon on the Mount.
``It took 10 years to get the Israeli government to approve the deal,'' says Bernstein, whose past real-estate developments include the Crown Building and Americas Tower in Manhattan. ``The project is unique,'' the 58-year-old attorney adds. ``It's like building a golf course on Mount Rushmore, and that doesn't get close to the historical significance of Mount Arbel.''

in re Golf In Isreal . . . I have these scattered observations . . .

Golf itself is sacred, what PG Wodehouse called, if I may paraphrase, "The Noblest Enterprise of Man."

The best golf course I have played this year is The Inn of The Mountain Gods which near Ruidoso, NM, sort of an old Apache Stronghold, and sacred to them. I don't see why we can't play golf in Israel, too.

I have always believed, until the advent of the Antichrist Bush, that Golf soothed the martial tendencies of presidents, and taught them humility.

Again from Wodehouse, an anecdote between The Oldest Living Member of the Club and a young man fallen into the ill-company of lawn bowlers:

When chastised, the young man replied "that bowls is a super game . . . why even when Drake heard the Spanish Armada had been spotted, he said 'We have time for one more game!'"

"If he had played Golf," the Oldest Living Member rejoins, "he never would have gone at all!"

If you see what I mean.

True, it might add a little more hazard to the game than is the norm, but I think the slope factor could be adjusted well enough, and rules "bent-but-not-broken' in order to facilitate the inevitably lengthend break-in-time . . . .

Richmond Golf Club Temporary Rules, 1941

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Copper Canyon

6845 Yds, Par 72, Un-sloped, yet . . .

They Say: "Copper Canyon Golf Club at Festival Ranch is an upscale daily fee, 18-hole championship golf course designed by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley. This golf course is the center-piece of the active adult community built by Pulte/Del Webb. As has been customary in branding the Pulte/Del Webb communities, a state-of-the-art Recreational Center (Sage Center) will compliment the extraordinary golf that sits within the confines of the White Tank Mountains, west of Phoenix."
A totally new course, just opened in Feb 2007, run by Troon Golf, so our heads filled with visions of sugar-plum-fairies, based on our experiences at other facilities, so perhaps disappointment was inevitable: the grass has not grown in completely, yet (it will certainly, based on the sure touch of Troon), the landscaping is incomplete, off the grass (it will certainly be filled in, with style, eventually), the views of the white tank mountains are less-inspiring than at other Troon facilities (and they will be even more obscured when the houses in various stages of construction along the fairway are completed), but it seems unlikely that the course will grow in challenge or in shot values over time -- it is very panksian in its design: wide flat fairways with slightly elevated greens and tees and greens that roll true, but unpredictably.
The staff seemed somewhat undertrained: the counter woman looked dumb-founded when I asked if we could walk, I heard irritable conversations from the back rooms in re employee discounts, and long discussions while I waited to check in behind real-estate-clerks succoring at the teats of a money-cow-to-be: a course wholly devoted towards selling real estate.
We did walk -- they were glad to let us walk if we paid for carts -- but this course is not for walkers. Mr Science paced off the distance between the 17th green and the 18th tee at 960 yards; that would be a typical, if extreme example. There are very few parallel fairways, they are mostly strung out between the vast stretches of naked, graded dirt where homes will some day be -- they don't look to be too close to the wide, lush fairways -- that's not the problem -- but golfers there are liable to infection with Valley Fever there for years to come, I reckon, from the dust, when the wind picks up.
I started out, as I have the last few weeks, driving the ball superlatively, hitting strong approaches over the green, then floundering to a bogie. By dint of supreme concentration, I was able to par the long #3 par 4 #1 handicap hole (with the wind), but then I reverted to form till I got frustrated again, and backslid into mediocrity. That and 18 were my only pars, wound up with a 97, mostly due to inability to adjust to the wooly-ish greens, which rolled smooth but not true, especially as the ball slowed down. Mr Science suffered the greens, too, ballooning up to an 84.
The Par 5 #12 is really the only hole that offers up anything near the usual Troon experience: a much more than normal (at Copper Canyon) elevated tee; lakes on both sides of the fairway, first right then left; a small shallow creek dividing the fairway, connecting the two lakes, that makes the second shot semi-blind; an green elevated more than normal with mounds and bunkers guarding the sides and back. Very cool.
The driving range was large and the balls were gratis, so Mr Science was happy with his warm-up . . . I opted for a breakfast burrito, even tho it was after Noon . . . perhaps that was not wise . . . after it had been reheated in the microwave, the tortilla was stiff as a cracker, except where it had been soaked by the chili sauce, and there it was soggy.


Links at Queen Creek

6010 Yds, Par 70, Slope 113 by Sam Wese
45-45=90 for me, 42-36=78 for Mr Science, with a birdie on #16 . . .

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