Monday Night Magic in Memphis

“100,000 years ago, there were people who stayed by the campfire, and there were people who wandered.”-Reacher

I have a needlepoint belt that is stitched with the names of some of the most interesting streets in America. King Street. Check. Broadway. Check. Bleecker Street. Check. Rainey Street. Ironically, I got rained out. Bourbon Street. Check. Collins Avenue. Check. Sunset Boulevard. Check. Beale Street. Let’s check it out.

No matter what my son, Banks, and I did in Memphis, the conversation always returned to that cool juke box in our hotel lobby. He discovered it on Sunday evening as we checked in, immediately curious as to what he was looking at. I told him and showed him how it worked, and from that point on, we couldn’t walk past the damn thing without playing a song or eight.

Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, The Temptations, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Otis Redding. Not your every day playlist for a seven year old.

The BBQ pizza we had was unique and super delicious when dipped into the extra cup of tangy sauce. I read it was a favorite of Elvis, and I can see why.

The hot and spicy chicken was hot and spicy. The beans were good. The mac was great.

The BBQ spaghetti was better than I remembered, and the beans were spectacular.

Yet the best food experience wasn’t necessarily the best food, but it definitely came with the best story.

Early on at the Spurs-Grizzlies game Monday night, I told Banks that if Grizzlies star player Ja Morant scored 50+ points (along with a couple of other things), we could literally do whatever he wanted after the game. The likelihood of all of these things happening was slim to none, so I didn’t bat an eyelid.

And then Ja posterized a dude. And then Ja hit a ridiculous halftime buzzer beater. And then he had 30. Then 40. Then I’ll be damned if it all didn’t happen. Monday Night Magic in Memphis. 52 points. Top 2 plays on SportsCenter. Grizzlies win.

After the game, we started scouring the city for ice cream. The line for the delicious sweets on Beale Street was too damn long. So we walked and looked and finally…

Three scoops of vanilla, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, cherry. I had the raspberry cheesecake myself. We popped back up to the room to relive via SportsCenter what had just happened right in front of our eyes.

But not without a stop at the jukebox first, melting ice cream and all.

You might think that Beale Street with a seven year old is not a vibe, but when the Juke Joint had its doors open, a five piece band was playing, and they served fruity drinks to go, it was a night for the scrapbook, singing and dancing with Banks in the middle of the blocked off street.

I actually thought that a tour of legendary Sun Studios might be a little slow for the big man, but when he started playing his air guitar and singing into Johnny Cash and Elvis’ actual microphone from decades ago, I changed my tune.

And when it was time for us to leave the hotel and he played Hit the Road Jack as our final walkout song, I just laughed.

I didn’t know what to expect from Memphis, but between the food, game, music, and that damn jukebox, we definitely got the win.

Just like the Grizz did on a night we will never forget.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Golf: Monday in New Orleans

“To understand what it feels like, you have to throw yourself into the fire. And if you embarrass yourself a couple of times or twelve, jump back in until you get it right.”-abk, abk Golf

As I stood over my opening tee shot yesterday in New Orleans, I felt nothing, comparatively speaking. I put the tee in the ground, picked my target, remembered my two thoughts, and swung. Maybe I felt nothing because I’m helping raise a 5 month old, and I’m tired. Maybe I felt nothing because my days are jam packed working, teaching, learning, and pursuing all of my interests, and I’m tired.

Or dammit, maybe I had simply done the work to get better.

As a reminder, in my first real golf tournament roughly eight months ago, I shot a near career-ending before it ever starts 91, 92 due to a faulty driver and MAJOR first tee jitters. I had been playing some great golf back on the coast, but I quickly learned that horsing around golf and tournament golf were two different beasts. I also quickly learned that if I had any major weaknesses, they must be addressed.

So I put my nose to the grindstone and got to work. I played a few meaningful events in the fall, still falling victim to a faulty driver and first tee nerves, but not quite as bad.

I became a professional in late November and immediately teed it up in a 6 man best ball event that was more fun than anything, but I felt a little more progress.

For the past 45 days, though, I have really been working on the driver. Get this shit right, son, and you can take the next step. Not to mention, I played 271 days last year. What’s with the first tee jitters still?

Monday in New Orleans was a two part event: a four man pro-am (which was more fun than anything) and an individual low professional tournament (which was no joke). We started on the daunting 13th hole, and though I opened up with a tap-in bogey, I did not feel nervous. After nearly birdieing the next two holes, I made a silly bogey on 16. But the moment of truth came on 17. After hitting into the sand on my tee ball and then blasting it thirty feet away, I was left with a downhill 5 foot teaser for bogey. Make it, and maybe I get it together. Miss it, things might unravel. I buried it, pumped my fist, and then proceeded to go the final 13 holes in even par, narrowly missing one birdie after another.

I posted a +3 75, good enough for T8 in a field of roughly 20 seasoned professionals, a few of whom are studs. I smashed my driver all day. My approach game was solid as a rock. I just needed a few more putts to rotate one more time.

But I’m not mad at it. In a crazy turn of events, instead of being nervous on the first tee, I felt a few nerves on my final two foot putt. Because I knew I had played a good round, and I wanted to finish strong. In a real event. In an actual tournament. Just two spots outside of the money, it turned out.

I had a beer with the boys, chopped it up, and had a few laughs. The sun was shining. The wind was still blowing. I was so proud of myself. Lots of progress made. Lots still to learn.

Have a great week.-Benj

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7 abk Thoughts on Your 7th Birthday

Excuse me’ coughed a cricket who’d seen Gerald earlier on, ‘But sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.’- Giraffes Can’t Dance

Dear Banks-

1. You have been blessed with a smattering of unique talents and qualities. Embrace them. If you ever feel that you are different, the quicker you can view that as a massive strength instead of as a weakness, the more you will be able to enjoy life and help others.

2. You (and your sister) are the greatest gifts this world has ever given your mother and me. You taught me unconditional love, though it took me a couple of years to truly wrap my head around being a parent. For the past five years, we have been two peas in a pod, and I hope that will continue forever.

3. Happiness comes from having a wonderful relationship with yourself. The world sometimes ignores the importance of this. If you have ridiculously high standards for yourself, forgive and be easy on yourself if you occasionally fall short. If your standards aren’t lofty enough for your liking, work on that. Your relationship with yourself will rub off on all of your relationships with others.

4. Perfection does not exist, and the pursuit of it is exhausting. When you come home with a 100 on an assignment, I am proud of you. When you come home with a 90, I am even prouder.

5. Respect, admire, and enjoy nature. Play outside every day for all of your life. Sunlight, sunrises, and sunsets soothe the soul.

6. If you ever feel like Gerald the Giraffe, call me and let’s talk. Been there, done that. If you ever come across someone else who feels like Gerald the Giraffe, offer some encouragement, a kind word, or a smile. Shine your light, son.

7. You have to live within certain general confines, but otherwise, the world is huge and you can literally do anything. Think for yourself. Pursue your curiosities. Be creative. Never stop learning or trying to better yourself. Create your own world that you want to live in. (I do my best to SHOW you this every day.)

With love-

Dad

2/10/22 (for your time capsule)

Ocean Springs, MS

abk Journey: The Art of Figuring Things Out

“The beauty is in the attempt.”-Dave Chappelle

The one and only reason that I went to MBA school back in 2004 was because I was given the opportunity to continue a promising collegiate soccer career that had been cut short by multiple knee injuries. I had no interest in another degree or going back to school. In fact, I dreaded it. But damn it, I sure did love playing soccer at a high level.

Fast forward six years to 2010, and I was almost at the maximum time allowed by the school to finish that same master’s degree. I had taken my sweet little time completing the program, because quite honestly, I had encountered a unique problem. My classes kept falling on nights when the Lakers, Celtics, or some other big dogs were in town to play my (then) Charlotte Bobcats. Decisions, decisions.

I finally graduated with my MBA just in the nick of time, though I do wonder some times if having those three letters to my name had any major impact on anything. What I do know for sure is that, while enrolled in the MBA program, I enjoyed my most wonderful year of playing soccer ever, and I saw some epic basketball games in person, Kobe and The Big Three coming to mind immediately.

Fast forward to 2022, and I find myself in the exact same situation, except it would be prudent to add that I am also raising two beautiful children with someone I met in that same MBA program. (If there is one other difference, it would be that then I was young and scared of my own shadow, and now I’m young and on the verge of being free.)

On November 30, 2021, I officially completed all of the necessary requirements to become a PGA Associate and enter the Professional Golfers’ Association of America Professional Golf Management Program. I have until November 30, 2030 (nine years) to complete the nearly 1,000 hours of required work to become one of the esteemed 28,000 full PGA members in the United States. This 1,000 hours is on top of helping run a golf facility 5-6 days a week, teaching and coaching 8+ students weekly, and keeping MY game razor sharp, which is no easy task. Not to mention raising two kiddos, chopping it up with family and friends, exploring the world, staying healthy, and pursuing ALL of my creative curiosities.

There’s no way in hell I’m taking nine years to do this, but my initial goal of two years also seems highly unlikely. I’ll get started on one of my assignments, and then the next thing I know Banks and I are headed to Boston or Charli needs some snuggles. Decisions, decisions.

At first glance, it appears there aren’t enough hours in the day to make this happen. But I absolutely adore the process of trying to figure it out. That’s why I love style so much but never had much time for the stylists banging down my door (not talking about you, Dick 😉). I love my process of getting dressed. I love my process of getting better at golf. I love my process of figuring out how to help my students get better. And though I didn’t necessarily love the process of training for a marathon or obtaining my MBA, I’m proud of myself for the ambitious attempt and eventually figuring it out.

And where I used to not do things for fear of failure, I’ve taken myself so far outside of my comfort zone and put myself through enough internal challenges to now know that I’ll likely figure it out. That I actually love the process of trying to figure it out. And that even if I don’t, there’s so much beauty in the ambitious attempt. Two years. Four years. Who knows. Who cares. I just know that my Hornets come to New Orleans in about a month, and I won’t be doing any extra work that day.

Have a great week.-Benj

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The abk Journey: It’s All Very Personal

“Anything that grabs your curiosity, you need to go explore.”-GaryVee

Early on in the journey, the easiest phrase to explain what I was attempting to do was trying to find myself. Maybe even re-find myself. But in retrospect, that was always really just a cliché embarrassingly finding it’s way onto the page, and it never felt completely accurate.

I finally read something this week that really resonated with me, and it was THAT exact word that was used. Someone saying, this has never really resonated with me, that over there really resonated with me, struck a chord.

It’s just semantics, but the internal voyage had to be guided by those phrases. What resonates with me. What doesn’t. What do I, personally, find interesting and worthwhile.

“To a creative person, the ability and courage to pursue those curiosities is freedom. On the contrary, the inability to do so feels like the walls are closing in.”-anything but khakis®️

Most folks that I spoke to thought I was nuts for heading to Boston last week in the dead of winter in sub-10 degree wind chills. Little did they know that crisp, frigid air (along with exploration) speaks to me, especially when I haven’t felt it in roughly a year.

The good news is, that as I began discovering the aspects of life that actually resonated with me, what most folks thought slowly became less and less important.

I began to understand that sitting in meetings, sitting in traffic, and being busy just to be busy did not interest me. Nor did celebrating certain holidays, made up days, or having a fixed calendar. Ditto to routine and tradition. They just didn’t speak to me.

On the contrary, I liked to celebrate real things that actually resonated with me. Daily sunrises and sunsets. My kids’ smiles and giggles. Flushing a 7 iron. Overcoming a challenge. Never ending learning. Forging my own path. Getting better. Playing sports. Helping others get better. Creativity. Originality. Peace and love, how I experience them. A zest for life.

Along my journey, I have found that the literal process of exploring my interests, whether doing or just being, is where the beauty lies. When broad concepts like never ending learning and getting better are the goals, the results are virtually meaningless. When I watch the sun rise over the gulf or explore frigid Boston with my son, I’m thankful I finally summoned the courage to start my journey.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Travel: The Bostic Boys Tackle Boston

It all started with a phone call right before Christmas from my dad in North Carolina.

Son, let’s meet for lunch soon. Maybe Atlanta?

Dad, I don’t want to go to Atlanta. Let’s go to New York City.

Once my abk juices started flowing, I dreamed up a January 17 MLK Day excursion, and lunch turned into MY Charlotte Hornets playing the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

My dad was intrigued, but a logistical detail didn’t allow him to come, so Christy told me I should take Banks.

After a little research and discussion (and a lot of excitement), I gave Banks four trip options, and he chose Boston, MA. The New Orleans Pelicans at HIS Boston Celtics on MLK Day.

But Winter Storm Izzy squashed that shit like a bug on a Mississippi windshield. Undeterred, I got on the Bat-phone and pushed the trip back two days. And damned if instead of Pelicans at Celtics, we would get to see MY Charlotte Hornets play HIS Boston Celtics. ESPN, prime time Wednesday night. I would have to go big.

I also figured if I took Banks to Harvard, the absences from school would have to be excused, right? Details…

When we arrived in Boston Tuesday evening, it was colder than a you know what in a you know where. I was so excited. As much as I like being able to play golf year round, I absolutely miss experiencing the variety of all four seasons. The frigid Boston air immediately spoke to me. (It also told me I should zip up my jacket.)

Since it’s been a minute since my last abk big city travel excursion, let me remind you of my main areas of interest: consuming local food and drink, walking the city, meeting new people, and watching sports.

My son ate his first cannoli. We ate Sicilian pizza and fresh meatball subs in bed. We had macaroni and cheese on top of a burger #themacjones!

We toured Fenway Park, which was a personal highlight. We walked through Harvard Yard, Boston Common, alongside the Charles River, and between the quaint row houses of Beacon Hill.

Because my son’s suitcase is an orange Lamborghini Huracán and starts lots of conversations, we met a zillion new people. From Canada, from Cincinnati, even one lady who had lived in Mississippi.

And we went to THE GAME. The Hornets vs Knicks turned Pelicans vs Celtics turned Hornets vs Celtics. I splurged on great seats, and Grandma and Granddad sent me a note that morning that said to let Banks pick out a new Celtics jersey on them. Since I was clad in my teal and purple Charlotte Hornets gear, the young boy in his sparkling new Jayson Tatum jersey served as my bodyguard for the evening, protecting me from all of those big, bad, wonderful Boston fans.

All of the big events are fun and exciting, but anyone who has travelled anywhere with their children knows that the real memories are in the unique details. Like my son busting his butt on the ice right in front of the Massachusetts State House after I had told him repeatedly to quit horsing around. Or his chasing (and almost catching) pigeons right in front of TD Garden. Or my telling him we were going to get meatball subs in North End (Little Italy), only for him to start ordering like we were at Subway when we arrived (I am still laughing). Or his inadvertently flipping off the entire crowd at the Hornets-Celtics game, an educational opportunity for dad if there ever was one.

For whatever reason, when we arrived at our hotel on Tuesday, we got upgraded to one of their nicest suites. I still don’t know why, but all of a sudden, my son became Kevin McAllister from Home Alone 2, and I became the best dad ever. And though I am almost positive I am not the best dad ever, we truly had the best time.

And just for a little icing on the cake (macaroni on the burger?), I now get to contend indefinitely with a child that wants to live in the Penthouse Suite in a hotel in Boston. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Lifestyle: Learning a New Religion

“If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.”-Dr. Seuss

I remember pulling into a golf course down here a few years ago. It was a fall Saturday afternoon. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Picture perfect. In Charlotte, no tee times would have been available. But in Coastal Mississippi, the parking lot was empty. I literally remember thinking to myself, This is weird. What the hell is going on?

When I lived and worked in and around Uptown Charlotte for all those years, my focus was primarily on professional sports. Panthers and Hornets, Hornets and Panthers. I personally had season tickets to one, and through work, I might as well have had season tickets to the other. They were both fun experiences, extremely fun in the case of the Panthers’ 2016 Super Bowl run, but neither comes close to experiencing college football Saturdays living in the heart of SEC country.

By Wednesday, if the chatter hasn’t started earlier, I usually start really thinking about that weekend’s games. Who is playing who. Where the games are. What time. What channel. By the time I go to bed on Friday night, I’m ready for Saturday Service, the religion of SEC college football, and the preaching I am going to hear and see the next day. At first, I was unprepared, but now almost three years in, I haven’t yet joined as a member but let’s say I visit every week.

From my perspective as a golf course employee, on Saturday mornings in the fall, we bust it for a few hours starting just before 7am. Throughout the morning, College GameDay fills the background while I chit chat with all of our customers (and fellow employees) who is playing who, who is beating who and by how much. I likely have a few bucks on a few games, so I have to dig in. Home teams. Injury reports. Covid lists. At 11am CST, the first games come on and the first groups of golfers are finishing their rounds, ready to get showered up, get some grub, and watch SEC football for the rest of the day.

Around this time, I grab a shrimp po boy and see if the early games mean anything to me. Then I get back to it for a couple of hours, but the golf crowd slowly begins to subside. Just know, Ole Miss football trumps a perfectly beautiful day. The way my mind works, I say why not have both? So by 230pm, I’m ready to play a few holes myself, likely watching the mid afternoon kickoffs on my phone between shots.

There’s nothing like it. It’s truly a religion down here. Commandment 1: Nothing shall get in the way of College Football Saturdays.

I don’t take it that far, but when in Rome, why not create and enjoy a Roman lifestyle. Ideal weather, playing golf, watching college football, beautiful scenery, a few bucks here and there, maybe a cold drink.

I’m gone by 5pm, if not earlier, ready to see what the evening holds.

You hear about culture, but this is damn real. It’s like clockwork. It’s sacred. I’m not one for traditions, but…

Have a great week.-Benj

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abk Journey: Moments of Truth

“The most important conversations you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself.”-David Goggins

During the month of December, by my standards, I was a slacker. Body pain, holiday food, and a slight general disinterest were the culprits for the time off, but I knew there would be consequences. Like everything along the journey, I just had to own it.

My favorite thing about golf is that I get out of it what I put into it. Grind away, and I get better. Take December off, and I start to suck.

“In life, there is no gift as overlooked or inevitable as failure. I’ve had quite a few and have learned to relish them, because if you do the forensics you’ll find clues about where to make adjustments and how to eventually accomplish your task.”- also David Goggins

Last Sunday, I played in a little informal $20 competition for the first time in eons. I stunk up the joint. I hit my driver everywhere. I never felt comfortable. My left wrist and right hip never went to work. I watched as two of my playing partners made mince meat out of the course, one quite surprising and one acting like the professional that he is. I felt light years away from the latter, which is odd given that two to three months ago, we played a round together step by step, shot by shot.

It was a good wake up call. Time to get back with the program.

It is an odd feeling to have done two and a half years of work, achieve what I have achieved, and literally feel like I am underachieving. I have been blessed with some incredible things that I can do with my body. I have been blessed with a sharp mind, an endless imagination, a never ending will, and an infinite ability to adjust.

But I have also been cursed with certain limitations on my body that I am constantly trying to push. I don’t think I am anywhere near maxing out those limitations, but it’s been a 25 year battle between the brain knowing what to do and the body being able to make the necessary adjustments.

We are not talking skipping down the street. We are talking about exact wrist angles, the hips and arms moving in beautiful rhythm, etc.

My first 2022 tournament is scheduled for February 21. The goal is to play nine to eleven tournaments this year: some pro-ams, some pro-pros, some individual championships.

If my competitive soccer past is any indication, I’ll have myself ready. I love a competition. I love an audience. I love to play when it means something.

Although, some afternoons I just want to come home and hug the kids.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Another abk Year

“That’s the key to success. Doing your thing, and just doing it and doing it and not being swayed by everything else going on.”-Designer Thom Browne

The highlight of the year was obviously the birth of the little cutie, Charli Win. That deserves its own mention.

But there were lots of other highlights. A new house in coastal Mississippi. Periodic jaunts to New Orleans. A trip to Pinehurst. Playing golf 271 days. Shooting a 3 under par 69. Coaching youth soccer. Trekking to Miami. Road-tripping to Far West Texas. Getting introduced to tournament golf. Multiple visits with family and friends, both here and there. Teaching golf to a full slate of students. A fall retreat in the woods. Becoming an assistant golf professional, PGA Associate, and playing in my first golf tournament as a professional.

This was a transition year for me where the grinding outweighed the adventure for the first time in a few years. Still free, but the percentages just slightly out of whack for my liking.

“Self mastery is the only game in town.”- my friend, Junior

I keep a running list of ideas in my notes on my phone. It’s my way to continue to understand, better, and challenge myself, and ensure I am living freely. The ideas range from long term and big picture to short term and going to happen in three weeks. To illustrate how my abk brain works, here is a literal cut and paste of my current notepad and the life I am focused on creating:

Specific golf tournaments, abk Consulting & Golf Academy, sports betting, Real Estate out West, Travel, skiing, NYC Marathon, Palm Desert, Tara Iti, La Bonbonera, 1-17-NYC/Hornets, 2022 Tourneys, PGA, 3-11-NOLA/Hornets court side , health, elbow, beach running, tattoos, CLT, Paradise Pointe.

It’s meant to be both realistic and ambitious. Adventurous yet not too bananas (though sometimes it does get bananas). Fun, limit-pushing, and rewarding.

I’ve got a million things that I want to do with my life, and around seemingly every corner, there are distractions, noise, and excuses ready to derail the train. For the first four years of abk, I’ve been a genius at batting it all away, designing how I wanted to live. For the last couple of months, I’ve felt the hunger lacking. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe this. Maybe that.

Whatever it is, the first order of 2022 is to get that hunger back.

Happy New Year!-Benj

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2017-2021: Turning a Thought Into a Thing

“Look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living within that way of life.”-Hunter S. Thompson

Though I couldn’t articulate it at the time four years and eight months ago, I wanted to live a certain way and offer an original contribution to this world. As the journey progressed, two criteria emerged.

Criteria 1: This would apply to all aspects of my life.

Criteria 2: I was not going to follow a road someone else had paved. I was going to do the paving.

“Once you have come here as a human being, you are supposed to be the master of your life.”-Sadhguru

All EXTERNAL ACTIONS would become intentional. My time would be spent pursuing activities and people that I found interesting, meaningful, and/or limit-pushing in an effort to create the best version of Benj to offer to the world. Very little time would be spent on all else. (I went to my first work meeting in over two and a half years last week. It lasted seven minutes, so I survived.)

So I began paving. I met hundreds of new people. I travelled to tons of new places. I reimagined a new lifestyle. I redefined so many categories. I unlearned as much as I could. I changed my mind a million times (In my opinion, the ultimate strength. In society’s opinion, the ultimate weakness.)

I did the travel. I did the golf. I did the work. And all of a sudden (not really), it turned into something.

“I love the process. I love getting better…I love everything about it. I even love that if you do everything right, you can still get screwed, and you have to be OK with it.”-LPGA golfer Danielle Kang

All INTERNAL REACTIONS would become intentional. More patient. More playful. More calm, at ease, and peaceful. I’ve done a lot of work on this. Lots of early morning reading, podcasts, and audiobooks.

If something made me mad, I stopped and asked myself why. If something made me nervous or anxious, I asked myself why. If I was scared of something, I asked myself why. I basically designed a lifestyle of complete uncertainty, so I forced myself to meet these issues head on.

In retrospect, the external acts of moving, starting a new career, etc. have been cakewalks compared to the internal work. Designing an awesome yet largely non traditional lifestyle is pointless if you care what anyone thinks about your designing an awesome yet largely non traditional lifestyle.

“Above all, I thirst for discoveries, travel, meeting other players, different cultures.”- Kylian Mbappe

It’s almost 2022. My list of interests is as robust as ever. I absolutely adore raising the kids with Christy.

I love waking up to sunrises over the gulf. I love the coastal and New Orleans flavor down here, the freedom of being outside all the time.

Sports betting really has my attention right now. I’ve got 8 or 9 golf tournaments I want to play in next year, about half which are in places I’ve never been. I want to keep teaching, learning, and getting better.

Plus, it’s time to hit the road again. Meet new people. See new places. Learn new things. And I hope that starts in January with one of my favorite places in the world.

Happy Holidays!-Benj

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