In New Orleans, Vivid Flavors of Vietnam
By Seth Kugel

Hawking her ya-ka-mein soup at a recent New Orleans concert, Linda Green went through her basic sales pitch: it’s beef and noodles. It’s a local secret, she told me. It’s an African-American tradition. But then came an odd clincher.

“It’s a little like pho,” she said. “But better.”

It took a second to process. Pho? As in, the Vietnamese beef and noodle soup? Why would she assume a random customer would know pho?

Because we were in New Orleans, that’s why. Just as New Yorkers nosh knishes and Miamians munch medianoches, New Orleanians know pho – and Vietnamese culture in general. It’s just one more classically American example of outsiders turned insiders. In the 1970s, attracted by both a climate and a local industry – shrimping – that they knew well, Vietnamese refugees settled by the tens of thousands in Louisiana. And New Orleans culture met them halfway, absorbing and adapting what they had to offer.

Though I had come to New Orleans for more mainstream purposes, I carved out some time to tour Vietnamese New Orleans. Though I did need a car – the Vietnamese communities are concentrated across the Mississippi River on the Westbank (outside New Orleans proper) and down Chef Menteur Highway along Lake Pontchartrain – there were few other major expenses. Vietnamese New Orleans, it turned out, is even more budget-friendly than the rest of the city.

Read more.

Newsletter – February 2013

Greetings HVGA,

Welcome back HVGA members, and welcome new members. It is that time again when we gear up for another exciting HVGA golf season. I’m sure everyone has been waiting eagerly for the season to start, and it’s finally here. February second will be the first tournament date, and we hope to see everyone at High Meadow Ranch in high spirit.

This season marks a decade of HVGA golf since its birth back in 2003. What started out as just a few guys getting together to play golf, has become a tradition that brings us together month after month, year after year. During these ten years, HVGA led the way for other VGA organizations throughout the nation to follow, and will continue to set a high standard for new VGA organizations to replicate for years to come. We look forward to another ten great years, and hope to see you all there.

With a new golf season brings new changes. A few noteworthy changes include slight increase in membership fees, a slight increase in Texas Cup fees at the request of the Dallas team to host the event at a nicer course, a change in the Texas Cup format, handicap cutoff for A and B Flights, etc. If you haven’t already, please check our website and note these and other important changes for this year.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the committee members. The Board members had asked the committee to serve another term, and most of the committee members accepted. The only committee member position that changed is the tournament coordinator position. Ricky Hesston had agreed to take over CT’s responsibility at the request of the board members. We are confident Ricky will schedule plenty of surprising new courses for us this year.

HVGA has supported numerous charity organizations in the past by participating in many of their events. The main ones that we continue to support include Hope Initiative, Johnny Dang Charities, and Medical Aid for Vietnam. Johnny Dang hosts several golf tournaments throughout the year, Medical aid for Vietnam hosts their golf tournament once a year, and the same goes for Hope Initiative. We will keep you posted of their tournament dates on our website, so please check our website regularly for those announcements. In fact, Hope Initiative already set a date for their golf tournament this year on February 23rd. Please show our support of their cause by signing up as many HVGA members as we can to their tournament roster.

Finally, let’s focus on honing our golf game so we can make early preparations to win our trophy back from our rivals at the Texas Cup event. They’ve managed to hang onto the A flight trophy for quite some time, and it would be something if we can win it back this year on our 10th anniversary. I hope you’re as excited as we are kicking off this season, and continue the excitement every month we will meet thereafter.

See you at High Meadow Ranch GC.

Kiet Luong
HVGA President


Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Quirky but cutting, playful but forceful, controlled but ragged, Thao Nguyen is one of the most commanding and distinctive young singers around. She infuses everything around her with electricity and mischievous boldness, from her live-wire concerts to the way her songs gallop and clamor, picking up intensity as they go along. With her band The Get Down Stay Down, Nguyen is about to release her third album — We the Common, out Feb. 5 — and it’s full of tense, clattering folk-rock. Read more.

Putting Fore The Future

Come out and have some fun while supporting a great charity that is Hope Initiative(HI). Putting Fore The Future will be held at the Wildcat Golf Club this year on February 23, 2013. $100 for Individuals and $400 for Teams. Visit for additional tournament and and sponsorship information.

HI seeks to develop vibrant and prosperous Vietnamese communities in Vietnam and abroad through poverty reduction, child development, and community enrichment programs. The Charity adopts a defined humanitarian platform, which focuses on three primary objectives:

  • Working to reduce poverty and improve living conditions in Vietnam.
  • Enhancing the lives of Vietnamese children through child development and advocacy.
  • Fostering Vietnamese community development through educational and cultural enrichment programs.

Learn more about HI.

2013 Season

Greetings and a Happy New Year to everyone,

Hope everyone had plenty of time to “re-tool” their golf games in the off-season, and ready to start a new one. 2013 promises to be a special year as we celebrate 10 exciting years of HVGA golf. Our club only lasted this long because of members like you who are actively supporting the club by showing up year after year. We hope you will continue to support the club by recruiting more friends and providing ideas to expand and grow the club. With 10 great years behind us, we all look forward to another 10 exciting years to come. Thank you for being a part of our history and future.

Now, let’s get back to business, the business of golf! Our first tournament registration is opened, therefore, members and guests are now able to join and register for the first tournament. We are schedule for High Meadow Ranch on February 2nd with a shotgun start at noon. Please join us on February 2nd to help kick off this exciting season.

When: February 2, 2013
Where: High Meadow Ranch
Time: 12:00 shotgun
Cost: $140 ($65 green fee/$75 membership fee)
Registration Deadline: January 29, 2013

Register Now!

Mr. Cao Goes to Washington

What happens when the naiveté of a political rookie clashes with the realities of racial and partisan politics of the South?

Mr. Cao Goes to Washington is a fascinating character study of Congressman Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese American Republican elected by surprise in an African American Democratic district in New Orleans. Will Cao make it through his term with his idealism intact?

Learn more.

The Dos and Don’ts: What you should and shouldn’t copy from the pros

Hate to be the one to break it to you, but as amateur golfers, we shouldn’t try to emulate everything we see the pros do on the PGA Tour and LPGA. They’re paid the big bucks for a reason, and don’t forget, it’s their job, not just a hobby.

Let’s be real. Chances are, we’re never going to be as good as they are – even if we dress like them (a-hem, all the middle-aged Rickie Fowler wannabes). The average golfer doesn’t have the time (and more important, patience and discipline) to practice and get in the reps required to reach that next level.

Of course, there are habits we can pick up from watching PGA Tour and LPGA players to improve our games. Here’s a guide to the DOs and DON’Ts.



Take enough club (or even an extra club). The most common mistake Tour players see their pro-am partners make is overestimating how far they can hit the ball. Amateurs tend to take less than they need.

“If you can’t drive the ball 250 yards, it is very likely your 3-wood won’t fly the 270 yards necessary to carry the water hazard, the greenside bunker or your friends’ heads,” says Christina Kim, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour.

In other words, check your ego in the parking lot. Your buddies will be much more impressed if you clear the hazard and find dry land or hit the green in regulation.

Know how far you hit your clubs. This goes along with taking enough club, but if you watch the pros, they have excellent distance control and are honest with how far they can hit each club. Amateurs just need to have an (accurate) idea of their range within 5-10 yards.

Develop a pre-shot routine. Every pro goes through the same motions and mannerisms before every shot or putt he or she hits — it’s kind of like a script. The pre-shot routine is integral to a golfer’s performance and increases the chances for success. It can help with everything from basics, such as alignment, to fostering comfort and confidence, especially in pressure-packed situations. It can be how you walk into your setup to the ball, what you’re going to think about and a swing feel in the takeaway or visualizing an image of the target.

Focus on your swing tempo. Watch the ladies on the LPGA, who have swings that look effortless and don’t have the grip it and rip it mentality, advises LPGA pro Paige Mackenzie. Amateurs tend to think they have to swing hard to hit it far. Wrong. Even the PGA Tour players rarely put it way up in their stance and tee it high and try to kill the ball.

“Most Tour pros are only doing that if we’re about to blow the cut and we’re trying to hit it an extra 20 yards,” says Robert Garrigus, who won the 2010 Children’s Miracle Network Classic. “If they (amateurs) put it a little farther back in their stance and swing inside their shoulders, they have a better chance of hitting it straight instead of their tendency to move across the ball and over the top – which causes a big slice.”

Tee it forward. There’s no need to play from the tips unless you can actually handle it. It’s more fun and you’ll score better. There’s already a slow play epidemic and it’s partly caused by players who take a gazillion shots when they don’t play from the proper tees.


Play overly aggressive and be afraid to lay up. Amateurs often waste shots due to our lack of recognition of our abilities and the tendency to attempt shots beyond our talents. You don’t have to go for a par 5 in two just because you have a chance and you think it’s what the pros would do.

“Amateurs put themselves in situations where they can only pull off the shot one out of 10 times based on their ability, rather than playing more conservative where they’re likely to do it successfully nine out of 10 times,” says PGA Tour veteran Greg Chalmers.”

Adds two-time PGA Tour winner Scott Stallings: “The value of par for amateurs is pretty substantial and I don’t think they realize that. We always tell our guys in pro-ams that if we could caddie for them and they did everything we told them, we’d give them the opportunity to take ten shots off a round without changing a single golf swing.”

Leave the driver in the bag and hit a 3-wood, hybrid or even a long-iron on shorter holes to leave you with a yardage you’re comfortable with hitting for your approach.

“I think amateurs should pay attention to why we’re taking 3-wood off the tee instead of drivers on some holes,” says PGA Tour pro Kevin Na. “I see a lot of amateurs taking driver on a 320-yard par 4, when they usually don’t need to.”

On a similar note, lay up to a number you like. If you’re in the heavy rough on a difficult par 4, watch the pros, who often chip out to leave a yardage where they have the best chance to get up-and-down.

“Being comfortable hitting a yardage is much more important than hitting it up somewhere near the green in the rough, where you might have a bad lie,” says Kim. “If you’re comfortable with your yardage, you will give yourself a better chance to get up and down, or at worst, make a bogey. There is no need to go bigger than you’re capable of doing.”

Try to hit flop shots. Or if you do, don’t open up the blade entirely or as much as you think you should. We can’t pull off crazy flops like the one Tiger Woods chipped in on the 16th hole at Muirfield Village when he won the Memorial Tournament in May.

Read putts from every angle. The pros are playing for millions, so they’ll often take time to make sure they get the read right and they’re confident with it. Then again, there are players who don’t overdo it. Remember Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional? He looked at the putt, walked into his setup with confidence and pulled the trigger. Odds are studying the read from five different places isn’t going to significantly improve an amateur’s chances of making the putt. Besides, speed is more important than the line, so that should be the primary focus.

Plumb-bob. Pros don’t even know what they’re doing half the time when they use this technique, so save yourself the effort and time.



Practice with a purpose. Go out there with a mindset of what you’re going to accomplish and knowing what it is you’re going to work on. If you watch the pros on the range, they take their time in between each shot and always hit toward a target, whether it’s a flag, tree or pole. (On that note, try using alignment sticks like the pros do – you can find them at your local Home Depot.) The pros also go through their pre-shot routine or a shortened version of it.

Get lessons. Most tour players have swing coaches. You don’t need to spend thousands on a clinic with David Leadbetter or another big “name.” Just taking lessons from your local pro will suffice.

“If amateurs are getting a lesson, they have some direction of what they should be working on,” says Charles Howell III, a two-time PGA Tour winner. “If you’re just beating balls, you might as well go and exercise or do something else better with your time.”


Only work on the long game and neglect chipping and putting. Amateurs probably spend 90% of their practice time hitting balls on the range and only 10% on their short game. If anything, it should be the other way around, but try to even out the ratio. More than half your shots are going to involve the short game.

“If you want to lower your score, you have to chip and putt,” says 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson. “You gotta be consistent inside of eight feet, you have to get up and down a lot. You have to have a smile like Matt Kuchar.”



Watch Bill Haas, Robert Garrigus, Pat Perez, Brandt Snedeker, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, just to name a few of the faster players on the PGA Tour. They set a good example for how long you should take to hit the golf ball. They’re usually hitting as soon as the other guy’s ball is in the air.

Play ready golf. Get your yardage and pick your club while you’re walking to the ball or while you’re waiting for your playing partners to hit. Four hours is more than enough time for a round of golf.


Watch a number of the ladies on the LPGA who have their caddies line them up on every shot (even though for amateurs this could help, so I encourage it every now and again to check your alignment, but definitely not on every shot or two-foot putt). Six-hour rounds aren’t fun for anyone.

Mark a putt inside three feet. The pros are playing for millions and an 18-inch putt could cost them hundreds of thousands and a major championship. Unless you’re playing for more than you have in your bank account (which you shouldn’t be doing in the first place), just putt out.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is … HAVE FUN. Yeah, yeah, I know, that sounds so cliche, but it’s easy to forget. There’s no reason to get angry and throw clubs. It shouldn’t be stressful for an amateur to play a round of golf. I understand that some of us are inherently competitive and we can’t help getting fired up a little, but let’s keep it within reason. Four-letter words sort of go hand-in-hand with golf, so I recommend using those as a release, then move on to the next shot.

Perhaps Ryan Palmer, a three-time champ on the PGA Tour, had the best advice: “Get a six-pack before you tee off.”

You should check out the online magazine version with all the pretty pictures and formatting here.

‘The Golf Nerds’ on the USGA’s ban on anchored putting

A Messy Relationship
By Titi Nguyen

One November morning, four years ago, I received a call from my mother. Before I could say hello, she blurted her news: she’d just been at a client’s house. Their son, Douglas, was visiting, and was even more handsome than when she’d seen him last. And she had his e-mail address. Did I have a pen ready?

When I said I had no idea who she was talking about, she huffed and I huffed back. My parents work as housekeepers in the affluent towns neighboring their home in Quincy, Mass., and this wouldn’t be the first time my mother tried to set me up with their clients’ sons. But how could I feel affection for anyone whose T-shirts and socks my mother laundered?

After a moment I remembered that I had met this man, years ago, when I was 19. My parents had cleaned his parents’ home every two weeks for the past eight years. When my parents told them I was having a difficult first year at college in New York, they suggested I meet their son, a 35-year-old artist living in Brooklyn. It wasn’t matchmaking — only a sympathetic gesture to take me out of my school malaise. I don’t remember much about that day, except that I met Douglas at the four-faced clock in the center of Grand Central Terminal and that we visited a rare books store after lunch. I didn’t recall our conversation, the cafe where we ate or even what he looked like.

To appease my mother, but also because I was struck with the thought that it had been kind of him to meet with me years before, I e-mailed Douglas to express my condolences over his grandmother’s death — the reason for his visit home. After a few e-mails we made plans to see a dance performance.

To keep warm that cold night I waited behind the doors of the theater, watching through the glass for Douglas. That I recognized him surprised me, but he hadn’t changed much. He was slender, with deep-set brown eyes and dark hair that curled above his forehead. He wore a black parka with a turquoise knit scarf and held the bright purple book I was to identify him by. For a moment I watched him scan the crowd for me, then I pushed through the doors and walked toward him.

“Hi. I’m not crying,” he said, wiping his eyes. “My eyes water in the winter.”

Inside, a woman handed us programs. Douglas dropped his and the woman and I watched as he knelt to pick it up. “You nervous or something, mister?” she teased, winking at me. I tittered and at the same time, for reasons unclear to me, felt an overwhelming tenderness for this man. I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed or simply hadn’t heard her, but he looked for the aisle and led me to our seats in silence. We’d arrived so shortly before the beginning of the show that there was little time to talk.

“I think this will be really good,” he said to me, as the lights dimmed.

He leaned forward in his chair throughout the performance, mesmerized. I wanted to watch his face, to see him react to the movements we saw onstage. I tried to remember what his parents’ house looked like, if the few times I’d tagged along cleaning with my parents were enough to recall where all the trash baskets were — wedged beside a toilet, hidden under a desk or in a walk-in closet. I wondered if he’d ever forgotten that turquoise scarf on a visit home, if my mother or father had picked up and folded the soft wool.

My arm grazed his discarded coat, slung over his seat; I imagined it was his arm. He came from a small, hard place inside me, a jagged land of filial indignation, Clorox and dusting rags, and I was shaken by my attraction to him.

We saw more and more of each other. One night a few months later, in a diner booth in Astoria, Queens, Douglas told me two things: First, he really liked me. Second, he felt bad about liking me: “I won’t say that our age difference doesn’t worry me, and I know the situation with our families is very difficult. If we were to be together, I’d like to work through these issues with you.” Then he sat back, a stunned look on his face.

My mother’s reaction to our relationship was so enthusiastic that it roused my suspicions. I wondered if her excitement was linked to Douglas’s whiteness, his Americanness. Unlike most traditional Asian mothers, she encourages me to date white men. Surely someone who grew up anchored in American culture would be more financially and socially assured; certainly my American boyfriend would be able to navigate the culture that has confounded her for so long. She also believes that a white man will treasure me more than an Asian man, because I’m different from what he comes from.

In bed, my eyes trace the blue veins shooting through the milk of his skin, like eggshell cracks, then the prominent veins that stretch over the tops of his feet like nets. I’m fascinated by the differences between his body and mine — the skin underneath his alert eyes loosening the tiniest bit, the occasional gray strand in his dark hair. We don’t dare to talk about it, but it’s as tangible as the blare of car horns outside our windows: What will happen when he grows old?

I do the math: when I’m 30, Douglas will be 46; when I turn 35, he’ll be 50. More variables: if we have a baby when Douglas is 45, he’ll be 60 when our child is 15. Sometimes I feel cheated by time: if only we’d met sooner, if only he were younger. If X equals this, Y equals that. Y is always greater than X.

Other times, I don’t think of it at all. Our four years together have been happy. Our apartment is comfortably messy, and I don’t often clean — the 1950s red Formica table that belonged to Douglas’s grandmother serves more as dumping ground than a dining surface: unopened mail, pens, receipts, loose change, a lamp with a ceramic dog base, two electric toothbrush chargers, a spool of green twine. Coats and jeans drape the backs of the chairs. We eat our dinners on the living room floor instead. I stretch my legs out in front of me and he scoots over, leaning against me. He carefully trims the fat off the edges of his steak and transports the pieces to my plate, where he knows they’ll be savored. In these times, our differences recede into the background.

My mother and father still strip the sheets off Douglas’s parents’ bed, sponge the dried toothpaste off their mirrors, vacuum their rugs. Every two weeks, they dust the bedroom that was once his.

“Their son is an artist,” my father said to me years ago as we straightened the cushions on the sofa in the living room. “That’s him, over there.”

He pointed. Two dense pupils stared at us from behind the glass of the large framed drawing hanging on the wall. It was Douglas’s self-portrait, rendered in smudged whorls of charcoal. I didn’t care to look closer then. I’ve since studied the drawing, its intensity pulling me away from Thanksgiving dinners to examine the hollows and lines that I now know so well. He was 19 when he drew himself, the age I was when I first met him.

TopGolf Houston

TopGolf Houston open to the Public starting Tuesday, December 4th.

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

Recently, researchers in England set out to determine whether weekend golfers could improve their game through one of two approaches. Some were coached on individual swing technique, while others were instructed to gaze fixedly at the ball before putting. The researchers hoped to learn not only whether looking at the ball affects performance, but also whether where we look changes how we think and feel while in action. Read more.

Newsletter – November 2012

Greetings, HVGA

I would like to thank all the members and guests who showed up at the 2012 Club Championship tournament at River Ridge Golf Course to support our club. We had an exciting morning round, coupled by several surprising finishes in the afternoon. The course conditions were at premium conditions, with fast greens to boot. Surely, the winners earned their keep for playing great golf in both rounds. Iím certain everyone else also had a great time.

The Club Championship and Year End Dinner was also a success, thanks to all the support from members and their families. Guests also showed up to support our cause, along with a couple of Vietnamese charity organizations. Johnny Dang Charities and Medical Aid for Vietnam representatives shared their mission with all those who were present. Our members showed their generosity towards the charities by donating some of the winning raffle golf equipment (CT- driver, Tuan-Scotty Putter, etc.), as well as bidding on auction items that were aimed at fundraising for HVGA and Medical Aid for Vietnam. HVGA appreciates all members and their families who purchased raffle tickets and bided on auction items. HVGA recorded our highest fundraising amount ever from the raffle ticket sells and auctions. This was what was needed to keep the budget afloat due to the high cost of hosting the Texas Cup Event this year. We hoped everyone had a great time and continue to give us input on making the Year End Dinner a lasting tradition.

The Texas Cup event was hosted by the Houston team this year, and we certainly didn’t disappoint. The Texas Cup Captain, Ha Huynh, and co-captain, Thomas Nguyen, made sure our team had plenty of practice prior to the event to ensure success. The team spirit was there from the start, and echoed throughout the practice rounds and team pep rally held at the captain’s house several days before the event. Team chemistry and hard work led to the B Flight team’s success in keeping the trophy in Houston. Unfortunately, the A Flight trophy went back with Dallas team as we bid them and the trophy farewell for another year. Our A Flight team will have their work cut out for them next year to bring the trophy back to Houston. Regardless of who goes home with which trophy, both teams seem to enjoy themselves throughout the event. As usual, there were plenty of new friendships made between the opposing teams, and old friends from afar were once again united for the weekend. Let’s hope this lasting tradition continues between our two great clubs, and new traditions are born with other VGA clubs as well.

Finally, the end of the two year term for many of the committee positions is here, and HVGA is again looking for volunteers to fill any open positions. The committee will meet shortly to sum up this year’s events and show the balance that will be carried over to the next. There will be a couple of emails that will come out of this meeting, so please keep an eye out for them. Your valuable responses and inputs will be welcomed to help us shape next year’s agendas and focus.

Thank you for your continued support of our growing club.

Kiet Luong
HVGA President


On Your Mark, Ready, Set … Golf!

We are deep into fall, but in the sports world there’s actually competitive golf still going on — in fast motion.

Sunday is the final round of the inaugural World Speed Golf Championship, being held on the southern Oregon coast. Speed golf is the antidote to the plodding 5-hour round, instead hitting 18 holes in sometimes less than an hour.

On a recent afternoon, Christopher Smith, a teaching pro at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course in Portland, Ore., headed out for a quick round on the links. Speed golf is about more than just cutting down on your practice swings or picking up your walking pace on the course. For a speed round, Smith dons running shoes. Read more.

2012 Texas Cup Photos

Many thanks to Quyen Phan for capturing the great competition of the Texas Cup.

Tracing the Root of the Ryder Cup Back to Its Seed

Harry Vardon competed in the first Ryder Cup. The 1926 event was not recognized as official because the Americans needed to use fill-ins from other countries.

The Ryder Cup, which will be held for the 39th time this week at Medinah Country Club near Chicago, has become one of the most keenly anticipated team events in sports. But the origins of the event are somewhat muddled. Read more.