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 A week inside the Ropes Part 2

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DRGjr72
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PostSubject: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:22 am

Here is part 2 of the story:


What an amazing feeling, aside from the fact that I had a few cocktails, I was still on cloud nine. I had no idea what was in store for me, but I did know that I had just achieved something that not a lot of people will ever do; qualifying for a PGA tour event.

This is something that no one will ever be able to take away from me, regardless of how I play in the tournament, or in any other tournament or golf round in the future. I was in shock; I did not know who to call, what was going to happen? All of these thoughts hit me at once, and I started phoning my buddies and let them know what happened. Soon word traveled around the club and people there were now coming up to me, people that had never spoken to me before. They would say things like, “wow I did not even knew you played golf” or “I had no idea you were that good”, or my favorite was “can you get me some tickets? (From guys that would say nothing to you like you were scum).” I went from being a virtual nobody to someone that people wanted to now talk to, it was pretty awesome. All because I played well in one event, kind of shocking, as I was the same guy on Tuesday that I was on Monday, I just happened to have a good round under tournament pressure.

So I got to Doral on the Tuesday prior to the event, and with my buddy in tow to help out with the looping duties I am ready to have the week of my life inside the ropes. Miami is about an hour and some change away from West Palm Beach, but instead of commuting each day I opted to check into the hotel and get the full experience. After getting changed I head over to Doral. I am going to get everything I can out of this week, so I planned on staying at the hotel and do it like the tour guys do. When you arrive at the course the first thing that is really neat is the player parking, if you have ever been to an event and parked where the spectators do, it is usually far away and you walk or get a shuttle, but the player parking is like front row VIP treatment. We get through security with no problems, park the car and head over to register for the event. At this point I am like a kid at the amusement park for the first time, looking around in awe, like I had never seen Doral, golfers, or a golf course before, pretty silly, but being inside the ropes for the first time can do that to someone.

We then get to the players locker room and the registration desk. The registration people could not have been nicer, going over everything, making sure I know what I am doing, where I am going, etc., because they are fully aware that I am a first timer. In my registration gift pack, I get a travel bag, a Waterford crystal vase, some other small nik naks, my players’ badge, and some other paperwork. Now I am off to my locker in the locker room, and I meet the attendant and he shows me where I am, looking around at the names, various clubs around the lockers, then it hits me, I am actually here and my name is on one of these lockers. Almost shed a tear to be honest, I then gathered myself and cracked my locker to see what is in there, sure enough 4 dozen brand new pro V-1’s, 5 sta-sof gloves, and a couple of other small treats. Wow, does it get any better than this? Yes to my amazement, it does.

Now it is time to head to the range and do some practicing/shopping. Anyone who knows anything about the tour, or has played in an event, knows that the PGA Tour guys don’t go without. Tuesday and Wednesday’s are the days to check out the new gear, if something is not working, you replace it with something that will. It is like having a proshop of the greatest equipment at your fingertips, and it is all free.

I go to the driving range first to hit some shots, and get my feet under me. Not knowing anyone it is a lonely experience especially compared to my usual tournaments where I know 75 percent of the field, and the range is social time where you can chat it up with your buddies about last weeks’ escapades in south Florida. So I get into my routine, grab a couple of bags of pro-v’s to hit, how sick is this? Pro-v 1’s on the range, unbelievable. I proceed to then Tin Cup my first wedge, hosel rocket down the line, could not have scripted it any better, priceless stuff. Then over the top pull my second one, as to not hosel it again, and I am ready. I then get through some more balls and I am now hitting it how I need to be, away from the hosel and in the middle of the club. Here comes the fun stuff, driver and fairway wood shopping. The tour reps are walking around trying to get their stuff in the bag for the Darrell Survey. For those that don’t know the Darrell Survey is what companies use to get club counts each week, and that information is used in marketing and advertising campaigns. They want you to play their stuff, and are willing to make sure you have a couple of options. So a few of the reps from different companies (Titleist, Taylor Made, Callaway, Sonartec) hook me up with some drivers and fairway woods, I would try them out on the course tomorrow during my practice round.

Off to the putting green to make sure I am rolling it ok. The first thing that you are aware of when you get to the putting green is all the putters. Then after you see all the toys, you notice the greens are hard and super fast, so you better be ready. I proceed to roll a few with my Dogleg Left Hog putter (one that I used to qualify with), then I see out of the corner of my eye, the Bettinardi guy has come by to say hello. Before I can blink I am rolling the rock with a sweet Bettinardi tour issue and rolling it so much better, or at least I thought so. So the Hog is benched, maybe a little early on, but that is the case. I am not the brightest when it comes to changing equipment, so the disease continues. I then make my way over to the Camerons. Within about the same time I try out 4 or 5 models and decide to go with the 3x black Newport. Finish up rolling some putts, and I am done with the first day. I registered, went shopping and hit some shots on the range, even managed to sign a few autographs, what a first day.

Now it is Wednesday, Day 2 and it is practice round day. There are some pretty cool and not so cool stories about my second day inside the ropes. It was just one of those days where one good thing would happen, and then you would see a bad thing, then a good, another good, and a bad, pretty weird.

My day starts out in the locker room, got there early to get some eats. So I grab my breakfast and sit down. I am by myself as I don’t know anyone, and don’t want to intrude on any conversations. Then out of nowhere a guy asks if I mind if he sits down at my table. I was by myself, head down shoveling food at the time, and I look up, who is it?, none other than David Duval. I was like are you kidding me, of course, it would be my honor. So he sits down and we engage in some small talk for about 15 minutes while we eat some breakfast. The number 2 player in the world at the time, just chatted me up, and helped make my week even that more special. I know that David Duval has gotten some bad press about his game’s demise and lack of interest, but he was one of the nicest people that I met that week at Doral and I wish him nothing but the best in his life. He even asked me how my round went when he saw me on the range on Friday. I really thought that was a classy move, and something I will never forget.

Off to the range to hit some shots, and now there are some players there, Davis Love, Curtis Strange, Carlos Franco, Bob Tway, Joe Durant, Jesper Parnevik, Ernie Els, and so many more. I was in awe, totally out of my element, yet enjoying every minute of it. I get done with my warm up and proceed to the putting green, roll some putts, and then I am off to play my practice round if I can manage to find a game. So I am waiting over by the first tee to pair up with someone, after I got the “that is ok we already have three” line a few times, this guy walks over and says hey do you mind if we join up and go out? I was like sure, no problem that would be great. Turns out it is Shaun Micheel, and I do have to say he was again one of the nicer people that I have ever played a round of golf with. We were joined by Bob Tway’s caddy who wanted to walk around and get some yardages. Sidenote..I actually saw Shaun, a year later in Atlanta at the airport there and we talked and he remembered the practice round and all the fun we had, what a really great guy. Not to mention it was no surprise that he won a tournament like the PGA a few years later, he is super pure and fairly deep. His putter was a little balky but other than that his game was quite solid. The day we played he hardly missed a shot. After the practice round, my caddie needed to head back up to West Palm for the afternoon, so I went off to the range by myself to hit some more shots and get some more practice in. This is where I had the meeting of a lifetime.

My buddy Scott works at a very exclusive club in West Palm Beach and had become an acquaintance of Jack Nicklaus’s. In 1998 or 1999 Scotty started to caddy for Jack, usually about 10 events a year and he happened to be caddying for him this week, he then surprised me and managed to catch me off guard on the range. As I am hitting balls, he walks by and gives it to me good. “What the hell are you doing here, this a tour event they don’t let hacks like you play?” I turn and look in shock ready to snap on someone, and it’s my buddy Scotty, “I know right, this is absolutely crazy” I fire back. He tells me that he saw my name in the paper as one of the guys that qualified and was hoping to catch me out there this week. We proceed to chit chat for a few, meanwhile the range is packed, and there are no spots left to hit balls, and then up walks possibly the greatest golfers of all time, Big Jack. Scotty introduces me, as if I need and introduction, he is Jack Nicklaus, everyone knows who he is. Yet again, the niceness continues as big Jack chats me up for about 5 minutes, asking me about how I got in the event, and what I did, learned I was a club pro and we talked some about that, etc. I was amazed, here is the greatest player in the world, and he is talking to me about my game and my life. Our conversation then ran its course and I was pretty much done hitting balls (had about 30 left), so I offered my spot to Jack. It was the least that I could do for one of the best players the game has ever seen. Surprisingly, he graciously declined and told me to finish up, but I insisted and he ended up taking the spot, and I ended up heading to the putting green to roll some more putts. This is where I witnessed the first disappointing thing of my time inside the ropes.

I was rolling some putts and chit chatting with some of the pros, Briny Baird, Kevin Johnson, (both of whom I know), Jesper Parnevic, Bernhard Langer, Frank Nobilo, and a few other guys. It was awesome, they were commenting on some of the local eye candy and some of the equipment and what not, then out of the corner of my eye I see the left handed, Canadian favorite golfer and future Masters winner (2003) speaking with Steve Elkington and casually hitting some flops. They were not practicing hard at all; just sort of socializing like mostly everyone else on the green, and this little cute elderly Canadian couple are trying their best to get this young man’s attention without causing a scene. They finally succeed to get his attention and ask “Is there any way we could get a picture with you? We came down all the way from Canada to see you play and it would make our trip.” He turns to them and in one of the coldest tones I have ever seen a professional give and looks with a scowl and says “No, I am practicing right now” and then turns away and totally ignores them and returns to talking with Elk about who knows what. Hands down one of the rudest things that I have ever seen in my life, and to be honest I totally was expecting the opposite. I mean the guy was chit chatting and not seriously practicing, it would have taken him a minute to go over there and make this little couple’s whole trip with that one gesture, and there was no one around so it would only taken him a few seconds. Something you would never have seen Arnold Palmer do, that is for sure.

So I wrap up my practice session and head back to the locker room and my caddy has returned at this point, so we are walking together and we see the winner from the previous week, Robert Allenby. As we walk by, my caddy says to him, “Man that was the greatest three wood shot I have ever seen”, the guy turns to him and says “yeah” and keeps walking. I mean what a tool. That was the other thing that was completely shocking to me. Here is a guy that just won a PGA Tour event (probably close to a mil in prize money), and a guy passes him gives him a compliment and all he can do is say “yeah”. I thought that was the second rudest thing that I had seen so far this week, and luckily it was the last bad experience (aside from my play!) that I had while inside the ropes.

Ernie Els quickly erased the Allenby sour taste, as I passed him in the locker room he stopped me and said “Hi, have not seen you around here mate, first time?” I said yes and we proceeded to chat for a few minutes about this and that. What a neat guy, to stop someone that you don’t know, say hello and then talk with him about the week and what to expect was something that I was not expecting from one of the best players in the world. I will never forget that little conversation; Ernie Els is truly a nice person and a class act.

I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of my rounds on Thursday and Friday, but I will cover a few things that I thought were distinctive and would like to share.
The first tee shot on Thursday was hands down the most nervous I have ever been on a tee box in my life. After finishing an impromptu interview for the local NBC news affiliate, I then made my way to the teeing area and it hit me. I am going to be playing in my first PGA tour event and it is five minutes away. So I am announced and I can feel my heart pounding, I must have stood over that ball for 30 seconds, the longest in my career, as I am a very fast player. It felt like ages, going over every single swing thought, don’t top it statement, and then finally will you hit it already. Luckily I did not top it, slice it, shank it, or any of that, I absolutely killed it, 310 straight down the middle of the fairway (must have been some adrenaline). I honestly could not believe it, as I really cannot remember hitting the shot, swinging the club or anything. The only thing I remember is picking up my tee and hearing some of my buddies that had come down, hooting and hollering in the crowd.

The next area that I wanted to touch on was the setup toughness of the golf course. I am a seasoned tournament player; having played in well over 75 tournaments and this was the hardest course set up that I had ever seen. The bermuda rough was tall and knarly, the fairways were hard and fast, and the greens were slick, and hard. It was like your golf course pushed to the max, miss hits were penalized, quality shots rewarded. The hardest adjustment was the rough length and the speed of the greens. Playing in Florida we very rarely had courses in the summer months were the greens were 11 plus on the stimpmeter, but this was the case at Doral and it was hard. The adjustment to the different conditions was definitely part of the downfall in my performance. I was not used to the arena, or the conditions that the course was to be played under.
After my week inside the ropes I had a new found respect for any person that has earned their PGA Tour card. There are so many distractions and pressures for these guys and most handle it amazingly well, while others are just not good people and it would not bother me if I never saw them on TV again. I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience my dream and play in an event on the PGA tour. There were many guys that made the week that much better, and I appreciate them even more than I did prior to the week. There is nothing better than meeting someone that you idolize and they in turn are everything you thought they would be. Despite the fact that I missed the cut and felt I played poorly by my standards, it was the best tournament experience that I have ever had.

In retrospect it was hands down the greatest week in my golfing career and it had been the best week of my life, until being replaced by my wedding and then the birth of my son. The ability to play in a PGA tour event, and do it at Doral, was something that I will never forget. I remember the weeks, months and years that followed were easy and hard at the same time. Easy because life at the club was better, people seemed to respect me more because of my game, they would ask about tournaments, ask if they could help out financially(although no long playing sponsor deals ever evolved), etc. Plus I knew that I had accomplished something that I had wanted to do for so long. I now had to refocus my goals not only in life, but with regard to my game. Where did I want to go? What did I want to do? How was I going to achieve it? The hard part was that I felt I needed to play great golf every time that I went out there now, and that was to tough for me to deal with. I put way to much pressure on myself and my game suffered. I went through periods of great play, followed by periods of poor play and a sometimes a bad attitude to go along with the bad play. It took me some time to get over that and realize that in the grand scheme of things, it still is just a game, and you need to enjoy any and every moment that you are able to be out there.

Achieving this goal was a doubled edged sword for me. Returning to club pro life was challenging, yes the job was a little easier, but at the same time you felt as if you were wasting your time not practicing. I figured that I could make it, and with the right mix of sponsors and a good work schedule it might have been possible. Also I had seen what it was like inside the ropes, and to be honest, you don’t want to go back to folding shirts and kissing members rears after being there. But for one reason or another it just never happened. I missed qualifying for the Honda Classic by one stroke the following year and I proceeded to miss by two shots here, three shots there and some more my next few attempts for Doral. I then met my wife, Laura, and my perspective on the game, chasing a dream that may not come true, and life all changed. I wanted more out of my life, and if I was not going to make it on tour or even on a mini tour, I needed a back up. So I focused on my club pro career and was on the verge of attaining a head pro position in southern California. I was offered 10 thousand dollars less than the advertised salary for a head pro position, and at that point I realized that my life in the golf industry was coming to an end.

A year later and I am now out of the golf industry, recently resigning my PGA membership, and have returned to college full time to finish my degree in Economics. I still manage to play some golf, although my game is not as sharp as it was when I played tournaments, give me a week or so to hit some balls, get my timing back, and I will still post a pretty decent number, close to or under par. Doral was an amazing week, and there were a lot of people that helped make it happen. I owe everything that happened that week to them and their support. Without friends this world can be a lonely place, and without my friends, my dream would have never come true. My journey in the golf industry culminated after being offered a less than gracious salary to be a head pro, but there is one week that I will never forget, and unless you have been there it is hard to explain what it is truly like. I hope that I have done a fair job at expressing what it is like and if anyone has any questions or comments I would love to hear them.
UPDATE: I wrote this article several years ago for Golfwrx and their bag chatter section of the website. Since the article I have graduated from the University of California-Berkeley with a BS in Environmental Economics and Policy, regained my amateur status, and moved to Singapore!! I don’t play golf nearly as much as I used to and my game has taken a bit of a hit here and there. But the game is so much more fun now. I love when I have the chance to get out there and smack it around. Yes the juices still get going when I am in the midst of a good round and I catch myself getting back into the playing mindset…good tool to have when you want to get back into a more focused mode.

Anyhow, I am glad to be a part of the forum and I hope that this story was enjoyable to read. Would love to hear any comments or field any questions you might have.
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slinger
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:47 am

dan, thanks for the story.... i like

will hope to have a game with u soon....
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renode
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:55 am

Thanks, I'm truly captivated by your experiences...
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wilkang
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:26 pm

Thanks Dan for sharing your experience.

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Duval_S
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:34 pm

Thanks Dan...for sharing........may I offer you a 2nd complimentary ride to Marina Base Range one of these days.
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jurongtiger
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:48 pm

HI Dan

I read your two LENGTHY posts for the last 20min whilst in the office.

Your humble and insightful account was both enriching and exciting for someone who only watches PGA golf on TV.

I wish you the best in Singapore and have fun in golf, even if it is non-competitive now. Or you can put a wager into the games with the GR-ians here for a little adrenaline!

So are you still in the golf industry in Singapore or are you in the finance sector?

Smile
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mulligan
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:27 pm

awesome and welcome to the little red dot. Very Happy
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DRGjr72
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:48 pm



Sorry about the length of the story. It was actually an article that I wrote for GolfWrx when I wrote for them in the US. I figured that since one of the guys on here asked for some insight into some of experiences this was a something that I could share with all of you.

@Duval..Thanks for the offer. I may take you up on that sometime when I get settled and can get out there one night.

@Jurong...I am no longer in the golf industry. I resigned my PGA membership a few years ago when I decided I wanted to return to college and finish my bachelors degree (that is a whole other story!!!). I am not currently in the finance sector either. I am at present without a job, as my wifes job took us over here for the next few years and that is why I am here. I am hoping to get a job, internship, or volunteer position while I am here as I need a fairly flexible schedule once my son goes to school (he is 14 months right now). So hopefully I will find something around the later part of this year or the first part of next. Not really in a hurry at the current time.

@Mulli, wilk, sling,reno...Thanks for the kind words. Just trying to share a little insight as to what it is like on the other side of the ropes.
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mUAr_cHEe
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:56 pm

First of all, welcome to GR. welcome to singapore.

enjoy your stay here.
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Master
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:11 pm

its a really nice story that gives us fans a look at what really goes on inside the ropes. thanks
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DRGjr72
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Thu Feb 17, 2011 5:15 pm

@ muar...Thanks again appreciate the welcome.

@ Master....no problem. Hope that it gave you a little insight into what goes on.
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mloy
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Thu Feb 17, 2011 5:51 pm

Hi Dan, firstly welcome to Singapore and to Golf Republic Forum. I read your article and would like to thank you for sharing. All I can say is it's awesome.

P.S. I am glad that Ernie is a nice guy because I like him and have always rooted for him.

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Tituman
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:09 pm

Awesome insight Dan. But first of all, welcome to Singapore and a little forum called Golf Republic. Hope that it could in some way kill some excess time that you may have right now. If you are able to find sometime to kill and it happened to be on a Wed evening, just post here that you would like to go down to our Starry Starry Night ( thats what we called our Wed evening get together ). You can find the topic right at the top of the right hand corner about the MBGC Rooftop. Just ckick it and you are there. Hope to see you in the near future and maybe we can have an insight to how an ex PGA golfer plays his game when we have a friendly game. However, I am just a Seasoned Beginner so don't expect anything from my game ha ha. Take care and cheers.

Tituman
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blee67
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:54 pm

Hi Dan, weclome to Singapore and GR. Very interesting article.

@tituman - you seasoned beginner? Suspect
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Tituman
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:45 pm

blee2007 wrote:
Hi Dan, weclome to Singapore and GR. Very interesting article.

@tituman - you seasoned beginner? Suspect

Of course I am la. Forever plays the same 90s scores. If not what then??? scratch

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grooveballer
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:13 am

hi dan. welcome to singapore. great story.
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DRGjr72
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:23 pm

@ML, Blee, Titu, Groove...Thanks for the warm welcomes. I am glad that you enjoyed the article. It was an amazing experience and one that I was happy to share.

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naij
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PostSubject: Re: A week inside the Ropes Part 2   Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:24 pm

good stuff! loved the read, enjoy sunny Singapore!
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