Every weekend warrior knows that any shot can be an adventure at any given moment. How many times have you struggled during a round, only to make par or sink a 20 foot putt on hole seventeen or eighteen to “keep you coming back again?”
Better yet, you have a decent round going and drive your tee shot into the woods. Your heart sinks into depression at your upcoming triple bogey. But as you watch your ball disappear into the trees and hear that dreadful “knock,” the ball bounces back onto the fairway for a great approach shot to the green.
Some call it luck, some call it the squirrel bounce and others believe that a golf god evens out your game over a course of years. Whatever it is, we have all been there at least once, twice or thrice in our golfing career.
But what I would like to do now is to introduce you to some golf shots that will make you shake your head in disbelief. They will make you realize that luck and skill go hand-in-hand.
1931 Ryder Cup: Golf legend and hall of famer Gene Sarazen was playing in the Ryder Cup match at Scioto Country Club (Ohio), when his tee shot, on a par three, went over the green and bounced into a refreshment stand.
When Sarazen found his ball, it was in the middle of the stand and sitting on a crack in the concrete floor. Sarazen recalled later, “There were no free drops back then, so I played the ball through an open window facing the green.
My shot came to rest about eight feet from the hole. I sank my putt to win the hole while my opponent, Fred Robson, three putted in disbelief.”
1985 Masters: Great golf shots are a trademark of the Masters, but one stands out as a gutsy, high risk, do-or-die shot. Playing in the third round on hole number 13 (Azalea, par 5, 510 yards), Bernard Langer was “in jail” – deep in the trees, 215 yards from the green.
To make matters worse, there was a creek guarding the green and Langer had a terrible lie. At best, everyone thought he would be lucky to punch out and make bogey, but in true “Tin Cup” movie tradition, he reached for his three wood. Langer’s shot made it through the trees, took an incredible bounce over the creek and landed 18 feet from the pin. He one putted for an eagle and eventually won the Masters by two strokes.
1961 Los Angles Open: Arnold Palmer, future hall of famer and a legend with an army of followers, must have had a brain freeze during first round play.
Playing on the ninth hole, which was a par 5, 508 yards, Palmer teed up his first shot and hit it out of bounds. Then, with his army watching in disbelief, he hit three more tee shots out of bounds. When he finally finished the hole, he carded a twelve. The club members of the Rancho Park Golf Course later erected a bronze plaque to commemorate the Roy McAvoy (Tin Cup) moment.
And finally, who among us hasn’t wanted to do this at one time or another when our golf swing, concentration and stamina desert us:
1961 Canadian Open: Pro golfer Jim Ferree, who is only remembered for this meltdown and not his career, was playing poorly in the first round. His iron play was terrible, his putting was terrible and to make matters worse, he had a backache while playing in a drizzle.
Totally frustrated, on a front nine par 5 he stopped on the middle of a small wooden bridge spanning a creek and threw his bag and clubs over the rail. When one of the tournament officials told him he could be fined $1,500 for nonprofessional behavior, he made his caddie fish out the equipment and he finished the round.
Honorable Mention for a non-golf shot: In 1988, Kansas City amateur golfer Fred Rowland raised thousands of dollars to support his effort to play and hopefully win in the British Amateur Open Championship.
With friends, family and financial supporters all rooting for him, he was disqualified in the biggest tournament of his life. Why? Because he was in the bathroom and didn’t hear his name called on the first tee.