BY RANDY YOUNGMAN
What do you consider the rarest of golf feats? Not counting a smile by Vijay Singh, that is.
Is it a double-eagle? The odds are roughly 6 million to 1, according to Golf Digest. Louis Oosthuizen had one in the Masters this year.
Two holes-in-one on the same hole in the same group? The odds are roughly 17 million to 1, according to the National Hole in One Registry. Two Australian buddies had back-to-back aces on the same hole at The Lakes in Sydney in November. A Japanese man and his wife also did it in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2011, which I think makes it even rarer.
A 59? Most avid golfers can name the PGA Tour pros who have shot the iconic number in competition: Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby. The odds are incalculable.
Personally, I think a 5-putt is just as rare, but much easier to accomplish. Just close your eyes and whack away. I once witnessed a 5-jack on No. 6 at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, but if you know the green, it’s not that surprising.
And today I unveil a new nomination – a truly amazing golf feat that happened in 2010 at El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel. The author was Gary Moorhead, a personal injury attorney who was chosen as this week’s guest prognosticator because of his story.
Here’s the background: Three Orange County lawyers and a judge were navigating their way around El Niguel – with nary an objection or threat of contempt — when Moorhead stepped up to the tee, tossed a few blades of grass in the air to check the prevailing breeze, selected an iron . . . and knocked it in the hole.
For an ace on El Niguel’s 390-yard, par-4 13th hole!
“With a 7-iron, into the wind, from the blue tees,” Moorhead said proudly.
Objection, Your Honor! An ace on a par-4 with a 7-iron? C’mon, is that entirely accurate?
“Entirely,” said Justice William W. Bedsworth of the California Court of Appeal, Moorhead’s playing partner on the date in question and a witness to the tee shot that found the bottom of the cup.
But there’s more to the story. There always is.
Mr. Moorhead, will you take the stand and promise to tell the truth, the (ahem) hole truth and nothing but the truth? Remember, you are under oath, so please explain to this jury of my California Golf readers exactly what happened on the afternoon of July 29, 2010.
“I was playing the (par-3) 14th hole, shanked the 7-iron and made the hole-in-one on No. 13,” Moorhead said under my cross-examination. “It was a wicked right-angle shank, with a big slice on it.”
It was such a wild shot that Moorhead didn’t yell “Fore!”, because he didn’t know he had imperiled the lives of a twosome approaching the 13th green at the base of the hill beneath the 14th teebox.
“Because of the trees (between holes), I couldn’t see the 13th green,” Moorhead said, continuing his testimony. “I looked down and saw a guy coming up the right side of the green. So I walked down the hill and asked, ‘Did anybody see a ball?’ ”
One of the men on the green answered, “Were you hitting a logoed Callaway?”
“Yes,” Moorhead said, probably wondering if he were about to be sued by an injured golfer. And he wouldn’t be able to represent this guy, darn it, because of a slight conflict of interest.
Instead, the unidentified golfer walked toward his cart, picked up the Callaway and handed it to Moorhead, saying, “I found it in the cup when I went to pull the flagstick.”
That was good enough for Moorhead.
“My third hole-in-one!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “It might not be an official ace, and I might not get a plaque for it, but I’m going to count it.”
But is it really a hole-in-one if it goes in the wrong hole?
“They don’t call it the hole-in-one; they call it a hole-in-one,” Justice Bedsworth said when I asked him for a ruling. “So it clearly is a claimable hole-in-one.”
And it certainly makes a good golf story. But Moorhead has been paying the price for his braggadocio ever since the news of his wrong-hole ace spread through the country club and was pubished by a local newspaper.(Guilty, as charged.)
“Every time I get to the tee on No. 14 now, somebody brings it up,” Moorhead said. “Especially if there’s someone new in the group. Somebody has to tell the story again.”
Hey, there are worse things to be famous for on the golf course. Ask Jean Van de Velde, Scott Hoch, Doug Sanders, Kyle Stanley and I.K. Kim, just to name a few. Besides, it earned Moorhead a chance to challenge the So-Called Expert in the penultimate weekend of the NFL regular season.
Moorhead, a native of Southern California, went to St. Anthony High in Long Beach and Santa Clara University, home of Dan Pastorini and Brent Jones, among other NFL stars. He grew up rooting for the Lakers and Rams, but quit following the guys in the horned helmets after Georgia Frontiere abducted the team and bolted for St. Louis.
He’s lived in Laguna Niguel for 32 years. “Same house for 30 years, same wife for 37 years, same vacation spot for 26 years, same irons for 20 years,” said Moorhead, who currently carries a 7 handicap. “Proves that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Wow, he quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson, too. Sounds like a perfect guest prognosticator.
Ready or not, it’s time for this week’s NFL picks, with a lot of golf balls on the line, as always. Honest. We haven’t run out of golf balls from our corporate sponsors; the So-Called Expert just hasn’t lost since Week 8.
Here are my picks and comments, noting the four games on which Moorhead and I disagree:
Atlanta Falcons (12-2) at Detroit Lions (4-10): Falcons. (Moorhead picked Lions as his Upset of the Week.) I also would have been tempted to pick Lions – until they helped pathetic Cardinals snap nine-game losing streak last week.
San Diego Chargers (5-9) at New York Jets (6-7): Jets. (Moorhead picked Chargers.) Call this the Disappointment Bowl. Jets were brutal against Titans in Monday night loss that got Mark Sanchez demoted, and Chargers proved win at Pittsburgh was a fluke by laying an egg at home against Carolina.
Oakland Raiders (4-10) at Carolina Panthers (5-9): Panthers. Anybody else think the Panthers are the best 5-9 in the NFL? Maybe, just maybe, Cam Newton will turn this franchise around next season.
San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) at Seattle Seahawks (9-5): Seahawks. (Moorhead picked 49ers.) Game of the Week. Yes, I was impressed by Niners winning at New England last week, but I’m even more impressed by Seattle’s undefeated record at home and 44-point scoring average during three-game winning streak. (I hope California Golf readers aren’t upset that I keep picking against all of the California teams. I actually believe 49ers are going to win the Super Bowl, if that helps.)
Tennessee Titans (5-9) at Green Bay Packers (10-4): Packers. Green Bay has already won division; now the goal is securing a first-round bye, which it will do if it wins last two and Niners lose to Seahawks.
Buffalo Bills (5-9) at Miami Dolphins (6-8): Dolphins. Battle for basement in NFC Least. Yawn. Who cares?
Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7): Steelers. Pittsburgh has lost four of past five and is 0-2 since Ben Roethlisberger returned, but Steelers can make playoffs if they beat Bengals and Browns in last two weeks. Then all will be forgotten.
New England Patriots (10-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12): Patriots. Loss to 49ers last week snapped seven-game winning streak and dropped Patriots out of position for first-round bye. Will Pats take it out on Jags – or will they lose motivation against an inferior opponent?
Indianapolis Colts (9-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-12): Colts. Andrew Luck is setting all kinds of rookie NFL records for Colts and, in my opinion, is as valid an MVP candidate as Colts predecessor Peyton Manning. For proof, check Denver and Indy won-lost records last year.
New Orleans Saints (6-8) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6): Saints, my Upset of the Week. (Moorhead picked Cowboys.) Cowboys have won three in a row to move into a tie for division lead, but injuries on defense will finally catch up to them. Drew Brees will see to that.
Washington Redskins (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-10): Redskins. Rookie backup QB Kirk Cousins has played so well filling in for injured Robert Griffin III – he passed for 329 yards with a 104.1 rating last week – that ‘Skins might rest RGIII until season finale against Cowboys. As for Philly, say goodbye to Andy Reid and Michael Vick.
St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8): Buccaneers. Tampa Bay was once 6-4 and in playoff position, but four-game losing streak took care of that. If Bucs haven’t already quit, I’m guessing they’ll be playing for pride – and their coach’s job — this week.
New York Giants (8-6) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5): Giants. Tough to say which team has been has been more disappointing of late. Giants lost, 34-0, in Atlanta last week and lost three of past five; Ravens have lost three in a row, including back-to-back home games for the first time in John Harbaugh era. G-Men get nod because they haven’t clinched playoff spot yet.
Minnesota Vikings (8-6) at Houston Texans (12-2): Texans. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, NFL rushing leader with 1,812 yards, is taking aim at Eric Dickerson’s NFL record of 2,105 in 1984, but Texans boast fifth-best run defense. AP will probably win the battle, but Texans will win the war.
Cleveland Browns (5-9) at Denver Broncos (11-3): Broncos. Peyton Manning and Broncos have won nine in a row and close regular season with home games against Browns and Chiefs. Three losses were to Falcons, Texans and Patriots; who would be favored now if they met again?
Chicago Bears (8-6) at Arizona Cardinals (5-9): Bears. Oh, what has happened to my Bears, who have lost three in a row and are in danger of being left home during the playoffs. Yes, they have been riddled by injuries, but playoff-caliber teams overcome such adversity. Well, if they lose to Arizona, they don’t deserve to play on.
Last week: John Ashkarian, golf club “disposal expert,” 9-7; So-Called Expert 10-6.
Season totals: Guest prognosticators 131-92-1, SCE 139-84-1.
Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge winner: Michael Miller 14-2.