… By RANDY YOUNGMAN
Want to win a bar bet – or impress your golf buddies on the tee while waiting for the fairway to clear?
Here are a few tasty trivia tidbits likely to stump them:
• We all know that Tiger Woods passed Jack Nicklaus this year when he posted his 74th career victory on the PGA Tour and that Tiger is still four major victories behind the Golden Bear’s career record of 18 majors. But there’s one Nicklaus record that Tiger likely won’t break.
Nicklaus finished second, or tied for second, in 58 PGA Tour events; Woods has 28 runner-up finishes on tour, one more than Phil Mickelson.
• As of September, President Obama had played golf 104 times since taking office, according to the New York Times. Even if he is re-elected, Obama won’t be the “golfingest” President in history.
That distinction goes to Dwight David Eisenhower, who reportedly played about 800 rounds while he was President. Ike later became a member at Augusta National and broke 80 there four times, according to his presidential library.
• The longest hole-in-one in history has been debated, because there haven’t been witnesses who saw the balls go into the cups on par-4s and par-5s of reported aces.
On July 4, 2002, Mike Crean, a University of Denver real estate professor and 4 handicap, found his ball in the cup on the 517-yard, par-5 ninth hole at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club near Denver.
Crean spent considerable time trying – but failing – to prove it didn’t happen, talking to the man playing by himself ahead of his foursome and others on the course. There was a 30-mph tailwind, so it’s possible the ball could have landed on the stone 200-yard marker in the fairway and kicked toward the green, but nobody knows. The ace, however, is recognized by the U.S. Golf Register as the longest on record.
• On the other extreme, the “shortest” shot in PGA Tour history – tied often by hacks on munis all over the world – was a whiff by Hale Irwin on a 2-inch putt during the 1983 British Open at Royal Birkdale.
After barely missing a 20-footer for birdie on the 14th hole of the third round, a miffed Irwin went up to tap it in, backhanded at the ball and missed it. He wound up losing to Tom Watson by a stroke.
• In 1637, Francis Brown was tried in the courts at Banff, Scotland for stealing two golf balls. He was found guilty and hanged.
I guess golf balls were worth a lot more back then.
• In 1895, the USGA banned the use of a pool cue as a putter.
I think it’s still legal in 8-ball, however, to break with a Scotty Cameron putter.
• Until the “stymie” was jointly outlawed by the USGA and R&A in 1951, a golfer was required to chip over a playing partner’s ball on the green if a ball obstructed his path to the cup.
Can you imagine what damage that would do to the greens today, as well as the arguments and fights it would cause, if the stymie were still legal?
• During the 1963 Phoenix Open, long before the PGA Tour began penalizing for slow play, Don January waited seven minutes before tapping in a 72nd-hole putt that had stopped on the lip of the cup. He claimed it was still moving.
After the long delay, an understandably irate Gary Player missed a 4-footer that would have forced a playoff with Arnold Palmer.
The next year, Rule 16-2 was revised, stipulating that players had to tap in the ball within 10 seconds or be penalized.
Good thing Kevin Na, Ben Crane and Jim Furyk didn’t play back then.
• Chi Chi Rodriguez and Roberto Clemente were once teammates on a Class-A minor league baseball team in Puerto Rico.
Chi Chi once told me his fastball was clocked in the 90s, so he must have had choices back then. Or maybe the batters didn’t like his “sword dance” after a strikeout.
• In 1984, with 77 players strategically positioned along the course, an 18-hole round at 6,502-yard Kern City (Ca.) Golf Course was played in 10 minutes, 30 seconds. The group used only one ball and shot a composite 80.
My kind of golf. Sounds like something we should try during Irrelevant Week in Newport Beach.
Randy Youngman has been writing about golf in California, at the professional and amateur levels, for more than 20 years. He is also an admitted golfaholic.