Aces, school records and some more birdie stories

To suggest that this past week was an interesting one for the sport of golf would be an understatement in my opinion. It began last Sunday with a rousing finish in the PGA Championship. In what one could easily categorize as a foursome on the last hole, Rory McIlroy laid claim to the title of greatest golfer in the world with his victory in the gloaming at Valhalla.

With darkness rapidly setting in, the last pairing was allowed to hit both tee shots and second shots into the par-5 while the next to last group was still playing the hole. Fair or not, it was compelling TV. Phil Mickelson birdied the hole forcing McIlroy to par for the win. That he did, winning his third straight event and second major and then made a great save on the trophy presentation following the event.

The game is not as easy as McIlroy makes it appear, though I know someone who might just disagree with me. That would be Nathan Spoon-Kanner of course. The 22-year-old college student recorded an ace this week at the Casserly Golf Course in Watsonsville, California.

Bid deal, you say? Well, considering it was his third hole-in-one in the last 45 days, I would say it is worth mentioning. His first was from 88 yards with a wedge. Then came a 180-yard ace using a hybrid club. The latest was a 9-iron from 110 yards out. Considering that he has recently had surgery on both knees, I consider his accomplishment as nothing short of incredible.

Quinn Sanberg was along to witness all three shots and thus gets a mention here. Spoon-Kanner is just happy to be pain free and admits he is not that great a golfer. Perhaps there is a blind squirrel reference to be made, but most of us would be happy to get just one ace. Lucky or not, this is an impressive feat.

I read in the A-T earlier this week that Bryce Gorrell shot a school record 66 gaining medalist honors and leading Hopewell-Loudon to the team title in the Seneca East Tiger Invitational. At first glance the score seems pretty extraordinary, but I beg to differ. I can’t remember the number of times I shot a 66. Of course I had two or more holes to play once I reached that score.

Are you kidding me? A four-under par 66 and the kid is still in high school? That is just amazing. Congratulations Bryce on some great golf.

A couple of weeks ago I asked golfers where they got most of their birdies. Did they come on par 3s, par 4s or par 5s? Well, I had a couple of people tell me about their birdie exploits and they are worth sharing.

My neighbor told me that he got a birdie once. His drive landed about two feet from a bird sitting in the fairway. When the ball hit, the bird flew. Unfortunately, the ball bounced up and struck the little flyer as he tried to make his getaway. It must have been a glancing blow as the bird was able to recover and fly away, but the guy is still counting it as a birdie.

Another similar conversation took place a few days later with a person I’ve known for a long time. With his wife sitting by his side he informed me that he had one birdie to his credit. While I wondered how a golfer could have only one lifetime birdie, he was having trouble remembering the hole it came on. One would think if you only had one, you wouldn’t have to search your memory bank for where it took place.

He finally decided on the proper hole and told me a similar story to my neighbor. His tee shot headed for a family of geese minding their own business near a pond. The ball struck a gosling who seemed dazed. The guy’s son picked up the little creature and set it back down. The gosling finally wandered away a little unsteady, but none the worse for wear.

When I found out that the fellow had never had an actual birdie in his life I suggested that he must not play much. His wife quickly interjected, “he plays all the time.”

The guy laughed and confirmed her comment. “I play a lot, I just don’t play well!”

While I’m on the subject, I recorded another birdie this past week, this time at Pike Run Golf Club. It took place on the very first hole, a par-5. An average tee shot was followed by a nothing special second. A good third from 150 yards out left me with a 15-footer that I promptly drained for my birdie. I had visions of shooting the 66 that Gorrell posted. In that thought I was wrong, so very, very, wrong.

My score reached 66 and I still had four holes left to play. Twenty-one strokes later the round came to a miserable conclusion. There were lost balls, penalty strokes, double and triple bogeys not to mention a torn pair of shorts and no other birdies to squawk about.

After starting with a birdie and then going into the dumper, my playing partners were sympathetic, to a degree. I mean the comment about the fast horse was a bit much, don’t you think?

Well, that’s it for this week in golf. Keep playing this great game and crazy thing will continue to happen. Just watch out for our feathered friends.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s golf columnist.

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