WHAT THESE GUYS DO ISN’T PROFESSIONAL. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE. I told this story last year and, like describing an exceptional shot much less a whole round of golf, it’s worth telling again. After all, this was a round of a whole lifetime, and lifetimes last a whole lot longer because of it.
I played in a recent scramble – where four golfers hit every shot, pick the best, and turn in one score. We had two mulligans each (do-overs) and a toss (a throw out of trouble so nauseating you want to toss). We played well, making putts, using mulligans and tosses wisely, and turned in a score two or three strokes better than we thought ourselves capable of – 62, ten under par.
Three stokes worse than what Al Geiberger did all by himself in 1977.
We shot our 62 on Windyke’s east course from forward tees using metal drivers with anvil-sized heads and irons seemingly engineered by NASA. Geiberger shot his 59 from the tips – the back tees – on Colonial’s south course, then the longest course on the PGA Tour. From way back there, with just a little wind in your face, you can’t catch a taxi to the green in regulation.
Geiberger birdied 11 holes and eagled another, using a wooden driver and blade irons more unforgiving than Lorena Bobbitt.
A score of 59 is impossible. And that’s why he was the first to ever do it in tour competition. And I saw it.
That Friday, the whole course was buzzing about Geiberger. I caught up with him on his tenth hole. He made an eagle putt that was harder to read than James Joyce with more twists and turns than Dickens. He laughed. His playing partner, Dave Stockton, laughed. He birdied the next hole, and the one after that, going eight under in a stretch of seven holes. We were all laughing by then.
After all, it was impossible.
It was the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic then. Next week it’s the FedEx St. Jude Classic played at TPC Southwind. Then, saving as many kids as St. Jude saves now was just a dream for Danny Thomas. Then, the kind of breakthroughs that give lost lives back were just a family’s desperate hope.
After all, it was impossible.
Who would dream that Chip Beck, David Duval, Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby would later post 59, and that St. Jude would today post a cure rate for all childhood cancers of 80 percent? It was 20 percent when the hospital was founded. Who could hope to cure 94 percent of acute lymphoblastic leukemia cases and 95 percent of both retinoblastoma and Hodgkin lymphoma cases?
We should all be laughing.
Next week, the pros will pull it back and let it rip for the kids, and every one of them thinks there’s a 58 out there. There is, and if the first one is here, you don’t want to miss it.
After all, there’s beer, pronto pups, and laughter. And everything’s possible.
I’m a Memphian, and this is our stop on the PGA Tour.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.