Monday, 19th February 2018

Paul Spencer Sochaczewski

This Guy is a Natural

Posted on 25. Jun, 2010 by in Articles, Golf

This Guy is a Natural

The world’s greatest golfer? Hint: He rolled a perfect game the first time he tried bowling

ECHENEVEX, France

In the cosmos of golfing role models, the hero-of-heros might seem a touch unlikely.  But this man had one brief shining golfing experience that was Camelot-like in its brilliance.

That golfer was Kim Il Sung, president of North Korea.

Playing his first-ever golf game, the “Dear Leader” shot 34 on the par 72, 7,700-yard  Pyongyang Golf Course; 38 under par. Official Pyongyang media reports state that the man referred to as “the sun of the 21st century” aced five holes during that round.  Other, more effusive North Korean publications say that he shot 11 holes-in-one in his first try at golf.  [A renaissance sportsman, he also reportedly bowled a perfect 300 on his first attempt at that sport].  Regardless of whether the president had five or 11 holes-in-one, the golf pro at the Pyongyang course, Park Young Man, witnessed the round and signed Kim Il Sung’s scorecard, calling his president “a natural”. [I emailed the North Korean Ministry of Information for confirmation of Kim’s achievement, but have not received a reply.]

Just by way of comparison, Kim’s 34 is 25 strokes better than the record-setting 59 shot in PGA tournaments by Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, Paul
Goydos and Stuart Appleby, a feat matched by Annika Sörenstam on the ladies tour. “It’s like pitching a perfect game,” Duval said, only his achievement was rarer — there have been 17 perfect games.

On the other hand, plenty of golfers, including thousands of hackers, have hit holes-in-one.

How hard is it to ace a hole?

Golf statisticians say the amateur odds range from 12,600-to-1 to 33,000-to-1.

On a wintry day over the Christmas break, two friends joined me for a round at my club, Maison Blanche, in Echenevex, France.  On a 148-yard par 3, my buddy Dan had a hole-in-one.  “Match that” he said to the next golfer, and Jeff took a controlled swing and, plop, another ace.  Doug Burkert, president of the National Hole-in-One Association, which sells hole-in-one insurance for club tournaments (the premium for a tournament of 100 golfers on a 165-yard hole with a $10,000 prize is $275), calculates the odds of two aces in a row as 150,000,000-to-1.  I was hitting next and the pressure got to me; I settled for a par.

According to Golf Digest, the odds of a club pro acing are about 6,000-to-1 and for a tour pro about 3,000-to-1.

But for a serious bet, compute the odds of four pro golfers scoring holes-in-one on the same hole, the same day, in a Major, during a breathtaking span of one hour and 50 minutes.  The odds are 1.89 quadrillion-to-1.  That’s a lot of zeroes to describe what Doug Weaver, Mark Wiebe, Jerry Pate and Nick Price did on the 159-yard 6th hole at
Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, during the 1989 U.S. Open.

Curiously, no player who has ever aced a hole during a U.S. Open has ever gone on to win that year’s event.

Jack Nicklaus has 20 aces, Arnold Palmer (who, according to writer Chris Rodell, said hitting his first hole-in-one was more exciting than his first kiss) has 19, and Gary Player has 18.

The only players to vaguely approach Kim Il Sung’s hole-in-one proclivity are Norman Manley, an amateur golfer from California. Manley has 59 aces, including successive aces on the 330-yard, par-4 seventh and the 290- yard, par-4 eighth at the Del Valley C.C., Saugus, California,  the only time par-4 holes have been consecutively aced.

Texas-based Mancil Davis holds the pro record with 51 holes-in-one, and earns his living giving golf exhibitions as “The King of Aces.” He says: “They’re always asking,
‘Is the King of Aces dealing from a full deck?’ I love it. Just spell the name right.”

The oldest golfer to have a hole-in-one ace was 101-years old Harold Stilson from Boca Raton, Florida who on May 16, 2001 hit a 4 iron on the 108-yard 16th at Deerfield Country Club.

The U.S. record for holes-in-one in a single year is 11.  Journalist Dave Kindred, writing in Golf Digest, describes the 15 year-old phenom who achieved this:  “Bradley Farmer is a little guy with a touch of swagger. He’s 5-foot-7, 125 pounds. He began playing at age 6, says he broke 80 by age 9 and has shot 61. Out of a wide stance, he hits it 250 and straight. He’s good around the greens. His Hermitage [Golf Course, outside Nashville, Tennessee] handicap is 1.0. He’s a basketball guard, a baseball pitcher and second baseman. His favorite high school class is Bible. He’s an only child.”

But prodigies sometimes lack credibility, and Bradley Farmer’s Achilles heel is that his father was often the sole witness to young Bradley’s holes-in-one and that several non-familial “witnesses” have denied having seen the ace in question.  It got so bad that after Farmer recorded his fifth ace, the mean-spirited Tennessean newspaper wrote: “At Pine Creek G.C. Brad Farmer aced the 196-yard No. 3 with a 5-iron. Witnesses were Papa Farmer…and Ray Charles.”

Perhaps tellingly, Farmer went on to play college golf, and his Samford University (Alabama) bio makes no mention of his holes-in-one achievement.  Kenny Saunders, a PGA teaching pro in at Ocean Dunes in Phan Thiet, Vietnam, who knew Farmer at the Hermitage Golf Course in Tennessee, recalls “I have played with Bradley Farmer on many
occasions; my friends and I have often laughed about the Ray Charles story.  Also the 61 he claims is also pure fabrication since that would be quite impossible for a golfer of his
caliber.”

So we continue our search for the real deal, and return to Kim Il-Sung.

Any country that can produce a golfing-leader like him is a force to be reckoned with, and my advice is that the five countries trying to get North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons had better tread softly.

Maybe Kim Il Sung’s prowess can be attributed not only to his splendid athleticism but also his consumption of kimchi.  This opens up a whole new field for researchers that could be called gastronomic golf.   According to a North Korean official who was briefing a group of Thai journalists, the dragon-breath-producing dish of fermented cabbage seasoned with red pepper, garlic, ginger, green onion, radish and salted fish they call kimchi “can prevent SARS and bird flu.”  It’s only a logical next step to assume that
kimchi can also lead to golf miracles.

Certainly there are signs that the Koreans are doing something right, particularly the women. On January 31, 2011 the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings shows 20 (South) Koreans in the top 50; five in the top ten. Chalk it up to kimchi?

Will anyone ever match Kim Il Sung’s achievement?  Well, the person who came closest was Randi Wilson, a nine-year old Canadian who got a hole-in-one with her first swing of the club on her first time on a golf course, hitting a 5-iron to ace a 103-yard hole.  But she lacked Kim’s staying power and afterwards described her desultory round with a sentiment most of us can well understand:  “The first hole was great, but the rest of it sucked.”

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