News & Opinion

Some golf records will stand test of time

Maybe it’s true: Anything is possible. Consider the scenario that took place at Westwood Country Club in St. Louis recently. 

Fifty-year-old Howie Sher had played golf his entire life without getting a hole-in-one. On April 29, playing the 123-yard seventh hole at Westwood, Sher landed his 9-iron shot onto the green and watched it disappear into the jar. Yahtzee!

Next up in the foursome was Brian Halpern, 33, also a frequent golfer who never had scored an ace, nor previously seen one. “Watching Howie’s go in was the most exhilarating thing I’d ever experienced on a golf course,” Halpern told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Moments later, he had to rethink it. 

Halpern stepped up, nailed his 9-iron and watched it roll in on top of Sher’s – a matching hole-in-one. According to the National Hole In One Registry, the odds of an average golfer ever getting a hole-in-one are 12,000-to-1. But two average golfers in the same group, on consecutive swings? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology goes into lockdown just thinking about it. Yet, in less time than it takes to mark the scorecard, it happened.

And in the aftermath, you can’t help but wonder whether anything is possible, if no achievement in golf is sacred? To that end, let’s take a look at some golf milestones – some well known, some not so well known – and consider their vulnerability. 

Most professional major championships victories – 18, by Jack Nicklaus: This mark was on borrowed time until November 2009, when the Legend of Tiger Woods detonated in his driveway. Woods remains stalled at 14, nearly 10 years removed from his last major. The next closest to matching Nicklaus is Walter Hagen, who had 11 majors when he died at age 76 in 1969. Woods is now 42 and, at this point, has about the same chance of getting to 18 as Hagen.

Fastest golf cart – 118.76 mph, by Plum Quick Motors, driven at a drag strip in Hartsville, S.C., on Oct. 31, 2014: We can all agree that pace of play is an issue in golf, but the “Play It Forward” initiative seems a bit safer. Unless it’s a drink cart, this is a record that never should be challenged.

Most PGA Tour victories in a season – 18, by Byron Nelson in 1945: You can bank this one. The next closest victory total is Ben Hogan’s 13 in 1946. Since 1950, the closest is nine, by Woods (2000) and Vijay Singh (2004). Since 2008, the average leading PGA Tour season victory total is a little more than four. Golf is all about parity now, and individual dominance is only a timeshare. In terms of this record being broken, there is a better chance of Tim Tebow starting in left field for the Mets.

Most consecutive PGA Tour victories in a season – 11, by Byron Nelson in 1945: More than 72 years later, no one else has reached double digits. The closest was Woods, with a seven-tournament run in 2006-07. Yes, it was 1945, World War II, etc. But Woods has called Nelson’s season “one of the greatest years in the history of sport.” You would get no argument from Jug McSpaden, who finished second a record 13 times that same year. 

Most holes-In-one in a single round – 3, by Patrick Wills at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Va., June 2015: This mark never should be broken because anyone who ever gets as many as three aces in a round should immediately drop what he is doing and head to a casino.

Most consecutive starts without missing a cut – 142, by Tiger Woods, from February 1998 to May 2005: It is golf’s version of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. This remarkable number speaks to the supremacy once enjoyed by Woods. The next-closest streak belongs to Nelson, who made a distant 113 consecutive cuts. The active leader is 40-year-old Matt Kuchar, with 30. “Kooch” just needs another 4½ seasons without a miss and he’ll be right there.

Fastest round by a foursome – 1 hour, 4 minutes, 25 seconds, by Andrew Crawford, Ben Crosby, Russell Hayhoe and John Lyon and at Ponteland (England) Golf Club, on June 19, 2005: These are the only guys who can play ahead of John Daly, Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel and Laura Davies. And if these guys ever get their hands on a Plum Quick Motors golf cart, forget about it. 

Largest margin of victory – 16 strokes, shared by J.D. Edgar, Joe Kirkwood, Sam Snead and Bobby Locke: Woods made a run with his record 15-stroke victory in a major (2000 U.S. Open). But in these politically correct times, you’d like to think this mark never will be broken. Once you get ahead by 15, comportment suggests that you take a knee. 

Most balls hit simultaneously – 1,873, accomplished as part of Madrid's bid for the 2016 Olympics at the Real Federacion Espanol de Golf Course in Madrid, Spain, on Sept. 27, 2009: History strongly suggests that this achievement never will be challenged. After all, the effort proved futile. Rio de Janeiro was awarded the Summer Games by the International Olympic Committee, and there aren’t even 1,873 Brazilians who play golf. 

Biggest golf tee – 30 feet, 9 inches (length); 6 feet, 3 inches (head diameter); 2 feet, 1 inch (shaft width), made by Jim Bolin in Casey, Ill., in 2013: Why? Did Bolin have an especially large golf bag? Was he building a really, really Big Bertha? Was he compensating for something else? Sure, size matters, but golf tees were not meant to accommodate helicopter landings.