Golf Guide: Strange but true stories from Midlands golfers - Omaha.com
Published Friday, April 20, 2012 at 10:11 pm / Updated at 10:39 pm
GOLF
Golf Guide: Strange but true stories from Midlands golfers

Omaha-area golfers' stories run the gamut of emotions and adventures
New rule changes aim to add Publinks camaraderie
List: Midlands golf courses
Schedule: 2012 local golf tournaments
Nebraska hole in one database
Nebraska course records

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Two long shots

The world record for longest hole in one on a straightaway par-4 remains with a Nebraskan, even though it happened in Hawaii.

Bret Melson of Kearney, who was a student of the San Diego Golf Academy, aced the 448-yard 18th hole at Ko'olau Golf Club on Dec. 1, 2006. By one yard, he outdid Bob Mitera of Omaha.

Mitera's ace came Oct. 7, 1965, at Miracle Hill — meriting just three paragraphs in the next day's World-Herald. The hole at the time was listed as 444 yards, but three more yards were added to his ace in a subsequent remeasurement of the Omaha course.

Birds and planes

Birds sometimes get in the way of a golfer's pursuit of birdies. Just ask a couple of well-known Midlands athletes.

Pro golfer John Hurley: "I hit a 6-iron from 210 yards and killed a robin as the ball landed on the green in O'Neill."

Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch: "I was golfing with Turner Gill in Lincoln during my playing days and killed a little bird while teeing off. Yes, I got a birdie."

And sometimes planes get in the way. Ask Rich Stanko of Omaha:

"While flying for the Army in 1969, I was landing at the municipal airport in Jackson, Miss. The final approach was over a golf course next to the runway. As I was daydreaming about how I wished I was out there, I heard a loud crack as something struck the front cowling of the plane. I called the tower and reported what I thought had been a possible bird strike. The tower asked if I could identify the type of bird since they had no reports of previous sightings. All I could recall was that it was some kind of white bird.

"After landing, I inspected the cowling and there it was. A perfectly round, dimpled indentation with a long white streak behind it. I then recalled I had seen a golfer hitting a shot as I passed over the fairway. I went into base operations and called the tower to report that I had identified the bird as a Titleist."

MORE LOCAL GOLF STORIES
Illustration by Dave Croy/The World-Herald
The longest ace in the World-Herald record books occurred on the 448-yard 18th hole at Ko'olau Golf Club in Hawaii, illustrated above. Click here to read more wild stories from Midlands golfers. (Click photo above for larger image).

Speaking of Titleists

Samuel Littles Jr. was a feel-good story during the 1999 U.S. Senior Open in Des Moines. A caddie at Augusta National, he got financial help from club members (including retired World-Herald publisher Harold Andersen) to go to Iowa and play in the tournament. Once there, Littles had all of the perks — including a Cadillac courtesy car and four dozen Titleists in his locker.

Those golf balls, alas, made him part of tournament lore. He gave away too many of them to souvenir seekers. When he lost the last of the 48, he was forced to withdraw midway through the second round due to the tournament's one-ball rule. (Source: World-Herald files)

Drinks for everybody

Former Nebraska Golf Association board member Art Blackman thought he had dodged a large bar tab at a Husker women's golf fundraising scramble in the 1990s when his tee shot on the 17th hole at Lincoln's Firethorn Golf Club stopped inches from the cup. But it turns out he didn't. His wife, Sue, aced the sixth hole.

This guy could play

Few in the field for the 1994 Nebraska Amateur came to Scotts Bluff Country Club knowing who Dale Williamson was. After the then-Chadron State golf coach opened with rounds of 68, 66 and 68, his cover was blown.

Patrick Duffy of Omaha was in the final group with Williamson and Knox Jones of Lincoln for the fourth and final round. Five minutes before their tee time, Williamson wasn't there. He went home to Chadron after each round.

"Knox and I thought, 'Here's our chance.' We're only 11 or 12 (strokes) behind," Duffy said. "Then here comes Dale. Pulls up in the parking lot, he's got on the untied tennis shoes he's played in all week and grabs this old Hot-Z golf bag from his back seat. Not the trunk, the back seat."

Williamson, now an administrator at the college, won his only state title by five strokes.

Cattle-car threesome

Johnny Goodman rode on a cattle train to his first major golf event. That is true.

Contrary to many other reports, especially from the East Coast press, it was the only time Goodman went to a tournament under such humble travel accommodations. Not to his first major win, the 1927 Trans-Mississippi in Colorado Springs, nor to Pebble Beach for the 1929 U.S. Amateur where Goodman gave Bobby Jones his last loss before Jones' 1930 Grand Slam season.

Back to the train ride. Goodman, his Omaha South teammate Frank Siedlik and recent Omaha Central graduate Jack Pollard obtained passes on a cattle train to ride to St. Louis for the 1926 Trans. Goodman had the better of the situation, The World-Herald wrote later, because he was in a caboose. The others were in a box car. So as Goodman and Pollard made the semifinals and Siedlik won the consolation bracket, they got dubbed the "Cattle-Car Threesome" and later the "Box Car Trio."

Record rounds

One world record wasn't enough in 1972 for Dick Kimbrough. After he played 364 holes at North Platte Country Club (now called Rivers Edge) in 24 hours — traveling 75 miles on foot — Kimbrough's encore was playing the same course later that summer in 30 minutes, 10.3 seconds to break a 40-year-old record for fastest 18-hole round.

Allowing three helpers to spot the ball, remove it from the cup and throw it to the next tee, Kimbrough shot 117 with only a 3-iron. He was a history professor at North Platte Junior College who reportedly ran at least 100 miles a week to train for his record-setting efforts. (Source: World-Herald files)

It runs in the family

How many families have the hole-in-one history of Dr. G.E. and Bev Peterson of Oakland, Neb., and their three sons?

Bev reports that "Doc Pete" has two aces (the first in 1967). She has one. Son Steve has seven (and a double eagle at Firethorn for good measure). Son Mike had his one at age 12. And son Jason has two, including the most recent of the clan in 2011.

Jason, she said, made some jaws drop as an 8-year-old playing Spyglass on California's Monterey Peninsula with his father and brothers. After the 18th hole, a foursome of gentlemen asked Jason what he shot. They had watched him play several holes during their round of golf. He said, "92," and they said, "Wow, he beat us all!"

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A snake, a frog — and Grandpa

Another story from Oakland, courtesy of Nebraska Golf Association board member Laura Saf of Lincoln, involves her late grandfather playing the local course's ninth hole when she was a young girl. It also involves a frog and a snake. Her story:

Grandpa Fredericks and I hit our drives and took off walking toward the green. As we neared the ditch, there was a huge snake, close to the water, that was trying to devour a huge frog — with the back half of the frog sticking out of the snake's mouth. Grandpa took one of his irons out of his bag, hit the snake on the back of the head and out popped the frog. The snake slithered away and the frog quickly hopped away. The scene scared me to death, and I still remember it vividly and think of it every time I play No. 9. The good thing is it also brings back memories of that special day on the course with my grandfather."

What are the chances of this?

An ace wasn't good enough to collect in a skins game — a contest in which the lowest score on the hole wins a share of the pot — in a Nebraska Section PGA event in 2001. Odder yet, a pair of Kevins canceled each other out.

Kevin Doby, now the pro at Fox Run in Yankton, S.D., aced the 190-yard second hole at Wilderness Ridge. No one in his foursome mentioned the shot to anyone before they finished.

Doby finishes the story this way:

So when I hand in my scorecard to Tom Hearn (then a Nebraska PGA official), no one outside our group knows I did this. I hadn't even mentioned it to Hearn yet, and I hear someone behind me congratulate me, using my name. I thought, "This is odd," since I knew no one was aware of it.

I turn to see who it is, but no one is looking in my direction. About 20 seconds later, the same thing happens, and again when I turn around, no one's looking my direction. Almost immediately it happens again, so I quickly turn and notice Kevin Sullivan getting some congratulations. I walk over to him and ask if he got an ace. He said he did, on the second hole.

The ear-to-ear smile on his face was even bigger than one that typically accompanies an ace because he was not only in the section's hole-in-one club, but he'd also entered the skins game that day, which all of us did in this full-field event. His smile and mine quickly disappeared when I told him I too aced the second hole. No skin. Neither one of us could believe the likelihood — two Kevins, same hole, both in the skins game. The hole-in-one club money did pay out, however, to both of us. So we had that going for us.

However, the funniest thing, in my opinion, was about to happen. Scott Allacher walks in and proudly, loudly, asks "Any of you ... birdie No. 2?" A birdie on a par-3 usually isn't considered a lock for a skin in a Pro-Pro. In this case, however, the pin was positioned right on a ledge — it was borderline unplayable. In my group, nobody one- or two-putted the green.

Assuming that no one else made birdie, due to the pin placement, Allacher was sure that he had a good-sized skin. He was right about one thing: No one else made birdie there that day, but of course, he never got a skin either.

Two more from Saf

Two more stories by Laura Saf, one from a practice round at a Nebraska Women's Amateur Golf Association event and one with Dr. Yvonne Davenport in her group:

• On a beautiful sunny, calm summer day a few years ago at Norfolk Country Club, we heard one of the strangest sounds I'd ever heard — a loud rumbling, cracking. on a parallel fairway next to us, a huge tree just split down the middle and fell to the ground.

Luckily, the course was not busy that day and no players were on that hole. The tree was so big, it wasn't readily movable, so a white line was painted around it and it was declared ground under repair. Every day as we passed that downed tree, we realized how fortunate it was that no one was around it when it fell.

• At Indian Trails, we were on the holes closest to the Elkhorn river. It was a still, humid day and the sky became progressively darker, but there was no thunder or lightning. I set my ball on the tee, took a practice swing next to the ball and commented to Yvonne that I must have hit a little stone or something as I saw sparks fly when my club hit the ground.

We both hit our drives and were walking off the tee when BOOM, and I mean a deafening BOOM, sounded and a huge bolt of lightning hit very close by. The ground shook and the rumble echoed for what seemed like an eternity. We threw our drivers in our bags, jumped in the cart, left our balls on the fairway and Yvonne drove the cart as fast as she could back to the clubhouse. That was a little too close for comfort.

Trusty 6-iron

Six-irons have been trusty — and lucky — for Randy Borg. The former Nebraska football player from Alliance, Neb., has made nine of his 10 aces with a 6-iron. Eight of the 10 also came during tournament play, starting when he was a high school junior playing his home course in the 1969 Alliance High Invitational.

"I need to play in more tournaments and hit 6-iron on every par 3,'' he said.

Not one who changes equipment often, he said, he's gone through only a handful of 6-irons during his golfing career.

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