My craziest golf story ever

August, 15, 2007
I had two birdies on one hole the other day. Wasn't playing two balls. Didn't break any rules. So how did it happen? The following is a true story...

In need of a relaxing round of golf after covering the PGA Championship in Tulsa, Okla., all week, I played hooky on Tuesday, eschewing a day at the office in favor of a 9:40 a.m. tee time with my buddy Matt at Gillette Ridge Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer design in Bloomfield, Conn.

Playing from the gold tees -- not quite the tips, but still a pretty fair test at 6,703 yards -- I was my usual inconsistent self, making a par here, a double there, my body still in "crouched over laptop" mode after a week of live blogging. Don't tell anyone, but I think I even carded a "septy" at one point -- a score only Angel Cabrera could love.

I was just starting to find a groove when we got to the fun 13th hole, a 273-yard par-4 that bends right to left, the green bordered by a wide bunker to its front left side. I had honors on the tee and pulled out my 3-wood, as previous attempts at this tee shot proved that even a well-struck driver could land on the front of the green and hop all the way through to some nasty rough guarded by tall trees.

Surveying the hole, I felt about a 10 mph breeze at my back, tried to block out the greenside bunker I've found so often in the past and noticed three small birds -- sparrows, maybe -- walking down the left side of the fairway.

I teed the ball low, took a half-practice swing and told myself to keep the clubface open to prevent the inconvenient hook I've developed over the years. Feeling confident, I took my stance, pulled the club back and -- wouldn't you know it? -- hit a low, searing, hooking line drive that seemed destined to find the bunker until ... POW!

Feathers. Everywhere. It looked like the bird spontaneously combusted. Or just exploded. Or imploded. It was sort of like that video of the Kingdome being reduced to rubble, only if the entire building was made out of feathers.

"Oh my God, you just Randy Johnson-ed that thing!" Matt screamed. He was right. Much like the spring training fastball that found an errant bird a few years back, my drive found this little guy like a heat-seeking missile. When the ball made contact, it had yet to hit the ground, instead nailing the bird where it should have found the short grass. After a few more exclamations of, "Holy s---!" and "No f------ way!" from each of us, Matt let 'er rip from the tee (left of the bunker, in the short rough, no animals harmed) and we hopped in the cart, ready to confirm our suspicions.

Before I go any further, a quick note to the good folks from PETA: In no way did I attempt to injure this bird (heck, even Tiger Woods couldn't pick a spot 200 yards away and hit it dead on) nor did I take any delight in doing so. Then again, I was more shocked at the coincidence to feel much sorrow, either.

Neither Matt nor I was surprised when we reached the bird, lying motionless on the fairway. A few other birds circled overhead, taking notice of the scene, a what-the-hell-did-you-just-do? tone surrounding them. We poked and prodded their fallen comrade with a 3-iron, but to no avail. He was already gone. Using a pair of long irons like salad tongs, we carefully moved the bird off the fairway and into the shade of some nearby trees.

With nothing left to do but continue playing our round, it wasn't until then that I saw my golf ball sitting in the fairway about 30 yards short of the bunker. That bird's last act on Earth was a sacrifice to save my ball from finding the hazard. (Although I suppose he didn't have much of a choice, really.)

I felt an obligation to make it worth his while.

So I grabbed my sand wedge, took my stance over the ball and hit a low chip that found the front part of the green, skipped over a slope and rolled to within 2 feet of the hole.

I instantly knew what this meant: An opportunity to get two birdies on the same hole. Doesn't come along every day, does it?

We strode to the green, putters in hand. I marked my ball, waited for Matt to finish out his par, then carefully placed it on the green, the little arrow lined up dead center at the cup. There was no break, there was no distance, there were no tricks to this putt ... and yet I was sweating like this was to win the Masters. I mean, we've all had important putts to win a Nassau from a friend or break our personal best score, but this was a 2-foot putt for a story.

I made it. Rapped the ball right into the back of the cup for a birdie. "You know that's two birdies on the same hole?" I said to Matt. He was already thinking the same thing. We looked at each other, looked back in the direction of the now-deceased bird and just laughed at the absurdity of the situation.

As we started to walk back to the cart, I looked at the ball in my hand and realized it belonged to someone else now. (And, uh, I didn't really want to put that thing back in my pocket -- let alone have my hands all over it -- given the thought of bird brains being splattered about its outer shell.) So I walked back 50 yards, found the body lying in the shade and tossed the ball its way. "Thanks, bird," I said, still feeling a little guilty as I jogged toward the 14th tee box.

I know, I know. We all have our stories. Well, I want to hear yours. Got a quick one or just want to comment on mine? Hit the "comments" link underneath this story and discuss it with fellow golfers.

Have a story that's so good you need more time and space to deliver it? Click on our mailbag, submit your story and I'll publish the best of 'em sometime next week.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer




You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?