Last November, when Luke Donald won the Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Japan, he won the usual trophy and the winner's check of course, but he also won a cow.
The tournament is in Miyazaki, which has a breed of cattle with the same qualities as the ones found in Kobe, and the meat is similarly heralded. The cows get names, are rumored to drink beer and get massaged with sake, and have a high amount of fat that is prized by those who can afford to eventually eat it.
Against all odds, Donald collected his meat prize on Tuesday, nearly a half a year after he won it.
What actually arrived at his house in Chicago and the story of all the wrangling it took to get it, involves one long game of telephone.
Thanks to Donald being known to be quite the foodie, he quickly realized what he had won, but was told soon after that it would be impossible to get the physical cow back to the United States. So he contacted Nick Kokonas, a partner with celebrity chef Grant Achatz at Alinea, one of the most universally acclaimed restaurants in the country.
"I said, 'You got a whole freaking Miyazaki cow?" Kokonas said. "We gotta get this."
Alinea had imported Miyazaki, famous for its meaty flavor and bacon-type fat, into its restaurant before the USDA banned the importing of Japanese beef most recently in 2011. Restaurants pay about $160 a pound for the beef, Kokonas said, but diners, who obviously eat in in smaller pieces, typically pay at least double that.
In the weeks that followed, Kokonas said he was asked through an importer if he wanted the whole cow.
"Yes, we want the whole cow," Kokonas said. "Luke won the whole cow, didn't he?"
The next communication from Japan was that the cow was actually still alive, so the meat wasn't available.
Kokonas then brought in Shane Lindsay, who runs a food importing company called Northwest Earth & Ocean. Lindsay became the point person between Donald's cow acquisition team and those in Miyazaki.
Then, the story changed. It wasn't actually one cow. Donald's group needed to specify the cuts that they wanted and how many pounds of each they were requesting. After way too many emails, over a period of months, an agreement was finally reached.
Donald would get about 200 pounds of Miyazaki beef. Lindsay would receive the shipment at his warehouse, cut it up into individual portions and flash freeze it until the golfer was ready to take delivery.
Tuesday was that day. Donald received the package that contained about $80,000 worth of beef at retail, cracked it open and threw some of it on the grill.
"It's very marbled and the knife just eases through the meat," Donald told us. "Definitely the best beef I've ever had."
It better be for all the trouble he and a team of others went through to get it.
For what it's worth, skier Lindsey Vonn also took the cow option when she won a World Cup Downhill event in France in 2005. The cow was given to Vonn by the local cheese farmers with the hopes of immediately exchanging the cow for cash. Vonn wanted no part of it. Eventually a deal was worked out and Vonn's pet cow went to reside in Kirchberg, Austria.