- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — By the time PGA Tour players reach the game’s competitive apex, they have spent years on golf courses around the globe. The vast majority of that time is never chronicled. From practice rounds to range sessions, pro-ams to locker room banter, most of that time is consumed off camera and away from the stressful spotlight of contention.

With that thought in mind, The Washington Times asked players at last week’s Wachovia Championship to pinpoint a favorite memory from these lighter moments. Specifically, players were asked to recount the hardest they’ve ever laughed on a golf course. Given such a blur of options, more than half the players surveyed simply couldn’t remember specifics. But a solid field of favorites came through with worthy anecdotes.

In no particular order, here’s our leader board of levity:

Nick Price

“One of my favorite moments came courtesy of Fulton Allem and his caddie at Hilton Head Island.

“Fulty was having a pretty bad start to his day. We started on the back nine, so we’ve played five holes and we’re walking to the 15th hole at Harbour Town with Fulty on the full boil. He’s cursing, kicking things, lashing out at whatever. So we take the tee on the 15th, a par-5, and the group in front of us is still in the fairway.

“We have to wait, and Fulty just can’t take it anymore. He’s now lost his head completely. There are like 400 or 500 people watching, and Fulty looks at his caddie Bob and says, ‘Bullet, what can I break?’ And Bullet, without hesitating for an instant, says, ‘How about par, Fulty?’

“It was the best line of all time. Vijay [Singh] and I were lying on the teebox we were laughing so hard.”

Rich Beem

“I was in Port St. Lucie, Florida, at a PGA club there, and I saw a hot air balloon come crashing down onto the golf course while I was playing. I’m getting ready to hit, and all of a sudden I hear all this noise, and there it is, crashing through the trees into the middle of this course. The balloon is torn to shreds and flapping around everywhere, but on the wicker basket it says, ‘Hot air balloon lessons’ and there’s a phone number. I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, like I want to take lessons from that guy.’ ”

Mark Calcavecchia

“I saw a guy make a hole-in-one ricocheting a ball off a cart path at the Hope once.

“We’re on Number 4 at Bermuda Dunes, and this guy has already had a very long day. He hits this high snaphook 5-wood. It’s dead left, and he’s already turned his back to start cursing himself, but I’m watching it. It comes down just at the edge of the cart path, and the curb redirects it just perfectly back to the right.

“He’s muttering something about quitting the game, and I say, ‘Oh, look at this.’ It ricochets right up on the green and goes right in like it’s on a string. Unbelievable. I ask him what that pays. If a barky birdie is worth triple, what do you get for a cart path ace?”

Phil Mickelson

“We were in a weather delay this one time at AT&T [Pebble Beach]. We’re standing on this tee waiting for a restart, and this guy comes riding down the cart path on a bike. He’s cruising pretty good, and all of a sudden, this guy in the gallery sticks out his elbow and just levels him. I mean, just clotheslines him cold horizontal.

“Everybody is still ‘ooohhhhing’ when this guy reaches down and picks this guy up by the scruff of the neck and screams at him, ‘That’s my bike, you so-and-so.’ Apparently, the guy had his bike stolen earlier that same day. And this guy he clotheslined, he’s obviously the thief, because he just runs off. It was pretty wild to watch.”

Ernie Els

“I’m playing golf with my dad back home. He’s a pretty good player, like a 10 handicap, so he can generate some pretty good clubhead speed.

“We’re getting ready to tee off on this one hole, and this huge bird lands in our fairway. I don’t what kind of bird it is, a heron or something — it’s big and leggy, and I guess it’s eating worms out of the fairway. Anyway, it lands like 50 yards in front of our teebox. And my dad hits this shot, kind of thins it with a driver, and it hit the bird right up the, well, you know.

“Feathers went everywhere. And out of this cloud of feathers we see the bird go up like 10 feet, like it was going to fly off. And then it just comes straight down in a heap — stone dead. You could never, ever time it perfectly just like that again.”

Sergio Garcia

“I was playing in a pro-am in England in the PGA at Wentworth, and it was quite wet. On the third hole, it became miserable … windy, wet, cold. It’s a long par-4 up a hill, and the pros are having trouble reaching it in two. We’re hitting like 2-irons and 3-irons.

“But one of my amateurs is going to get there, though. He hits a good drive, and he pulls a 3-wood. He’s trying to kill it and get to the green. He swings so hard that he kind of loses his balance and tops the ball in such a way that it disappears in the ground for a moment, pops back out and lands like two or three yards behind him and then spins forward just past him. It was amazing.”

Davis Love III

“The hardest I laughed in a long time was during a rain delay at the Players a few years ago. We’re in the locker room, and it’s pretty busy, and I tell my son I’ll give him $100 to call Tiger ‘Eldrick.’ There are like 10 players right there listening, and my son walks right up and says, ‘So, how you playing, Eldrick?’ We all just busted up. Tiger didn’t like it very much at first, but he got a pretty good laugh out of it.”

Paul Azinger

“Look, I love the pro-ams, because they help pay the purses and 99 percent of the time you meet some great people and have fun. But I got this total doozy one time in Las Vegas. This guy was the ultimate gorilla. You can’t swing any harder than this guy. I mean he makes Daly’s swing look short.

“So the first tee shot, he hits it like 20 feet. The next one, he swings just as hard, connects, and it goes like 360 yards. And then the third hole, he reaches back for a little something extra and somehow manages to hit the ball minus-5 feet. I can’t explain the physics of it, but that was funny.”

Jason Gore

“I was on this par-5 in Hershey [Pa.] a few years back when I got completely blindsided. I think it’s Number 5, and there was an older gentleman sitting there in a plastic chair right behind the ropes like 10 feet from where my drive ended up. This is the Nationwide Tour, so there’s nobody there watching other than him. I mean, it’s morgue quiet. Just me and my caddie, the birds and this oldster.

“I’m going for the green in two, and it’s a tough shot, so I’m really into my routine. I’m right in the middle of my backswing, and this old guy who’s probably like two years older than dirt just lets one rip. We’re talking like a sonic boom flatulent. I almost whiffed, and I didn’t know whether to throw the club at him or laugh. He looks right at me, shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘You can’t hold what’s not in your hand.’ Is that beautiful or what?”

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