Thursday, April 24, 2014

Watch Golf Trick Shot Performance from 1930

Here is a newsreel account of a golf trick shot performance from 1930:

Two thoughts about this. First, the guy performing - Ray Robertson - has some of the skinniest legs you'll ever see. He's like David Leadbetter's spindlier great-uncle. Second: trick shots haven't changed much over the decades in golf, have they?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Meet Tom McAuliffe, the 'World Champion Armless Golfer'

A golfer with no arms? Sounds like the beginning to a very bad joke. But Tom McAuliffe - Tommy to his friends - was not a punch line, he made sure of that, even though he lived in a time when the physically disabled were subjected to much less respectful treatment than today.

McAuliffe was born in 1893 in Buffalo, New York, and in 1902, after he fell across train tracks in front of an oncoming train, he lost both his arms at the shoulders. But he went on to lead a remarkable life, during which he interacted with many of the greats of golf history. He was, as he came to be known, the "World Champion Armless Golfer."

Here is a newsreel report about Tommy McAuliffe, titled "The Golfer with No Arms," produced by British Pathe in 1932:

As you can see, McAuliffe's technique was to press the grip of a golf club between his neck, shoulder and face. Imagine the practice time that must have gone into perfecting this technique. Because, as you saw in the video, McAuliffe could manipulate the golf club very well. He couldn't produce any power in this way - his shots were very short - but he hit the ball straight and was particularly good on short shots around the green. McAuliffe is said to have averaged in the low 90s for 18 holes of golf, with a personal best of 85.

The title of "World Champion Armless Golfer" was self-bestowed; there were no golf tournaments or organizations or support groups for handicapped golfers in the early part of the 20th century the way there are today.

No, McAuliffe had an attention-getting story and skill, and he turned that into a career for a time. He barnstormed the United States and even the world - there's a photo of him in Australia in 1929 that shows him hitting golf balls off the face of his very trusting brother - performing trick-shot shows and exhibitions. He did this on golf courses but also on the stage, where he appeared as part of vaudeville acts and other traveling shows.

In the 1950s there was a television series on ABC titled You Asked For It, and McAuliffe appeared on that show. In a film clip for that show, McAuliffe is shown performing a few shots and also explaining his skill. The Langley Golf Museum in Kissimmee, Florida, includes an exhibit about McAuliffe, and part of that exhibit is a video with footage from McAuliffe's You Asked For It appearance, as well as McAuliffe talking about the accident that cost him his arms:

At the time of his ABC appearance, McAuliffe was living in Detroit. "I know life is what you make it," McAuliffe says, "and I've tried to make the best of mine." McAuliffe explains to the show's host, Art Baker, that he "quit show business 20 years ago" (which would have been in the mid- to late 1930s) and has been running his own insurance business since then. He's shown at his desk writing, typing and answering phones, among other office chores.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lots of Twitter Love for Michelle Wie's Hawaii Win from Fellow LPGAers

There was a time when Michelle Wie was strongly disliked - resented might be the better word - by golfers on the LPGA. At least those who didn't know her well. Those who took the time to talk to the young Michelle in her days as a teen phenom - players like Natalie Gulbis, Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon - always had nice things to say about her. But Wie was often followed by controversy (most of it manufactured by others) in those early years, and it hurt her with the LPGA rank-and-file.

But that was a long time ago. Wie has long since become one of the most popular players on tour with her peers, who respect her friendliness, her sense of humor, her respect for fans and the way she interacts with fans, and all the hard work she puts in trying to get better at golf.

The fondness so many on the LPGA have acquired for Wie is obvious in the Twitter reactions by fellow players after Wie's win in the 2014 Lotte Championship. Here is a sampling:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Golf Balls Raining Down on Small Airport

Here's something weird: A small airport in Carter County, Tennessee, has recently encountered a mysterious problem: a plague of golf balls. Golf balls started showing up on the airport property, including the tarmac, only within the past month. They've found up to 100 of them. Where are they coming from? The closest golf course or driving range is seven miles away!

The report from WJHL-TV states:

To ensure the safety of employees and travelers, officials conduct daily inspections, and several times this month they've found golf balls scattered across the runway. Tuesday was no exception.

"Over the last 30 days we have been finding golf balls," said Dan Cogan.

Cogan is not at a local golf course, he's about seven miles away at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.

"Four different occasions we found golf balls out there and the total is well over 100 golf balls," Cogan said.

Cogan is the airport manager. He said they're finding the golf balls along the east end runway, where planes take off and land.

There's a golfer in Tennessee who needs to stop being a dumbass.