Some­times I Won­der Shots you can’t ex­plain

Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - The Golf Life - Pho­to­graph by Dan Win­ters

The thresh­old of what counts as a mir­a­cle is hard to es­tab­lish. In my ca­reer, I con­sider Lee Trevino’s chip-in at Muir­field in the 1972 Open Cham­pi­onship and Tom Wat­son’s chip-in at Peb­ble Beach in the 1982 U.S. Open—both hap­pen­ing on the 17th hole and in the fi­nal round to beat me— as mir­a­cles at the time they hap­pened.

In some peo­ple’s minds, my win at age 22 over Arnold Palmer in the 1962 U.S. Open in, ba­si­cally, Arnold’s back yard of Oak­mont was a mir­a­cle.

Per­haps the same could be said for the 1-iron I hit at 17 in the 1972 U.S. Open. It was 219 yards, and my ball hit the flag­stick a foot above the ground and dropped to six inches— al­most went in the cup. Had it missed, I sup­pose it would have gone 12 to 15 feet past. The ball had to hit flush at that pre­cise part of the flag­stick for it to stop there. A mir­a­cle?

Then there are the mir­a­cles that ap­pear to hap­pen un­til re­al­ity steps in. One of my fa­vorite sto­ries hap­pened in the 1970s at Cy­press Point.

I was play­ing a prac­tice round with friends Pan­del Savic and Bob Hoag. We in­vited Howard Clark, a Ry­der Cup player from Eng­land, to join us, es­pe­cially af­ter hear­ing that he had never played Cy­press.

I re­mem­ber that we went out right be­hind a group of Cana­dian pros, Richard Zokol and Jim Nelford. We got around the first 15 holes in gor­geous weather. Sud­denly, this fog bank rolls in be­tween the 15th and 16th tees. As the golf world knows, No. 16 at Cy­press Point is one of the iconic par 3s of the world. Well, stand­ing on the tee we could barely see our hands in front of our faces, but we all hit. We found three of our balls. And then we found Howard’s— in the hole.

We spent the next 30 min­utes or so cel­e­brat­ing Howard’s ace. Then, we got to the 18th tee, and there was a lit­tle note on the tee box: “Great holein-one, Howard! The Crazy Canucks. Ha. Ha. Ha.” But for a half an hour, we thought it was a mir­a­cle.

Then there are peo­ple you meet through golf, and sit­u­a­tions you come across, that have the un­der­tones of a mir­a­cle at work. In the sum­mer of 2008, a fa­ther in Ohio reached out to our of­fice with a re­quest to meet his son. The fa­ther was Marty Bez­batchenko, and his son, David, was bat­tling a rare dis­ease, neu­rofi­bro­mato­sis. The dis­ease can at­tack nu­mer­ous parts of the body, and can lead to tu­mors all over, in­clud­ing ones on the brain, spine and nerves.

David was a col­lege stu­dent at Bowl­ing Green—in fact, he was a mem­ber of the same fra­ter­nity I was in at Ohio State—when, in 2005, he de­vel­oped a brain tu­mor. He waged an in­cred­i­ble bat­tle, en­dur­ing chemo­ther­apy, ra­di­a­tion and nu­mer­ous surg­eries. Well, I got a chance to meet David in July 2008 and spent con­sid­er­able time with him and his fam­ily. You could tell he had a love for golf, fam­ily and life.

David lost his bat­tle on that Valen­tine’s Day, pass­ing away at the age of 23. In his obit were some won­der­ful mem­o­ries, but what I found most in­ter­est­ing is what he listed as per­haps his most cher­ished mem­ory.

It hap­pened the year af­ter he was di­ag­nosed. David and his fa­ther recorded holes-in­one on the same hole on backto-back swings. Never mind that the ace helped David break 100 for the first time, card­ing a 98. Here is a young man bat­tling a hor­rific dis­ease, whose two big­gest loves in life are his fam­ily and golf, and on one day, one hole and two swings, they in­ter­sect for some­thing Fran­cis Scheid, re­tired chair­man of the Bos­ton Univer­sity math de­part­ment, cal­cu­lated for Golf Di­gest at odds of 17 mil­lion to one—or greater—to hap­pen.

That, in many ways, is a mir­a­cle, and it could not have hap­pened to a more de­serv­ing young man.

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