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Pond-skimming hole-in-one sparks memories of shot in Las Vegas

Updated November 14, 2020 - 2:52 pm

Jon Rahm’s pond-skimming hole-in-one during a Masters practice round this past week rekindled memories of a remarkable golf shot of a different ilk that allegedly happened in Las Vegas nearly a half-century ago.

During the 1974 U.S. National Senior Open at Winterwood Golf Course (which became Desert Rose and is now known as The Club at Sunrise), 64-year-old Mike Austin shouted “Fore!” and reportedly blasted a ball 515 yards with a 27 mph wind at his back.

“It was like God held the ball in the air,” said Austin’s wife, Tanya.

Las Vegas golf enthusiast Jack Sheehan, who knew Austin, believes St. Peter and a heavenly choir must have been helping, too. Sheehan called the distinguished Scotsman’s claim to fame “pure fantasy.”

“I don’t believe for a minute he hit a ball that far,” Sheehan said. “The balls weren’t as good then, the drivers weren’t as good, so that’s literally impossible with a persimmon wood.”

If you’re wondering how Austin’s drive measures up to today’s big-hitting, metal-head behemoths, the longest drive of the 2020 PGA Tour season was 449 yards by Justin Thomas.

Here’s what Austin said in one of his last interviews about The Drive: “I knocked the hell out of it. But the ball went up strangely. Went out about 10 or 15 feet high and kept going at the flattened level. I could put my finger on it the whole way until just before it dropped.”

The Guinness Book of World Records still recognizes Austin’s drive as the longest shot in golf history, but there’s one that traveled farther.

During the 1992 Texas Open, 31-year-old Carl Cooper gripped it, ripped it and hit a ball that traveled an estimated 787 yards after coming to rest 330 yards beyond the hole. Cooper’s drive landed on a downhill cart path and, like the Energizer Bunny, it just kept going and going and going.

Cooper double-bogeyed the hole. So much for hitting it big.

Around the horn

— Six years ago, I wrote a column about Lateef Omidiji Jr. of Las Vegas, who as a 9-year-old had been targeted by Nigerian national team scouts to play soccer in his father’s birthplace. Junior made it to the Super Eagles’ U-17 team, but he’s coming home to play for UNLV.

Here’s what Nigeria Football Focus — a Twitter account “focusing on our corrupt and disgusting youth system … and our corrupt and for sale soulless media” according to its social media description had to say about Omidiji Jr. becoming a Rebel:

“@JnrOmidiji is playing football in America. We hope to see you on the U20s very soon. I am one of many that knew he was the best player on the U17s, but as always the politics and pay for play in Nigeria prevented it, which is why the team lost and looked terrible at the (World Cup).”

And here you thought Phillies fans could be truculent.

— Reno 1868 FC, a United Soccer League club that helped launch former UNLV star Danny Musovski’s Major League Soccer career, will cease operations at the end of the 2020 season because of hardships brought on by COVID-19 and sharing Greater Nevada Field with the Pacific Coast League’s Reno Aces.

According to a news release confirming the capitulation, “Soccer in America is quickly outgrowing baseball stadiums. The club believed a soccer stadium in Northern Nevada would be necessary for soccer to expand and compete in the current landscape of second division professional soccer. This prospect for 1868 FC was difficult pre-COVID-19, but in a prolonged pandemic it became unrealistic.”

— NASCAR Xfinity Series racer Riley Herbst of Las Vegas is out at Joe Gibbs Racing after an inconsistent season, but appears to be in for a similar high-profile ride at Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021. Herbst, 21, posted four top-five finishes in 33 starts in his rookie year, but his season average finish of 16th was the worst by a Gibbs driver since Brian Scott’s 18.2 in 2012.


Irascible West Virginia basketball coach and multiple heart attack survivor (and former close friend of late UNLV basketball coach Charlie Spoonhour) Bob Huggins, when asked if he thought “the world was standing still” when the Big 12 canceled its postseason tournament amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

“Well, I’ve been dead a few times, and they’ve shocked me back to life, so my perspective of the world standing still is a little bit different than most.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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