Strange But True: Out of the Woods

Many years ago, a young man named Joe Kirkwood ran away from home in Sydney, Australia, to punch cattle in the outback country. He got a job on a large ranch. The owner of the ranch was a golf fan, and had built a three-hole “course” for himself on his property. That was where Kirkwood learned to play the game.

At first, all he did was retrieve the balls hit out to the tees and run back with them. Then, he began to hit the balls back to the ranch owner; Kirkwood’s shots were better than the ranch owner’s. The young cowboy kept practicing, and finally the owner suggested he enter some tournaments. Kirkwood won quite a few. Soon he became a golf pro at a country club near Sydney. It was there that he perfected his assortment of trick shots.

Then Kirkwood came to America and did quite well. But he won a kind of immortality while playing in the Texas Open in 1924, at the Brackenridge Golf Club.

Going into the last round, Kirkwood was leading, but only by a couple of strokes. On one tee shot he misjudged slightly. The ball landed a few feet from a group of trees, not far from a bubbling creek. Kirkwood surveyed the situation thoughtfully. If he tossed another ball out away from the trees, he would be penalized, and he couldn’t afford to lose a stroke. There was absolutely no way to hit the ball over the trees toward the green.

Finally, Kirkwood made up his mind. He selected a 3-iron and took his stance, facing the creek. Then he banged the ball. It shot across the creek, then began to hook in a long, curving arc. The ball kept curving around until it was almost going back the way it had come. It bounced, hit the green and rolled to a stop a few feet from the pin! Kirkwood went on to win the match.

Those who saw him make that shot swore they would erect a monument in memory of that magnificent trick shot. The money was collected, and later the monument was placed down at the exact spot where Joe Kirkwood had hooked a golf ball over a creek, around a grove of trees and onto the green.

On June 2, 1952, a player named Sammy White came to bat for the Boston Red Sox as a pinch-hitter. White took two quick strikes. Then he was called back to the bench and pinch hitter Bill Henry went to bat in his place. Henry fouled off a pitch, took a ball, then struck out. But because White had two strikes on him before he sat down, the strike out was technically charged against him. Thus Sammy White struck out while sitting on the bench!

From The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


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