Book ReviewJuly 12, 2019

The greatest stretch of golf ever played?

Ever since Harvey Penick wrote a slim volume of instruction with a red cover that became the best-selling golf book of all time, golf authors have been churning out 5-by-7 handbooks of wit and wisdom. The latest is a delightful romp through the game's history called Golf's Life Lessons by Richard Allen, former captain of Royal Melbourne and very sharp after-dinner speaker.

Consider it a bedside companion with 55 short stories of inspiration (Skyhorse Publishing, New York, $24.99). Hard-core golf fans may have heard some of the stories before, but Allen's telling is always pithy and entertaining. One I'd never heard was in a chapter called, "Believing in Miracles." It details what may be the greatest stretch of golf ever played.

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If you asked me to predict what that might be, my mind immediately flashes to Arnold Palmer going 6-under par on the first seven holes to capture the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. Smarter historians might argue that it was J. Wood Platt's opening four holes at Pine Valley—birdie, eagle, ace, birdie—upon which he retired to the clubhouse and didn't finish the round. But Richard Allen offers an even more surprising answer in this brief excerpt:

"If it wasn't witnessed by four men of sound mind who had nothing to gain by the story, surely no one would have believed it. It was so outrageous no one could have dreamt it.

"On a mild November afternoon in 1971 at the Brookwood Country Club in suburban Chicago, 22-year-old Assistant Professional Tom Doty holed, in four consecutive holes, a 3-wood, a driver, a 4-wood and a 9-iron. His scores on those holes were 2, 1, 1, 2—an albatross (double eagle), back-to-back holes-in-one (one of which was another albatross), and an eagle.

"Thankfully, he had witnesses: Manny Kantor, Peter Orofino, Harry Robbins, and Frank LaPuzza--four businessmen in their mid-50s and mid-60s, and longtime golfers whom Doty had joined on the first tee for a five-ball.

"Doty finished with a round of 59, 13 under par. But his final score was almost forgotten against his miraculous four-hole stretch, which he played in 10 under par. He played, for one magnificent hour, the best golf that had ever been played."