August 15, 2016
Legend Al Geiberger, aka ‘Mr. 59’, always knew his PGA Tour record score would be eventually be broken.
Never though, did Geieberger think it would take 39 years.
“I expected it to be broken, but as more time went on, I started thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be broken,” said Geiberger of Jim Furyk’s final round 58 at last weekend’s The Travelers Championship. “It became sort of a tug of war for me, and one half won.”
The winner of 11 PGA Tour and 10 Champions Tour events, Geiberger and longtime San Francisco Golf Club head pro Rick Rhoads were at The Inn at Spanish Bay on Sunday as part of the Northern California PGA’s 9th annual ‘The Langley—A Tribute to Legends’. The duo each received recognition for extraordinary achievements and contributions to game of golf.
Since Furyk’s 58, Geiberger, a Northern California native, has seen his name pop up everywhere. The now 78-year-old has taken an interest in reading about the debate–which has stretched as far as Facebook. Furyk’s 58 came on a par-70, while Geiberger posted his 59 at par-72 Colonial CC in the second round of the 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic.
While Geiberger’s 59 was posted under ‘winter rules’ conditions (lift, clean and place), he says that he not once touched his ball.
“I never had to touch the ball. The turf on the course was pure Bermuda grass,” Geiberger said.
Despite the ‘winter rules’, Colonial CC was playing at 7,249 yards. The temperature was also nearly 100 degrees.
To end the debate over which round was better, one could simply say they’re both incredible.
“To do either, you have to be ahead of the game. There are only 18 holes. It becomes a math problem,” Geiberger said.
And how exactly does it feel to go so low?
“You get going so well that you feel invincible,” Geiberger said. “Both my ball striking and putter were on (he made nine birdie putts outside 10 feet).”
Of course, Geiberger experienced the other side too. A day after his 59 he shot 70. A week later, he had only one round in the 60’s. The next week he’d card an 81.
“Yep, that pretty much defines golf,” Geiberger said with a smile.
Rhoads, too, has had a special career. The 71-year-old has been the head pro at S.F. Golf Club for 40 years.
According to Rhoads, it takes three things to make a club good: a good piece of property, a good designer and good members.
“We had A.W. Tillinghast as designer, so we got lucky three times,” Rhoads said.
As an instructor, Rhoads said the key to making golf easier is to make it fun.
“When a student does something good, key in on that,” Rhoads said. “Then, they hopefully generate a passion for the game. If they do, they can go a long way. Look at me, look at guys like Bernhard Langer and Gene Sarazen. We’re all normal guys. In other sports, you need to have a certain physique. In golf, you don’t. It’s for everyone.”
As for some of the things golf could do to increase participation, both Geiberger and Rhoads had some ideas.
Geiberger said that it’s up to clubs to take action, relating a recent conversation he had with a mechanic at a car shop near his hometown of Palm Desert.
“The guy said he didn’t have anywhere to play. Nor did he have any place to just hit balls. If you look at the Palm Desert area, most of the courses have gates,” Geiberger said. “The older clubs aren’t cultivating younger members. You need to make the courses available.”
Rhoads, meanwhile, thinks the pieces—that being golf’s young stars like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy—are there to attract a younger audience.
“They’re young, talented players. The thing that made Arnie (Arnold Palmer) such an attraction was that he had a great connection with the people,” Rhoads said. “I remember watching Palmer when I was around age 12. When he started making a charge, the crowd would literally run over to where he was.”
Rhoads also said that people picking up golf need to remember that the game isn’t always easy, even for the best.
“You have to be somewhat clever with your approach to the game,” Rhoads said. “Golf likes to bring you down. Don’t let it.”
Named after late Cypress Point Club head pro Jim Langley, this year’s event benefited among other charities, PGA HOPE Northern California and The George Archer Foundation for Literacy.
PGA HOPE Norther California provides free golf clinics for disable military veterans to introduce them to golf as a therapeutic tool to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. The George Archer Foundation for Literacy supports tutoring programs for people afflicted with learning disabilities that interfere with their ability to process written communications.
Held every year, ‘The Langley’ is the NCPGA’s premier fundraising event. Anyone interested in contributing to the NCPGA Foundation is encouraged to visit NCPGAfoundation.org or call 707-449-4742 to make a donation.