Niagara Gazette

July 14, 2013

RUGGIERO: In search of golf's "perfect round"

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — I had the wonderful opportunity to participate this past week in the Community Missions Charity Golf Outing at Seneca Hickory Stick. The course was in excellent shape and the greens were running fast and true. My scramble team included Mission Associate Director Joe Sbarbati and former NF Police Chief John Chella. 

A lone bogey on the difficult 192-yard, par-three 4th hole cost us a second place tie. During the after-party, while in conversation with long-time friend and golf associate Angelo Sarkes of Lewiston, he inquired to me about players who have shot 59. Thanks to his query, we’ll begin today by visiting some golf history and the players who were in pursuit of golf’s “perfect round”.

As defined by the experts, a “perfect round” is actually accomplished when a player birdies every hole on the course during a singular round of play. To date, no one has ever accomplished this feat.

LPGA Hall of Fame member Annika Sörenstam has commented on numerous occasions about her desire to shoot the perfect round, saying "How do you shoot a 54? Hit one fairway. Hit one green. Make one putt. Do that 18 times and you have achieved golf perfection." She even has a knitted blue and yellow head cover in her bag with the number 54 on it to remind her of her ultimate goal.

Since no one has ever accomplished the perfect round, the next best thing is considered to be shooting a 59. Only one dozen players in history have ever achieved this feat during an official major tour golfing event.

The first golfer to do it was Al Geiberger, who shot a 13-under par 59 during the second round of the 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. He went on to win the event. The last player to achieve this score was Stuart Appleby, who confidently carded an 11-under 59 during the final round of the 2010 Greenbrier Classic and won.

Only one female has ever accomplished this feat. You guessed it. Annika Sörenstam. The lady genius of the links shot a 13-under 59 in the second round of the 2001 Standard Register and went on to win that event.

Interestingly, of the twelve professional players who have shot a 59, only four of them did not go on to win the event. The worst finish among the ‘59’ shooters was that of Notah Begay III, who wound up placing 6th in the 1998 Dominion Open on the Nike Tour.

During my colorful conversation with Sarkes, he expressed his belief that players who achieve a 59 score on a par-72 course deserve more credit than those who card a 59 on par-70 or par-71 layout. It’s a fair argument, I suppose.

Achieving the score of 59 is so limited and unlikely that the par of the course is often overlooked. Of the twelve players who have scored 59 in a major tour event, only five of them recorded a 59 on a par-72 course. And after all, 13-under par is better than 11-under par.

The 13-under par 59s were posted by Geiberger, Chip Beck, Notah Begay, David Duval, and Sörenstam. Also, there are seven additional below-60 rounds outside the elite twelve that have been recorded in unofficial events or on minor golf tours, including two 58s! Shigeki Maruyama recorded his 58 during a 2000 U.S. Open qualifying round and Jason Bohn carded his 58 in the 2001 Bayer Championship on the Canadian Tour.

• • • •

While I normally discuss only the sport we love in this space, today I make an exception. Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, Inc., is a community-based, independent, non-profit, religious service agency providing services to persons and families in need.

Those served by the agency are respected and, through the agency’s assistance, they can realize their greatest potential. Among the organization’s many service-oriented programs are crisis services, a community kitchen, crisis housing, a food pantry, a clothing closet, a furniture giveaway, transitional residences, and youth counseling.

Those helped by the Missions are our neighbors and friends. Goodness knows, we all need a hug or a boost from time to time. I’ll challenge my readers to donate your time or money to this worthy cause. Anyone willing to work toward a better life can be given the opportunity to do so with your help.

How about committing to a buck a birdie or, better yet, a buck a bogey to those currently less fortunate than us. For more information on Community Missions, my readers can contact the agency at 285-3403. Tell them Ken sent you.

• • • •

During the numerous charity golf outings that take place each season in our area, you will find certain holes that are manned by salespeople offering you to try their product at no charge. The 7th hole at Hickory, an elevated 190-yard par-three, was staffed by personnel from the golf division of Dixon Earth.

Among their eco-friendly products includes a biodegradable golf ball and a bamboo golf hat. Seriously. Did you know that it is estimated that over 300 million golf balls are “discarded” in the United States each year. I can believe it. I know players who “discard” a golf ball every two or three holes during their round, usually into a creek or a lake or the woods.

As the company illustrates, there are enough golf balls abandoned each season that a straight line of these orphaned spheres placed side by side would stretch from Los Angeles, California to London, England. That’s a lot of golf balls!

The bamboo golf caps are made from a blend of bamboo and cotton. They are not chemically treated and they are 100 percent recyclable. Whether you are a green-leaning liberal linksman or an open-minded Bambi-loving conservative, the Dixon product line might be worth looking into. Speaking of which, I wonder if they’ll ever come up with biodegradable computers. Or politicians.

• • • •

My friend Tim, age 35, finally decided to tie the knot with his long time girlfriend Andrea. I was able to attend the wedding, which was quite a shindig.

It’s a month now since the wedding day and Tim tells me that this past Friday evening, just weeks after the honeymoon, he was cleaning his golf clubs in the garage for his customary Saturday game. His wife was standing nearby, watching him meticulously scrub, rinse, then dry each and every stick in his bag.

After an extended period of silence, Andrea finally spoke. “Honey, I've been thinking, now that we are married, I think it's time that you considered cutting back on your golf. Maybe you could cancel your membership at the club and we could use the extra cash to travel more on weekends.”

Tim got this horror-struck look on his face, one Andrea had never seen.

With trepidation, she asked Tim, “Darling, what's wrong?” to which Tim replied, “There for a minute you were sounding like my ex-wife.”

“Ex-wife!”, she shouted, “I never knew that you were married before!”

“I wasn't,” Tim countered.

Until next week, keep it in the fairway.

Ken Ruggiero is a local golf instructor and has been writing this column for the past 28 years. He can be reached at or 298-0967