Golf History is often told in terms of the Classics...like Homer's Odyssey. This story contains some of the same elements. Namely: Words and paragraphs. Larry
Occasionally, this Column takes a detour from the present day Golf Scene here in The Persimmon Kingdom onto the dusty side road of Golfing history that occurred in our special part of the world.
The Story of George William Kurrs
Traylor County Golf has attracted several famous names over the years. And, in the 1930s, the most famous of the Golf elite to tee it up in the shadows of the Persimmon Spires had to be George William Kurrs...better known to the Golfing world as "G. Willie."
It was September of 1937, Kurrs was coming off his best year, ever. He had been third alternate for the U.S. Open that year. And, had played well enough several times to get his name in the Box Score section of The Persimmon Pines Times. Plus, he was invited by local legend Turley Burd to play a charity exhibition match. Burd once challenged Gene Sarazen to a match, blindfolded. However, Sarazen declined to put on the blindfold, unless Burd did too, and the match never came about.
On this day, Kurrs and Burd teed it up at Valley Heights in front of at least 2,000 fans for a Handicap Match set up by Burd who teed off from the regular tees. Kurrs, a true trick shot artist, was forced to start each hole from unusually difficult spots - behind trees, out of streams, through drainage pipes and the like.
The front page story from that day describes how Burd and Kurrs played a tight match through 15 holes with Burd up one. At the par three 16th, Burd hit his tee shot beautifully onto the green, one-foot from the cup. Kurrs, by the rules of the match, had to tee it up from behind a tall stand of thick pine trees. There was only one way to make this shot - with a very high flop shot over the 40-foot trees.
The following is quoted from The Persimmons Pines Times of that day:
Our hero, Mr. Burd, was certainly in the catbird seat, as it were. One up with three holes to play. His barely creased Kro-Flite ball rested just 12-inches from the hole. One up with three to play - and Mr. Kurrs forced to tee from behind the stand of impossibly tall pines, the odds were heavily in favor of our local hero leaving number 16, dormie.
However, his opponent had shown great ability on previous holes in finding a way to make a match of it. On the fifth, he was forced to tee from under a bridge, off a partially submerged rock. At number eight, he was placed nearly out of bounds in a drainage ditch and nearly managed an eagle. So, no one, least of all Mr. Kurrs, seemed to think this match was over.
His Caddy handed him a highly lofted iron and Mr. Kurrs studied the obstacle in front of him. With very little hesitation, he swung the club and, quite literally, popped it straight up in the air. The crowd, in spite of their obvious desire to see their local favorite prevail, applauded in wonder as the ball floated high into the air and arched over the thick pines toward the green. But then, a gasp from the throng! Mr. Kurrs' balata had come to rest - very near the top of a huge pine.
According to the newspaper account, Kurrs, knowing he had only five-minutes to play his ball - or declare it lost - climbed into the tree with his niblick, "like a chimpanzee on his way to a banana."
And, with his Caddy calling out directions, the Golfer was soon in position, hanging by his knees from a branch, staring down at the ball resting on the pine needles.
In what has to be one of the most amazing shots of the time, Kurrs swung at the ball while hanging upside down - flipped it out of the tree and onto the green - where it hit Burd's ball and knocked it 20 feet from the hole. (Back then, the rules required Burd's ball to remain where Kurrs' ball had caused it to stop.) Burd, in exasperation, amazement and deep admiration, looked up into the huge pine and yelled: "G. Willie Kurrs, you're good!" G. Willie went on to win the hole. The match ended in a draw.
Afterwards, Persimmon Pines earned its place in the popular lexicon of the day when Persimmon Pines Times Reporter Otto Dobinsanski reported the story. Before long, people everywhere were using a new word, born of the match, which English speaking people around the World used to express awe and surprise: "Gee Willikers!"
Larry Caringer has been writing humor for broadcast for a long time. Now, he's writing it for you. The stories, here, are from a collection of short stories from his book "Golf Beat: A Year in the Life of Persimmon Pines."