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The 19th Hole

Golf superstitions and other oddities

By Gene Bleile | Sep 05, 2013

Are you afraid to walk under a ladder or fear a black cat walking across your path? Maybe you avoid the number 13 or secretly hope you never break a mirror. If you do, then you, like millions of people around the world, are superstitious.

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In the world of sports, many amateur and pro athletes, including golfers, have their superstitious moments of fear and dread, which they “ward off” with own form of magic.

Case in point: Jack Nicklaus always carried three lucky coins in his pocket during tournament play. His explanation of this superstitious act was somewhat odd in itself.

“If I carried one penny and lost it, I’d be without a ball marker. If I had only two and lost one, then loaned one to another player, I would be without one myself. I carry three and only use tails side up when I mark my ball on the green” (Nicklaus also would not use his own tee on par threes, but would look for a broken tee on the box).

Zach Johnson, one of the “young guns” on the tour today, believes that staying in touch with God during the round will help his game. Johnson’s wife, Kim, made him a special ball marker that contains Bible verses and phrases which he reads during tournament play.

Former two-time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw would only play golf balls numbered 1-4, because he didn’t want a score higher than a four on his card, while Paul Azinger will only mark his ball with a penny that has Lincoln’s head facing the hole.

Not to be outdone, many ladies of the LPGA also have superstitions to help them through a round. For example, Natalie Gulbis eats at a McDonalds before the start of every round (her favorite meal: an Egg McMuffin and hash browns).

Up and coming star on the LPGA, Lexi Thompson, will only wear ladybug earrings on tournament days and she also carries “lucky items” in her golf bag. Karrie Webb would use a number 4 ball on Thursday tournament play, a number 3 on Friday, a number 2 on Saturday and a number 1 on Sunday. Her reasoning: “Of course I want to be number one on Sunday,” she said.

Tiger Woods’ mother once told him that “red was a lucky color and it brings power,” so to honor his mother, he always wears red on the final round of a tournament. And speaking of the color red, Peter Leonard, who is a household golfing name in Australia, wore the same pair of red underwear for every Sunday tournament round he played in for fifteen years (they finally wore out).

And last but not least, is one for the dumb and dumber file. Roger Maltbie, former PGA golfer, TV instructor and commentator, was playing in the 1976 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village at Dublin, Ohio, when he hit a shot that rebounded off an out-of-bounds marker (saving him at least a one shot penalty) and landed back on the fairway.

Maltbie went on to win the tournament and took the out-of-bounds marker with him when he left the course. After six months, Maltbie had a terrible round in another tournament and left the marker under the bed in his hotel room.

Here is a list of other superstitions that many golfers adhere to on the course:

1. Never use a ball you found on the course. It’s bad luck. (Not always, I found a ball during a round and hit a hole-in-one with that ball two holes later.)

2. Never wash your ball if you are having a great round (bad luck).

3. Never change clubs, once you pull out the first club. (You will hit a bad shot.)

4. Always carry a lucky club with you. (My lucky club is a BLT on rye with mayo.)

5. Never use a red tee because the ball will head for a hazard.

6. Always wear two pair of pants on the course, just in case you get a hole in one (sorry, I couldn’t resist that childhood joke).

19th hole trivia

The 1952 U.S. Open golf course site in Dallas, Texas had a city street running through a fairway.

Golfing Hall of Famer Walter Hagan once played downtown Tijuana as a course. The eighteenth hole was the toilet in his hotel room.

For more golf landscape images, fine art photography and a blog go to genebleilephotography.com.

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