Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Let's See Tiger Top This
by Tom Cleary

If you check the record book for the First of America Classic, there are a couple of different entries under which you'll find the name of Australian Bruce Crampton. In 1992 Crampton established a tournament record when he shot 132 for the first 36 holes of the event. His second round 63 of that year also stands as a tournament.

That's the good news.

The bad news is you can also find Mr. C in the book for something he did last year at Egypt Valley during the first round of west Michigan's annual Senior PGA Tour stop. My guess is this one might last a couple of millenia.

On a day when only eight players in the field broke 70, Bruce Crampton appeared destined for a spot on the leader board. He went out in just 34 during his opening nine and appeared to be not only on his game, but all over it. Then something strange happened as Crampton went up the hill separating the two nines of the tournament course at Egypt Valley. Had this been a normal week at the club, he might've chosen to visit the tennis courts on his right or the swimming pool on his left. Unfortunately, he opted for neither, choosing instead to continue his round on the tenth hole.

At the time it didn't seem like all that an unreasonable thing to do.

The tenth at Egypt Valley is a downhill par-four that plays to less than 400 yards. On days when an easterly breeze is blowing, it's usually not much more than a drive and a wedge for players of Crampton's caliber. But on this day it would turn out to be something much different.

In addition to a large oak which blocks the left half of the fairway on the drive, the tenth features a large wooded area on the left and out of bounds on the right. But the fairway itself is probably 40 yards wide and it's the kind of hole where a confident amateur who can draw the ball at all might hit it in the short grass every day of the year. It's also a hole that can extract a very dear price from the kind of wayward soul Bruce Crampton turned out to be last August 9th.

After hooking his tee shot into the woods on the left, Crampton opted to forge on after finding his ball (no small feat in itself). But rather than pitch out sideways to the fairway, he chose instead to try to play forward through a small opening in the trees. He hit a shot. Then he hit another shot. Then another and another and another.

Shortly after his playing companions filled out a missing persons report, Crampton finally emerged from the darkened hollow. By contrast, Rip Van Winkle was gone for only a fortnight. When he finally reached the green, he was not the happiest of campers. Tight-lipped, you say? Compared to Crampton at that moment the guards at Buckingham Palace are like the studio guests at a Rikki Lake taping. But give the man credit. During his siege that day on the 10th hole he didn't break any clubs, didn't do bodily injury to anyone and didn't quit. He holed his putt, walked quietly toward the 11th tee and spoke at last to one of his playing companions.

Former U.S. Senior Open champion Larry Laoretti later told the Grand Rapids Press the scene was a bit surreal. Laoretti was mostly aware of Crampton's predicament in the woods, but some time during the middle of the debacle had run out of batteries for his calculator. He later told a few writers what was said when he found out just how bad the damage was. "Larry," Crampton said to him quietly while exiting the green, "I had a sixteen."

A what?

That's right, ladies and gents, the sweetest number of them all. A pair of eights, or if you please, four fours. But in this case, Bruce Crampton used up four holes worth of shots to traverse about 370 yards of the toughest real estate anyone's tried to cover since Evel Knievel was walking without a limp. And while he wasn't exactly doing handsprings when he finished, he still managed that day to break 85. But just barely.

Going for double-digits in golf isn't as difficult as you might think, even for Tour players. Japan's Tommy Nakajima went for 13 on the 13th hole at Augusta National during the 1978 Masters, while Tom Weiskopf matched that unlucky total on the par-three 12th at the National two years later. But the two Toms were pikers compared to Ray Ainsley, who chiseled his name into the USGA record book in 1938 at Cherry Hills in Denver during the U.S. Open. On the par-four sixteenth, Ainsley went for a Johnny Unitas-nineteen. That's a full practice session for most people, minus only the driving range bucket.

Incredibly, higher scores have been recorded in competition before but usually due to bookkeeping errors. Every year or two a golf publication will feature a story about a player who wrote down his nine-hole score in the box on the scorecard for either the ninth or eighteenth holes. When that happens, and the scorecard is signed, the player gets that total. Say a player makes nine consecutive fours, but writes in "36" in the box where the final four should've gone. Once he turns his card in, he gets 68 for his nine instead of 36. Might that ruin your day? Let's see Bobby McFerrin whistle past that one.

But back to our friend Bruce Crampton. Not only did his sixteen in last year's first round at Grand Rapids not ruin his day, it didn't even ruin his tournament. He rebounded on the weekend with consecutive rounds of 75, and ended up finishing 69th in a field of 77. Why should he feel bad about that? In my opinion the guys who ought to feel terrible are the ones he beat. Can you imagine going home to tell your family you quit a cushy club pro job and eat fast food three times a day just for a chance to lose to a guy who made a 16 on one hole?

No, there's plenty people out there with more to worry about than Bruce Crampton. On that fateful summer day twelve months ago when a lesser man would've been dialing 1-800-DOC-JACK, Bruce managed to nudge his name into the record book once more, this time in a newly established category. Under the heading of The Most Money Made By A Professional Who Made A Score In The Teens During The First Or Second Round Of A Tour Event, the saucy Aussie has found a home. His 234 total for three rounds last summer in Grand Rapids was worth a cool $799. One more buck, and Bruce's 16 swatts on his memorable 10th hole of the 1996 FOAC would've been worth 50 bucks a piece.

But hey, this is a professional we're talking about. Prize money really means nothing to a guy like Bruce Crampton.

It's the record that counts.

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