The Strange Case of Mike Reasor

Journeyman Pro Reasor Sets Record for Worst Score

For a golfer, it sounds like a Twlight Zone episode. There is Rod Serling giving the subdued, ominous introduction – “If you will, consider the strange case of Mike Reasor.” Or, how about “Mike Reasor went out for a relaxing ride after the second round. Little did he know that he was on the trail to…the Twilight Zone.”

Mike Reasor was a journeyman golfer, but in my world, that’s not so bad. To a touring pro, it might mean that he didn’t win, but made some sort of living out of it. To my world, he’s still a terrific golfer who made it to the pros. The Tallahasee Open of 1974 is one of the strangest stories I can recall in golf. It’s part “Oh, come on, USGA, give me a break.” It is also a little braver on the part of Reasor, and part  “That was dumb, couldn’t you wait until after the weekend?”

Reasor needed to save that exemption that would allow him to play the Byron Nelson the following week. He wasn’t Tiger Woods, able to drop an event if he just doesn’t feel like doing it.  For a journeyman, that would be throwing away a career. Reasor had to play the third and fourth round, and finish the tournament. And why not? He had finished the first two rounds at even par – it wasn’t going so badly. He’d made the cut. He didn’t have to win or place, just finish.

Under those circumstances, making the cut must have felt pretty good. So, naturally Reasor went horseback riding to relax. For me, that’s a guarantee of high blood pressure and panic attacks, but I’m sure he was a much better rider than I ever was. According to the story, the horse got spooked and rammed him into a tree in some fashion. Fortunately, he lived, returning to the tournament with a separated shoulder, knees with torn ligaments, injured rib cartilage and various other dents and bruises.
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He played the third and fourth rounds all right, with a five-iron and one usable hand, the other tucked inside his belt. On Saturday, he shot a  123, and on finishing day, came in at 114. Now, if one is looking for a silver lining and something comforting to say, it might be “Hey, Mike, that five-iron is really improving. Nine strokes better than yesterday.!” Incidentally, I would have loved to ask why he chose a five-iron. I don’t have a better idea, but it’s interesting.

Reasor recalled  how people laughed on the first tee, and he made it worse by failing to reach the women’s blocks. I looked everywhere, but was unable to find a photo of the one-armed wonder. It was a gutsy thing to go through with it, and the same old starchiness that I have come to expect from the powers that be. Of course nothing could be done, The USGA was in charge, but there’s lots of blame to go around. I wonder at going for a ride halfway through the tournament. I tried to think of a parallel, perhaps Serena Williams skydiving onto the court for the final set, or Mike Tyson posing for photos in the middle of Round 8?

As it turned out, Mike Reasor was too injured to play in the next week anyway. That was predictable, but when one’s career is on the line, people get extreme. I felt the need to console him – Hey! I’ve shot a score that high!” Then I realized that I have never shot a score that high. I’ve always wondered how I would do against a top pro playing with only a five or seven-iron and a putter. I’d still lose, but maybe not if my opponent used one arm.

As for Reasor, he apparently recovered and went on with his life, with a touch of infamy added to it. Unfortunately, he died  at the age of 60, on one of the courses in Bend, Oregon, one of my second golf homes. All in all, the lesson is this. We should all remember that after the second round, there will be no horseback riding, don’t eat the mushrooms, jump out of a plane or fail to turn on the sleep alarm. Save the dumb stuff for Sunday night. A score of 93 over par will get you nowhere.

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