I can get up early to do two things — go fishing and play golf.
Other than that, morning pretty much stinks for a guy that’s nocturnal by trade. But I did a bit of spirit cleansing last week at the Newspapers in Education Golf Tournament out at the Moses Lake Golf Club. With all the smoke and heat, I hadn’t played since the end of July, so I thought I’d go and knock a little of the rust off on the driving range. Having the whole range to yourself in the early morning dew is a beautiful thing. Better to hit those 50-yard worm burners in privacy, than trying to laugh them off during the tournament. Then this guy walks up and plops one of those tour-sized bags down.
Here I am the only one out there and he jumps in right next to me. The name on the bag read, Troy “Tiger” Teal.
“Excuse me sir, are you playing in the golf tournament today,” he asked with a hint of that military edge you’re not sure about here in the private sector. The conversation didn’t go much past, “Yup.” For a guy that got off at 11:30 the night before, that’s all you get at 0-dark-30.
I abandoned driver off the tee back when they persimmon — you know, wood woods. I traded direction for distance, but I can usually hit 3-wood 225, 230. I’m not paying too much attention to ol’ Tiger Teal, but the sound finally got me to look up. Ping, ping, ping, ping.
I looked on in amazement as he flipped golf balls into the air and hit them like a baseball bat. The hand-eye coordination was a thing to behold, but the shot looked like Junior at Safeco. These things were going 350, 380. It’s one thing to be hitting golf balls in mid-air, but when they’re going 200 yards past your best drive, I get it.
Give it up for Troy Teal.
He’s about half way through a small bucket when the guy from the pro shop guy shows up for a short conversation. Who can blame them? They actually asked him to stop hitting balls on the range because he was pounding them out the back end. He was actually hitting them off the property.
Come to find out the 6-4, 210-pound, 29-year-old from Kennewick is ranked No. 22 in the World Long Drive standings, having won the 2014 Mile High Shootout Championship and made it to the finals of the 4x World Long Drive.
The Columbia Basin Herald hired Teal to give us a show and raise some money for Education in Newspapers. Teal, whose longest distance is 462 yards on the competitive grid, set up shop on the 510-yard, 10th hole at Moses Lake Golf Club, which is a nice little dog-leg left and right in his wheelhouse with that towering, flat bomb.
For a donation, Teal would pound four balls down inside the 100-yard marker on the hole and the group not only had a nice souvenir, but they were playing their next shot into the green with a chance for eagle. Now for a $200 donation, should the group hole that second shot, they would win a trip to world renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links.
If just watching him hit golf balls out of sight weren’t enough, Teal put some showmanship on display and Herald city reporter Richard Byrd showed the courage of a lion tamer. Byrd laid on the ground, while Teal placed an athletic cup with a tee stuck in it on his stomach. Now that cup might take some of the sting out of a 55-foot curveball that bounces up into the zone, but it’s not much protection should a guy swinging out of his shoes hit three feet behind the ball.
In an incredible display of athletic talent, Tiger rips a ball off Byrd’s stomach some 400 yards down the fairway simple as you please. To be able to adjust the swing 12 inches higher, catch the ball on the upswing for a towering tee shot, let’s just say it looked a little like an F18 shooting a pumpkin on a stake.
It was a good day for golf. It was a good day to remind the country’s youth there is still value in the printed word, and it was a good day to watch Tiger Teal pound the rock out of sight.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org