The legendary amateur retired from competitive golf at age 28 after winning all four of the sportís major championships ó at the time, a Grand Slam consisting of the U.S. and British Opens, and the U.S. and British Amateurs ó in 1930.
But then, along came Kim Jong-il and one incredible day in 1994, when the Dear Leader of the Democratic Peopleís Republic of North Korea picked up a golf club for the very first time, and ó as witnessed by 17 security guards and reported by the state news agency ó shot a smooth 38-under-par round of 34, including 11 holes-in-one.
And never again played the game.
No wonder they were weeping uncontrollably in the streets of Pyongyang on Monday at the loss of such athletic genius, when the citizens learned (two days after the fact) that the beloved conqueror of the unconquerable game had died of severe mental and physical overexertion while travelling on his luxurious private train en route to the lost city of Atlantis.
His delegation was scheduled to have met with the American music star Elvis Presley on Sunday, but instead, the leaderís son and presumed successor, Kim Jong-un, will stand in for his father at the dedication of the legendary 76-year-old singerís new North Korean rock ín roll theme park and water slide, Fun In Acapulco.
Kim Jong-ilís many distinctions as the man who led North Korea to the very peak of 19th-century technological sophistication and affluence (personal income recently approached a national average of nearly $900), are too numerous to mention.
But included among them were an ability to influence the weather according to his mood, a fashion sense that (again, according to state-regulated news) had taken the world by storm, the kidnapping of a prominent South Korean film director and his actress wife to aid in the advancement of North Koreaís domestic film industry, a five-foot-two body that didnít require him to defecate, and most impressively, an ability to put away copious amounts of Hennessey cognac at $630 a bottle that made him the companyís No. 1 customer, worldwide, over the past decade.
Heís said to have had a personal library of some 20,000 foreign films, including the complete James Bond series. His favourite all-time flick was Caddyshack.
Drinking aside, though, his golfing prowess was easily the most stunning of his innumerable talents.
Many golf authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom have expressed guarded skepticism that the then 52-year-old North Korean ó who reportedly swung right-handed, but putted lefty that day with a broomstick-style putter (patent pending) which he had invented 20 years earlier, in anticipation of taking up the game ó could have made 11 aces in a single round.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a Palm Springs, California, statistician recently calculated that the odds of a 46-year-old woman, Jacqueline Gagne of Rancho Mirage, California, making 10 holes-in-one in less than four months ó a claim apparently verified by the Desert Sun newspaper ó at roughly 12 septillion (12 followed by 24 zeros) to 1.
Making 11 aces in the same, first, and one and only, round of golf would be, according to Postmedia Newsí calculation, 183 gazillion to 1.
So, in addition to what we can only assume was an innate gift for the game, Kim Jong-il was one lucky son-of-a-dictator.
Those who say, derisively, that a round of 34 is barely possible argue that if he successfully negotiated the difficult loop-de-loop and the always tricky windmill and clownís-mouth holes . . . but no, the North Korean news agency reported that the feat was accomplished on a regulation, pro-style golf course.
We donít know how many under par he was on the seven holes he didnít ace, but clearly, he didnít have to putt often, if at all, and probably holed out from the fairway on several of them.
Details of the round are sketchy, but we know that on a par-72 course, if we assume nine par-3s were among his 11 aces, the other nine holes must have been par-5s, but that assumption could be all wrong. Whatever the configuration, we can conclude that, as with Carl Spacklerís account of a round he looped for the Dalai Lama in Caddyshack (ďBig hitter, the Lama,Ē said the character played by Bill Murray), Kim Jong-il must have been a prodigious driver of the golf ball.
The Dalai Lama was, according to Spackler, a poor tipper who offered no cash reward for lugging his golf bag but only the promise of total consciousness for his caddy on his deathbed, so he had that going for him, which was nice.
Kim Jong-il probably didnít tip the security men who attested to his 11 aces, either, offering only the promise of instantaneous invisibility if they didnít sign his scorecard, which incidentally, is probably not destined for display at the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Although it could end up next to new inductee Dan Jenkinsí Dead Solid Perfect and The Money-Whipped Steer-Job Three-Jack Give-up Artist . . . in the fiction wing.
Meanwhile, the hand-picked new leader, Kim Jong-un, reportedly is a basketball fanatic who has photographs of himself with NBA stars Toni Kukoc and Kobe Bryant, and once was driven in a limousine from his school in Switzerland to Paris for an NBA exhibition game. According to one report, he used to produce painstaking pencil drawings of Michael Jordan.
So, whatís the world record for consecutive jump shots made from half-court, do you think? That baby is history.
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