In honor of US Open this week I have decided to honor a true legend that most, even golf fans, have never heard of..
You probably never heard of Mike Austin. He was a professional golfer whose career spanned half a century from the 1930s through the 1980s. It is both amazing and sad that this phenomenal man has fallen into obscurity. He had a career that included being an intelligence officer and pilot in WW2, acting in movies, teaching golf to celebrities like Howard Hughes and Jack Lalane, and he even had his own TV show.
Austin was known for his exceptionally long drives. So much so that he hated the PGA because he found out that other golfers were bribing the officials at tournaments to not be paired with them. They were afraid of being embarrassed by him. With his 4-iron he could hit the ball further than the other players would hit their drivers. Austin also said they would always make him go out in the first group of the day...in the morning when the fairways were wet and would prevent the ball from gaining distance by not rolling far in the grass.
In 1974 at the U.S. National Seniors Tournament at the Winterwood Golf Course in Nevada Austin he hit the longest recorded drive by a professional in PGA history. On a 450 yard par 4, he drove the green and the ball kept rolling. When it stopped it was an astonishing 515 yards from the tee. Unreal. (Then he hit a wedge onto the green and three putted for bogie)
Of course there are some things that helped him. There was a 20 mph tailwind and the balls tend to roll far on dry desert fair ways. But this was also in 1974 with that eras technology. With modern clubs and balls it is very possible that he could have hit it even farther. The long hitters on todays tour, like Doosh-ba Watson (more on him later in the week) and Dustin Johnson drive the ball about 320 yards...a full two football fields shorter.
Mike Austin could swing his driver at an incredible 155 mph! To put this into perspective, the best guys that you see on TV are swinging their drivers around 115 or 120 mph. Even in the long drive contests where the competitors are like 6'8" and built like linebackers, those guys are 'only' swinging around 135 mph. Austin said he learned how to develop this incredible speed when he was earning his PHD in Kinesthesiology and the Mechanics of the Golf Swing. The guy was true Bad-Ass.
Check this out...its from the TV show he used to have.