Most golf lovers are familiar with the climatic scene in the movie “Tin Cup,” when Kevin Costner’s Roy McAvoy refuses to lay up short of the water on the last hole of the U.S. Open, eventually making a 12. Few though, have lived a real life Tin Cup.
One person who has is Mike Wallace, a sometimes volatile young man who was once one of the finest golfers in Cumberland County, North Carolina.
Wallace’s moment of glorious ignominy came in the final round of the 2011 Cumberland County Championship, which was contested at Gates Four Golf & Country Club in Fayetteville. As he prepared to play his second from the fairway on the par 5 13th hole, Wallace was just one off the lead and his opponent had already laid up. Holding a stock four iron in his hand, he was thinking birdie, and a tie.
Things didn’t quite turn out that way. Wallace instead hit a duck hook into the water – by his description some 100 yards left of his target. Then, faced with the obvious choice between playing his fourth where the ball crossed the hazard line, about 75 yards from the green, or playing from the site of his previous attempt, an outraged Wallace opted for what amounted to golfing suicide. He hooked his fourth, again with a four iron from 220 yards, even more severely than he had hooked his second.
With his dad standing by his side as his caddie, Wallace took another drop, played his sixth from the same spot, and then, without even watching the ball flight, turned around and snapped his four iron over his leg. No one knows whether the snap was completed before that ball plunged into the water yet again.
Wallace ultimately recorded a 14 on the hole, drowning his chances of even being close to the Cumberland County title. But being out of contention didn’t quell his rage. On the par 3 15th hole he hit his tee shot into the face of a bunker left, recorded a triple, then snapped a gap wedge. His driver and five iron were casualties of the 16th hole. Wallace’s nine iron saw its end on 17, after he blamed the club for chunking an approach shot.
By the time Wallace finished 18, only his 3 iron, 8 iron, sand wedge and putter remained unscathed. But they wouldn’t last long.
“I pretty much walked off the 18th green and snapped every club that I had left,” he explained a few years after the incident. “I took the 14 clubs and dumped every club in the pond.”
As for Wallace’s dad? Well, the good news was that his son’s bag was nice and light during the strained walk to the parking lot.