It was certainly not his two best days of golf on that fateful weekend back in 1974, playing in the Tallahassee Open. Mike Reasor “achieved” the none-too-coveted record of signing for the two worst cards in the history of the PGA Tour (post-cut). The American professional carded 123 on Saturday and 114 on Sunday. Reasor, who competed on the PGA Tour from 1969 to 1979, never won a tournament, but he finished among the top-10 on 10 occasions. He played 241 tournaments and made the cut in 102 of them. His earnings during his career as a professional golfer were $101,000.
What could possibly have happened for Reasor to end up with such an unprecedented record? The reality is that it was not a question of a couple of disastrous actions resulting from a lack of concentration or mental factors that affected his results in such a drastic way. Nothing of that at all.
The key to what happened is to look at how players had to qualify for PGA Tour tournaments in those days, when the financial rewards and survival of professionals on the circuit depended on how they played each week.
Today, the top-10 in a PGA Tour tournament win their place in the next event, provided it is not a major or invitational. However, in the 1970s things were different. If you made the cut, you had a tee time the following week. If you were in the top-25, you could play the next tournament and you were also exempt to compete in the same the event in which you finished top-25 the following year. In those days, only the top-60 in PGA Tour full season winnings were exempt, unlike the leading 125 today.
So, making the cut was then much more important than at present. For players like Reasor, playing four days was essential if they wanted to earn a living from golf, and in his own case he made more than half the cuts each year during his career on the US Tour. It was essential to earn a place in the next tournament.
Nevertheless, apart from making the cut, there was another unavoidable clause in order to be able to play in the next competition: it was necessary to complete the tournament, that is, all four rounds. This meant that a disqualification or retirement due to illness or injury after having made the cut was, in practice, the same as not having made it, so no place was obtained for the next tournament.
After having signed for a second round, one-under 71 at the 1974 Tallahassee Open, Reasor went horse-riding early in the morning with a friend. Reasor's mount was frightened for some reason and went off at a gallop, stretching out until it slipped on a bed of pine needles and the rider flew off and over the horse. As a result, Reasor suffered a dislocation of the left shoulder, an injury to his knee ligaments and fractures of two ribs.
On the current PGA Tour, an incident like that would logically mean his withdrawal from the competition. But we were in 1974 and things were markedly different. As we noted before, at that time only the top-60 on the previous season’s money list list were exempt to play, and Reasor was one of them. To compete in the next tournament without the need to tee up in a pre-qualifier, players had to make the cut and finish the tournament.
And that's what Reasor did. In a performance never seen before, or since, on the PGA Tour, he played using just one arm - and there was no rule that forced him to play with both.
Using a five-iron for most of the last 36 holes of the tournament - a club with which he could reach 110 metres swinging with with a single arm - Reasor immobilised his left arm by sticking it to his body. Apart from the five-iron, he used only two wedges and one putter.
"At least I made only 10 on a hole," joked Reasor after his mammoth rounds. Such was the interest generated by this unusual situation that his group attracted more followers than the tournament leaders.
Despite his delicate physical situation, Reasor did not slow down the pace of the game. He barely took time to prepare and execute his shots, so his playing partners on Saturday were not affected and recorded good results: 70 and 67, that is, only 14 more shots between the two than the 123 that Reasor carded that day.
"He had a strong character; he was honest. He decided he was going to do it (play despite the injuries)," said Reasor's wife, Caron. "Nobody would have done something like that. He was not ashamed of his results. He had to do it and he did it, and then he came home on Monday and he was in a really poor condition."
His physical condition was certainly not good, especially after having made such an effort to finish the tournament, but his determination did not ultimately enable him to fulfil his goal. His fragile state prevented him from playing in the Byron Nelson Golf Classic, which began four days later. He did not have anything broken, but he was extremely sore and full of bruises.
His wounds healed over time and Reasor was able to return to competition and even make a good start, so much so that a couple of months later he achieved his best result in a major, 15th in the 1974 US Open, which was won by Hale Irwin. That result earned Reasor the right to play in his only US Masters at Augusta, in 1975, but he failed to make the cut, the same fate as he suffered in his second US Open.
Injuries forced him to leave the PGA Tour in 1979, and he then dedicated himself to working as an instructor at a club in Washington. On 19 September 2002, Reasor carded the last round of his life: a three-over 75 in a senior tournament in Oregon. After the round, he had agreed to meet with a couple to have lunch at the clubhouse, but he did not show up. He died of a heart attack, particularly devastating for his wife, with whom he had been married for 35 years, and his two children, both adopted. He was 60 years old and it had been 28 years since his two stratospheric rounds at the 1974 Tallahassee Open, ending with a score of 381, 93 over-par, 85 shots more than the second last player, and 107 adrift of the winner.
Reasor was Arnold Palmer's caddie during the 1966 U.S. Open, when the legendary American squandered a seven-shot lead with nine holes to play and eventually lost in a play-off to Billy Casper.