New Yorker Ashrita Furman has set more than 500 Guinness World Records, from walking the fastest mile with a milk bottle balanced on his head to playing the most games of hopscotch in an hour.
Arlington golf professional Michael Furrh was glad to take one of those records away Monday, though it might not be for the last time.
Furrh connected with a 28-foot, 1-inch driver at Waterchase Golf Club in Fort Worth on Monday morning. He knocked his best shot 59 yards down the 18th fairway and set the world record for the fifth time.
Each time before, Furman has broken Furrh’s record with a new mark. The most recent effort was in April, when Furman used a club about 25 feet long.
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“I’m a proud Texan and I want to keep this record right here,” said Furrh, who was also using Monday’s record attempt to promote breast cancer awareness.
In pursuit of the record, the distance of a shot doesn’t matter because the difficulty is in just making contact. To qualify for the record, a ball has to be struck well enough — with enough loft — so that it registers on an electronic launch monitor next to the tee.
The challenge produces an awkward technique.
On Monday, Furrh gripped the 28-foot club with his hands separated, as if he were holding a broom. He addressed the ball with the far end of his club placed just beyond the tee, and then he rotated the club behind his back.
After he made contact, he followed through by spinning with the club as its momentum slowed. During the swing, the club’s head bounced along the ground and the steel shaft flopped like a fishing line.
“If I swing it too fast, I totally miss the ball,” Furrh said, “and if I don't swing it fast enough, the golf club is not bent enough to actually make contact with the ball.”
At nearly 5 pounds — with that weight distributed across 28 feet — the unwieldy club makes the motion taxing, Furrh said.
He pulled muscles in both of his arms and his back Monday. Before his record-setting attempt, he had only swung the club about 20 times in practice.
“It’s like swinging 35 pounds at the end of a 20-foot rope,” he said.
On one of his early swings Monday, the club snapped near the grip. Furrh resumed his attempts about 10 minutes later after using a blow torch and glue to meld a new piece of shaft onto the club.
“I describe it as putting one straw inside of another straw inside of another straw until you get it long enough,” he said.
He learned to build the clubs himself when he made his first record attempt in 2012. Back then, he set the record with a club about half the length of Monday’s, at 14 feet, 2 inches.
He hasn’t met Furman, but their rivalry has sparked the occasional gamesmanship.
Two summers ago, Furrh put the word out that he was planning to set the record with an 18-foot, 1-inch club.
But the announcement was a fake. Furrh wanted to see what Furman would do.
The plan worked when Furman successfully used an 18-foot, 5-inch club three days before Furrh’s scheduled attempt.
“He showed his hand early,” said Furrh, who responded a few months later by using a club longer than 19 feet, and then one longer than 20 feet.
“When I first started, there were about 50 people in the world doing this,” Furrh said. “Once I jumped in the race and pushed the envelope, it became a four-man race and then a two-man race.”