Golf

Remember when Mike Bakula ‘shot down’ an airplane and other Fresno golf tidbits

Clipping of the original story in The Bee after Mike Bakula’s tee shot at Fort Washington Country Club hit an airplane.
Clipping of the original story in The Bee after Mike Bakula’s tee shot at Fort Washington Country Club hit an airplane.

The passing last month of Mike Bakula Sr. evoked memories of perhaps the most famous golf shot in Fresno history.

For sure, there have been plenty of holes-in-one, eagles and the like on local courses.

But who hits an airplane?

Bakula did, on Oct. 11, 1974.

The Bee’s Bruce Farris caught up with Bakula for a story marking the 25th anniversary of the shot:

From the par-4 13th tee at his home Fort Washington Country Club, Bakula hit a towering drive. “I used to hit them high and long,” Bakula joked.

At the same instant, pilot David Hughes of Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District was spraying over the course. The ball miraculously made it through the propeller, went through the windshield, hit Hughes in the head (he was wearing a helmet), bounced off and broke the windshield on the side. Hughes was able to land at nearby Papagni’s ranch.

Bakula couldn’t find his ball and had to take a two-stroke penalty.

“I was not trying to hit him, he just banked at the wrong angle at the same time I hit the ball. … We couldn’t find the ball, then we saw Plexiglas all over the fairway.”

While his foursome was chuckling and speculating, Fort Washington professional Bob Silva came out of his shop walking briskly.

“OK, Bakula, what did you do now?” Silva asked.

Hughes had hitched a ride to the golf course and reported to Silva in no uncertain terms what had happened. He then went back to his plane and completed the job.

More than a month after the incident, Bakula received a bill from Consolidated that read: “Windshield, $45, Right side window, $30, Total parts $75, Labor to install $46, CalMil Helmet $105, Sales tax, $10.80, total $311.80.”

Did he pay it?

“No way. Everyone with me testified it was an accident.”

Bakula was a 1-handicap at the time. As a 19-year-old, he shot a 62 at Palm Lakes (now closed) – playing barefoot. He won the 1971 Fresno City Amateur and the 1983 Fort Washington club championship.

He died March 22 at the age of 68.

College highlights

The spring has been good for some locals playing elsewhere as well as for a couple Fresno State golfers:

Peter Kuest, a junior at BYU out of Clovis West High, is on the 12-player U.S. team for the Arnold Palmer Cup. Kuest was the top qualifier for the Ryder Cup-style collegiate event beginning June 7 at the Alotian Club in Roland, Arkansas.

Kuest has four individual wins this season for BYU.

Evan Peterson, a redshirt junior at Saint Mary’s out of Buchanan, won the 103rd San Francisco City Championship last month.

Fresno State freshman Tommy Stephenson from Carlsbad set a Bulldog record with his 9-under 62 April 1 during the Seattle University tournament at Chambers Bay, site of the 2015 U.S. Open. Three Fresno State players have recorded 63s since the 1993-94 season – Todd Angel, Bhavik Patel and Nick Watney.

Fresno State sophomore Brigitte Thibault from Canada was one of 72 players invited to the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur this month. She shot 79-75 at Champions Retreat Golf Club and missed the cut (top 30) for the final round at Augusta National, home of the Masters.

Juniors

The 72nd annual Len Ross Memorial Fersno City Junior Amateur is Monday-Thursday. Boys and girls divisions are played at five Fresno-area courses: Riverside, Airways, Valley Golf Center, Belmont and San Joaquin.

Last year, Buchanan’s Ian Oehlschlaeger beat Bears teammate Jake Bettencourt in a playoff for the boys overall title. On the girls side, Carissa Wu of Dublin won, finishing two strokes ahead of Clovis West’s Aya Enkoji (now at Cal Baptist) and three clear of Morgan Polley (Clovis East/Long Beach State).

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