(Article from June 2015, translated version courtesy of Donal O’Donovan)
When “San Ge”, Mr. Liu Yongsan met with Irish Golf Instructor Brian O’Donovan after their round instead of calling him by his name, he addressed him respectfully as “Mr. 59” in Chinese, which refers to Brian’s excellent performance during the Mission Hills Day/Night Golf Tournament held on the Annika Course at Dongguan, Mission Hills on the June 27th 2015.
During this round, Brian created a piece of history by shooting 59 (13 under par) in a round that consisted of 2 Eagles, 9 Birdies and 7 pars. This completely impressed “San Ge”, a mission hills member who was playing in the same group. Even now, when Liu Yongsan recalls Brian’s stunning play he is full of praise. “There is a 59 Club with no more than 10 people joining in for decades.”
Afterwards when the reporter checked the records and learned that there were only 16 people who have broken 60 in Professional Golf Tournaments, and only one ever scoring below 59 a Japanese player Ryo Ishikawa, who shot 58(which is -12) during the second round of Japan Tour Crown Cup in 2010 and eventually won the championship. After the round, “San Ge” informed other golfers of Brian’s 59 and as a result Brian has become known to many of the Mission Hills Members as “Mr 59”.
“San Ge” stated, “To have a hole in one is very special but to shoot 59 is like winning the lottery”. Liu Yongsan is a top amateur and has won the Die-Hard National League championship last year. “San Ge” may spend 3-4 days on the course each week but says but it’s not a wise idea to talk about his golf in front of “Mr. 59,” joked “San Ge” modestly.
So who is Mr. 59?
Mr. 59, Brian comes from Ireland and he began playing golf at the age of 4 under the influence of his father. In 2010, he turned pro and began his PGA training in Ireland. Since his arrival in China in 2013, he has won 10 PGA Tournaments. Brian is currently working at Mission Hills Golf Academies as Academy Supervisor and Golf Instructor.
When asked about the round Brian said, “It was nearly the perfect round of golf. Almost every shot I hit came off just like I planned and I felt as though I could hit any shot I wanted and know that it would go where I wanted it to.”
Due to the Tournament format it was a shotgun start and the order the holes were played were mixed because of the combination of 9 holes played in the daylight and the other 9 played under the lights.
Brian describes his round: “My first hole was the 6th, a par 5 where I made a birdie and then followed with another birdie at the par 3, 7th, a par followed on the 8th and I then drove the green at the par 4, 9th and 2 putted for birdie. I was on the green in 2 shots on the par 5, 10th and made the eagle 3 putt . I followed that with another birdie on the 11th, pared the par 3, 12th, from there we went and played the par 4, 4th which I pared and then birdied the par 3, 5th to be -7 through 9 holes. We then moved to the holes which are flood lit so my back nine started on the 17th a par 3 which I pared, then I made birdie on the 18th to move to -8. As I got to the 1st tee there was a delay on the tee box so I started thinking of what holes I had left and knew I had 4 par 5’s which I could reach in 2 if I hit good shots. This is when it hit me that it may be possible to shoot 59. I hit the 1st in 2 shots and 2 putted for birdie, made a par on the 2nd and again hit the green in 2 on the par 5, 3rd where I left the eagle putt hanging over the lip and tapped in for another birdie. Then moved to the 13th another par 5 where I was on the back edge of the green after 2 good shots and about 25ft from the pin I holed the putt for eagle to move to -12. I still had another reachable par 5 the 14th coming up. I was a bit nervy standing over the tee shot and I hit the only poor shot of the day. I pulled it into the fairway bunker on the left and was forced to lay up. I failed to get up and down so walked off with a par, kind of thinking was that my chance gone but I had 2 holes left. A tough par 3, 15th which I hit the green and 2 putted for par. This left me only one chance to achieve something very few have ever managed to do. The 16th is a short but very tight and tricky par 4 with out of bounds on the right and a water hazard down the left as well as deep bunkers around the green. I hit 4 iron from the tee and left myself 78 yards to the pin. I did not hit my best wedge shot but I was on the green 14ft from the hole. Once we got to the green, my playing partners finished out as quickly as they could so I was not standing around dwelling over my putt. It was a pretty straight putt just a ball outside the right edge I hit the putt and knew it was in the moment I looked up at it and saw the line it was on I couldn’t believe that I had done it. It took me a second to come around but it was a moment I will never forget, I really didn’t know what to do with myself and my playing partners seemed to me at the time to be more excited than I was”.
“Sen Ge” did not take much time to tell everyone he met and he was on the phone to his friends on the way back to the clubhouse to tell them what he had just witnessed. It certainly has made a big difference to my profile here and I must thank PGA Master Professional Mr. Iain Roberts and Mission Hills Golf Club for their wonderful presentation.
Annika Sorenstam is the only LPGA professional to have shot 59, so it made it even more unique to shoot 59 on the course which she has designed.
For the night game, Brian said the toughest thing is not enough light and the shadows which you get so players tend to find it more difficult to adjust. “For example, when you putt, there is a shadow on the green which normally wouldn’t be there and when you tee-off it is also much harder because there is no room for mistakes. Once the ball deviated from the fairway and out of the lights it is almost impossible to find it. Therefore there is a massive emphasis on getting the ball in play off the tee”.