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Lebanons Iron Man holds firm grip in golfing lore

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Raymond Lasater drove, chipped and putted his way into ‘Guinness Book of World Records’

By KEN BECKSpecial to the Wilson Post

Thirty-six summers ago, Lebanon’s Raymond Lasater golfed his way into the “Guinness World Book of Records” with a 2½-day marathon round on Hunter’s Point Golf Course as he played 1,530 consecutive holes.

 

Raymond Lasater, 80, holds the four golf clubs that he swung 7,988 times as he played golf for 62 hours and 20 minutes and completed 1,530 consecutive holes at Lebanon’s Hunter’s Point Golf Course. He also wears the same brown and white golf shoes that he wore over that 2½-day stretch on the links in June of 1973.

KEN BECK / The Wilson Post

The bogeyman (he played one over par on nearly 700 of the holes) had made an assault on the record books two times previously, but other golfers kept putting the record out of his grasp. 

“I’d always wanted to do something that nobody else had ever done,” said Lasater. “They told me, ‘Ain’t no way you can do anything like that,’ but I surprised them all.”

Then 44, fit and trim, Lasater pulled out every trick in his golf bag of tricks to capture the record. His game plan included using a speedy golf cart, another golf cart with high-intensity floodlights, fluorescent golf balls that would glow at night and a putter with a suction cup on the grip end so that he wouldn’t have to bend over to pluck the ball from the hole.

Along the fairways he covered more than 300 miles of turf and used only four golf clubs and about 30 golf balls.

Lasater, now 80, recollected his golfing endurance record Monday afternoon from his home a mile off of Highway 109, south of Interstate 40. A neatly trimmed lawn, a red barn, an ultra-light airplane parked in a shed and a long, grassy runway offer no hint that a golfing wizard resides in the brick house, one whose odyssey on the links wound up in hundreds of newspapers across the nation and illustrated in “Ripley‘s Believe It or Not“ syndicated newspaper column.

Raymond and wife Sarah will celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary in six days. They have three sons and a daughter (Kevin, Charles, Myron and Karen: all Lebanon high school graduates), 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. 

Lasater was born two miles north of Leeville, where his family worked a 275-acre farm. As a teen, he pitched and played centerfield for the local sandlot team, the Leeville Red Sox. In 1947, they lost only one game as they battled teams from Gladeville, Norene, Tuckers Crossroads, LaGuardo, Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, Carthage, Statesville and Bethpage.

In 1949, a scout for the Pittsburg Pirates offered Lasater a contract and $6,000 to join the club but he turned down the chance at major league stardom.

“ I had always been a country boy and was scared to go, and I was in love with this woman in here,” he says of his one and only.

Lasater dropped out of Lebanon High School after his sophomore year. The only sport he played there was spring football under Coach Hoyal Johnson. He began driving a truck for Lea’s Grocery, until he entered a 37-year career at AVCO (also known then as Vultee and today as Textron Aerostructures), where he worked as a supervisor.

An all-round athlete, Lasater spent a lot of leisure time in the 1950s water skiing, and by the early 1960s had taken up flying airplanes. He didn’t begin golfing until his mid-30s in 1965. “My friend Ed McMillan said, ‘I want to take you to play golf.’ I told him, ‘Ed, I’m not gonna hit that little white ball and try to find it and hit it again.’ ”

Those were words Lasater would have to eat as he spits out how he began his march toward into the record books.

He played his first round of golf at Henry Horton State Park with a set of clubs borrowed from late Lebanon realtor Carl Hobbs.

“We stopped on the way back in Murfreesboro and played 18 more holes,” Lasater said. “I came home and ordered a set of clubs from the Sear-Roebuck catalog for $35. That got me started.”

Raymond Lasater’s 1973 world record golf scorecard

Total holes: 1,530Time played: 62 hours, 20 minutesTotal strokes: 7,988Total rounds: 85Average time per round: 43 minutesAverage score per round: 92Lowest round: 81Highest round: 110Other statistics: 15 birdies, 242 pars, 674 bogeys, 407 double bogeys; 107 triple bogeys  

Lebanon’s public golf course opened in 1966. A year later Lasater overheard a man say that he has just finished 50 holes that day. That led him to believe that he could play 72 holes or four 18-hole rounds in one day, so he walked and played 90 holes that year. Then in 1968 he began in daylight and played through darkness to notch 200 holes in 26 hours.

“I looked in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ and saw that a person had played 688 consecutive holes,” said Lasater, who normally played to a 13-14 handicap. “I said I believe I can break that. I got me a cart to ride in. My boss gave me a generator, and I put my trailer behind my tractor and added floodlights. I played 702 holes in 1969.”

Just as he thought he had the world record, another golfer played 800 holes. The loss of his house the summer of 1970 due to a lightning strike and fire kept him busy constructing a new home, and he kept off the course most of the summer of 1971 as Sarah was expecting their final child.

His assault on the record continued in 1972 as he played 1,053 holes.

Six weeks later a phone call came from “The Tennessean” as a sportswriter alerted him to the fact that two Florida teenagers had just broken his record. “There’s nothing I can do about it now,” he retorted.

However, in 1973, Boswell Harley-Davidson loaned Lasater two new golf carts, and he began the modifications. “I took the governors off so I could go faster. I put generators on the back for spotlights. So I had a driver and myself in one cart and a driver and a spotter in the other golf cart.”

There were more methods to this madness.

To increase his stamina, Lasater ran a mile a day. He also carried a broom handle with  carved grooves in his pocket to rub and toughen up his hands. He put a suction cup on the end of his putter so he wouldn’t have to bend down to pick up his ball from the hole.

He practiced playing as fast as he could. In fact, during his record-setting feat, Lasater turned one nine-hole stretch in 13 minutes as timed by his cart driver Tommy Lea.  (Today’s slowpoke golfers can take more than two hours to play nine holes.)

As for his hands, Lasater rubbed them down with a lotion to make the skin tight, and then wore two embalming gloves and a leather palm glove which stuck to his hands like glue. And as for the three dozen or so little white dimpled pills he was to knock about the course, he says, “I painted my balls luminous so they’d glow at night, but after the dew fell and the ground got wet, they didn’t glow again.”

He also put a flag on his cart to alert folks ahead that he would be playing through their groups. Most graciously stood to the side.

Lasater teed off on the first hole at 5:30 a.m. June 19, 1973, and sank his final putt at 7:50 p.m. June 21, some 1,530 holes later. He never used a wooden tee but hit all of his shots off the grass. His weapons of choice were Haig Ultra Ultradynes: a four-wood, four-iron, eight-iron and putter.

“We had thunderstorms all around the first morning. I stopped in a shed for about 10 minutes to let the lightning pass, and then we had had good weather until I broke the record.

“The hardest part was learning to grip the club with all those gloves on and hitting it straight,” says Lasater. “I wasn’t shooting for score. I hit the ball pretty good but not for a lot of distance. My hands got to blistering on me, and I never took my shoes and socks off, so they were wet. I‘m lucky nobody has broke the record yet.”

About 15 people assisted Lasater during the golf marathon, including family members and friends such as Tilford Elkins and Lynn  Bogle, then a recent graduate of Cumberland Junior College.

“We drove him around the course. He really was amazing. To think somebody could stay awake that long and swing a golf club,” said Bogle. “Just the fact that somebody could do that is unbelievable. He was trying to capture the ‘Guinness Book of World Records,’ and each time, they kept telling him he was a little short. The last time he said, ‘Well, I’m going to make sure this time,’ and he did. The fascinating thing was, even playing at night, how few golf balls he lost.”

“I didn’t lose but 15 to 20 balls,” says Lasater, who still possesses three of the golf balls he used, including the final ball used on hole 1,530.

 As for breaks in the action, he was allowed short restroom pit stops and to grab food on the run. 

“They put a mobile home near the clubhouse behind the 18th green, and my wife and daughter would hand me a sandwich and a cup of coffee as I would go by,” Lasater said. He also fueled on burgers, chicken salad sandwiches, potato salad and candy bars.

“I thought he was crazy, but I figured he would do it,” said Sarah. “I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack. I think I went up and kissed him when he finished. His lips were blistered, and he was give out. I was proud of him and glad he made it.” At his home, Lasater scans scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings of his amazing adventure. He also keeps the little black stat book that preserves his scores and each of the 7,988 strokes that he took as he flew around the course in an average time of 43 minutes per round.

With all three Nashville TV stations covering the event, Lasater’s gritty golfing outing would up getting nationwide airplay. But it may have been the same TV sportscasters and their cameramen who caused him to have stopped sooner than he may have wished.

“My help was giving out. I probably could have gone all night again,” he says. “The TV stations were wanting to know when I was going to stop golfing. I told them that night.”

Not only did Lasater have blistered lips but his feet were solid with blisters, and he couldn’t put his shoes on the next day.

“I got home that night and wanted to stay up and watch myself on TV. I got in the bathtub, and I froze. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get out,” he recalls. “My wife and father-in-law got me out. They put me in bed and I slept until 6 a.m.”

Lasater quit on a Thursday night, and on Saturday returned to the course in tennis shoes to play nine holes just to show he could.

For all his efforts, it took the galloping golfer two more years to get his name in the record book. Dependent upon the sportswriters to turn in the facts to the folks at Guinness, Lasater was dismayed to see that nobody followed through.

Finally he took the newspaper clippings from the local paper, “The Tennessean” and “Nashville Banner” and sent them by registered mail to Guinness in London and asked if they would accept it as verification.

“Two weeks later I heard back from them,” Lasater recollects. “They said they would put me in the 1976 book.”

The golfer enjoyed a taste of fame as he was invited to play in the Spanky McFarland Celebrity Golf Tournament in Marion, Ind., from 1973 to 1984, an event led by a star of “The Little Rascals” shorts of the 1930s. At the tournament, Lasaster became friends with child star McFarland and other TV stars and baseball great Bob Feller.   These days Lasater wears his gray hair short. His wardrobe favors black coaching shoes, jeans, and Lebanon High School coaching shirts. He had a pacemaker placed in his chest in 1983. His activities include mowing the yard and raising tomatoes, beans, squash and okra in his garden.

From 1984 to 1996 he served as a super volunteer at Lebanon High School, and he was once named volunteer of the year by the Tennessee Education Association. From 1973-1992, Lasater served as statistician for the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams while he did local color on WCOR radio broadcasts.

He maintained the high school football field from 1987 to 1996 as he grew the grass, watered and mowed it and lined the field for games. He painted practically every classroom in the high school, including the gyms and cafeteria.

“I worked up there day and night almost. I painted three different buses, and I drove sports teams to athletic events,” he said. “I never took one penny for my work.”

But the school and students showed their appreciation as he was showered with gifts, plaques and athletic coats and sports shirts over the years. Probably the biggest honor was when the Lebanon High gridiron was named Nokes-Lasater Field in 1991.

Lasater cherishes a belt buckle with the number 1,530 on it, a gift from AVCO co-worker Robert Kerr. “They give it to me in 1973. I guess I wore it for about 20 years,” he says.

In his living room, a shiny piece of wood supports a photo of a 40-something Lasater swinging a golf club, a silver golf trophy and a golf ball that has been painted gold. It brings back memories of long hours on hot June afternoons as an ordinary man plugged along at a goal which he would not be denied.

“I haven’t hit a golf ball on a golf course in about 20 years. Since I retired in 1984, I’ve played two rounds of golf,” says Lasater, Lebanon’s sportsman for all seasons. “My brother is trying to get me to play with him. Before summer is over, I’m gonna play.”

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

 

 

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