AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - It was only by chance that David Ogron found the skill that has allowed him to break three Guinness World Records.
One day, Ogron and his buddies were hitting balls on the range. They started whacking as many balls as Vijay Singh does in his legendary practice sessions, only at a rapid-fire pace.
"I was just getting so frustrated about not making cuts and I was wondering how to support my family," Ogron recalls of his mini-tour days on the then-Hogan Tour (now called the Nationwide) and Lone Star Tour from 1987-99. "We were seeing who could hit the ball the fastest. That's when I realized I had a talent."
An odd talent, but nonetheless, a skill no one else possesses. He is today, no doubt, the fastest ball-striker in the world.
The 41-year-old teaching professional from Laguna Beach, Calif., is the only person to ever hold three world ball-striking records at the same time - most golf balls hit in an hour, 12 hours and 24 hours.
And he's dedicated 2005 to try and break those records on his Miracle Golf Tour (www.miraclegolftour.org). He hopes the tour raises thousands for The National Children's Cancer Society, a tribute to his father, who passed away a victim of the disease.
Ogron says he has lined up Toyota as a corporate sponsor in his attempt to break his one-hour record in all 50 states. His plan is to travel to PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour events to host clinics, showing his maddening technique as he blasts ball after ball.
Like a human ball machine, he propels his 5-wood rescue club as a windmill, never resting. His ball setter, Scott 'Speedy' McKinney, sets each ball on the tee quickly to keep Ogron's rhythm going. Each ball must travel at least 100 yards and land within a 30-degree arc to count. According to Guinness, 9,352 golfers have attempted the 24-hour record over the years, and more than 35,000 have attempted the one-hour record.
He hit 2,275 balls in one hour in Michigan during the 35th Ryder Cup last September to raise roughly money for a local man paralyzed by an accident.Unfortunately, only a small crowd witnessed the breaking of the record.
Bruce Conroy, a Michigan golf professional who helped to coordinate the event, said the show would have been more exciting if there was a crowd, particularly children, to generate a sense of drama.
"The fact that he hit that many balls is grueling," Conroy said. "He's round-housing, round-housing. I don't know how the ball setter has all his fingers. The act is pretty unique."
Consider this: hitting 2,275 shots equates to a ball every 1.58 seconds. Let's say you played 30 rounds of golf last year, shooting 90 every time. That's a mere 2,700 shots in one year, well below Ogron's record.
"People think it is just so incredible," Ogron says of his clinic. "They wonder, 'How can this guy keep going?'"
His training regimen is one of the secrets. He says he runs four miles every morning and night. Toss in a 3-mile swim and 150 pushups, not to mention the range time. He used to be a big smoker, but gave it up.
"We have hit probably over 400,000 golf balls in the last year," he said. "We've got it down to a science right now, so we don't have to work out as much. But I don't want an injury. Sometimes we hit 2,000 to 5,000 balls a week."
Ogron, who has a 1.5 handicap, said going for any of the records is a grueling test of stamina.
"The thing about it is the first 10 minutes you feel like throwing up," he said. "It is kind of like starting the race. It's like getting into a dryer. You tumble around. You're not situated. Finally, you get with the rhythm and flow."
Ogron said he conjures up mental images of the sick children he visits in the hospitals to push through his world-record attempts.
"You go through stages where you have peaks and down moments," he said. "I try to do mind over matter. I just feel the flow of the club and let the club do the work and not worry about injuries."
His 12-hour record of 6,971 balls, set in June, 2002, in California, was tough. But nothing compares to the 24-hour marathon. He hopes to double his 24-hour record of 10,392 set in 2003 during a trip to Asia next year.
"The 24-hour record is hell," he admitted. "Can you imagine hitting that many balls? I pace myself. We took breaks. What got me was the first hour. My left arm, blood started coming out of my arm. Doctors told me to quit."
But Ogron just kept on swinging. That's exactly what he plans on doing all year long.
December 17, 2004