The Great Chicken Invitational
Golf had long been a bastion of people, its exclusivity maintained by a silent gentle folk’s agreement. But no longer, for on January 1, 1974, in Kippen, Idaho, chickens finally integrated the game.
The top thirty chickens in Idaho arrived at the prestigious, private golf club, Froussard for “The Great Chicken Invitational.” Earlier, in late August, Froussard enrolled a chicken to qualify as the host.
Skeptics everywhere had maintained that chickens do not have the necessities to play golf. Other critics had argued that even if physically able chickens could be found, they would not have the mental skills required to converse and to make business contacts.
Nevertheless, the Great Chicken Invitational came to pass. The Invitational’s organizers invited the most athletic chickens for miles around. Intrepid entrepreneurs designed full lines of chicken-sized golf clubs. Chicken owners everywhere got into the spirit and demanded full sets of these clubs for their tiny friends.
Golf enthusiasts from all over the world yearned to see the momentous event. Sven Fjaderfa, CEO and owner of mammoth Swedish Furniture, up and left work a day before the start of the tournament. “I want to see chickens play golf,” he told his employees. Thousands of other golfers joined him at Kippen, Idaho, for the greatest exhibition of golf the state has ever seen.
At seven in the morning of January 1, the organizers trucked in the chickens to the golf course. While the officials spent an hour assigning starting times, the spectators admired the chickens’ traditional tartan knickerbockers. “They look darling,” stated Heather Anders of Fashion Magazine.
At eight o’clock, the organizers unloaded the chickens near the first tee. The chickens immediately scattered to peck for worms in the recently mowed course. Eventually, an official, Tom Purdue, caught Agatha and plopped her down at the tee. He gave the chicken a number one wood, as this was a 476 yards, par 5 hole.
The crowd watched in anticipation, as Agatha surveyed the fairway. She carefully held the driver in the traditional chicken grip, the top wing just touching the bottom wing. All expected Agatha to be a serious competitor, as she never smiled. She looked down the fairway once more, clucked a few times, moved the club back, keeping her left wing straight, and then rapidly brought it forward to hit the ball.
Sarah Dindon, was there for the tee off. “I was lying down on the ground looking up at the blue sky, as I have always found this the best way to view chicken golf.” Sarah watched Agatha’s ball soar above her head into the clouds. The ball then came down, landing a yard down the fairway. At this effort, some unsympathetic fans hooted in derision. Agatha reacted angrily by pecking her nearest tormentors.
The organizers hoped for better results from Roxanne, a fierce, muscular chicken, who spat gravel at the poor official who carried her to the tee. Roxanne followed Agatha’s lead by selecting a driver from the tiny bag on her back. She exhibited perfect form, as a lifetime of looking for worms in the ground had given her the enviable ability to keep her darn, stupid head down. Although her drive nearly doubled Agatha’s in length, this still meant she was 474 yards short. Nearly all the attending journalists agreed that her chances of parring the hole were remote.
Chicken after chicken followed the pattern of Agatha and Roxanne. Something had gone wrong. Apologists for the fowls suggested that the media circus attending this first professional contest unnerved the flock. Indeed, Bob Banks, owner of Francine, slugged a reporter who badgered chickens in rather one-sided interviews.
But the reason for their poor performances lay in the chickens themselves. Remarkably, no one had considered the possibility that a twenty-ounce chicken using a four-inch club would drive a regulation golf ball a considerably shorter distance than would a two-hundred-pound man with a regulation club. Furthermore, for all their attentiveness to their swings, the chickens’ lack of hands proved to be a major obstacle to getting firm grips on their clubs.
Two weeks later, eighteen hardy chickens reached the green. Two chickens hit their balls into sand traps and couldn’t get out even though they remembered to use their chicken-sized wedges. Ten other chickens ended their brief golf careers by running into the adjacent woods to search for worms, and disappeared forever.
Play picked up considerably on the green. It turned out that chickens are natural born putters. Aided by cleverly-designed putters, made small enough to be held in their beaks, they dazzled the crowd with one precise putt after another. “I wish I could putt like those chickens,” said Norm Gregson of the PGA.
Observant golfers noticed that the chickens stand so close to the ground that they can figure out exactly which way their putts would break. One of these golfers, John Hona, later suggested to the PGA that chickens be used as “designated putters” in human-golf tournaments. It turned him down flat, “The answer is no.”
Official scorers added up the strokes at the end of the first hole. Roxanne led the pack by thirteen strokes with a score of 397. Technically, Roxanne shot a tricentinonadecadouble bogey, but the press just called it a “chicken bogey.”
Around the third week, while the chickens were half way through the second hole, sarcastic geeks ruffled the plucky poultry by yelling, “Cacciatore,” “Southern Fried,” or by calling their clubs “drum sticks.” The chickens flinched under the pressure of these specieist remarks, slicing more balls than usual. The organizers resorted to handing out free, fresh eggs from the competitors to keep them quiet.
Froussard golf club celebrated the Fourth of July in grand style. Organizers labored all week setting up a spectacular fireworks display. The remaining eleven chickens then contributed to the crowd’s enjoyment when they put on a snappy, morality play based on the daily life of a chicken. Afterwards, all sorts of chicken dishes were served to a hungry audience. “That’ll teach you to miss the cut,” growled Bob Banks as he bit into a hot-and-spicy chicken wing.
Three chickens exited the tournament in August. Vain and high-strung, Sandra, up and left the course clucking about a bad feather day. Nadine, suddenly felt the need to establish her roots and departed to seek her biological mother. Spontaneous combustion claimed the life of Martha as she prepared to putt out the eighth hole. “If she was going to blow up, she should have done it during last-month’s fireworks display,” sniffed organizer, Beverly Hatcher.
Rain fell heavily in late October. The downpour bothered none of the chickens, who clucked, drove, and putted as if nothing was wrong. Seeing this, a golfer’s wife remarked, “They’re just like human golfers.”
Snow fell heavily in the middle of December, and so, play deteriorated rapidly when chickens swung their clubs with difficulty through snow that came up to their beaks. Many chickens could no longer find their balls in the snow drifts. Indeed, the tournament’s officials lost several chickens in the deep snow.
By New Year’s Day, only two chickens remained, Agatha and Roxanne. These two had reached the green and were within only a few hours of finishing the course. Tension and excitement coursed throughout the golfing world as the two chickens were tied, each having a score of 6,127.
Interest in this tournament had grown so feverish that the television networks pushed the New Year’s Day bowl games back one week. Tens of thousands of people lined the rope around the eighteenth hole while helicopters from scores of television stations, domestic and foreign, circled above. “Those chickens upstaged us,” complained Bob Gallina, quarterback of the top ranked, LSU Tigers.
The crowd cheered every well-executed putt of the dueling chicks. Excitement reached a peak when Roxanne holed out with a score 6,157. But Agatha was only four inches from the cup, needing to make her putt for a sudden-death tie.
Agatha intently bent down, surveyed the green, picked up her putter, and set herself to putt. Then, disaster struck! A red fox burst onto the green and snatched Agatha in his hungry jaw. Hundreds of people ran after the fox into the trees to save Agatha, but found only a pile of feathers and a tiny putter.
The crowded peeled away from the course in horror and rage. Its hero had been eaten, an unprecedented event in golf. Things got ugly when many yelled threats at the tournament’s organizers. The more rabid fans produced nooses and proposed hanging the hated organizers. Hearing this, the objects of their hate took off in a flash, jumped into their cars, and sped away.
That was the end of the Great Chicken-Golf Invitational. From nearby Canby, Montana, the organizers declared Roxanne the winner, by default.
The carnage of the tournament appalled golfers and people everywhere. The American Wildlife Federation and corporations withdrew their sponsorships of a proposed second tournament. Interest in chicken golf died off rapidly after that. Now only a few people still think back to the days when chickens had a tournament of their own.
– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef
My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.