In Greek mythology, the Gorgon is a terrifying creature, so ugly it turns those who look upon it to stone. “Gorgon,” in fact, is derived from the Greek word gorgós, which in English means “dreadful.” Synonyms for “dreadful” include: horrible, terrible, awful, frightful, and appalling…among others.

It’s easy to find references to Greek mythology in modern life. The Oedipus complex as described by Sigmund Freud. Terms like “Achilles heel” and “Herculean task.” The concept of Pandora’s Box. Even an ancient sea creature, the Kraken, has recently been released as a powerful, 94-proof, dark-colored elixir that brings out the fun in certain social situations where writers are involved.

But the Gorgon to which I’m referring, the dreadful monster that for years frightened anyone who dared look up on it, was the golf swing of my long-time friend, Brian Weir. In 1996, when I was first introduced to its complete form, all my own muscles seized up, and I could no longer properly hit the ball…almost as if I had turned to stone. Brian lives in southern California, far away from Oklahoma, so twice a year for a decade the two of us met on golf vacations, enjoying the artistry of many picturesque courses, even if our own games didn’t quite measure up to the beauty of the locations.

On each of these trips I would bring along a video camera to document the experience, footage that never failed to amuse us later. Over time I developed a sizable library of squirrely shots and pushed putts and missed opportunities, but mainly these recordings languished away in magnetic tape obscurity, only emerging when the two of us met again to relive the glory.

Then, in 2005, I saw in ad in Golf Digest, a golf publication that reaches an estimated six million readers per month.

“Do you have the World’s Worst Swing?” asked the ad. “Or know someone who does? If so, make a video and send it to us. You could win six free lessons from Dean Reinmuth, one the top golf instructors in the country.”

The contest was also sponsored by the Golf Channel, which planned to film and broadcast six free lessons awarded to the “winner.” And that’s when an idea occurred to me, an idea that is and probably always will be the best practical joke it’s possible for me to play on anyone.

Until that time I’d dabbled in linear video editing, like hooking VCRs together with cables, but I’d never edited on a computer. I purchased a Windows-based software app and taught myself how to use it over a period of days, painstakingly capturing hours of analog footage in real time. I assembled a collection of the best (or rather, worst) shots, often laughing so hard that I had to stop and compose myself. Then I purchased a microphone and attempted to record voiceover for my two-minute, eighteen-second video. This consumed even more hours, not because I couldn’t figure out what to say, but because I couldn’t go ten seconds without laughing again.

I completed the video two days before the deadline. I watched it again and again and again, supremely confident that, upon viewing, the selection committee at Golf Digest and the Golf Channel would immediately select Brian as the winner. But I also guessed there would be thousands of other submissions, and the chances of them even watching the video were small. Not to mention I was forced to overnight the DVD just to get it there on time.

Then I waited. Every day I would think about the video, and what might happen if my plan worked. To understand the true significance of the joke, you have to know Brian. We met at Texas A&M University. He was a member of the Corps of Cadets, and was commissioned into the military directly after graduation. He served the Air Force for several years, attended Army Ranger school, and reached the rank of Major. He went on to serve local law enforcement in Southern California and is now a sergeant. He is a tough, proud man who does not respond well to ridicule. Of course, we always joke around with each other, but those are private matters. This joke, if it was realized, would be played out on a national scale. Every time I thought about it, it made me laugh.

About two weeks after I mailed the disc, I received a phone call. I looked down and saw it was Brian. I answered, trying to hold my expectations in check. But Brian and I don’t speak on the phone often, and I got that feeling, you know the one.

“What the hell did you do?” were the first words out of his mouth.

“What do you mean?”

“Some chick just called me. She said she works for the Golf Channel. Apparently I’ve been chosen as one of ten semifinalists for a contest to find the World’s Worst Golf Swing. And then she gave me the link to a video. A video you made. She laughed at me, man.”

So did I. I couldn’t help it. Someone had actually watched the video! They even put it on the Internet!

“They’re going to call back and interview me in a couple of days,” he said. “You’re an asshole.”

I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe.

“I hope you know paybacks are a bitch,” was his answer.

But after the interview, Brian’s position changed. Apparently he’d impressed them over the phone. Had made everyone laugh. “I’d be on television,” he said. “They’d buy me a new set of clubs. I would get lessons from this famous dude. Did you know he used to coach Phil Mickelson?”

Readers and viewers were asked to visit a web site, check out the videos, and vote on their favorites. Or they could watch a special episode of “Golf Channel Academy” and call in their votes. Brian explained how they were going to include some of the submitted footage on the show. I salivated at the thought of a scene from my video being shown on national television. At the time, the Golf Channel boasted more than sixty million subscribers. I told everyone I knew to watch it. So did Brian.

My DVR was ready. If only a few seconds of my footage was shown, I’d be happy. So imagine my astonishment when “Golf Channel Academy” opened with my video, with no introduction and no voice over (other than my own) for almost two minutes. I was floored. I was ecstatic. After the video, Kelly Tilghman remarked, “The guy who did that voice over deserves an Emmy.”

Hahahahahahaha!!!!11 I said to anyone who would listen. The only thing better than this would be if Brian actually won the contest.

A few weeks later, a crew from Golf Digest visited Brian in California, and I flew out to watch. They brought a high speed camera to capture his swing. This is the camera used to make those fold-out, frame-by-frame pictures of golf professionals. Only the most notable golfers in the world get this treatment. Brian was asked to hit into a net, and the photographer pointed out a patch where the net had been repaired.

“We filmed Retief Goosen last week,” he said. Goosen is one of the best players in the world and has won two U.S. Open Championships. “He hit the ball so hard it tore the net.”

By now Brian was basking in the glow of his possible upcoming fame. He swung as hard as he could. He hit the ground so far behind the ball that the club bounced over the ball. A complete whiff. And the impact with the ground sent a chunk of sod into the net, where it stuck, coincidentally, on the patch created by Retief Goosen.

“Let’s see Retief do that,” Brian remarked.

Every day this was just getting better.

Finally, the day of the selection show arrived. The field of contestants had been narrowed to three, and the Golf Channel planned to announce the winner on the air. All three swings were terrible, but Brian and I couldn’t imagine the others would win. He is a born entertainer. I think he could do standup if he put his mind to it. The combination of my video editing and his comedy couldn’t be beat. Golf Channel invited us both to Orlando, and we managed to play Bay Hill, Arnold Palmer’s famous Florida course. We made friends with the other nominees. But would Brian win? Would it really happen?

It did.

Brian’s six lessons were filmed outside of San Diego, shown nationally on the Golf Channel, and I was invited to be on the final show with him. He was awarded a new set of clubs. He was recognized in airports, in restaurants, and especially on the golf course. His game improved dramatically.

And his swing, frame-by-frame, was featured in the pages of Golf Digest. Twice.

A few years later, after it was all over, Brian told me he was getting married again. In Hawaii. He’d sent me the raw footage from the various Golf Channel episodes, and I kept meaning to make a compilation video for him, but I never got around to it. So, as a surprise, I put together a new video, with old footage and new, and called ahead to the hotel. I set it to music and arranged for it to be shown at a reception before the ceremony.

One more final jab, you know?

As I said before, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to play a better practical joke on someone. It’s one thing to poke fun at your buddy’s golf swing in private, but to bring it to the attention of a national audience…that was sublime.

If you’d like, you can view the original video and the encore presentation below. The second link is on Facebook, so if you can’t see it, send me a friend request and I’ll hook you up. I’ve also included links to a few pictures.

But be careful. Watch these videos at your peril. His old swing could easily turn yours to stone.

World’s Worst Swing Submission Video

World’s Worst Swing Encore

Golf Digest Table of Contents

Golf Digest foldout

Brian and Richard on set


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RICHARD COX is the author of The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He can be reached on Facebook or at his personal web site, www.richardcox.net.

78 responses to “Don’t Look at the Gorgon!”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    Hilarious!

    This is one of the best practical jokes of which I’ve ever heard. I was laughing by the time you were cobbling together the video behind his back. Truly brilliant the way your planning and his bad swing managed to shatter the odds and land him in such a sweet spot.

    Now I’m off to listen to the videos.

    You do realize that if/when Brian initiates payback, full disclosure will require that you submit a piece on that as well? Sweet.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Brian agreed that if he won the contest, the benefit outweighed the humiliation. So technically I am absolved.

      And he is a much better golfer now. So really he owes me.

  2. Slade Ham says:

    Hahahaha, I’m so glad you got around to writing this. I watched the videos the other day when you sent them. I don’t know if it was the swing or the dit or the combination of the two, but you weren’t kidding.

    He’s hilariously bad.

    And… he has more TV credits than me, hahahaha.

  3. Matt says:

    It’s like a chess strategy….so well-laid out and executed.

    The web filters on my work PC are blocking me from watching the videos, but I’ll check ’em out when I get home.

    I look srward to hearing the tale of Brian’s revenge.

  4. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I watched the video. In the slow motion bit, where he hangs his head….oh man….so funny. But damn do I admire his perseverance! He deserved to win just so he could keep trying. Go, Brian. What a great sport.

    Enjoyed having a few chuckles here, by the way.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I know. I rewound that part and watched it over and over until I couldn’t breathe. In the raw footage you can hear me desperately trying not to laugh, because he had hit two great shots to that point. Then he dumped the third one straight into the canyon.

      In the second video I made use of the slo-mo again except I slowed down his voice as well. That always gets lots of laughs. “I think I can doooo it!”

      Thanks for reading, Ronlyn.

  5. Lorna says:

    Oh man, I love a good practical joke. You da man, Rich. Hahaha!

  6. Gloria says:

    What I love about this one is it’s at once diabolical, but also kind. A tough combo to pull off. Those hours of editing, splicing, and voicing, Richard! Holy crap! That is an investment of time that can only be considered a labor of love.

    I think Brian should have given you the new clubs.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Well, yes. Brian’s one of my best friends in the world. If I didn’t care about him so much I wouldn’t have bothered. But I’m not allowed to say that. Come on, Gloria. 😉

      I love when he asks his kids what they think about his swing, and his son cheerfully says, “It’s horrible!”

  7. Zara Potts says:

    You make me laugh, Ricrob! Nice work on the practical joke.. I was laughing out loud reading this every time you talked about laughing out loud. I can almost hear you.
    I know what that’s like though – Every time I think about that dreadful woman in The One Eyed Penguin, I laugh out loud. I think it will be with me always.

  8. dwoz says:

    Are you actually trying to tell me that this guy broke 100 on occasion? I’m sorry…not buying it.

    If you’re ever up in NH, we’ve got a fairly nice Donald Ross designed course just around the corner.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Yeah, I saw him do it. He beat me a time or two back at the beginning before our paths diverged. But there were also plenty of scores in the 130s.

      Nowadays he’s shooting in the 90s with regularity, and his previously-unused-driver has become his biggest weapon.

      Donald Ross? Who’s that? Hahaha.

  9. Judy Prince says:

    Brian’s stance and swing would best be employed at curling, Rich, that old Scottish game with brooms whooshing a polished stone on ice. Seems like a perfect fit for him.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Well, in curling you can affect the outcome of the trajectory while the stone is moving. That would definitely be useful for him (and me, actually) in golf. Haha!

      • Judy Prince says:

        Yes, Richard—why not? It’s insane to have the ball up there with no helpful action by the golfer!

        CTTOI (Come To Think Of It), Brian and you are incredibly suited to playing jai alai with live hand grenades. Brian’s unique spin on them would keep the fans moving in a kind of balletic terror.

  10. Paul Gilmartin says:

    c-a-n’-t t-y-p-e w-e-l-l w-i-t-h s-t-o-n-e f-i-n-g-e-r-s…….

  11. I hate golf. I realize that makes me subnormal in a variety of categories. I should probably do a post on why I feel that way. In the meantime, I dig this post, Richard. I think the best part about it is that I was waiting the entire time for the clips not to win. For you to come in second. For this whole thing to be about how you came SO close. So very close. And your disappointed but triumphant final paragraph. But you won! That is truly excellent. And so rare. You sent something in and overcame all the odds and it was on national TV. God, that is so liberating. I will watch the videos now.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I doubt golf is wildly popular among members of this site, so you’re not alone, Sean. Still, somehow, I feel a regular need to write about golf anyway. You know, because that’s what TNB folks want to read.

      Interesting that you kept thinking we weren’t going to win. That’s precisely why I didn’t embed the photos into the piece. I figured if one could scroll down and see the photographic evidence of the outcome, it would drain away the suspense.

      I really was ecstatic to see my footage on the Golf Channel. Not because national television is necessarily the holy grail of creativity, but because my goal was so perfectly realized. I just never imagined anyone would even watch it, let alone lead the show with my clips. It was great.

      What did you think of the videos?

      • dwoz says:

        It was the video production that got him the gig.

        deceptively amateur, which made it drip with authenticity. The depiction of your subject as an affable, likable guy.

        The video showcased him perfectly, because it put him in that very narrow and very difficult place, where immediately ahead of him is the “lost cause” swing, and immediately behind him is the “casual hacker.”

        Your guy was unique and ideal for a couple reasons. First, he is a serious golfer. He dresses as one and acts like one. He displayed a genuine love of the game. But the thing that sold the magazine was a specific segment in your video…the voice over discussing his lie. With that little moment, you indelibly established your subject’s integrity. Because, how a man plays a lie speaks volumes about his integrity. He plays his lie with truth and integrity, not opting for a preferred lie, but working the lie as it’s handed to him.

        And I must say, I loved typing that last ‘graph.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I appreciate that, Dwoz. First of all, Brian takes his integrity seriously. I almost wish I hadn’t included the scene where he tries to fold the branch, because at the time he didn’t know that was illegal. He always plays the ball at is lies, if he has a swing, no matter where it is.

          Secondly, my primary goal in the video (besides having a laugh) was to showcase Brian as well as possible without it seeming overly produced. I was new to editing, but I also knew something flashy was exactly the opposite of what they were looking for. I’m glad you noticed that.

          Also, I think his personality had a lot to do with his selection. I showcased it in the video, but each subject also shared a phone interview with the committee. His genuine humor and desire set him apart, I believe.

          It was quite fulfilling for it all to play out the way it was imagined. The highest possible goal was attained. That doesn’t happen very often in life, not if you set challenging goals.

      • Very droll. Good stuff. And, yes, he’s almost as bad as Barkley. 350k + hits? That’s amazing. Congrats. There has to be some way to leverage your books in there.

  12. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Dude, never played golf (and rarely watch), but I watched that video, and I’d have voted for him 🙂 Agree you should be up for the emmy. Great morning laugh, Rich.

    Oh, and I’m mould-green jealous I’ve never pulled off such an epic practical joke 🙂

  13. Tawni says:

    I pulled the husband into the office to watch the videos. HILARIOUS. The slo-mo voice especially cracked us up. And we loved the fact that Brian has such a good sense of humor about himself. That’s a sign of true confidence. Great joke, Richard. (: xoxo.

  14. Irene Zion says:

    Richard,
    You are my kind of guy.
    Good work!
    HA!

  15. Becky says:

    I have already shared all my thoughts on this with you.

    In short:

    Hahahahaha!
    Poor Brian!
    That’s good; I’m glad he got better.
    I hate golf.

    • Richard Cox says:

      You hate golf, but you like mythology, right? This is the last time I frame a post around one of our conversations.

      • Becky says:

        No no. It was appropriate. Who says myths are not valuable vehicles of meaning in human communication?

        Though I wasn’t sure, when I started, what I might be in for. I though I would have to fight with you again.

        But it was just Brian.

        Phew!

        • Richard Cox says:

          I tried to make nice a couple of times in the beauty/mythology/literalness discussion and you were having none of it. So here you go.

          Not to mention you’re tagged in the video.

          Phew, indeed.

        • Becky says:

          Wait. Are we fighting?

          I had 3 Twisted Teas during that course of that discussion. I refuse to own anything I said or failed to say, unless it was good.

          Otherwise, I lay the blame squarely on malt liquor and wash my hands of the whole thing.

          Why does it matter that I’m tagged in the video? Should I be upset?

          I feel like I just jumped into the middle of my own conversation. I have no idea what’s going on. Please go away and come back when we are back on the same page. You’re making me nervous.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Seems like you’re as good as me at writing coherently while inebriated. So I’ll accept that.

        • Becky says:

          Hey, you’re one up on me; I don’t even have the decency to be ashamed.

  16. Dana says:

    Brilliant idea Richard and perfectly executed! And Brian is pretty awesome too. I love his ability to laugh at himself and keep on keeping on.

  17. JM Blaine says:

    That was a fun post.
    TNB needs more fun posts.

    By the way,
    I think that’s a myth.
    I’ve rarely found paybacks
    to be a bitch.
    If anything,
    usually
    lackluster.

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, JMB. I like fun posts. I’ll probably write more of them as long as I don’t get run out of town.

      And I think you’re right about paybacks, as a general rule.

  18. Richard Cox says:

    I don’t know that we pay attention to this sort of thing, but I noticed in my WordPress comment emails that this seems to be TNB’s 40,000th post.

    You know, because round numbers like that are important.

  19. Marni Grossman says:

    He actually won. That’s incredible. You’re the master, Richard-

  20. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    So where IS your Emmy? That video is fantastic! And hilarious. Somehow, coming from a family of avid golfers, I know remarkably little about the sport (maybe a rebellion on my part), but I DO know I have a better swing than your friend. Pretty sure 😉

    • Richard Cox says:

      Thanks, Cynthia! I’m sure you have a better swing than Brian’s old one. He might give you a run for your money now, though. Ha.

      • Cynthia Hawkins says:

        Actually, truth be told, my dad always got very frustrated with me for using the “baseball swing.” I’ve read that the golf swing comes naturally to kids … until they “unlearn” it by picking up a bat. I have no idea of the accuracy of that, but I like to blame everything bad on my short stint in little league softball.

        One other note — I’ve since shown this to my husband who said, “I remember reading that article!” He thought your whole behind-the-scenes account of it was great!

  21. dwoz says:

    I used to golf with a guy who had a WORSE swing. Truly amazingly horrible.

    I think it probably had something to do with his prosthesis.

    We hack golfers take out our golf clubs; we break out our box of new balata golf balls; and lace up our golf shoes. This guy went one step farther (pun intended.) He had a “golf foot.” He’d unscrew his day-to-day foot and screw in a special golf foot, that had a universal gimbal joint. I think he could also use it for dancing. I reserve my opinion as to whether it actually made the slightest difference in his swing though. And to give him credit, so did he.

    The guy was definitely a “make lemonade” kind of guy when life tossed him lemons. He never spoke about his leg and how he lost it, but his family name was Angiulo and he was from Boston. His wife told me that it was a freak hit-and-run accident…he was pancaked between two moving cars that both drove away. This was about the time that Whitey Bulger went into hiding.

    He knew damn well he looked ridiculous on the links, but he was just happy to be there. I loved golfing with him because he always got a cart (and paid for it).

    • Richard Cox says:

      You know, Brian’s swing is obviously not the worst ever. Clearly Charles Barkley’s swing is worse than anyone’s. But of the entrants, his was at least as bad as the others, and he was a good sport about it, which is part of why he was selected. Just as you point out with your golf-footed friend, he’s just happy to be out there. You can’t say that for many golfers who are much more gifted physically.

      • dwoz says:

        I was talking golf with a buddy of mine this weekend, and the topic of Alan Shepard’s 6 iron out of the “rough” on the slopes of the Fra Mauro crater. I thought of this thread, as Shepard took a number of mulligans before he managed to top a 400 yarder. Although I suppose hitting a golf ball while wearing a lunar excursion suit doesn’t count…

  22. Jessica Blau says:

    Great story. He must have been GRATEFUL to you in the end.

    I want to see video of YOU swinging the clubs!

  23. Jude says:

    Great joke! Great story! Great voice over!

    I’m surprised you haven’t been offered a job yet by one of the golfing channels…

  24. Jude says:

    Oh, and great accent…

  25. Simon Smithson says:

    HA! Eat it, Brian.

    There’s nothing sweeter than dropping a friend right in it, unless it’s dropping a friend right in it and alerting the media.

  26. Erika Rae says:

    Richrob, you are an awesome friend to have done this. So. Stinkin’. Funny. You crack me up.

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