One of the biggest appeals of watching the pros play golf is getting the chance to see them pull off wild shots the average hack wouldn’t even be brave enough to attempt while marveling at their ability to conquer some of the most iconic courses on the planet.
That second aspect is part of what makes The Masters a tradition unlike any other, as there aren’t many tracts out there that are steeped in the amount of history, tradition, and prestige that Augusta National Golf Club is able to boast.
The Masters has spawned a number of truly iconic moments over the years thanks in no small part to the many golfers who’ve been able to put on an absolute clinic while roaming the hallowed links of Augusta.
The nature of golf means most fans of the sport aren’t typically rooting against particular players while watching a tournament (with the possible exception of Patrick Reed).
With that said, I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest many spectators and viewers have derived some morbid pleasure by watching some of the best players on the planet get brought to their knees by the Golf Gods or witnessing a final round comeback that was only made possible by the kind of collapse Greg Norman fell victim to at The Masters in 1996.
Sure, there’s nothing quite like seeing someone play a virtually perfect round, but there’s also something to be said for the solidarity that comes with knowing the pros are, indeed, human beings like you and I who aren’t immune to melting down on the course.
There’s arguably no worse place to see your game unravel than The Masters—and there’s one man in particular who really saw his all far apart on one of golf’s biggest stages.
Who is responsible for the worst score ever recorded at The Masters?
You obviously have to be able to hold your own in order to secure an invite to The Masters in the first place. However, there are still plenty of objectively talented golfers who’ve seen their skills all but disappear once they tee off at Augusta.
That includes Charles Kunkle Jr., a World World II veteran hailing from Pennsylvania who participated in The Masters as an amateur in 1956.
It’s very hard to imagine Kunkle headed into the tournament thinking there was any shot he’d actually be able to outdo a field that boasted legendary names including Ben Hogan and Sam Snead.
Interestingly enough, a fellow amateur by the name of Ken Venturi finished at the top of the leaderboard in the first three rounds before ultimately coming in second one stroke behind champion Jack Burke Jr.
Kunkle, on the other hand, finished dead last for reasons you’ll soon discover.
Charlie posted a respectable 78 on Thursday and headed into the second round six over par. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there, as he ended up at +16 for the tournament with the 82 he recorded on Sunday.
1956 marked the last year The Masters didn’t feature a weekend cut, which meant Kunkle had Saturday and Sunday to potentially work out some of the kinks in his game—although he ended up doing the polar opposite.
The downward spiral continued in the third round, as Kunkle failed to make a single birdie over the course of 18 holes where he jotted down five bogeys and four double bogeys on a scorecard that added up to a grand total of 85 strokes.
You might think there’s nowhere to go but up from there, but you’d be sorely mistaken. Kunkle kicked off his final round with a triple bogey on the first hole, which marked the beginning of a truly brutal outing where he shot for par twice while recording 11 bogeys, three double bogeys, and one more triple bogey on the 15th hole for good measure.
The 95 he submitted remains the worst single round that’s ever been officially recorded at The Masters (1970 champion Billy Casper technically outdid him when he shot a 106 at the age of 73 in 200, but he declined to submit his scorecard after finishing the round).
The 340 strokes Kunkle recorded over those four rounds (good for +52 for the tournament) is also the highest cumulative score anyone has ever recorded at The Masters, and barring the most unlikely collapse in the history of golf, it’s hard to imagine that second “achievement” will ever be topped.