Going Big

How a student video of a golf trick shot went viral

When Nathan Mead became president of the PGA Golf Management Student Association (PGMSA) at Campbell University last semester, he introduced a slogan that he hoped would set the tone for the group for the academic year: “Do big things.”

Mission accomplished.

A video that features Mead and eight other seniors in the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business’ PGA Golf Management University Program (CUPGM) hitting nine putts into one golf hole, at one time, has gone viral. National news organizations such as CNN and USA Today, sports sites such as Sports Illustrated’s Golf.com and Yahoo Sports, and news stations from around the world — from 23ABC News in Bakersfield, Calif., to Zweites Deutsches Fernseher in Germany — have picked up the video and described the trick shot with plenty of superlatives. Among them: “improbable,” “an incredible moment,” “astonishing,” “awesome,” “impossible trick shot,” “tremendous,” “the most impressive shot you’ll ever see” and “the all-time trick shot.”

On Saturday, Feb. 16, ABC’s World News included the video among its “Instant Index” feature, meaning it was one of the stories being talked about the most on social media that day. ABC’s Good Morning America also named the trick shot its “Play of the Day.” The five weekend hosts of the morning show even tried their best to putt five golf balls into one hole in unison (unsuccessfully).

Local news organizations, including The News & Observer, The Fayetteville Observer, WRAL and NBC 17, also picked up the story, as well as overseas media from New Zealand to Great Britain.

“I can’t believe it has gotten so much attention,” Mead said. “It’s exciting to wake up each morning with new texts from people saying, ‘I just saw the video.’”

The roots of the video go back to earlier this winter when Mead was thinking of what he could do to bring together all the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in CUPGM, one of only 20 such programs in the country. Mead also wanted to build on the momentum that the program gained when five CUPGM students won, in November, the 2012 PGA Jones Cup, the equivalent of the national title for PGA university programs.

One way to engage the students and get more involved, he thought, was through monthly competitions that pit the classes against each other.

Mead had been thinking about what the first competition would be when Ryan Dailey, assistant director of CUPGM, sent Mead and other student leaders in PGMSA a video that showed six men simultaneously hitting six golf balls into one hole. Dailey asked: “Can you do better than this?”

Mead introduced the monthly competition to CUPGM students in January with the challenge for each class to line up as many students as they could and simultaneously hit as many golf balls into one hole.

The seniors, with putts from 2 feet to 23 feet out, made nine putts into a golf hole after about two dozen attempts. Though the students removed the actual cup lining to make the hole deeper for all nine balls to fit, they kept the diameter of the hole regulation size (4.25 inches). The students calculated that the likelihood of making the nine putts was less than ½ percent.

“On the PGA Tour the odds of making an eight-footer is about 50/50, so for the students to be able to make all those putts is astronomical,” said Kenneth Jones, director of CUPGM.

After the students uploaded the video of their trick shot to CUPGM’s YouTube channel on Feb. 12, they began tweeting links to numerous news organizations and professional golfers. Among those was Justin Rose, one of the top golfers in the world. Several CUPGM students got to know Rose through David Orr, director of instruction at CUPGM who has worked with Rose on his short game.

Rose retweeted the link, helping the video go viral. The video was also posted on Tumblr and Facebook, adding to the exposure. On the morning of Monday, Feb. 18, the video had been viewed about 19,000 times. By 10 a.m. on Tuesday, the view count was at more than 132,000.

“In the end the reason we do things like this is to promote fellowship among our students, and it’s about the experience they gain,” Jones said. “I really can’t say I ever expected all the attention that would come with it. But the exposure is priceless, and it will help promote our brand and our program.

“We are going to remember this for years to come, definitely.”

For the February competition, students will perform their best trick shot, which they’ll record by video and upload onto CUPGM’s YouTube channel. The video with the most views after a certain period of time will win the February competition.

“We created the slogan ‘Do big things’ because it represents how, with everything we’re going to do, we’re going to do it as big as possible,” Mead said. “Campbell is a smaller school, but we are doing big things, and we put a lot of work into the program. It’s nice that we’re getting recognized.”

In the right sidebar photo: The nine Campbell University students who made the trick shot and the camera operator who recorded it. Top row, from left to right: Patrick Bindel, Ben Polland, Patrick Carter, Mike Turck, Matt Foster (camera man), Nathan Mead and Jacob Wine. Bottom row, left to right: Ryan King, Taylor Ray and Mark Valenti.

Story by Cherry Crayton, Digital Content Coordinator