June 28, 2017

Twice as Nice

Arnold Palmer may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten. It’s a universal truth that resonates with every golfer throughout every golf club across the land – and that goes double for TPC Potomac, host site of this week’s Quicken Loans National. Literally double.

Palmer, who passed away last September at the age of 87, delivered an amazing feat here in 1986, the year TPC Potomac opened, recording back-to-back aces at the club’s par-3 third hole over two consecutive days.

Never before had a professional golfer performed such a feat and never has it been done since.

A statue will be unveiled during the week of the Quicken Loans National, commemorating the man and the moment while serving as a permanent fixture at TPC Potomac.

Rewind to 1986
The magic happened on Sept. 2-3, 1986, during two pro-ams that pre-ceded the inaugural playing of the Chrysler Cup, a four-day PGA TOUR Champions event that pitted eight Americans against an international squad of eight.

Naturally, Palmer, then 56, was serving as captain of the U.S. Team, while longtime friend and rival Gary Player led the international squad.

The first hole-in-one was quite a feat, serving as the 12th ace of Palmer’s career. He laced a 5-iron on the 187-yard hole and watched as it disappeared into the cup for a one. The next day, however, was simply extraordinary, and Palmer recalled the moment in March of 2015 during a speech at his Bay Hill Club & Lodge during the week of the Arnold Palmer Invitational:

“The next day I came up to the same hole,” he recalled, “and NBC was there with cameras and all the press was there, and I said, ‘What the hell are you guys doing here?’ They said, ‘You hit a hole-in-one here yesterday?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I did, as a matter of fact.’  And they said, ‘Well, we’re going to film the one you make today!’ I said, ‘You’re gonna do what?’

“Well, odd as it may seem, I took the same club, the 5 iron, out of the bag, hit it, and it bounced about 10 feet short of the hole, rolled up and went right in.”

About 100 people were gathered around the third hole at the time and every one of them erupted in a celebration of disbelief.  A pair of Chrysler marshals jumped up and down on the tee box while patrons high-fived each other in the gallery.

Palmer simply couldn’t believe it.

“Aw, my goodness,” The King muttered to himself on the tee box, “that’s the most amazing . . . aw, my goodness . . . I’ve had some things happen to me, but never anything close to that.”

When he reached the green, Palmer waved on his struggling amateur partners before they could hole out their putts, the Washington Post reported, saying, “Come on, pardnahs, we won’t worry about this hole anymore!”

Said teammate Chi Chi Rodriguez to United Press International after the round: “I thought Arnie walked on water before this. Now I know he does. You could give Clark Kent 10 balls and he couldn’t do that.”

Quipped team member Lee Elder to Palmer: “Will you quit wasting those holes-in-one? Save ’em for the real tournament.”

As for the tournament itself, the U.S. Team would go on to win big, 68-31, with Palmer himself shooting a day-best 69 in the final round to help cap the victory. But it was The King’s uncanny aces during the pro-ams early that week that were remembered most vividly from TPC Potomac.