We all know Walt Disney World Resort as the premiere family vacation destination in the world, but what about the golf? If the number of professional events held at Disney is any indication, it's one of the best -- Since the early 1970s Disney courses (Magnolia, Palm, Lake Buena Vista and Osprey Ridge) have played host to more than 100 professional golf events. And from Lucas Glover’s unlikely hole-out to win in 2005, to the original “Shot in the dark” in 1993, it's been the stage for more than a few memorable moments. Here are our 10 greatest moments in Disney Golf history:
On October 20, 1996 20-year-old Tiger Woods began the final round of the Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic one stroke behind four co-leaders. Riding the strength of a final-round 66 Woods emerged as the youngest champion in Classic history, and the first player in 15 years to record top-five finishes in five consecutive PGA Tour events.
Golf legend Sam Snead began the now time-honored tradition of PGA Tour players fishing on the Disney golf courses. The canals that run along No. 2 and No. 8 at the Magnolia course were among Snead’s favorite “holes”. Largemouth bass populate the water systems around these courses, and during practice rounds at the Classic there are often more fishing poles than golf clubs in players’ carts.
The Palm course joined the Classic tournament rotation in 1972, and in 1973 Jack Nicklaus set a record with his third consecutive victory in the Classic. His 13-under-par score is tied with Raymond Floyd (1986) as the highest winning score for a Classic Champion.
During the second round of the 2003 Funai Classic, Briny Baird played the back nine at the Palm first. After an eagle at No. 14, he proceeded to birdie the next seven holes – No. 15 through No. 3 – for an under-par streak of eight holes. This effort tied the PGA Tour record for a birdie-eagle streak.
The 1999 National Car Rental Golf Classic at Disney was won by Tiger Woods, but it will be forever remembered as the final PGA Tour event for the late Payne Stewart. Although he missed the cut that year, Disney no doubt held a special place in Stewart’s heart – he got through PGA Tour Q-School here, won the Classic in 1983, and has the course record on the Magnolia course (61), a score that still has not been equaled to this day.
Holes in one are usually pretty common on the PGA Tour, just not at the 3rd hole at the Palm course, which through the tournament’s first thirty years elicited no aces. At the 2004 Classic, however, Tim Clark etched his name in the history books with an ace at the165-yard par-3. He went on to finish tied for sixth.
While you might recall Tiger Woods’ “Shot in the dark” at Firestone, in which he played his final approach shot under fading sunlight to win, there actually was a PGA Tour event that finished in complete darkness. Although a rain delay caused the 1993 Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic to run out of sunlight on the final day, that didn’t stop tournament officials from finishing the event as scheduled. In order to help show the final groups the way through darkness, No. 18 at Magnolia was completely illuminated under artificial high reach lights. Jeff Maggert followed the light to the winner’s circle, beating Greg Kraft by three shots.
During the first round at the 2006 Funai Classic, Justin Rose made 12 birdies and no bogeys en route to a course-record 60 on the Palm course. He had a putt for 59 at No. 18, but missed the 14-footer. It could have been even lower, in fact, had Rose converted an 8-footer at No. 13 or a four-footer at No. 16.
At the final hole of the 2005 Funai Classic Lucas Glover holed a 40-yard bunker shot for birdie, earning him a one-stroke victory, his first on the PGA Tour. The memorable moment came as a surprise, even to Glover.
'It wasn't a bunker shot I walked up to and said, 'Hey, let's make this one,'' Glover admitted. 'It was one of those, 'Let's get it close and get out of here.' It was my time. That's all there is to it.'
The 1995 LPGA HealthSouth Inaugural was held at Disney, and was won by hall-of-famer Pat Bradley. It also was the first live golf tournament ever for Golf Channel. 15 years later we're now the exclusive cable home of the LPGA.
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