Right: Bill Chapman, Michael Bresnahan and Jim Wright take dead aim on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass Wednesday.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Golf Channel Am Tour Senior Nationals competitors win a $500 gift card to Golf Galaxy with a hole-in-one this week. What I saw Sr. Sarazen competitor Bill Shirley do this morning on the 17th, while not an ace, deserves at least a cold beer.
Any golf fan has probably seen thousands of shots hit at No. 17 on TV thanks to The PLAYERS. But you've probably never seen any played from pine straw. Leave that to the amateurs.
This morning, from 138 yards, Shirley hit a line drive well left of the green. It bounced off the walking path and sailed over the grassy knoll. Check out where he played his second:
His ball landed on the green and, somehow, checked up pretty good to stay on the top shelf, about 15 feet from the hole. Shirley bogeyed and escaped what appeared to be imminent disaster.
'I couldn't see anything so there was no intimidation,' recalled Shirley. 'It was like I was in the backyard.'
Earlier, the 8:24 tee time of Vic Ferraris, Ken Downing and Gregg Smith arrived at the 17th tee to witness the group ahead of them having a rough go, to say the least: all three players had missed land with their first tee shot, one player needed three shots to reach the green and another player took seven drops before finding Land, Ho!
'You know you're in trouble when you're talking to the ball,' muttered Downing as he watched the carnage and accompanying pep talks to little white inanimate objects at the drop zone from the tee, which may have been of interest to any masters psychology students. Downing, despite seeing plenty of splooshes, still managed to hit his tee shot stiff.
Ferraris, however, missed with his first tee ball, but chose to reload on the tee.
'That drop area's disaster waiting to happen,' he said as he reloaded on the tee rather than walk up for the delicate wedge shot. He chose wisely, finding the green on his second.
The Stadium course does its thing
Pete and Alice Dye may be interested in how the Snead flight (handicaps 20 and above) fared on their creation in the opening round Tuesday. To sum it up, the back nine, and particularly the infamous island green, destroyed many competitors chances with three days to go.
The first day ended with the flight averaging 7.67 on the 17th, which ended up being the toughest hole on the course, edging out No. 9, 11 and 16 (all par 5s). There were some 'outliers' to put it lightly on 17: 37 'others,' including a '32' and a '24'. In total, the Stadium claimed 433 'others,' more than there were birdies, pars, bogeys and double bogeys combined. The average score was 112.
Certified sports psychologists are standing by...