PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Paul Lokey woke up at 2 a.m. Thursday morning. His eyes popped open as if he had been pricked with a needle.
“Seventeen,” he said in a voice straight out of a suspense thriller – or perhaps a horror movie.
For the first time this week, Lokey was thinking about the par-3 17th on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. That it entered his mind in the middle of his sleep and caused him to alarmingly wake up, meant that it had been lurking in his subconscious.
And for good reason.
Senior Championship Flight
Senior Palmer Flight
Senior Hogan Flight
Senior Sarazen Flight
Senior Jones Flight
Senior Snead Flight
The Senior Hogan Flight (handicaps 8.0-11.9) played the third round of the Golf Channel Amateur Tour’s Senior National Championship at the Stadium Course Thursday. It‘s the largest of the six senior flights, with 96 players competing.
Lokey played this very venue in a Senior Amateur Tour event earlier in the year. By his own account, he was having a solid round. And then he reached the island green 17th.
“I made 10,” he said.
This time around, Lokey was having a premiere day, just 2 over par through seven holes. The 58-year-old from Clearwater, Fla., birdied his first hole of the day, the par-4 10th and then added another at the par-4 12th – his first two birdies of the tournament.
“Here we go again,” he said with a laugh as his cart came to a stop at the tee box.
The 17th, infamously known for its role as the tricky – or tricked up – penultimate hole at The Players Championship, was playing 117 yards to the pin, which was on the front part of the two-tiered green.
The tee box was shifted left from where the PGA Tour pros play it in May, adding an unusual visual perspective for those familiar with the hole. But it was in the same place where it bit Lokey in July’s TPC Sawgrass Open Major.
“It’s a terrible distance for me – in between a 9-iron and a wedge,” Lokey said. “I tried to baby a 9-iron last time. This time I’m going to take a wedge and mash it.”
Waiting for the group in front of him to putt out, Lokey strolled to the tee, put his egg on his peg and offered up: “Let’s see what happens.”
Hitting first among his threesome, and coming off a par at the par-5 16th, Lokey “mashed” a wedge. The ball took flight right of the flag and never drew back in – but it didn’t leak either. It landed just above the pot bunker separating green from hazard and settled on the ridge of the top tier – safely on the green.
Lokey dropped to one knee and fist pumped. Kirk Gibson’s never been that excited.
“I wanted to give you something to write about,” he exclaimed. And that he did.
Lokey two-putted for par … and redemption.
After opening rounds of 14-over 86 at St. John’s Golf & Country Club and 15-over 87 at the Slammer & Squire course, Lokey finished with a 13-over 85 at the Stadium Course. He’s tied for 27th through 54 holes.
'Being a 10 handicap and shooting 85 on the Stadium Course under tournament conditions, I'm not unhappy,' he said.
'In one word,' he added when asked his assess his day, 'Awesome with a captial 'A.''