THE golfing gods were laughing at Craig Lee yesterday as he got hee haw for a hole-in-one, then suffered the despair of being close by when someone else drove off with a swanky £60,000 car for an ace elsewhere on Wentworth’s iconic West Course.
A laser-like 8-iron did the trick for the Stirling man at the 151-yard second – the sixth hole-in-one of his career but first on the European Tour. “It bounced once and trickled in the right edge,” reported Lee afterwards of a feat he first achieved as a “nipper at Stirling” and repeated, among other occasions, on the Tartan Tour at Skibo Castle to earn a “nice bottle of malt whisky”.
Unfortunately for him, it was the wrong hole to achieve the feat on this occasion in the BMW PGA Championship. Up for grabs at the tenth was a £60,000 car from the sponsors while the one at the 14th is worth £104,000.
There wasn’t even a toy version on offer at the second, as Lee was well aware as his ball disappeared into the hole. “All I got was a high five from everyone I was playing with,” said the 38-year-old. “You pretty much know if a car is on offer as it’s normally behind you on the tee and my playing partners didn’t know whether they should say ‘good shot’ as they knew I wasn’t getting a car.” Rubbing salt into his wounds, Lee was standing on the eighth tee when Englishman Andrew Johnston, winner of the Scottish Hydro Challenge at Aviemore last June, holed his tee shot at the tenth to claim the aforementioned BMW M4 Coupe. “Yes, to make it worse, I heard the roar as that shot went in,” added Lee.
The Scottish press pack didn’t have the heart to add to the misery by telling him about a prize that was once claimed for such a feat at the second, but I’m sure he won’t mind it being shared to a wider audience.
Playing in the 1979 World Match Play Championship, Japan’s Isao Aoki won a house at Gleneagles worth £40,000 as well as £15,000 worth of furnishings. At the time, it was the biggest prize ever offered in a golf tournament in Britain and the equivalent today would be worth £400,000. Despite his ace, Lee had to settle for a 73, describing his short game as “terrible”. Johnston signed for a 75 but at least had the consolation of seeing a tangible reward for his majestic blow.
As the ball entered the hole at the 184-yard tenth, he ran to the front of the tee to celebrate before spotting a friend in the crowd and they delivered a rare sight on the golf course by chest bumping each other. “It was just madness,” said Johnston.
Unlike Lee, he knows what holes to pick for these feats. Playing in the 2013 Scottish Open, he won 168 bottles of champagne – one for each yard – for a hole-in-one at the 11th at Castle Stuart. “That was kind of freaky because I played with Phil Price and he won it the year before,” recalled the man known as “Beef”. “That was great fun and then obviously to come here and win a car, it’s just nuts. I love flashy cars and I can’t wait to give it a go.”
While the BMW i8 – it’s worth the equivalent of tying for seventh here on Sunday – is still on offer at the 14th, it was almost claimed by Miguel Angel Jimenez just a week after he recorded the ninth ace of his career in the Spanish Open. “My tenth is coming soon,” said the Spaniard after being left with a tap-in at the 179-yard hole, having also come within a whisker of achieving the feat for a second time in the same event at El Prat on Sunday.