After more than 25 years in the golf industry and chasing top-100 courses around the globe with a missionary’s zeal, Greg Nathan finally made his first hole-in-one on Tuesday.
The 15-year veteran with the National Golf Foundation did it in dramatic fashion, acing the par-4 fifth hole of the Whiskey routing at Ohoopee Match Club in Cobbtown, Georgia.
Not too shabby to make your first ace on a par 4, which measured 285 yards on the scorecard. (Scorecards are printed daily at the course. A caddie thought it was closer to 260 yards. “It’s going to get longer and longer as the years go on,” Nathan cracked.)
Nathan played in the first group of the day and word spread among competitors in the Bernard Darwin Matches, a two-day team event hosted by course designer Gil Hanse. When the actor Bill Murray, who played in the event and was in the club’s dining room after the round, caught wind of Nathan’s achievement, he had an all-time response: he slapped Nathan across the face.
Nathan, the self-proclaimed Mayor of Crazy Town, is chief business officer for the NGF. He thought his Murray highlight came before the round as he was walking past the clubhouse to the first tee.
“You can actually see into a window of the gym and Bill Murray is in there. He sees us and waves at us,” Nathan recalled. “The guys I was with were like that’s a memorable moment.”
Nathan celebrated by a fire pit after his round and before leaving he went back into the clubhouse, where Murray was engrossed in conversation with members of No Laying Up. Just as Murray got up from where he was sitting, someone congratulated Nathan on his ace. Murray spun around and said, “You? You’re the one. You made the hole-in-one?”
Nathan shook his head in the affirmative. That’s when Murray slapped him across the face with his right hand.
“It wasn’t like Will Smith (slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards) where he leaned his weight into it but there was a loud smack,” Nathan said.
Nathan smiled – “that’s memorable,” he thought to himself – and asked Murray to pose for a picture.
The first day of the event had been played on the Championship Course routing. The Whiskey routing is a separate layout that incorporates five completely different holes (dubbed A, B, C, D and E) and variations of 13 from the Championship course. (No. 5 on the Whiskey routing plays as No. 9 on the Whiskey routing.)
With the Grateful Dead’s “Box of Rain” playing on his caddie’s speaker, Nathan took aim at the drivable par 4, but wasn’t even sure if he could clear the pot bunker guarding the path to the green.
His blast just made it over — “I was holding my breath that it wouldn’t dunk in there on the fly,” he said — and bounded for the uphill green before disappearing from view momentarily.
Nathan remembers thinking, “Awesome, I drove the green at a par 4.” But the caddies in his group knew better. They figured it had a chance of going in and began chirping. When the ball re-appeared, Nathan could see it scare the hole, climb a slope and then descend back to the hole slowly like a putt.
His opponent in their match had the best line: “I made birdie and lost the hole by two shots,” he said.
But at least Nathan was buying.