PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — President Donald Trump and the world of golf have a, shall we say, elastic relationship. While Trump himself owns some of the most notable golf properties on the planet, as a golfer, he’s ... well, a little more suspect. Whether he’s claiming phantom club championships or driving his golf cart onto greens or flat-out shaving strokes off his game, virtually everyone who has played with Trump agrees that the relationship between his golf game and the truth is a shaky one at best.
But for all the tall tales about Trump’s golf prowess that swirl in the man’s wake, this is indisputable: the golf world has returned to the scene of perhaps Trump’s greatest moment on a golf course. Yes, right here on the Monterey Peninsula, Trump scored an ace ... and this one was witnessed by hundreds of people in person, and many thousands more on TV. No, really.
The scene: the 1993 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, a February event that pairs celebrities with actual PGA Tour golfers. Trump, back then a gossip-column-starring, 47-year-old New York City real estate developer with everything from “The Apprentice” to the White House decades in his future, accepted an invitation to play in the Pro-Am.
Trump stepped up to the 180-yard par-3 12th hole, gripped a five-iron, swung, and ... what do you know, the ball bounced twice and disappeared into the cup.
“It was just a great moment, in front of thousands and thousands of people,” Trump told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. “The place went crazy, totally nuts. Payne (Stewart) was a friend of mine, and he said, ‘Slow down your swing, Donald.’ I didn’t know if I did slow up my swing, but the ball went in the hole.”
Trump had the good fortune of having Robert “Rocket” Lytle, who was at the time acknowledged as Pebble Beach’s finest caddy, on his bag. “We’re paired with Paul Goydos at the time,” Lytle told the New York Times in 2011. “So Donald wants to hit a 6-iron and Goydos wants him to hit 6-iron and I want him to hit 5-iron. So we’re going back and forth and finally I said to him: ‘OK, Donald, I’ll tell you what, you hit the 5-iron and if I’m wrong you don’t have to pay me. If I’m right, you pay me double.’
“He looked at me and said, ‘You sure?’ ” Lytle added. “And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m sure.’ I was sure, but I was thinking maybe he’d hit it too hard and try to prove me wrong. But he hit it perfect. Two bounces and it went in the hole.”
Video of that ace doesn’t seem to exist (though the Chronicle does have photos from the week of the baby-faced Trump), but enough contemporaneous sources tell the same story that we’re tempted to call it not-fake news. For a little perspective on what it might have looked like, here’s Trump in action at the 2012 Pro-Am:
The man does love his red hats.
It’s customary that a player who makes an ace buys a round of drinks for the clubhouse. Trump didn’t, but to be honest, you can’t really blame him: “Even at a dollar a drink, with 25,000 people, that would be expensive,” Trump told the Chronicle. “I told them if they could prove they were there, I’d buy them a drink.”
Trump, who claimed about a 3 handicap before he stopped submitting scores while in office, never made the cut at a Pro-Am. He played in seven tournaments, from 1993 to 2006, and his two-man team never advanced past the first two days.
A noted and vocal golf fan on Twitter, Trump will most likely offer up some commentary on the doings at Pebble Beach this weekend. And don’t be surprised if he references that long-ago ace. Anyone who makes one of those has the right to hold it over the rest of us forever.
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