Stefani records first U.S. Open ace at Merion

Stefani records first U.S. Open ace at Merion

June 16, 2013, 2:45 pm
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ARDMORE, Pa. -- He's not going to win the U.S. Open, but he's going down in history.

Shawn Stefani recorded the 43rd ace in Open history on Sunday when his 4-iron from 223 yards landed in the left rough, kicked onto the green, and tracked all the way over to the back-right pin and into the hole.

It was the second-longest ace ever recorded in the Open and the first ever hole-in-one in an Open at Merion.

Moreover, it was Stefani's first ace in tournament play and only the second of his life. The first?

"I was 13 years old," he said. "Goose Creek Country Club (in Baytown, Texas), where I grew up playing golf on No. 16."

Sunday's was in front of a few more people, about 4,200 actually. The par-3 17th green -- separated from the tee by a 200-yard-wide quarry -- has been turned into an amphitheater, and its gallery erupted when Stefani's ball made its improbable right turn into the hole.

After he walked through the quarry and made his way to the green, Stefani got down and kissed the rough where the ball originally landed.

"We're in Philly," he said. "There's some great fans up here and I know they can be tough on you and they can love you forever. So I'm sure they appreciated me going to the ground and kissing it, because obviously the ground is where the kick started and the ball kicking right and going on the green."

Stefani made par on his 72nd hole to turn in a 1-under-par 69 Sunday but finished the tournament 19-over for the week. He posted scores of 72 and 73 on Thursday and Friday before a horrific 85 on Saturday, the second-worst round of the tournament. He knocked 16 shots off that score on Sunday, thanks in part to his ace.

"I actually had a great week," he said. "It started last week when I qualified for the U.S. Open and started the week off really well and played solid. Played solid the first two days.

"Unfortunately, I had a rough day yesterday, which you start hitting it crooked out here and that can happen. And I just kind of went out today with the attitude of just go have some fun and enjoy it.

"And to end the way I did with an ace on 17 and to have the crowd go crazy, the fans go crazy and everything was just, it was definitely a very positive experience at the end of it."

Not long after Stefani entered the interview area -- located off the first and 14th holes in someone's backyard -- he was approached by Wayne Morrison, a member of the USGA's research staff and one of the men in charge of Merion's archives.

Shortly before Morrison's arrival, Stefani was asked what he'd do with the ball and told Merion might want it.

"Well, there's a price for everything," he said.

Here's what he and Morrison worked out. Stefani will keep the ball -- a Titleist Pro VIx No. 2 -- but he's donated his glove to the USGA. He signed the glove along with five copies of his scorecard, directly on Morrison's back. In return, Stefani said he's hoping for "a plaque or something" from the club.

The glove will eventually be on display in the USGA's museum in Far Hills, N.J.

And Stefani is hoping to set one more record by day's end.

"[ESPN's] Scott Van Pelt was over there [on 17], and I kind of walked over to him. I go, 'That's probably going to be a No. 1 on SportsCenter tonight,' which would be kind of cool.

"But nobody knows what's going to happen after that."