Anyone familiar with the game of golf knows that one of the hardest things to do is hit a hole-in-one. The true representation of a perfect game, a hole-in-one is something that not even many pro golfers have been able to accomplish, much less everyone else that loves the game. It is a feat that requires the perfect combination of setting, choice, execution, and luck. This Sunday, one of our Tigers nailed this perfect storm and walked away with a hole-in-one of his own. Freshman Jake Mayer, who finished tied for 29th at the MacDonald Cup hosted by Yale University, left his mark on the tournament by being the only golfer to ace a hole across the three rounds of play. We caught up with him after the tournament to talk about the experience.
The Daily Princetonian: So, if you can, set the stage for me in the moments leading up to the shot.
Jake Mayer: So, [Sunday] was a shotgun start, meaning that I started on the eighth hole and not the first hole as usual. Stepping up onto the fifth tee, I only had three holes left, and I was at +6 for the day, so I really needed to finish strong. After the 18th hole, my twelfth hole of the day, I was +6. I made four really good pars on holes 1-4, getting up and down on both [holes] three and four.
The fifth hole for the course at Yale is a short Par 3, measuring about 160 yards from the tees. Players hit from a slightly elevated tee onto a green surrounded by deep sand bunkers. Shots that make it onto the green have a good chance of being made for birdie or par; however those that find any of the deep bunkers are faced with a tough play back out of the sand and onto the green.
DP: Walk me through some of your thoughts and preparations before you took the shot.
JM: Coach Green [the J. Stuart Francis ‘74 head coach of men’s golf] was with me on the tee, and I measured the distance to the flag. We were talking through it and figured the wind was a little into us, so instead of swinging hard at a nine iron, I decided to knock down an eight iron. I thought it might have been a bit too much club, but when I saw someone in my group hit before me and come up short of the pin, I knew I had the right club in my hand.
The pin was in the back right portion of the green, so I was aiming at the center of the green, planning on drawing it into the hole. If it didn’t draw, it would still be on the green and I would have a decent look at birdie. If it drew, I would hopefully have a close putt for two.
DP: What was your immediate reaction following the hole-in-one?
JM: When it went in, I was shocked. First, I high-fived the Bucknell coach and then started celebrating with Coach Green and my dad, who made the trip up to New Haven for the weekend. I had made a hole-in-one exactly two weeks ago, during one of the team’s qualifying rounds, so I was honestly more in disbelief that it would happen again so soon.
DP: What did your teammates say when they found out what you had done?
JM: My teammate, [senior] Marc Hedrick, was in the group in front of me and heard the shouts as he was walking on the hole ahead. After the round he asked me, 'Did you make a hole in one?' and I replied, 'Yeah.' He then congratulated me and started telling me what a cool memory that would be. When I saw the rest of the team, they all congratulated me as well.
DP: An amazing shot like that must have helped your mindset for the rest of the round.
JM: I only had two holes left to play, but the hole-in-one put me in a much better position to finish the round at +4 or better. I made a really nice up-and-down on the 6th hole, but unfortunately bogeyed my final hole of the day to end +5.
DP: Still, finishing tied for 29th individually as a freshman is a great accomplishment. Overall, how has this event and other experiences with the golf team played into your Princeton experience thus far?
JM: So far, the experience has been amazing. Last weekend at Dartmouth was great, as the team finished second by one shot. Even though that was heartbreaking, it was still great to know we played well and competed with all the other teams and it was a great start to my college career. The hole-in-one was great, and definitely a memory I will have for the rest of my life, but the team and I were both a little disappointed we didn’t finish better for the weekend. Everyone on the men’s and women’s team, as well as Coach Green and Coach DeSanty, have been so welcoming, and they all go out of their way to make the freshmen feel at home. Its nice to know I have such a supportive group of Princeton golfers within the greater Princeton community.”
DP: Last question, and maybe the most important one: what did you do with the ball?
JM: After taking a picture with my dad and playing partners, I tossed my dad the ball and said I didn’t want to lose it. When I get home for break, I will try to frame it, along with a picture.
Sharing that experience with his his teammates, coach, and dad, Jake will never forget this moment. It is times like these that make us remember why we play the sports we love, things that offer us memories that we will treasure forever.