Howard Clark's hole-in-one came on the famous 17th at Sawgrass when filming a preview package for the 2000 Players Championship. Here's Howard's recollection of events...
Howard Clark’s Hole-in-One on the 17th at TPC Sawgrass
He may have been one of Europe’s golden players through the golden era of the eighties and nineties – with 11 Tour wins to his name and six Ryder Cup appearances – but Howard Clark is just as well known for his on-course commentary work with Sky, and for a famous hole-in-one he made at TPC Sawgrass’ infamous 17th…
People often ask me about the hole-in-one I made at Sawgrass – it wasn’t in the Players Championship… I never played in that. In fact I have never played the course. I was doing commentary and a preview for Sky. It was my first US broadcast.
The hole-in-one was actually the second shot I had hit on the hole. I had hit another just minutes before… My boss at the time had given me three holes to cover, the 16th, 17th and 18th. Anyway, my cameraman said: “Don’t worry about the first shot, we won’t follow that, if it goes in the water, so be it…”
As it happened, I hit the left half of the green. I wished straight away that we could use that. Then he said: “Right, Clarky boy, we’ll follow this one right from hitting the ball to the splash in the water,” and I said: “Thanks for your confidence!”
I reached back and asked if anyone had a towel, because I didn’t have a glove on, and I’d borrowed three clubs, a 7, 8, and 9-iron from Darren Clarke… I’d got three golf balls from Billy Foster, who was caddying for Darren at the time, all of which had a Shamrock on. All of a sudden my hands started to get a bit clammy and I thought “Crikey I don’t want to lose the grip and end up with the club going in the water, and me having to scramble about with an alligator, trying to get an 8-iron of Darren Clarke’s back!”
So I asked for a towel and nobody had a towel… Anyway, someone managed to grab a face towel, which was slightly damp, and I said: “OK, that’s fine, we better get this in one take then.” So I said something to the cameraman, you know, “This is an 8-iron, it’s 137 yards, I hope I hit it nicely because otherwise it could be very wet. Let’s see what happens…”
I hit the shot and as soon as it left the club I thought “Crikey, that’s struggling,” because the pin was right at the very front of the green, only four or five paces on… Then the ball pitched on the green and I thought: “Hang on, that’s going in!” And it rolled in. I turned to my cameraman and said: “Have you got that?”
It was quite embarrassing because my boss at Sky at the time had written to Tour Productions in the US and asked permission for me to hit a shot on the 17th… They said: “No, no, absolutely not, we can’t let anybody from TV go and hit shots on the course the week of the championship.” My boss wrote back again and said it’s really important that we get this piece: “This fella’s [Howard] not an amateur golfer, he’s played six Ryder Cups, won 11 times on Tour, he’s not a chopper.” But they said: “No. If we let him on, we have to let everybody on.”
Anyway, the third time my boss called them and said… “Look, here’s the deal, we need to sort something out. We need to get Howard on the course. It’s his first US Tour event for us, we need to introduce him to the viewers, we need to get everything in line and who knows, it might be a laugh.”
So anyway, they said: “If you were to go out and hit a shot on the 17th at 7:30 in the morning before anybody else is there, and you make sure nobody else is there, then what do we know. We’ll turn a blind eye this one instance.”
When they heard of my hole-in-one, they came over to our offices and said… “Now we’re going to have every Japanese, Chinese, Brit, you name it, they’re all going to want to hit shots into the 17th. Thanks very much!” And of course it was embarrassing, but it was well worth the job. I’ve still got the ball, I kept it; I stole it from Darren!
My reaction was pretty natural because you just don’t expect it… The funny thing was Butch Harmon thought it was done with a trick by the camera. I said: “What do you think about the swing, Butch?” He said: “Well, you holed-in-one, it doesn’t get much better than that!”