Whether at a major championship venue or a hometown muni, the regulation size of a golf hole is a standard measurement. Always has been.
Likewise, when a player makes a hole-in-one there’s always a celebration. Always has been.
Shawn Stefani put his name in the thin 3M Open record book Saturday, making the second ace in the event’s 54-hole history. On the fourth hole, Stefani cut a 7-iron shot off the tee onto the green, landed it about 3 feet from the cup and watched from 176 yards away as the ball curled left into the bottom.
“Just a perfect yardage and swing to land it short and let it spin,” Stefani said.
Stefani, 37, made his first ace as a 13-year-old at his home Goose Creek Country Club just outside Houston. He didn’t make another until he earned his PGA Tour card in 2013. Saturday’s hole-in-one was his fifth as a pro.
“They’re all special,” he said. “It’s kind of cool that you can go so long without any, and then — boom — they go in like crazy.”
Stefani made history in 2013 when he aced the 17th hole at Merion Golf Club in the final round of the U.S. Open. Merion was hosting the event for the fifth time that week dating to 1934, and Stefani’s ace was the first.
He shot 85 the day before.
“I didn’t do much Saturday for the crowd, and that day they just went berserk,” Stefani said. “That was my first one on tour, so I’m waving my arms and dancing and all that. I’ll never forget it.”
There was no crowd — and no playing partner or legal way to buy a round, either — when he made that first ace as a teenager, but that didn’t stop him from celebrating.
“I tell you what you do,” Stefani said. “You go run your dad’s ticket up at the country club.”
Troy Merritt finally got to see the decade-old Target Field for the first time Friday night, waiting out the rain delay and taking in six innings of the Twins-Rangers game.
“It’s been stress-free and I’ve actually quite enjoyed it,” the Spring Lake Park graduate said of the demands that come with playing an event with so many local supporters.
Perhaps watching a first-place ballclub gave him some extra motivation for Saturday.
Merritt shot 5-under 66 in Round 3 and at 13 under for the tournament is two shots off the lead in a tie for sixth place heading into the final round.
Merritt made an 8-foot par save after a heavy shot out of the thick greenside rough on 18 that he said was good as any of his six birdies.
“Absolutely; it keeps you one shot closer to the leaders,” Merritt said. “Put myself in some pretty stressful spots but nonetheless hung around.”
Two players on top of the 3M Open leaderboard put themselves in that position despite their minds being on their friends and loved ones.
Bryson DeChambeau messaged overnight with his parents back home in Clovis, Calif., about 150 miles from the epicenter of Friday’s 7.1 earthquake that shook from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
“That was a little unsettling,” he said. “My mom said the pool in the backyard, there were waves coming up and out. It was weird. My mom said she has never experienced anything like that. That was kind of scary, but I texted and it was fine. No big deal. The dog was freaking out, but other than that …”
Matthew Wolff is from just outside downtown Los Angeles and also received text messages Friday night and Saturday.
“Thankfully, everyone in my family and my friends are all safe,” he said. “I hope no one else got hurt. I’m praying for anyone who did.”
Staff writer Jerry Zgoda contributed to this notebook.