Has a Golfer Ever Won a Tournament By Acing the Last Hole?

Imagine a golfer reaching the last hole of a tournament trailing the leader and, seemingly, out of it: His only chance to win is by making a hole-in-one. But then the golfer does exactly that! He aces the very last hole to win the tournament. Has it ever happened?

As far as we can tell, the answer is no. It's possible that some time, somewhere in golf history a local tournament ended with a golfer making a final-hole ace to win. We haven't found any record of such an event, but it's possible. What we can say with a fair amount of certainty is that a golfer winning a pro tournament of any importance or on any pro tour by holing out for a 1 on the last hole has never happened.

But There Were Reports of Just That Thing in the 1920s

We have found once incident, described in a handful of Australian and American newspapers in the 1920s, that fits the bill. According to those articles, at the 1913 Welsh Professional Championship, English golfer George Gadd reached the final hole, a par-3, needing a birdie to tie.

A spectator allegedly said to Gadd as he stood on the tee, "You need a 2 to tie."

Gadd reportedly replied, "I'm not going to get a 2 — I'm going to get a 1."

And he then did exactly that: Gadd aced the final hole of the 1913 Welsh Professional Championship to win the trophy. But this is the exact scenario we've already said never happened — what gives?

What gives is that, just like the story about Tommy Armour making a 23 on a single hole, the story about George Gadd acing the final hole to win is simply not true. A check of British newspapers that ran stories in 1913 about the tournament reveals that Gadd had a four-stroke lead when he reached the final hole, and produces no mentions of a hole-in-one at all. It never happened. But, somehow, a story started going around and a few foreign newspapers shared the legend about 10 years later.

The Closest Case Might Be Trevino's Skins Game Ace

The closest real incident we've found to a professional golfer winning a tournament by acing the last hole is Lee Trevino's 17th hole hole-in-one during the 1987 Skins Game.

The Skins Game was very famous in its early years. It was a "silly season" event, 18 holes, that featured four famous golfers competing hole-by-hole for, by the standards of the time, very big pots of money. The four golfers playing the 1987 Skins Game were Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Fuzzy Zoeller.

Trevino won a skin (won the hole and its monetary value) at the 12th hole. By the 17th hole, nobody had won a skin since. With the pot building up, the 17th hole was worth $175,000.

The 17th hole that year was a par-3, and you already know what happened. Trevino, first to play, stepped up and knocked his shot right into the hole. A hole-in-one and a $175,000 payout. Added to his previous winnings that day, Trevino won the 1987 Skins Game with a total of $310,000.

It wasn't the last hole, but the next-to-last; and it wasn't a tour event, but a made-for-TV "silly season" event. Still, it was almost a last-hole ace to win.

Why Hasn't It Happened Yet?

Tournament golf has been around for a very long time, yet nobody, as far as we can determine, has yet won a pro tournament by acing the final hole. Why not?

First, holes-in-one are rare, even on the top professional tours. Second, it is also rare for golf courses that host pro tournaments to end with a par-3 hole. And par-4 aces are much rarer than par-3 aces. Then, of course, the circumstances have to work out just right: A golfer who is trailing (but not by too much!) or tied for the lead has to reach the last hole, which probably has to be one of those rare par-3 finishing holes, in position for a hole-in-one to matter. It's just a very unlikely scenario.

Consider a few PGA Tour numbers about holes-in-one to understand just how unlikely it is. From 1971 through 2022, the most aces in a single season on the PGA Tour was 44. Only twice during that span were there more than 40 holes-in-one in one year. Holes-in-one are rare, even among the best golfers.

Then there is the fact that it is uncommon for a golfer who does make a hole-in-one on the PGA Tour to follow it up by winning the tournament. Consider the 20-year period from 2000-2019. There were somewhere around 650 aces made on tour during that period. But only 10 times during that 20-year period did a golfer who made one of those holes-in-one (at any point during a tournament) go on to win that tournament. The latest ace by any of those 10 golfers was on the fourth hole of the fourth round by Jim Furyk in the 2007 Canadian Open.

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