You may recall seeing Miguel Angel Jiménez hole out his second shot on the opening par-five hole of the Old Course at Sunningdale during the Senior British Open in July. It didn’t help him to win the title, which honour went to Stephen Dodd, but the making of an albatross is always worthy of celebration in itself.
The most famous shooting of an albatross in British culture surely occurred over two centuries ago, fictionally, in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The shooting of that bird did the sailors no good at all but according to a piece in The Times last week there are 2,505 members of the Double Eagle Club (‘double eagle’ being the preposterously stupid name which some Americans use to describe an albatross; logically that would be four under par on one hole – i.e. holing your drive on a par-five) who have enjoyed the thrill of holing out in three under par on one hole. The odds against it are reputed to be about one in six million, although a gentleman by the name of Doug Bartle has apparently had five of them on par-five holes since the turn of the century, which sounds like the stuff of fiction itself. (As does the name of the course in Omaha on which Bob Mitera achieved an albatross in 1965 when he made the longest-ever hole-in-one: that came on the 444-yard 10th at Miracle Hill.)
The first (sort of) recorded in a major championship was in the 1870 Open Championship, when Young Tom Morris made a three on the 578-yard first hole at Prestwick, classed as a par-six but only unofficially because par was not a thing in those days. The most famous was the one shot by Gene Sarazen on the par-five 15th in the final round of the 1935 Masters, only the second staging of the tournament. His two there enabled him to catch Craig Wood, who he would go on to beat in a playoff. The Martini International, an event formerly on the European Tour, did not have the prestige of the Masters but at Royal Norwich Golf Club 50 years ago the tournament was the setting for something even more extraordinary. John Hudson holed his tee shot on the par-three 10th hole and then did the same with his driver on the par-four 12th. Eagle-albatross. Simples! Unlike Sarazen, Hudson did not win.
Finally, back to the Old Course at Sunningdale. At the 1982 European Open, Tony Jacklin began the second round by doing what Jiménez was to do nearly 40 years later: he holed his second shot for an albatross two. Jacklin birdied the next two holes as well before reality kicked in. But that’s not all. At the Weetabix Women’s British Open in 2004, Karen Stupples began the final round a shot out of the lead. At the first, she hit a 5-iron to 15 feet and made the putt for an eagle. The next hole was then designated a par-five, too. Hitting her second shot with that 5-iron again, her ball rolled up to the hole and fell in. Eagle-albatross. Like Sarazen, Stupples used that springboard to claim a major championship; his last, her first.
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