Tiger Woods reflects on his win at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Woods destroyed the competition winning by a record-setting 15 shots.
Golfweek, USA TODAY NETWORK
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Kevin O’Connell doesn’t remember the details.
He knows he aced one of the most iconic par-3 holes in the world during a U.S. Open practice round Tuesday at Pebble Beach Golf Links, dropping a hole-in-one at the pint-sized seventh hole.
It was an all-time bucket list achievement for O’Connell, a former All-American at North Carolina. He can’t say how he reacted, but he does remember what happened next.
“It was a little bit of a blur, because literally 10 minutes later I was throwing up in the fairway on eight,” O’Connell said Thursday.
The 30-year-old qualified this week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach after winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club. He also received a Masters invite and competed at Augusta National for the first time in April.
O’Connell said he wasn’t feeling great when he started his practice round Tuesday, but he didn’t think much more of it. By the time he got to No. 7 he was in trouble, so much so that he couldn’t even enjoy the ace.
A nasty case of food poisoning had already started to take hold.
“I had a stomach ache, but I didn’t know it was full-on food poisoning like I was gonna be vomiting,” O’Connell said. “I could kind of tell when I walked up the hill on eight and started sweating a lot, I kind of had that feeling. … Honestly when I hit it in the hole on seven, I don’t want to say I didn’t care, but I was feeling pretty bad. I was ready to get out of there.”
O’Connell received immediate medical attention and left the course, only then realizing he had food poisoning. He made a quick recovery but still didn’t feel good enough to play on Wednesday, spending only an hour at the course for a quick practice session and trying to rest up.
He had a big grin on his face after finishing his opening round early Thursday afternoon, back to 100 percent physically and not all that discouraged by a double bogey-bogey finish to shoot 5-over 76 in his first U.S. Open round.
“It was a blast,” O’Connell said. “Eighty percent of me was just kind of taking in the walk. How I played was, not secondary, but in some cases it kind of felt that way.”
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O’Connell, who started the round on No. 10, made the turn at even par with two bogeys and birdies at the par-5 14th and par-4 16th hole. The one-time aspiring Tour pro regained his amateur status after a few summers on the mini-tours. But he’s played well enough lately that giving pro golf another shot is worth consideration.
“We’ll see. That’s a decision I’ll have to make in several months,” O’Connell said. “It’s depending on how I think my game is at the time. … It’s not something I’m thinking about every day.”
For now, he’s just soaking up the scene at Pebble Beach and reflecting on a two-month stretch he’ll remember for the rest of his life. And while life came at him fast Tuesday following the ace, he still had good reason to smile ahead of his 1:03 p.m. second-round tee time Friday.
“Luckily it happened on Tuesday and not today,” O’Connell said.