Sawgrass meets Rock Center

Sawgrass meets Rock Center

The public had a chance to play a scaled-down version of the 17th at Sawgrass.
Edward Keating

It can be frustrating finding a place to play golf in New York City. (Lugging clubs on the subway is sometimes half the problem.) So when the iconic island green comes to Manhattan island, you can expect it to draw a crowd.

Nine hundred and sixty-four miles from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home of the TPC at Sawgrass’s terrifying par-3 17th, a scaled replica, one quarter the size of the original, opened to the public on Friday.

To promote next week’s Players Championship, the PGA and UBS invited the public to attempt a hole-in-one at the sized-down 17th, which translates to a 30-yard pitch shot from artificial turf.

I headed to 30 Rock as it opened Friday morning, and the UBS folks let me hit a few warm-up shots before my real attempt. I went 0 for 3 in my attempts to stick one on the green, and bladed my first. It nearly hit one of the caddies at the back of the green. (Sorry, faux caddy).

( Click here to see photos from the event.)

Some players completely whiffed, most knocked it in the lake, and at least one completely flew the gargantuan screen behind the green (which shows highlights from the 17th hole and a running ticker of closest-to-the-pin winners). Mayor Michael Bloomberg went 0 for 4 on Thursday.

Art Boxall, from Salt Lake City, Utah, was one of the few lucky ones to stick the green Friday.

“I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “I would’ve been disappointed if I didn’t hit it.”

Art’s advice? “You have to land it about five feet from the pin, and I hit it a little short.” (Bloomberg could’ve used that tip.)

The exhibition also has smaller replicas of the 16th and 18th holes, where visitors can simulate a drive into a digital screen, and then walk to a replica green to putt. The entire setup will be open through the final round of the Players Championship on May 13.

“I was just thinking, ‘Don’t make an ass out of myself,’ because my buddies are here from work,” said Michael Carlson, who works in Rockefeller Center for NBC.

Because it’s a short wedge shot, it doesn’t really compare to the dramatic flair of flying 120 yards of water. But for level of difficultly, it’s on target.

“The feeling is somewhere between an accurate replica and putting the ball into the clown’s mouth,” Carlson said.

Well said, Michael, but not well done. He hit his wedge shot right into the drink, just like most everyone else on Friday.

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