NAPLES, Fla. — Ben DeArmond played his way into the Web.com Tour’s LECOM Suncoast Classic event last week in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
And then he played himself into golf history. The wrong kind. The kind that would cause many to quit.
DeArmond’s wife and parents were late getting to the tournament and caught up with him on the 491-yard, par-4 second hole at Lakewood National Golf Club. The tee shot required getting over a water hazard.
“I assured them it had nothing to do with them,” DeArmond said.
“It” was what happened next.
DeArmond’s ball landed a foot short of clearing the water hazard. He decided to go up 30 yards near the hazard, take a drop, and use a 3-wood. He topped it in the water. Took another drop. Topped that in the water. Asked his caddie for another club, and took a 5-iron. Took a drop, and topped it in the water. Took another drop, and topped it in the water. Went back to the 3-wood and finally got it over.
“I had to hit it like a sand wedge,” said DeArmond, head pro at Treviso Bay in Naples.
DeArmond and his caddie, Treviso Bay assistant Jordan Hobbs, tried to make light of the situation when they got to the fairway — “I cracked a smile,” DeArmond said. DeArmond asked what he was hitting. Hobbs said, “I think 13.” So they called up to the walking scorer, who confirmed it. “See, I was right,” Hobbs said, and the two chuckled.
“It wasn’t his fault,” DeArmond said of Hobbs, “even though our members like to blame him.”
DeArmond’s father even called him “Roy,” referencing the “Tin Cup” character Roy McAvoy, who hit several balls in the water in the movie on the last hole of the U.S. Open.
So here was DeArmond, 31, who had won his golf management company’s 36-hole qualifier for the sponsor exemption, beating his brother Adam in doing so. Probably not a threat to make a cut in an event of that stature with a bogey on his first hole and sitting in the fairway of his second awaiting his 14th stroke.
“It’s the most difficult hole on the golf course, but that’s beside the point,” DeArmond said.
He finished with a 17 — the highest score in Web.com Tour history — on the hole, and still had 16 holes to play. He admitted that he considered quitting. “Trust me, the thought crossed my mind.”
DeArmond said he thought of his 9-month-old son, his family, friends and members over the remaining 16 holes of what turned out to be a 91 — he made 10 pars and a bogey over his last 11 holes.
“I had time to realize that this is a pretty awesome experience,” he said. “I’ve got a 9-month-old son who would look back on it, and realize I made history in a bad way, but also realize that I didn’t quit.
“I’ve told my assistants and everyone else. It’s the reality of it. Everybody has a bad day. Don’t quit. No matter what. Have the integrity to complete everything you do.”
The next day, DeArmond was back. That second hole was his 11th of the day. He was out for redemption and nearly got it. No issues with that tee shot this time. His second shot — a 3-wood on the lengthy hole — went in a greenside bunker, but he hit it to 6 feet, and…
“Barely, barely missed the edge,” said DeArmond, who went on to shoot a 78. “Trust me, I was trying anything to make par. I was trying to make better than that.”
In many ways, it seems he did.
He’s received nearly 100 texts or emails of support. Monday night, he was on a golf radio show to talk about it. About persevering and not quitting.