AUGUSTA, Ga. — Stewart Cink knew the shot had a chance, the way so many shots seem to on No. 16 at Augusta National Golf Club. So did his youngest son, Reagan, who was his caddie for the Masters Tournament.
The ball thunked onto the green, commencing a leisurely, 11-second roll before it fell into the cup for Cink’s first hole in one in 20 appearances at the Masters. Cink, who had wielded an 8-iron, raised his arms and embraced his son. A double high-five followed.
“Happy birthday,” Stewart Cink told his son, who turned 25 on Friday, Reagan Cink recalled in an interview later. “It’s a pretty good present.”
The marquee shot hardly redeemed Stewart Cink’s frustrating week at Augusta, where he missed the cut after scoring a 76 on Thursday and one shot better on Friday, leaving him at seven over par. But the shot was a bit of a balm.
The setting was familiar for hole in one aficionados: With Cink’s shot, No. 16 has now been the site of 24 such successes over the history of the tournament, which was first played in 1934. No Augusta hole has surrendered more.
Known as Redbud, the par-3 hole runs just 170 yards, making it the second-shortest at Augusta. Players strike the ball over the water to a green where three bunkers lurk nearby.
“The way I do things with my approach shot, I don’t just try to hit a number — I try to hit a zone of numbers, usually like seven to 10 yards of space,” Cink, whose best finish at the Masters was a tie for third in 2008, said after his round. “On that one, I knew to push it a little further back because that bank brings the ball not only left but also back toward the tee. So that extra couple yards is exactly where it landed, and it hit my spot. It was the exact right curve, perfect contact.”
Like his father, Reagan Cink said he thought the shot could find the cup. With his father still hoping to make the cut after finding the water at No. 15, Reagan Cink tried to keep his ambitions in check as the ball made its way toward the pin.
“When you think it’s going,” he said, “then it pretty much never does.”
True enough. But that did not stop his British Open-winning father from expecting the ball to wind up in the cup.
“Usually a lot of times anyway, you hear it was kind of a mis-hit or whatever,” Stewart Cink, 48, said. “This was not a mis-hit. This was exactly the way I would have drawn it up. It was like a dream shot.”
And as he watched the ball travel, the spectators sitting close by became a giveaway about its trajectory on the green.
“They knew it was in, and they all got up,” he said. “When they got up, I knew it wasn’t missing.”
No. 16 has seen a burst of hole-in-one activity in recent years, with nine golfers now having aced it since 2016.
“It’s very special,” Tommy Fleetwood said after he holed a tee shot on No. 16 last year. “Doing it at a major is great, doing it competitively is great, but at Augusta is probably just another edge.”
But Cink, who had been playing exceptional golf recently, would have sacrificed the triumph for a chance to play on Saturday and Sunday.
“I’d throw the hole in one ball right in the water if I could make the cut and compete for two more rounds, but I’m missing the cut,” he said. “That stings more than the hole in one. It doesn’t boost my spirits like missing the cut hurts my spirits. I absolutely loathe not playing here on the weekend, and it hurts.”
The shot, though, did make for an easy birthday present for Reagan.
He got to keep the ball.