Kevin Pon

East Bay Man Achieves Golf’s Rarest Shot Ever

Castro Valley man makes U.S. golf history with a condor, scoring a 2 on Lake Chabot Golf Course’s quirky par 6 hole

An East Bay golfer playing in blue jeans and using a bright yellow ball hit two straight miraculous shots — not seeing where either landed — to touch off a once-in-a-lifetime celebration no one truly understood.

Welcome to the quirky world of the nearly 700-yard 18th hole at Lake Chabot Golf Course, where anything goes, and goes and goes on the steep slope high atop the Oakland hills, home to one of the only par-6 holes west of the Mississippi.

Better known for its eccentricities — like the two-lane road that pits driver against driver for the precarious right of passage through the fairway — it may soon be renowned for something much more unique: the spot where the only condor (a minus-4 score) on a par-6 hole in United States golf history was recorded.

Confused? Imagine what went through Kevin Pon’s mind last month when the 54-year-old Castro Valley man shocked even himself. Twice. First by launching a 540-yard drive from the top of the hill that somehow bounced, rolled and finally landed at the bottom of the hill. Then by using a pitching wedge to hole in from 120 yards on a blind shot to the elevated pin.

“I still can’t believe it. I didn’t even see the ball come to rest on either of those two shots,” said Pon, who estimates he now carries a 10 handicap after giving up the sport for 10 years to focus on time with his young kids. “It’s like I’ve been telling people, ‘You know, this has been a weird year.’ ”

Bizarre enough for Pon to wonder if he got some help from beyond. His mother-in-law, Irene Tekawa, had passed away at 83 less than two months earlier. She had shared a love of golf with him, having played 2-3 times per week herself before her death.

“Maybe she was watching out for me? Maybe she helped the ball that day?” Pon said.

Darren Lee, Pon’s friend and playing partner that day, still can’t shake the images of what he witnessed that sunny day, Dec. 10.

“It’s pretty amazing, and a pretty significant piece of golf history, especially for the Bay Area and that Oakland course. And I got to see it,” Lee said.

A marshal was among a group near the hole who saw Pon’s ball take a big bounce, a little bounce, bang off the flagstick and into the hole. The marshal, Artie Yamashita, later went around delivering a message to fellow witnesses.

“I told them, ‘You just witnessed something you’ll probably never see again in your lifetime.’ This is much more rare than a hole-in-one,” Yamashita said.

The PGA has long calculated the odds of an average golfer hitting a hole-in-one at 12,500-to-1. The odds get exponentially longer — at least 1 million-to-1 — that a regular golfer can shoot a double eagle, or an albatross.

A condor, though, is golf’s rarest of birds. So rare the PGA doesn’t even list any odds of a golfer achieving it.

In golf’s history, there were just four previous condors reported through 2018 — all of them holes-in-one on par 5s, starting in 1962 when a golfer in Hope, Ark. cut the corner on a dogleg for an ace on a 480-yard hole. Before Pon’s rare feat, the last condor was in 2007, when a 16-year-old aced a 511-yard hole in New South Wales, Australia.

Jerry Stewart of the Northern California Golf Association, a former journalist and thus a skeptic by nature, recently verified Pon’s score as “legit” after an investigation.

Stewart admitted he was incredulous when he first heard Pon’s drive went more than 500 yards. Then he saw a picture of Chabot’s steep 18th hole, with its cart path zig-zagging across the fairway all the way down the hill, and better understood.

“It sounds like he did hit the path. He may have hit the path twice. It may have hopped and went a hundred yards, then hopped again and went another hundred yards. He got extremely lucky,” Stewart said.

Pon agreed that day was filled with fortunate events for him, beginning with the morning phone call he received from Lee, inviting him to join him for a round. In years past, Pon would have declined, but he’s been playing once a week for about two years now after his decade-long hiatus.

Still, Pon was in a time crunch that day with a family obligation that afternoon, so he hustled straight to the course — which he says he’s probably played a hundred times — without his golf gear, dressed only in blue jeans and a polo shirt, thankful he still had his golf shoes in his trunk.

“People either hate that course or love it. It’s quirky. It’s different. But I’ve always done well at that course,” said Pon, who shoots in the high 70s or low 80s on most courses.

Pon was sitting at 6-over with a 71 when he got ready for the mammoth, elongated U-shaped 18th with the hole roughly eight blocks away from the tee box.

Ordinarily, Pon hits his driver about 280 yards. But this was no ordinary day. This was a drive for the ages.

“Kevin really smacked the hell out of it, man,” Lee said of the drive that faded slightly to the right and around the tree-lined fairway as it quickly disappeared from vision.

Pon, who admitted he gave it “a little extra,” was feeling pretty good about his shot while driving his cart down the hill. Until both he and Lee realized they had no idea where his ball was.

“I thought I lost it,” Pon said.

Suddenly, they both looked toward the bottom of the hill in time to see a man in a cart point to the ground and quickly drive away. Sure enough, there was Pon’s yellow ball with its black dot, somehow making it where few others have gone off the tee.

“I was like, ‘Holy smokes, how did it get down there?’ ” Pon said. “It had to hit a cart path or a sprinkler.”

Still in a state of disbelief, Pon then took his second shot from 120 yards away, aiming for the only thing he could see — the very top of the flag. It was perfection again. He just didn’t immediately realize it.

Pon and Lee were taken aback when they heard an eruption of cheers from a group of people who were atop the hole after finishing their round.

“I figured I just hit a good shot,” Pon said.

The clapping and yelling only intensified as Pon made his way up the hill to the hole, causing Pon to think the unthinkable — did it go in?

“I looked in the hole and it was in there. I could not believe I had hit the drive of my life and then hit it in the hole the next shot. And I didn’t even see the ball come to rest on those two shots,” Pon said.

Pon and Lee celebrated along with the others who gathered by the 18th hole. Then they looked at each other and asked the question no one there could answer.

“A two on a par 6? We were thinking about what that’s even called?” Lee said.

Pon, though, didn’t have much time to figure that out. He had to hustle home to drive his son to a dental appointment.

While making his way through the parking lot, Pon ran into Yamashita again. The marshal was curious what he was laying when the ball was at the bottom of the hill.

“What?!” Yamashita shrieked, after hearing it was Pon’s first shot.

But not even the marshal, who admitted he’s a golf nut, could immediately tell Pon what to call his 2 on the par 6.

By the time Pon was driving away from the course, he knew what to call it. They all knew.

It’s called a miracle.

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