Birthday: August 27, 1951
College: University of Arizona
Year Turned Pro: 1973
Birthplace: Phoenix, Arizona
Don Pooley grew up in California and played golf at the University of Arizona. Pooley was far from a golf prodigy and didn’t have a particularly distinguished amateur career, but he possessed a belief in himself and a religious faith that would serve him well during a professional career that would eventually span several decades.
Pooley’s moment of reckoning occurred just four years after he turned pro. He found himself at the 1977 PGA qualifying school tournament in Brownsville, Texas. Playing through unseasonably cold temperatures, wind and rain, Pooley secured the 12th and final spot that qualified him for the 1978 PGA season.
Pooley and his wife had agreed before the tournament that if Don didn’t secure his card, they would give up the touring life and look for other opportunities.
Fortunately, Pooley’s fortunes began to turn around and he went on to have a highly successful professional career.
During a span from 1985-1988, Pooley was able to compete at the highest level of the game. In 1985, he won the year-end Vardon Trophy awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average during the season. In 1987, Pooley won Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He then finished in a tie for 5th place at the year’s last Major – the PGA Championship.
Pooley’s hot play continued into 1988 where he again finished in a tie for 5th place at the Masters.
Pooley is perhaps best known for recording one of the most prolific, and profitable, aces in golf history. At the 1987 Bay Hill Classic, Pooley made a hole-in-one with a four iron from 193 yards and earned a $500,000 prize for himself and a separate $500,000 for the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Women and Children.
In 2001, Pooley would become a member of the Champions Tour. In 2002, he defeated Tom Watson to secure the Senior U.S. Open, his first Major professional title.