Harmeling makes ace on car-giveaway hole, donates car to caddie
November 21, 2018
By Laury Livsey, PGATOUR.COM
Evan Harmeling makes a hole in one in at 113 VISA Open de Argentina
On Wednesday of last week, Evan Harmeling told his caddie he was going to give him a new car. On Friday, Harmeling made it happen and two days later he completed the transaction. Following the 113 Visa Open de Argentina, Harmeling handed Norberto Gándara—known to everybody as “Beto”—the keys to a new Ford Kuga.
Harmeling then got on a plane and flew back to Massachusetts, where his two-year-old Ford Escape awaited him—the one without the new-car smell.
Two years earlier, Harmeling met Gándara in Uruguay, at PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s Roberto De Vicenzo Punta del Este Open. They had always stayed in touch, and earlier this year, at the São Paulo Golf Club Championship in Brazil, Harmeling ran into Gándara. After a few pleasantries, Gándara asked if Harmeling would be making the two-week trek to Argentina. Harmeling was skipping the Neuquén Argentina Classic because it conflicted with the second stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament. However, he did have the Argentine Open on his calendar. “Do you know Pilara Golf Club very well?” Harmeling asked Gándara of this year’s venue. When Gándara said he was well-acquainted with the layout, Harmeling hired him on the spot.
Once in Argentina, and early in the week, the two went to work at Pilara, Harmeling practicing and trying to improve his 53rd-place position on the Order of Merit at what is one of the oldest professional golf tournaments in the world.
On Wednesday during the pro-am, Harmeling and Gándara walked to the 11th tee at Pilara, a par-3 where Ford Argentina was offering a Kuga, Argentina’s equivalent of the Escape, to the player who made a hole-in-one. Gándara saw the Kuga behind the tee and said, “Nice car.” Harmeling heard his caddie and responded with, “You like it? OK, if I make a hole-in-one, it’s yours.”
“I’ve done this a couple of times with caddies I like, guys who I think are good people. I’ll see a car offered on a par-3, and I’ll say, ‘If I make this hole-in-one, I’m giving you the car,’” Harmeling said.
Until last week, Harmeling had never had to make good on any of those promises.
“It was an interesting exchange between us because it wasn’t just me saying stuff,” Harmeling said. “It wasn’t complete BS. I don’t know if you call it a premonition or whatever, but I said what I said, and I said it with some confidence.”
Gándara doesn’t live close to Pilara Golf Club, so each day during the tournament he would leave his home approximately four hours before his player’s tee time and catch a variety of buses, transferring along the way, so he could be on time to meet Harmeling. You can figure out what time Gándara’s alarm went off when he had to be to the course for Harmeling’s 8:10 a.m. tee time Friday.
In Thursday’s first round, Harmeling played the 11th hole as his second hole of the day. The pin was located toward the middle of the green in the opening round, and Harmeling hit his tee shot left of the pin, leaving his ball about 20 feet from the hole. He hit his birdie putt way too hard but was able to make his 12-foot comebacker for par.
So much for winning the car that day.
On Friday, Harmeling had an early tee time, a lot of wind greeting the players. The 2012 Princeton University graduate admitted he wasn’t playing his best golf, but he had managed three birdies and no bogeys through his first nine holes of the second round. “It was a grind. It wasn’t a smooth, bogey-free round to that point. I had a couple of really good up-and-downs, but I didn’t always know where the ball was going,” he said.
As he stood on the 11th tee, having “kind of figured out” what he was doing with his swing three holes earlier, Harmeling faced 158 yards into the wind. “Instead of stepping on an 8-iron, I decided on the 7-iron, and this is where it got interesting. I made a really compact swing with a controlled, abbreviated finish. I made solid contact and looked up while the ball was in the air. I was just waiting for the ball to draw a little based on how it felt off the club. And it didn’t. That thing was a laser right at the stick. The ball took one hop and disappeared,” he said.
Harmeling raised his hands in the air, gave his playing partners, Toni Hakula and Nelson Ledesma, high-fives and then saved a hug for Gándara, who looked at his boss and said, “You won the car.” Harmeling came right back with, “No, you won the car.”With the help of caddie Norberto Gándara, Evan Harmeling finished fourth in Argentina. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
Two days later, it was that ace that took Harmeling to the awards ceremony on the 18th green Sunday afternoon following Isidro Benitez’s tournament victory. Harmeling was not invited for his fourth-place finish—his best outing of the season—but rather to receive a set of keys from Rosario Ariganello, Ford Argentina’s Vice President of Corporate Sponsorships. Ariganello was ready to present the keys when he casually asked Harmeling about his intentions for the car.
“I told him I was going to give my car to my caddie, Beto, and he was like, ‘What?’ He stopped in his tracks. As everybody was leaving, the emcee made an announcement about my plans; I went and found Beto, brought him over, we took some pictures, they handed me the keys and I gave them to him.”
The keys to Gándara’s new blue Ford Kuga.
“No one believed that he was going to give (the car) to me, but I did,” Gándara said. “Evan is such a great guy. He credited me for the hole-in-one, and he then showed everyone that the caddie is someone who is important, someone who stands beside his player and is always trying to help. He also told me that I’m not his caddie, that I’m his friend. Those are the most important words he could say to me.”
Gandara lives in Villa de Mayo, about 35 km north of Buenos Aires. He began caddying when he was 13, and it has been his job for 35 years. He has never married, and he lives with his mother. Instead of accepting the car, Gándara chose to take the money that the car is worth—money he will use to repair his house so, as he says, “my mom can live in better conditions.”
“Beto may not have a lot materially speaking. But I would say from a spiritual and happiness standpoint, he has much more,” Harmeling added. “It felt awesome to give back to Beto, who put in a lot to be my caddie last week. It’s very humbling and inspiring to be around a guy who has committed himself to golf and to his trade.”
Spoken like a true friend.
Evan Harmeling interview after Round 2 of the 113 VISA Open de Argentina