It’s been 16 years since Jacksonville resident and 2003 Masters runner-up Len Mattiace competed at The Players Championship, but he inadvertently gave an assist to Bryson DeChambeau during the first round on Thursday.
He also got a signed ball for his trouble, though the world’s No. 6-ranked player had no idea who Mattiace was or likely how getting hit by his tee shot at the seventh hole helped DeChambeau escape the par-4 hole with a par.
DeChambeau’s 289-yard drive hit a cart path right of the fairway, ricocheted off Mattiace’s left leg and the ball settled in primary rough. Had it not hit the 53-year-old, two-time PGA Tour winner, the ball would have gone deeper into the woods and made the approach shot to the green more difficult.
Initially, DeChambeau sought out Mattiace and said, ‘Hey, you OK?’ and after getting that assurance, Mattiace thought that would be the end of their interaction. But as Mattiace began walking toward the eighth tee, and before DeChambeau’s group was finished with the seventh hole, one of the world’s most recognizable golfers came back to flag him down and gave him a signed ball without being asked to do so.
“He went out of his way to seek me out,” Mattiace told the Times-Union on Friday as he followed the Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed group on the back nine. “[DeChambeau] signed the ball as neat as can be. Arnold Palmer would be very proud.”
The timing actually turned out perfect for Mattiace, whose foundation benefits several Jacksonville charities. He put the signed DeChambeau ball up for auction Friday night at the Rolls Royce Players Party, presented by SAC Collective, with his foundation as the beneficiary.
Mattiace posted a picture of him with the signed ball on Twitter, saying of the DeChambeau drive that struck him: “I’ll take it for the team Bryson, then Bryson was really kind enough to seek me out and give me a signed ball. I’ll use that for my foundation gala.”
Mattiace, once ranked as high as 24th in the world, still has conditional Champions Tour status. He played the Cologuard Classic two weeks ago in Tucson, finishing in a tie for 76th.