An Ode To The King: Greg Kochs Bold pitch that led to a memorable weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
By Ryan Adams, PGA
It’s all been a blur.
Just a few days removed from a wild weekend at the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational and Greg Koch, PGA, is still processing everything that happened.
Alarms going off at 4:30 a.m. Very little sleep. There is an overwhelming pressure to get up and make it. Try to remain calm.
Koch was the North Florida PGA Section Champion and played in the fourth event of the PGA TOUR season. He needed par on No. 9 the morning of March 4 — the end of his second round was delayed due to darkness — to play the weekend at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando.
Koch, a PGA Teaching Professional from the The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes was familiar with this venue after playing in the tournament last. Yet the vibe felt different — tougher, more on the line, bigger names and, of course, a heftier purse to the tune of $20 million.
“I was like a fish out of water,” says Koch. “It was as good as a field can be. I was still comfortable. Bay Hill is a place I knew so the flashing lights and big stage of a designated event didn’t overwhelm me.”
Koch was standing 210 yards away from the flag, taking his second shot just before sunrise on March 4. Two shots or less, and he’s in . . . three or more and he’s headed home.
“Friday night was not fun,” Koch recalls. “I didnt sleep at all, and Saturday came early – we were at the course by 6. It just was a position I’ve never really been in.”
Koch tried to make it easy for himself by catching his approach high on his face and it went left off the green. He was left with a nasty, short-sided pitch of 30-yards. All week, Koch had spent time at Bay Hill’s short game area, however, and now it was time for the work to pay off.
“I just tried for an open-faced soft pitch with lots of spin,” he recalls. “It came out perfectly and rolled to about three feet. It was a testament of having a pre-shot routine, and being ready for the moment to pull it off. If theres anything I share with my students from this experience, its that.”
Koch made his way to the green, having completed his pre-stroke routine, and poured the putt.
He was on the third round, and his family and friends were exuding joy near the ninth hole before anyone had even had their first cup of coffee. He was up and on the tee within minutes, so there was no time to soak it all in.
However, it started to sink in at the end the third round.
Koch was heading to sign his scorecard as he crossed the putting-green after he finished. Justin Thomas approached Koch.
“Great up and down this morning,” the 2022 PGA Champion said to Koch, extending a well-earned fist bump.
“I think he had seen the spot I was in, but to get that acknowledgement was probably the coolest moment of the whole tournament,” notes Koch. “And then going home on Sunday and watching the tournament wrap up on TV, knowing what they’d be going through or where the putts break . . . there’s just not a whole lot that tops that feeling.”
Equally as impressed as Thomas would’ve likely been Arnold Palmer, who Koch has admired forever.
Koch adds, Ive always loved them,
There was no shotmaker bolder than Palmer during his heyday, but on a Saturday morning at The King’s Club in sunny Central Florida, Greg Koch was the bold one. Arnold Palmer smiled as a new fan of Koch, high up.