Braves closer Kimbrel hits first hole-in-one

A good omen? Braves' All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel hit his first-ever hole-in-one.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Craig Kimbrel keeps baseballs from key moments in his career. Now he’s adding a much smaller ball to his collection.

The Braves’ All-Star closer hit his first-ever hole-in-one on the ChampionsGate Golf Club during Monday’s Tim Hudson-Chipper Jones Birdies and Baseball charity tournament.

Kimbrel, using a four-iron, hit the ball 180 yards into the wind on the par-3 second hole and the ball sailed directly into the hole.

“It would have been more exciting if I would have known it went in from the tee box,” Kimbrel said at his locker after practice Tuesday. “There was a bunker right in front of the hole . . . The ball just disappeared, so my first instinct – and I play a lot of golf – is that it went into the bunker.”

Kimbrel though was able to avoid a tradition associated with hitting an ace: buying people drinks afterward.

“It was an open bar because it was an event, so I bought everybody’s drinks,” Kimbrel said, laughing. “All the guys I was playing with, they were ragging me ‘You’re lucky it’s an open bar.’”

Kimbrel, who won a box of golf balls as closest to the pin, already has the flag from the hole, which he’ll sign and frame with the date and course information. The ChampionsGate Golf Club is also sending him a plaque to place the ball on.

“I got something for the man cave,” he said.

The National League Rookie of the Year in 2011, Kimbrel put together one of the most impressive seasons for a closer in major-league history in ’12. He became the first player to strike out at least half of the batters he faced in racking up 116 Ks against 231 batters. He also had at least three strikeouts in 17 of his 62 one-inning appearances and a batting average against of just .126.

Asked if the hole-in-one was foreshadowing another big season after blowing just 11 saves in 99 opportunities the past two seasons, Kimbrel replied, “Hopefully I don’t run out of luck before the season gets here.”

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