Shot down over South Vietnam in 1972, Air Force navigator Iceal Hambleton needed to reach the Cam Lo River but was surrounded by enemy forces who might intercept any radio messages sent to him. After some consultation, rescuers told him to play the first hole at the Tucson National Golf Course. “Before you start be damned sure you line your shot up properly,” they said. “Very bad traps on this hole.”
Hambleton was bewildered at first but came to understand. As an avid golfer he was familiar with a number of American courses, and he had a photographic memory of each hole’s length and layout. The first hole at Tucson was 430 yards long and ran southeast, so he set off accordingly across country, following an imaginary fairway.
This worked. By invoking additional holes from three Air Force bases, as well as a par 3 from Augusta National, rescuers led Hambleton to the river, where a Navy SEAL picked him up.
“Two things kept me alive,” he told Golf Digest in 2001. “The will to live, and my wife. And we’re playing golf Friday.”