The two-year anniversary of my only hole-in-one is Labor Day, but I’m not envisioning a holiday as a big blog traffic day so I’m celebrating on the blog a week early. (Hey, it’s my blog, so I can do these things.)
I achieved the Holy Grail of golf shots quite unexpectedly three years ago, on Sept. 3, 2012, my first year in California.
That day I ventured out mid-afternoon only looking to get a few swings in on what normally would’ve been a tournament day (Monday) while I was attending the Golf Academy of America.
My original intent was just to hit range balls that day but my request to use my school-arranged range was denied, no kidding, because I wasn’t wearing long pants and thus in non-compliance with the most ridiculous element of the school’s dress code. (Long pants even for practice? Really?)
Anyway, the closest course to the range was the Vineyard in Escondido, so I decided to walk on and see how many holes I could squeeze in before sundown.
Well, on the third hole, a tranquil short par-3 played over a pond, I had the golf shock of my life: my first hole-in-one.
Playing a mere 125 yards from the blue tees, I pulled pitching wedge and watched my shot land about a foot in front of the hole and then hop into the cup.
It took me about five seconds to realize what had happened. The silence of the moment was broken by my three playing partners breaking out a celebratory golf clap.
After driving up to the hole, which I’d never played before, I walked up to the cup with camera phone in hand. I plucked the ball from the cup and struck a celebratory pose under the pin flag as one of my planning partner’s snapped the photo you see up top.
That brought the moment full circle and made me really realize I’d finally accomplished something had eluded me at least six times on the golf course, including once when my foursome slapped my back and high-fiving me on the tee only to find the ball 2 inches away from the cup, stopping on a downslope of all things.
Yes, these shots are part skill and part luck, thus the odds of making one being roughly 1 in 12,000.
I considered it to be my greatest golf moment since I won my first real set of irons (Titleist AP 1s) in a raffle for $20 at a charity golf tournament.
When I reported my ace at the clubhouse, they handed me a photo of the hole, which became the centerpiece of a shrine to the moment that I kept in my closet. The display consisted of the photo, the ball and my scorecard (38 on the front, thank you). I later, as a present, received a wooden “1” that would host the historic ball.
As best I could tell, that’s how you were supposed to properly celebrate what most regard as golf’s ultimate lifetime achievement award (a double eagle – a two on a par-5 – is actually more rare, but so much so that it’s beyond the wildest dreams of most who play).
A couple of the fringe benefits going forward were:
1) Every time I played the hole, I got to tell me story of my hole-in-one and re-live the moment a bit. (And, yes, I can still see and hear the ball going in.)
2) In any conversation about hole-in-ones, I could say I had one, and there are really only two camps of golfers: those who’ve had one and those who haven’t. You celebrate with the ones who have and commiserate with the ones who haven’t. My eye doctor looked at me with particular disdain when I told what I’d accomplished. “Thirty years of playing this game and I haven’t had one,” he said, shaking his head.
The game can be cruel that way, but my doc seemed to be in a particularly bitter group who could probably use a support group.
For me, it’s just fun to remember the day and the circumstances. Among others, I’d only been attending golf school for a week when I had my ace. When I announced my ace at school the next day, I told my instructor, “I had no idea school would work that fast.”
It’d be great to make another one some day – and, in fact, I had one round at Monarch Beach last summer where I nearly made two – but it’s mostly in the old business file. My new business is making and breaking par for a round.
Somewhat strangely, I think of my moment when the “This is SportsCenter” comes on where there’s velvet rope in a hallway at ESPN and seemingly bass bumping behind the door of what looks like a service closet, guarded by a doorman with “the list.” The bass turns out to be a bass drum from a marching band, one of the “club” members for ESPN’s Plays of the Week.
I’m not a member of many clubs, but I am a member of the hole-in-one club. When you make yours, I look forward to quoting the commercial and saying, or mostly likely texting: “Welcome to the club.”