Anatomy of an Ace, or Was It?
A hole-in-one is as good as it gets in golf. I’ve lost count of the ones I’ve witnessed, but I certainly remember the three I’ve had.
That’s right. Three. Up until last Friday it was two, but lightning has struck again.
I know the guys I play with are going to find this hard to believe, but I struck the latest “perfect” shot of my career on Oct. 22, 2010. That’s nine years since the one I had on Oct. 9, 2001, and 24 years since the first on July 18 1986.
The first hole-in-one came on the no longer existing Tropicana Course in Las Vegas. Made me want to run to the first blackjack table I could find, where I quickly discovered that luck in one game does not necessarily carry over into another.
I remember that shot like it was yesterday, though. I hit a 9-iron from 132 yards and watched with disbelief as the Spalding Tour Edition (used by Greg Norman at the time) spun back and to the left to find the cup.
The Tour Edition, plus the old balata Titleist balls, were the only ones to which I was ever able to impart spin. I can close my eyes now and see Norman spinning that Tour Edition completely off a green.
My old buddy Dennis Russell saw me teeing up the ball on the next hole and talked me out of using it. I’ve always been grateful because I pull-hooked that shot to someplace where we couldn’t even look for it.
The 2001 ace came at Gates Four Golf and Country Club, the Willard Byrd-designed course in Fayetteville where I’ve been playing since 1970. I hit a 6-iron from 167 yards that hit just to the right of the pin and trickled left into the hole.
I was almost crippled by the pounding on the back from my buddies, but at least the visit to the 19th hole was cheaper than the blackjack table had been.
So now let’s talk about the third perfect shot. This was by far the least expected of the three. Anyone who knows me or reads the tripe that I fill this space with knows I’m struggling with my game right now. Whether it’s age or just a mental breakdown, I absolutely, positively cannot hit a shot with a conventional iron anymore.
Just four days earlier, I was playing a round at MacGregor Downs, another great Willard Byrd course in Cary, and was only about 40 yards short of a par-5 green in two shots.
I hesitantly pulled out a pitching wedge and proceeded to shank the ball, shank the ball, shank the ball, pick up the ball.
That’s what golf with real irons has become for me. I live in the world of shanks, tops, weak fades and dead pulls. That’s why I carry around a bag filled with Woodys, hybrid irons that run from the 3-iron through the pitching wedge.
Problem is, I can’t hit the Woodys wedge at all, so I grit my teeth and try to play the short shots with my old Adams Idea wedge or hit one of those unpredictable bump and run shots. Yeah, I know. I’m a mental mess.
Anyway, I’m playing with the BW on Friday because she’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and has always been able to tell me exactly what I’m doing wrong. (Usually that’s my thinking.)
Gates Four is going through a tough period right now, having lost all its greens to the summer that won’t end and using temporary greens as it readies for an extensive renovation project. So we’re playing to “closely-mown areas.”
Anyway, second hole, don’t know the yardage to the temporary green, grab my Adams wedge, hit a shot so gorgeous it defies description. High, straight, hits about four feet in front of the pin and rolls into the cup.
Joy. Disbelief. A BW hug. Another Titleist to put on a plaque. And all it cost me at the 19th hole was an ice water with lemon.
Only thing is, does anyone know if a hole-in-one on a temporary green counts?
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