CARBONDALE — Tom Carnish doesn’t try to hit a hole-in-one every time he takes to the golf course. That doesn’t keep them from happening, though.
“You try to hit the green, but that’s all you can really hope for,” the 73-year-old Carnish said. “There’s not really anything I can do to explain it. It just happens.”
It’s happened a lot for the longtime member of Aspen Glen Golf Club. Carnish netted his eighth lifetime ace on May 19 — his sixth at the golf course — to add to a bevy of holes-in-one that have spanned more than four decades.
He can remember each ace and how they happened, the days they were on and the clubs he used. Most of them have come at Aspen Glen, where he netted the first of his six aces in 2006.
Each one, he said, feels just as good as the others.
“There’s really not much of a difference in how one feels over the other,” Carnish said. “They all feel good, and I’m thankful for each one of them.”
The hole-in-one is considered one of the most difficult achievements in sports, according to the United States Golf Register. The organization states that the estimated odds of achieving a hole-in-one on any given swing are one in 33,000, with the odds dropping significantly for professional players.
Carnish, who built his home in Aspen Glen in 2000 after retiring from his job at 3M in Pittsburgh, has had lots of chances to play at the golf course — it’s within walking distance of his home. Three of his aces have come on the par-3 eighth hole, including his most recent hole-in-one, which came last month.
The two he hit before moving into the Roaring Fork Valley, however, didn’t even happen in Colorado. And he didn’t even see his first one, which came in 1969 at Durant Country Club in Durant, Okla.
“I was playing in a tournament and there was a gallery surrounding the hole,” Carnish said of the shot that came from 190 yards away. “It wasn’t until everyone started cheering that I realized what happened.”
His second one came during a torrential downpour from close to 180 yards at Edina Country Club in Minnesota in 1984. It wasn’t until Sept. 21, 2006 — 22 years later — that he used a 5-iron to ace the par-3 fourth hole at Aspen Glen.
They started piling up after that. He aced hole No. 8 at Aspen Glen twice in 2008 — once on May 15 and again on Aug. 7. Ace No. 6 came on hole No. 4 on Aug. 12, 2010, and he carded another hole-in-one almost one year later on Aug. 14, 2011, on hole No. 14.
Then came the one last month — the ball went into the cup on a single bounce from 135 yards away. And as great as that was for Carnish, he still has one more at the club he hopes is in reach.
“It’s No. 11,” Carnish said of the fourth par-3 hole at the course. “It’s on my bucket list!”
Carnish has been given a commemorative plaque from Aspen Glen for each one of the aces he’s recorded at the course. But one of the club members, John Benzel, has recorded 15 aces in his lifetime.
“He jokes with me all the time, saying ‘you’ll never catch me,’” Carnish said. “But I have the most here. That means something, too.”