The hole-in-one remains golfs magical accomplishment
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado The odds of smacking a tiny white ball into a 4 1/4-inch cup from more than a football-fields distance away are not in a golfers favor.And theyre especially slim if youre just an everyday Joe or Jane hacking his or her way through a round of golf every now and then.But holes-in-one do happen on occasion, particularly here in the Roaring Fork Valley, where rarely does a week go by with a blurb in the newspaper about someone defying the enormous odds and sinking a single shot into that 4 1/4-inch hole.Even rarer than the ace is the double eagle on a par 4.Take 2008 Rifle High School graduate Kory Kassak, who had never as much as birdied a hole before he drained a hole-in-one from 295 yards away on the par-4 seventh hole at Rifle Creek Golf Course.Luck or skill? Kassak has a pretty honest assessment of his skills.Im not a very good golfer, Kassak said. I usually get bogeys and double-bogeys and stuff.And then you have those who spend a good chunk of their lives whacking that little white, dimpled ball around the links and never experience the thrill of a hole-in-one.To go an entire lifetime, even as a regular golfer, without a hole-in-one is not uncommon, said Doug Kelch, a starter/ranger at Aspen Glen Golf Course. One of his jobs is to prepare framed awards for club members who have hit a hole-in-one as means of commemorating the rare feat.It took Earl Cherry, a Rifle Creek frequenter, 42 years to notch his first hole-in-one.I play every chance I get, he said. I play maybe 30, 40 times a year, I guess. I had three double eagles but never had a hole-in-one. It was quite exciting.The 64-year-old broke his lifelong dry spell in June, acing Rifle Creeks 15th hole from 134 yards out.Its clear that rhyme or reason doesnt always figure into who strikes a hole-in-one. Its unfairly common for those who spend every free moment gripping a club to never find the cup in just one swing.Skill can regularly land your shots in the vicinity of the hole, but luck usually needs to be a willing companion at the very least minimally. Even a golf pro would admit as much.A hole-in-one takes a little bit of luck and some skill, Battlement Mesa Golf Club head pro Jason Franke conceded.One thing is certain: Sinking a hole-in-one is an odds-defying act.
The act of quantifying hole-in-one odds falls hostage to many a variable. Ability, distance from the tee to the cup, weather conditions and course layout all complicate the process.Of course, that doesnt stop number crunchers from throwing figures out there.Hole-in-one contest insurer USHoleInOne.com puts the odds of getting a hole-in-one on a par-3 at 12,500 to 1 for an amateur and 7,500 to 1 for a pro.Those are longer than a par 5 at Augusta.I think its one of those things thats not in the cards every time, said Tom Vail, the golf operations manager at the short-hole-rich, par-3 Ranch at Roaring Fork course near Carbondale, which sees quite a few aces. It kind of takes a little luck. You have to be at the right place at the right time.
For most, hitting a hole-in-one is an experience like no other, a Bucket List-level achievement.And those lucky enough to sink one dont soon forget every detail of the achievement.Rifles Jack Smith was playing with longtime friends Wes Downey and Bob Hutton when he aced the 15th hole at Rifle Creek back in April. It was his first. Hed been seeking that elusive hole-in-one since he began golfing in the 1960s.Actually, I thought Bobby was kidding me, the longtime former teacher and coach said about the feat. I hit the shot and he said it looked like a pretty good shot. I didnt watch it. Bobby said, That thing went in! I didnt believe him. Sure enough, it went into the hole.Craig Nichols remembers seeing the flag wiggle and the ball drop into the cup when he hit an April ace on the fourth hole at Glenwood Springs Golf Club. The tee shot off the unique No. 4 is uphill, making it impossible to see anything put the flag from the tee box.It was quite a surprise when he arrived on the green.I got up there and it was in, said Nichols, a mens club member who snapped a lifelong hole-in-one drought with the shot.Like Nichols, Kassak had no idea his 295-yard blast landed anywhere near the cup until he made his way to the par-4 seventh green at Rifle. As a golfer with limited ability, the cup was one of the last places he thought to look. It actually took another impressive shot for them to turn their attention to the 41⁄4-inch cup.I walked up there and looked for the ball with one of my buddies and I thought, Man, I hit it to the right like I always do. I was looking right in the rough, off the green, and the other guy who hit before me he chipped the ball [in] off the fairway could see half the ball sticking out the cup. He said, Man, there are two balls in the hole. What kind of ball did you use? He pulled the flag and there it was.Regardless of whether or not you eye the ball into the cup or discover you hit a hole-in-one after a long stroll to the green, realizing you just hit one is, by all accounts, an incredible feeling.Every golfer wants to get a hole-in-one, said Gary Gros, who aced the 54-yard eighth hole at Ranch at Roaring Fork in June. Its the ultimate prize, you know.
Its a custom thats anything but fair. You hit a hole-in-one and you have to buy the folks bellied up at the clubhouse bar a drink.Huh?Most argue it should be the other way around.It can be an expensive feat.I was kind of hoping I wouldnt have a $265 bar bill after it was all over, Cherry said of his hole-in-one. Thats a messed-up rule, but it was quite exciting.Jeff Franke, who is Jasons dad, finally hit his first hole-in-one after a quarter century of golf, and he did it at last weekends Glenwood Open tournament. The bad news was he saw his wallet go on a crash diet.Im going to call a banker in the morning, he joked after finishing up the days round. [A tournament is] not when you want to hit one. You want to hit one when its raining and no ones there.But, after years on the links and no ace, Franke conceded the expense was worthwhile.Its expensive, but nice, Franke said. Everybody seems to be thirsty.By most accounts, the tradition is a way of paying forward good fortune.Count Audrey Hughes, a 25-year-old Rifle High School graduate and ladies league member, among those who consider the tradition flawed logic. She hit a hole-in-one while golfing with her parents at Rifle Creek on July 5, but didnt exactly rush to the clubhouse to buy a round.I didnt tell anyone, she said. They all would have made me buy drinks.Kassak lucked out. He isnt old enough to drink. Instead, he was treated to a beverage a non-alcoholic one, of course.About a week later I went in to get a Coke and a guy bought me a Coke, he recalled. He said, Come here, man. Arent you that kid who hit a hole-in-one? Ill buy you a drink.Words travels fast when you sink a shot with just one swing.
Aspen Glens Doug Kelch absolutely loves his job. He gets to commemorate what is a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment for most.Kelch and Aspen Glen make sure they take care of their hole-in-one hitting members, working up a fancy plaque that that features a picture of the hole and the lucky ball.It turns into a prized possession for most people, Kelch said. Most people are very excited. They hang it on the wall in a place of prominence and talk about it when their friends visit. Its one of those unique things in sports. It has this aura.Not every course goes to the same lengths Aspen Glen does in recognizing its members accomplishment. It is, after all, a private course.Battlement Mesa, for instance, hands out a gift certificate to hole-in-one hitters.Glenwood Springs Golf Club displays a running plaque in its clubhouse that lists holes-in-one by its mens club members.No matter the prize, its the memory of sinking a tee shot that golfers treasure most.You always kind of hope for it, said Greg Gortsema, the head pro at Glenwood Springs Golf Club and owner of six holes-in-one. Some people play a lot of years and never hit one.Gortsema referenced the sheer glee of Stan Dodson, a longtime course patron who started the plaque, after he hit a hole-in-one back in 1996.Stan had been playing golf forever, Gortsema said. I think that was his first ever and he had been playing most of his life. He was ecstatic.Tad Holloway, the head pro at Rifle Creek, never tires of talking to someone after theyve hit a hole-in-one.Its very gratifying, he said. Its nice to see. Its such a great feeling that a lot of people never have.And many never will. But everyone who tees it up will dream of the day when that little white ball will disappear into that 4 1/4-inch cup.
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