By Tim Trower
So, I made a hole-in-one.
It took me 43 years.
That's a soft number, a guesstimate. My first recollection of hitting a golf ball was in the Philippines, my dad being an Air Force officer stationed at Clark Air Base. We were there from 1968 to '70.
Vacationing at a military resort, my two brothers and I got a lesson from a guy at the driving range. I know it must have cost Dad a mint because now when I get a tip from a pro and it happens to work for one swing, I hear "That'll be 35 dollars" before the echo of club striking ball fades.
But I digress.
We played nine holes that day. I shot a 47. I probably picked up more times than children at an Easter egg hunt and miscounted as regularly as someone totaling stars, but that's the number I remember.
So that's my starting point.
Some asked me if I'd write about my hole-in-one. Some told me they expected to read about it. I laughed it off. I've written about many aces because they seemed far more important or interesting. I was wrong.
At the risk of sounding like a junior high boy trying desperately to impress his first love, this hole-in-one completes me. Me the golfer, anyway.
I didn't really think about writing this until a couple things happened. First, a colleague said, "You could write about the pursuit of the hole-in-one." That was interesting. Second, I had nothing else to write about.
I'd never thought of it as a pursuit. True, the ace must have felt like it was being chased because it did a masterful job of eluding me for four decades. But was I really chasing it?
If so, I would have been hitting all the golf balls on all the par-3 courses in all the land lo these many years rather than hitting these computer keys. Rarely had I stood on a tee box thinking about making the shot. My first concern, always, is to hit the green, itself a prime challenge.
But the mystique of the hole-in-one didn't really set in until last Saturday. It was No. 13 at Rogue Valley Country Club. A tough bugger, arguably the most difficult par 3 in the area.
There have been tournaments where chairs were set up along the back of the tee box and players heckled other players as they swung. That hole would make for a good bit on the TV show Wipeout, where contestants are hilariously doomed from the start.
It's uphill, narrow in front, wide in back, unforgiving all around. It slopes enough to test a skier.
I could tell you my shot was a thing of beauty. Pure contact, high arcing, on a better line than a navigator could produce. Well, that's exactly how it was.
I could tell you I feathered a 9-iron 195 yards into the cup on the fly. That would be a lie. It was a 5-iron. The hole measured about 160 but played another 10 to 15 yards. After a slight fade and a couple hops, it clanged into the flagstick and was gone.
My eyes were just a little smaller than tires. I seldom hit greens and never make aces, so you can imagine my surprise. I think I screamed like a little girl. My arms had minds of their own and shot to the heavens.
I turned to my partners — Dan Coughlin, David Yu and Dan Dixon — and they were doing the same thing.
"It went in the blankety-blank hole!" said one. His eyes were the size of dinner plates.
There are a half-dozen greens and tee boxes within shouting distance of No. 13. I have no idea how many swings were interrupted by our little riot, how many bad shots were caused by one good shot. Lord, I apologize, but I don't really care.
I've long been called "The Witness," seen more aces than Vegas card dealers. Some had worms ducking for 160 yards before nearly breaking the stick and falling in. Some were straight and true.
The first was in Mount Angel in 1981. I almost saw two by the same guy in the same round at Eagle Point. Saw them from my twilight league teammates and from friends a hole away.
If they weren't special, why would I remember so many of them?
If they weren't special, why would I remember the closest I'd come. It was at a beautiful club in Nevada, Lahontan. It played downhill some 140 yards. My ball stopped an inch from the hole — behind the hole.
I took a picture, figuring if that one didn't go in, the golf gods who handle such things weren't interested in having me rush their fraternity.
Yes, to get one is special.
I think I picked mine out of the hole but can't be sure.
I did yell over to the No. 15 green at Bob Harrell, who we'd heard had gotten his second ace in a gazillion years three groups in front of us. I told him I topped him. He told me he'd get to the grill first and claim the hole-in-one pot money.
Only briefly did I think about skipping the last five holes to get there first. It was a hot, busy day and players would be thirsty. Turns out we both got full shares.
I texted my wife, Cathy, which was hard because my fingers were nervous and needed a road map to find the right keys. She was close to finishing her own round.
"Just aced 13," it said. She immediately called. "You're blankety-blanking me!" Ah, so special.
I've wondered how difficult it is to hit the tee shot after an ace. It wasn't too bad. Found the fairway.
I also noticed something else. When one gets a hole-in-one, even if it takes since the Nixon administration, for a while, one thinks he can knock it in from anywhere. I thought about going for a double eagle on No. 16, a short par 5, but my partner reminded me we were playing for $10.
Apparently, golf immortality has a price.
The next time I played, I honestly thought I'd make another one. That feeling lasted as long as an Oregon suntan. Not only were the cups safe, so, too, the greens.
At the outset, I mentioned my dad. I wonder now what compelled him to take us golfing 43 years ago. While he might have seemed a good player to us at the time, we came to know differently.
In a column following his passing nine years ago this week, I affectionately poked fun at his game, much as I would when we played. Maybe that shot that missed by an inch in Nevada was his way of getting even.
Or, maybe he nudged last week's into the cup.
The things a hole-in-one make you think about. Yeah, they're kinda special.
Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org