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Local golfer defies odds with 303-yard ace

It's a shot so improbable, so spectacular that no golfer would dare evenhope for it: More than 300 yards off the tee, down the hill, against thewind, into the cup.

Unlikely or not, that's the shot Eagle Point's Don Gifford pulled offSunday on the fourth hole at Stone Ridge Golf Club.

The 43-year-old truck driver blasted a shot with his driver on the 303-yardpar-4 that bounced just short of the green, rolled past a foursome thatwas preparing to putt out and went in the cup for a hole-in-one.

It was something else, it really was, Gifford said Monday,still elated about his feat. You could golf constantly all your lifeand never duplicate something like that.

Gifford, who plays about twice a week and maintains a 8-10 handicap,is the first person to ace the hole in the — 1/2-year history of the course,according to Stone Ridge assistant pro Rich Hajek.

The downhill layout of the hole makes driving the green a possibilityfor long hitters and Gifford says he's reached it off the tee several times.

I've driven the green before, probably four times, he said.Twenty to 30 feet from the hole is probably the best I'd done.

Gifford shot a career-best 1-over-par 73 on Saturday at Stone Ridge buthad a hard time focusing after his ace on Sunday, finishing with a stillimpressive 79.

I think I could have done really well but I couldn't concentrateafter the hole-in-one, he said. It took me about two holes beforeI could hit a ball without skulling it.

All and all, it made for an eventful weekend.

After shooting my best score and then the hole-in-one, I half expectedto be struck by lightning today, he said.

With a stiff wind he estimates at 20 mph blowing in his face, Giffordand his playing partners didn't think they could reach the green so theyhit before the group ahead of them had finished the hole.

All of us said, `Go ahead and hit, you can't reach them in thewind,' said Charlie Brooks, who along with Dave Grove and Norm Hallwas playing with Gifford. He just crunched the ball and it was straightas a string. It was a hell of a shot because that wind was blowing in hisface.

No one in the foursome was sure the ball went in, but Gifford had hissuspicions.

I saw it hit, he said. It took and bounce and rolledbetween those guys. I knew it was in the hole but so many times you thinkthat and it's not. They had three balls on the green and so I hesitatedin saying anything.

I asked my partners, `Did that go in?' They didn't think so butthe guys on the green finally let us know.

Gifford, who hit the shot with his King Cobra titanium driver, got hisonly other hole-in-one about 2 1/2 years ago on a par-3 at Middlefield VillageGolf Course in Cottage Grove that he said was about 120 yards long. He'splayed golf for 16 years.

While hitting a hole-in-one on any par-4 is a rare and impressive feat,Gifford's shot doesn't come close to the world record for the longest ace.

According to the 1997 edition of the Guinness Book of Records, that markwas set July 24, 1995, when Shawn Lynch cut the corner on a dogleg 496-yard17th hole at Teign Valley Golf Club in Exeter, England.

Record or not, it was probably the best shot of Gifford's life.

It's blind luck, he said. You've got to shoot the shotbut everything has got to be perfect. You could stand there and hit a millionshots and not come close.