On Making a Hole in One
The Victoria Club, Riverside, California, 185-yard 13th.
With a 5-iron.
Unless you’re an acolyte of abstinence, there’s not much at age 40 that can cost you your virginity, especially if you’ve been trying most of your adult life to lose it. I’ve come close before, leaving a couple of tee shots precariously close. But with every passing round the misses seem to have been less near, and I had resigned myself to going through my golfing existence without having enjoyed the thrill of authoring the perfect shot.
Golf is a game of imperfection, of controlled failure. Very seldom do all the things that have to happen for a golf shot to match your imagination actually occur. It’s a fleeting moment of nirvana when it does. In my case, as soon as I struck the ball I knew I had hit it well: the club felt soft in my hands, like alpaca wool, and the orb’s flight was piercing and determined, a gentle parabola with the gorgeous right-to-left draw motion that PGA Tour players impart with depressing regularity. While the ball was in the air I called for it to go in the hole — which is what I tend to do whenever I hit a green-bound shot that looks like it could be within ten feet of the flag. (Until this past weekend, the ball and everyone else I’ve played with has summarily ignored me.) One of the fellows I was playing with — a PGA of America teaching professional, no less — murmured something like, “that’s got a chance.” Which made me yell more loudly.
When the ball hit the front of the green, I was struck dumb. The other players in my group took up the urging: “Go in! Go in!” The flagstick was on the front left of the green, and that’s where the ball rolled to, as though it had been putted. It paused at the edge of the hole for what seemed like a long time. Everyone held his breath. I could hear birds chirping. And then: plink. It disappeared.
We all screamed and jumped up and down, me less than anyone else, because I was stunned.
And then I went on to bogey or double-bogey three of the remaining five holes, shooting my usual 82, even with the absurd and glorious “1” on my scorecard.
I’ll probably never have another hole-in-one as long as I live. (That’s what the odds say.) But now at least I know it’s possible, that making an ace isn’t something that happens to other people, like UFO sightings and picking the right checkout line at the supermarket. And though, like most golfers, I’m doomed to fail far more than I’ll ever succeed, I’m going to have fun trying to recreate that instant of unexpected magic.