Are you ready for one more golf story?

May 31, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

IT'S THE end of a long holiday weekend, you're not doing much, so you might as well read about my recent hole-in-one at the world-famous Rocky Point Golf Course in scenic eastern Baltimore County.

OK, I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking: please, not a golf column.

You're thinking: boy, there's nothing more boring than some stupid golfer droning on and on about that stupid game.

Look, I'm totally with you on that.

In fact, for years I've said that hospitals could save millions in anesthesia costs if they'd just bring golfers into the operating room.

Instead of hooking up IV lines and asking the patient to count backward from 100, you just have a golfer lean over the patient and start sharing all the eye-glazing details about his last round. ("OK, the first hole's a long-ish par 4, dogleg right. I pull out the 3-wood, thinking I'll cut it over the trees ...")

Believe me, in 10 seconds, the patient would be in dreamland. And the surgeon would be reaching for his bone saw.

But here's the thing: How do you ask a lousy golfer like me to not share the story of his hole-in-one?

After all, this could be my last shot at athletic glory.

Do you know what the odds are of making a hole-in-one?

Well, I'll tell you what they are. According to Golf Digest, they're 1 in 33,000.

So, I'm sorry, but I'm not about to deprive my readers of a heroic tale of overcoming incredible odds just because a few of you don't like the sport.

So let's get on with it, shall we?

OK, to set the scene: I teed off early in the morning with my buddy, Keith Harclerode. On this particular day at Rocky Point, they were sending golfers off on the back nine first, and we proceeded to hack it up in our usual fashion.

Things did not get much better on the front nine. On the first three holes, I went: par, double-bogey, triple-bogey.

(If you don't know what a bogey is, ask a golfer. Look, I can't be interrupting the narrative flow every five seconds to explain golf terms, OK? Please. Think of someone besides yourself for a change.)

As you can imagine, I was not in a particularly swell mood after the triple-bogey. In fact, I was steaming. You could have fried an egg on my forehead. And I was saying a lot of very bad words.

So now we come to the fourth hole. It's a 171-yard par three. The pin is up.

For me, it's all about redemption at this point.

I pull the 6-iron from my bag, drop a Titleist 1 on the ground, take my stance, draw the club back. Then I take my usual lurching swing, which resembles nothing so much as a man trying to kill a snake with a hoe.

But this time (he said modestly) the swing is magic.

The ball soars toward the distant flagstick. It lands about 10 yards short. It bounces once.

Then it rolls toward the cup.

It rolls and rolls and rolls.

Then ... it disappears.

"Holy [bleep]!" I said to Keith. "I think it's in the cup! Do you think it's in the cup? Unless it's behind the flagstick and we can't see it! Do you think it's behind the flagstick and we can't see it?"

I was jabbering like a methamphetamine freak.

(Oh, like you would be calm and composed at this point. Like you would yawn and say: "Another hole-in-one ... wonder what's for lunch?")

"I think it's in the cup!" Keith said.

So he teed off quickly, sending his ball to within 20 feet of the pin with a 5-iron. Then we hurried off to see if I had pulled off the feat that every golfer dreams about.

(Then again, maybe the whole thing's over-rated. According to the United States Golf Register, the official keeper of hole-in-one records, a man named Harold Stilson from Boca Raton, Fla., shot a hole-in-one three years ago - when he was 101 years old.)

(And another man, Norman Manley, holds the record with 59 holes-in-one. Fifty-nine! And I nearly had a heart attack after one.)

Nearing the green, we could see the ball wasn't behind the flagstick. Finally, we reached the cup. We both peered in cautiously, like there was a cobra in there or something.

And sure enough, there was my Titleist.

At this point, the only thing missing was a chorus of angels. And possibly a shaft of sunlight beaming down on my ball from the heavens.

Tradition has it that whoever makes a hole-in-one has to spring for drinks, which I was reminded of when the round was over and I went into the pro shop to record the "ace" and receive my official certificate of accomplishment.

In fact, this tradition has been known to cost some "lucky" golfers thousands of dollars in bar tabs.

Two things were working in my favor, though. No. 1, it was 9:45 in the morning, a time when only people with lampshades on their heads actually want a drink. And No. 2, there's no bar at Rocky Point, anyway.

I offered to spring for Cokes, but no one wanted one of them, either.

God, I love that golf course. I really do.

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