Every golf magazine is crammed with headlines like “Ninety Essential Swing Tips to Take to the First Tee” and “Six Moves to Nail Those Pesky One-Footers When Your Jerk Opponent Won’t Concede.”
Here’s my offering: “Three Ways to Get That Hole-In-One Monkey Off Your Back – and Then Some.”
One: rent a house in Florida for a winter.
Two: make sure it’s on a par-3 golf course.
Three: play often.
It’s that simple, or so it was for my friend Scott Hulse, now retired from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and playing a lot of golf when he isn’t fishing. He’s pretty good, too, not that I can’t occasionally almost keep up with him, but good enough to win a couple of our small club championships, win high-stakes family outings and even, once in a while, good enough to beat his wife, Lois.
But in more than 35 years of playing golf, he’d never dropped his tee shot in the dark. Never got down in one. Never drained his dimples from the tee. And you could tell it bugged him.
Then, in early March, an email arrived that proclaimed, “It finally happened.” After all those long years in the ace-less desert, Scott had his first hole-in-one. There he was, smiling in a photo, holding a flagstick in one hand and his lucky ball in the other.
And all his friends were elated for him.
Sadly, he noted, he still lost to Lois. And all his friends were elated again.
But as they say about the Popeil Pocket Fisherman, wait, there’s more. On March 18 another email announced, “It happened again!” And there was another photo of a smiling Scott, holding a second flag and lucky ball.
Oh, he added, “Lois did not beat me on this particular round.”
Amazing. A pair of aces, and in such short order. And all his friends were happy for him again, if also a wee bit envious.
On March 30 he emailed again. “I thought I should let you know that I just got my third hole-in-one tonight. 117 yards with no wind and no water.
“I also lost to Lois. Such is life.”
And all his friends enjoyed that last line.
Really, three such successes in a month after more than 35 years of “nice try, pal” raised niggling suspicions so I checked with Lois to see if Scott was feeling OK or if that first ace was just stuck in his head and multiplying like rabbits. Didn’t he have the same shirt on in each photo?
Don’t tell him, but she had had the same thought. “I scrolled back thinking he probably had the same damn shirt on each time,” she wrote back. But no, three photos, three shirts. Proof!
“In my defense,” she said, “can I say that I still beat him tonight?”
His friends discussed all this. He was playing a par-3 course, for Pete’s sake. “Warning, journalist doing math,” I said, “but doesn’t having nine chances every round give better odds than two?” Hadn’t he rented the same house last winter and played goose egg golf? But doubt and envy are unbecoming attributes in a friendship so we set those aside and were happy for him again.
Then, on April 3, another email. “The fourth one fell today in front of a gallery of seven people,” Scott wrote, ready to provide names of witnesses if pressed. “It’s getting harder to be humble.”
You could at least try. He attached an emoji of a man’s head exploding. I wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be him or me.
There are probably no statistics on how many people play golf without making an ace in 35 years and then drop four in a matter of weeks, all with a wedge but all on different holes. Or, more scary, there probably are such numbers somewhere. Even Scott can’t explain what happened.
“It is not an easy course, believe it or not. For some strange reason they are just falling in, and in such a short time span.”
He is back in Wisconsin now, playing on grown-up courses that will be far stingier in giving up aces. But what a winter to remember. Here’s to Scott. Even if he didn’t always beat Lois.