In case they get a hole in one! (Cheesiest joke ever to be told on here? I make no promises.)
It took nearly 27 years and what I would estimate to be thousands of attempts, but last Saturday the big “one” finally happened for me, and it was as surreal and amazing as I’ve always imagined.
The day started out normal enough with a gorgeous Arizona sunrise (and a cactus with attitude).
It would have been awesome if all five of us could have played together for this particular round, but mornings are busy on the course this time of year, so Bobby had volunteered to sit this one out.
There was nothing special about how I was playing leading up to the par-3 seventh hole, which is why I didn’t think too hard about hitting my tee shot. We were about 104 yards out and I used a pitching wedge. As soon as I hit, I could sense it would fare better than most of my shots with that club, which tend to hook pretty dramatically. I was happy enough to watch it fly straight.
The best part was that I could see the flag, so I could watch as the ball bounced at the front of the green. Again I was happy with that, because I knew it would give me a shot at a birdie, but as it started to roll there was a voice in the back of my head that told me to keep watching. It felt like everything was moving in slow motion – until, that is, the ball suddenly disappeared at the cup.
Then it was pandemonium.
I started screaming. Mama Bender started screaming. We hugged and jumped up and down, which quickly told Papa Bender and little bro that something major had happened. They couldn’t see the hole from where they were at behind the tee box, but they ran toward us with fists raised and joined in on the hugging and jumping. Our reactions could only mean one thing.
From that moment on, I was in an adrenaline daze, which might be an oxymoron. But I just couldn’t believe it. Our family had been chasing a hole in one for years and it had finally happened – it felt like I had won the golf lottery. I got to write a “1″ on my scorecard surrounded by three of my four favorite golfing partners – the same three who were the very reason I started (and continued) golfing in the first place. For me, golf has always been as much about the sport as it has been about spending time with family, so it was incredibly special to be able to share this moment with them. And you can bet Bobby was going crazy when I texted him about it, too.
But the round wasn’t over! Not to be outdone, Eric played the par-5 ninth hole perfectly, and ended up in this position after just two shots. I’ll give you one guess as to whether it went in for eagle.
Then came the 16th hole par-4 with its monster downhill drop, which basically means that if you hit your drive right, you can carry across the chasm diagonally and end up in great position for your second shot. It’s always a risk, but I had this guy cheering me on so I was feeling good.
Mama Bender and I both wound up in great position near the green, and I decided to putt instead of chip. It rolled right next to the hole, barely missing another eagle chance. But there were no complaints as both Mama B and I tapped in for our birdies.
Then came 17. After a decent drive that trickled into the rough, I had a pitch shot from roughly 60 yards out as my second shot. By this time, we had seen our fair share of desert wildlife on the course – a huge bobcat lounging on the fifth hole fairway, the impressive hawk perched atop a cactus at the tee box on 16 – but now the javelinas wanted to say hello, as well. There were several of them grazing on the green, and both Papa and Mama Bender’s shots couldn’t distract them from their meal. My mom proceeded to try a bunch of hilarious methods for shooing them away.
At some point in the midst of all of this I decided to hit my shot. As I watched it roll toward the hole, another voice in the back of my head said, “Could it really happen again?” It was harder to see the cup from this vantage point, so I walked forward to get a better angle.
Apparently it was a round that really wanted to be remembered. As soon as that ball disappeared into the cup for eagle, I pretty much lost my mind. I apologize to anyone nearby who had to listen to my squeals. Mama B was still on javelina patrol, but as soon as she heard me she went to the hole, looked down, smiled and said, “Unbelievable.”
As I prepared to hit my tee shot on the par-3 18th hole, I was shaking. It’s never an easy shot, but I also have a really bad habit of messing up a really good round. And I’m not just saying that, trust me. It is never out of the question that I will follow a great hole with a lovely 10 or 11.
Thankfully, the adrenaline was pumping and the ball landed on the green about eight feet away, giving me one last birdie opportunity. Although it would have been amazing to make the putt and cap the round with one of my lowest scores ever (it lipped out), that par still felt really good.
Whew! If you’re still reading, thank you for letting me share this story with you. We play a lot of golf in this family, and most of my rounds are nothing worth writing about in great detail. But for the round of my life, I’m making an exception. This is one I want to remember forever.
I have yet to step back on the course since that day, so it remains to be seen what will happen (my guess is Murphy’s law will be in full effect). For now, I’m savoring the moment and the people I shared it with. It wasn’t a tournament with a trophy or state championship on the line – just a casual Saturday morning with family. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
What is one of your proudest hobby- or sport-related accomplishments?