693 reasons it's tough to get an ace
Everyone and their grandma has a hole-in-one. I want mine!
This column appears in the Sept. 21 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
I got sick of reading the stories, is why I did it. I know it was wrong and unethical and even unholy, but I just couldn't stand the stories anymore.
A 5-year-old in Belleville, Ill., sank a hole-in-one ... A 102-year-old woman became the oldest ever to ace ... A man in Bowling Green, Ohio, has now made holes-in-one both right- and lefthanded.
Really? Because I've been playing since I was 13, and I'm 51 now and not hideous, and I've never made one righty, lefty, with a walker, a lollipop or anything in between. So maybe they can all kindly choke on a divot?
The one that made me snap was this one: 62-year-old Unni Haskell of St. Petersburg, Fla., made an ace a few months ago on the first swing she ever took on a course.
And that's when I lost it. I vowed to go to my local par-3 course and keep playing, round and round, like a rat after cheese, until I made a hole-in-one. I didn't care if it took me an hour, a week, a month.
With my 22-year-old son and caddie, Jake (he's made one -- barefoot!), I arrived at the Golf Courses at Hyland Hills, in Westminster, Colo., and set out on the dinky nine-hole North Course: 673 yards total.
"My dad's made five," said Hyland's director of golf, Todd Coover (seven). "One went off a tree. I kid you not!"
"How cool!" I lied, chewing through my lip.
The odds against making an ace are about 12,500-1. I guessed I'd played 50 rounds a year for 38 years. That's 7,600 par 3's. At that pace, I'd have my ace when I turned 75. Maybe. Unless I did the sensible thing: cheat.
I figured at 10 shots a hole, nine holes a round, seven rounds a day, my ace would arrive in no more than eight days. I would be divorced, unemployed and fused at the T3 and T5 vertebrae, but I'd finally be a golfer.
My first shot missed. So did my second. In fact, my first 63 missed. My 64th, though, hit the pin and ... rolled away. My 77th lipped out. "We'll be done by lunch!" yelled Jake, standing by the hole and pounding his baseball glove, ready to catch any shots that didn't have a chance.
But after three loops, I was 0-for-270. Many of them gloved.
After 5 hours 43 minutes -- and five loops -- I was fried like a fritter and 0-for-450, with two pins, two lip-outs and one O.B. (don't ask). Jake was looking like he wanted to be adopted. "We're really doing this again tomorrow?" he groaned.
You bet your inheritance we are.
Day 2: 20 more; 120 more; 200 more. Nothing. I repeated holes. I skipped holes. I hit 20 shots per hole. I tried not caring, caring too much, singing, one-handed, Happy Gilmore ... all useless. The golf gods had spited me.
As my back spasmed and hands gnarled and Jake's eyes became shark-dead, I asked myself, What if I never do it? Am I less of a person? Besides, Ben Hogan never had one, right?
My self answered: 1) You'll feel like ferret droppings; 2) yes; and 3) Hogan had two.
And then, when all seemed hopeless, on my 694th shot of the quest, on the tiny 52-yard second, I hit a gorgeous little punch sand wedge that went straight as a Jonas Brother, landed exactly 11 feet from the pin and rolled directly and obediently into the cup like a happy little gopher off to bed.
Jake threw his glove about 50 feet high. I threw my sand wedge god knows where. We ran at each other like we were in a feminine hygiene TV ad. We collided in midair -- me falling on my sore back and Jake falling on top of me. And it didn't even hurt.
I had done it. I had achieved the achievable. Climbed the world's smallest mountain. Slept with Madonna. It had taken 6 hours 23 minutes, over 500 ball-mark fixes and 12 Advil, but it was done. Suck on that, Unni Haskell.
To the pro shop to report the news!
"I hate to tell you this," Todd Coover whispered, "but it's not technically recognized by the PGA. Sorry." And I thought, Umm, Todd? I was hitting 20 balls per hole! On a golf course the size of a throw rug! What made you think I gave a mole's pimple about "official"?
The reaction from my friends was also less than congratulatory.
"A 50-yard ace?" e-mailed my pal the Vanilla Gorilla (two). "That's like a 150-foot putt."
Do I care? No. Am I going to tell people how I came to mine (one)? No. And what will I say when I read the next story about a legless 104-year-old blind nun who got her first hole-in-one Tuesday while a live wombat chewed on her clavicle?
"Damn! What took her so long?"
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RICK REILLY, 52, has been voted National Sportswriter of the Year 11 times. His new book -- out May 4, 2010 -- is called "Sports From Hell: My Two-year Search for the World's Dumbest Competition." It's the account of his search for the dumbest sport in the world.
Not to give anything away, but a good bet would be either Ferret Legging or the World Sauna Championships. It also includes embarrassing attempts by Reilly to try Nude Bicycle Racing, Zorbing, Chess Boxing, Extreme Ironing, the World Rock Paper Scissors Championships and an unfortunate week on a women's pro football team.