A golfer’s dream: the hole-in-one | AspenTimes.com

A golfer’s dream: the hole-in-one

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentWith every swing from the tees comes the slight possibility of a hole-in-one. This player tees off on the third hole at the Glenwood Springs Golf Club " a course with three par-3 holes, with the third hole being one of the best known locally for its hole-in-one potential.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The odds of smacking a tiny white ball into a 4 1/4-inch cup from more than a football field’s distance away are not in a golfer’s favor.

And they’re especially slim if you’re just an everyday Joe or Jane hacking his or her way through a round of golf every now and then.

Even rarer than the ace is the double eagle on a par 4.

Take 2008 Rifle High School graduate Kory Kassak, who had never as much as birdied a hole before he drained a hole-in-one ” from 295 yards away ” on the par-4 seventh hole at Rifle Creek Golf Course.

Luck or skill? Kassak has a pretty honest assessment of his skills.

“I’m not a very good golfer,” Kassak said. “I usually get bogeys and double-bogeys and stuff.”

And then you have those who spend a good chunk of their lives whacking that little white, dimpled ball around the links and never experience the thrill of a hole-in-one.

“To go an entire lifetime, even as a regular golfer, without a hole-in-one is not uncommon,” said Doug Kelch, a starter/ranger at Aspen Glen Golf Course near Carbondale. One of his jobs is to prepare framed awards for club members who have hit a hole-in-one as means of commemorating the rare feat.

It took Earl Cherry, a Rifle Creek frequenter, 42 years to notch his first hole-in-one.

“I play every chance I get,” he said. “I play maybe 30, 40 times a year, I guess. … I had three double eagles but never had a hole-in-one. It was quite exciting.”

The 64-year-old broke his lifelong dry spell in June, acing Rifle Creek’s 15th hole from 134 yards out.

It’s clear that rhyme or reason doesn’t always figure into who strikes a hole-in-one. It’s unfairly common for those who spend every free moment gripping a club to never find the cup in just one swing.

Skill can regularly land your shots in the vicinity of the hole, but luck usually needs to be a willing companion ” at the very least minimally. Even a golf pro would admit as much.

“A hole-in-one takes a little bit of luck and some skill,” Battlement Mesa Golf Club head pro Jason Franke conceded.

One thing is certain: Sinking a hole-in-one is an odds-defying act.

The act of quantifying hole-in-one odds falls hostage to many a variable. Ability, distance from the tee to the cup, weather conditions and course layout all complicate the process.

Of course, that doesn’t stop number crunchers from throwing figures out there.

Hole-in-one contest insurer USHoleInOne.com puts the odds of getting a hole-in-one on a par-3 at 12,500 to 1 for an amateur and 7,500 to 1 for a pro.

Those are longer than a par 5 at Augusta.

“I think it’s one of those things that’s not in the cards every time,” said Tom Vail, the golf operations manager at the short-hole-rich, par-3 Ranch at Roaring Fork course near Carbondale, which sees quite a few aces. “It kind of takes a little luck. You have to be at the right place at the right time.”

For most, hitting a hole-in-one is an experience like no other, a Bucket List-level achievement.

And those lucky enough to sink one don’t soon forget every detail of the achievement.

Rifle’s Jack Smith was playing with longtime friends Wes Downey and Bob Hutton when he aced the 15th hole at Rifle Creek back in April. It was his first. He’d been seeking that elusive hole-in-one since he began golfing in the 1960s.

“Actually, I thought Bobby was kidding me,” the longtime former teacher and coach said about the feat. “I hit the shot and he said it looked like a pretty good shot. I didn’t watch it. Bobby said, ‘That thing went in!’ I didn’t believe him. Sure enough, it went into the hole.”

Craig Nichols remembers seeing the flag wiggle and the ball drop into the cup when he hit an April ace on the fourth hole at Glenwood Springs Golf Club. The tee shot off the unique No. 4 is uphill, making it impossible to see anything put the flag from the tee box.

It was quite a surprise when he arrived on the green.

“I got up there and it was in,” said Nichols, a men’s club member who snapped a lifelong hole-in-one drought with the shot.

Like Nichols, Kassak had no idea his 295-yard blast landed anywhere near the cup until he made his way to the par-4 seventh green at Rifle. As a golfer with limited ability, the cup was one of the last places he thought to look. It actually took another impressive shot for them to turn their attention to the cup.

“I walked up there and looked for the ball with one of my buddies and I thought, ‘Man, I hit it to the right like I always do.’ I was looking right in the rough, off the green, and the other guy who hit before me ” he chipped the ball [in] off the fairway ” could see half the ball sticking out the cup. He said, ‘Man, there are two balls in the hole. What kind of ball did you use?’ He pulled the flag and there it was.”

Regardless of whether or not you eye the ball into the cup or discover you hit a hole-in-one after a long stroll to the green, realizing you just hit one is, by all accounts, an incredible feeling.

“Every golfer wants to get a hole-in-one,” said Gary Gros, who aced the 54-yard eighth hole at Ranch at Roaring Fork near Carbondale in June. “It’s the ultimate prize, you know.”

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