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Stewart Roche continues to make holes-in-one at age 96

If Stewart Roche had never gained notoriety as a record-setting golfer in his 90s, he still would have made quite a name for himself:

-Graduated No. 2 in his Notre Dame law school class and served a year as law school president
-Spent four years in the Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II, including Agent in Charge of the Madison, Wis., branch office
-Oceana County Savings Bank president for 33 years in Hart, Mich.
-Practiced law in Hart for 41 years
-Owner & operator of Hart Petroleum Company for 17 years
-Volunteer work with the local Rotary Club, American Legion post and St. Gregory's Church.

But, as any avid golfer can attest, you greatly enhance your life resume when you factor in what you've done on the golf course. Since picking up golf in the early 1950s, Mr. Roche has had nine holes-in-one. Incredibly, three have come since he turned 91:

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Photo of Stewart Roche courtesy of WZZM-13.

On July 20, 2007, he made an ace at Golden Sands Golf Course in Silver Lake, Mich., with a driver on the 175-yard third hole. And the last two aces came on the same hole, the 125-yard 12th, at Oceana Golf Club in Shelby, Mich. He used a 4-iron on Sept. 2, 2009, and muscled the ball in the hole with a 5-iron on June 15, 2012.

Mr. Roche considers his ace-making ability "very lucky," but when he demonstrated his swing for anchor and news/sports reporter Brent Ashcroft of WZZM TV-13 in Grand Rapids, Mich., he hit a shot within two feet. The first ace he ever made, in the 1950s, he says was far from skillful; he topped the ball and saw it hit the pin and go in. "One of the guys I was with said, 'I'm not even going to congratulate you on that one,'" Roche said.

A Grand Rapids native, Roche has lived in Hart, Mich., for most of his life. A regular group includes a pair of players in their 80s, Ray Larson and Larry Pluister, and a youngster, Rev. Tom Bolster, in his late 50s. At his best, Roche was a 9-handicapper. Now, with his third ace since age 91, we include him in our recordbooks with the unique title of "most prolific hole-in-one shooter of a golfer in their 90s."

There have been a few others in our record-books who made news by making multiple aces during their ultra-vintage years, including George Selbach and Joe McHugh, who each had two aces at age 97, and Anton Lee, who had six holes-in-one after age 80.

Setting a longevity record is a difficult thing to pin down. It's not an exact science, and saying one golfer's feat overshadows another can be dicey. Does making two aces at age 97 trump three aces from 91 to 96?

We like to celebrate everyone's feat at that age and give them credit for their own niche in history. Most of us would just be happy to say we can put the clubface on the ball in our 90s and advance it down the fairway, let alone make aces.

Roche gets out about twice a week for nine holes in a cart, sometimes three times. In one of his recent rounds, on July 27, he had a 42 at Oceana, where he's a charter member. "I'm so old I can shoot my age," he says. Mr. Roche has longevity in his family, so his good fortune on the golf course could very well continue for quite awhile. If so, he'll separate himself from the other celebrated nonagenarians in our archives -- a very rare breed indeed.

-- Cliff Schrock

 
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