Golf ball in the hole
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It’s time to reject the tyranny of the hole-in-one

June 28, 2019

Before we get started, I want you to know that this—all of this—is about justice.

And now:

There’s a new American epidemic, and pretty soon you and your entire family will have to be quarantined. Disturbing reports are rolling in across the contiguous 48, from Reno to Hot Springs to … well, just those two, for now, but it’s a fool who can’t recognize the tremors that precede an earth-shattering cataclysm. If you saw one horseman of the apocalypse, would you run a hand across your brow, breathe a sigh of relief, and say, “Well, OK, I can deal with pestilence.” No! You’d know that just over horizon, you’d soon see the dust kicked up by the approaching hooves of war, famine, and death.

This is serious. This is dire. This is dystopia.

On the golf courses of our land, old men are making holes-in-one, and they’re making them in bunches.

It started with Jim Baker, a 75-year-old from Reno who made two aces on back-to-back days earlier this month, at the Somersett Country Club in Reno. “Maybe I should have bought a lottery ticket too!” he said. Maybe you still should, Jim. Maybe you should buy two.

Then, last week, 81-year-old Chuck Miller made two aces in the same day in Hot Springs, Ark. That’s an even older man, with an even more impressive feat, coming 45 years after his only other hole-in-one. His second came on an admittedly “lousy shot,” which just proves the universe is up to some bizarre and sinister tricks.

Chuck Miller after his second ace in one day.

I am not bitter at these two men, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’ve been a fan of professional golf for almost my entire life, but I didn’t grow up playing the sport, and though I took to it with an obsessional zeal in my 30s, I only ever got good enough to barely break 85 before I found tennis and quit completely. I never got close to a hole-in-one, and I certainly didn’t deserve one. If I had managed it against the odds, I would have kept the moment to myself and murdered any witnesses to ensure secrecy.

No, I’m bitter on behalf of heroes like Golf Digest’s own Alex Myers, who has been playing for 20-plus years, more than half of them as a single-digit handicap. Once, he thought he had an ace, and his heart “stopped for a second” when he approached the green and couldn’t see the ball … only to find that it was hidden two inches behind the flag stick.

Alex takes it all in stride, and knows there are better players out there suffering the same fate, but he can’t help but be riled by the likes of Baker and Miller, whose generic last names can’t disguise the audacity of their hole-in-one hoarding.

“I think if you love the game and you play enough, you deserve to have at least one in your life,” Myers said. “My buddy made his first a couple weeks ago, and even though he’s kind of a chop, I was happy for him. It’s these greedy pigs(!) stuffing their faces with handfuls of holes-in-one that get me. I’d like to think there’s justice in the world, but they prove otherwise.”

I may have coerced Alex into dropping that “greedy pigs” line—it’s an old inside joke, and I said it first in this case—but the fact is, even if we take these men out of the equation, there is a situation in golf that I’m calling The Tyranny of the Hole-in-one.

See, it’s not about Baker or Miller. It’s about what the hole-in-one represents, which is the dumb luck of the fortunate. It’s a living reminder that sometimes, merit means nothing. Why does Chesson Hadley have zero holes-in-one to his name? Why do the hacks get rewarded? Where, as Alex asks, is justice in this life?

And hey, while we’re here, what’s so good about an ace? Rarity? Sure, fine. It’s exciting. But ultimately, it’s lucky. An eagle on a par 5 yields the same benefit on the scorecard, but requires much more skill. So where’s my gushing newspaper article for all the eagles I made??

(Note: I never made an eagle. I had a 25-foot putt for eagle on a par 5 once. I made bogey.)

Onfokus

One of those lucky bastards just made an ace. Are they really better than anyone who hasn't made one?

Or what about a double eagle on a par 5? Or an ace on a par 4? Or—this has supposedly happened—a hole-in-one on a par 5? All of them are better, nobler and—crucially—sexier than the standard par-3 hole-in-one.

And yet, all we hear about are the Millers and Bakers and Candlestick Makers just pumping out holes-in-one like they work full-time at the hole-in-one factory. It’s enough that these old-timers bought 5,000-square-foot houses for $60 in their youth, or that they paid for four years of college with a jar of fresh milk, or that they’re so unfamiliar with the concept of debt that when they read about it in a book, they pronounce the silent ‘b’. No, they have to go farther and rub their aces in the faces of poor lads like Alex, who plays golf with tree branches he finds lying on the ground and has “cleats” that are just paper bags from the grocery store with little pinecone bits glued on.

Must I say it again? This is about capital-J Justice. (Actually, make them all capitals … This is about JUSTICE.) There are only so many aces to go around, and I’m not one who believes that two men getting multiple aces makes it any likelier that the rest of us will see any windfall. That’s trickle-down ace-onomics, and I consider it an obsolete theory. People like Alex and Alan Shipnuck will continue to experience total ace deprivation, and so, when we see these “two aces in one day!” stories, we need to recognize them as the rotten dividends of an unjust system.

The ace is mean. The ace is ugly. The ace separates the haves from the have-nots. To never make an ace is to experience a lifetime of yearning, and to make an ace is to live in isolation from your fellow man. Nobody wins in this rat (r)ace. It’s time to devise a system where the hole is covered for the first shot, so it simply can’t happen. This may sound radical or impractical, but in fact it’s the only solution that makes sense in this age of the Ace-pocalypse.

Embrace humanity, golfers: End the tyranny of the hole-in-one. The tap-in birdie will set you free.

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