I have enjoyed playing the game called golf since Father’s Day 1986. I have seen only one eagle made — my father hit a 9-iron back over the trees from the ‘other’ fairway and into a par-4 hole at Laurel Lane. I have had my fair share of eagle attempts, but it has not happened for me — yet. I once bounced my second shot off the pin of a long par-4, disappointed that it did not go in, and even more disappointed from missing the ensuing birdie putt. My best closest-to-the-pin on a par-3 is a mere 8-inches. My point to all of this “love” golf has shown me over the decades: it is really hard to shoot an eagle.
Last evening, our foursome teed off at East Greenwich golf course, hoping to squeeze a 9-hole round before it got dark. I made a well-placed shot on the 115-yard par-3 using a 9-iron, within 14 feet on the topside of the hole. My brother, Randy, made (what we would later call) “a great shot” — he pushed his ball into the trees on the right, and it ricocheted back onto the green within 15 feet right of the cup. His brother-in-law, Joe Brazil, hit on a similar line, but I think the branch that saved Randy’s earlier shot was no longer there — so Joe had to settle on chipping green-side from the cabbage. Then came John Coletta’s shot.
I knew after watching its trajectory that the distance was going to settle nicely near or just below the hole, and only a couple of paces to the right. It took the expected, nice short hop onto the green, but it went turning left towards the cup. That draw bounce was all it needed, and I thought to myself, “well, go into the cup.” When I saw the ball disappear, I swear I even heard the ball hit the bottom of the cup. I jumped with exhilaration, exclaiming, “It went in! It went in! You just shot an ace!”
Now, I judge that John stands 5’6″ and I guess it was not enough for him to see the slightly elevated green. He did not see his shot roll into the cup. And he was naturally sceptical of my claim, clearly in disbelief. After all, what are the odds? What a shame, I thought. I have such a clear image to replay in my mind of the awesome event.
So, we strolled up to the green to determine the final outcome. There were only the two balls of his opponents staring the hole down. John jumped with such a pure joy that can only be experienced by a golfer that has earned such a rare triumph in this great game. And for John’s lifetime, it will be immensely recognised as such by all his fellow golfers still pursuing their own great moment. The group ahead and behind us gave John deserving cheers. We then gave John the bad news of the traditional round-of-drinks he was going to have to offer to celebrate his moment.
John informed me (after Randy and I both missed our birdie attempts) that he overheard my 9-iron selection to my playing partner. He had always used a 7-iron for safe delivery to that green, but chose to drop to an 8 after watching my seemingly effortless shot. Glad to have had a positive influence!
Anyone who has played golf long enough knows it is a fickle game. I wondered how John would play the last 3 remaining holes, in particular, the upcoming par-5. With his honor to tee first, John hit his usual conservative driver attempt just a little right, but his natural draw did not factor. And just as he got that favourable bounce onto the green before, the ball took an unexpected high and hard bounce right towards a water hazard. I laughed and reminded the group about how quickly the game can turn on you — and I joked at John that I had hoped it was not the same ball he just shot an ace with. John looked at me perplexed and responded, “Yes, it was. So what?” Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!
Fortunately for him, his trophy of remembrance had safely landed just short of the water hazard. We allowed him an exemption to swap the ball-in-play without penalty. John still managed to shoot a quadruple bogey 9 — five shots to get on the green followed by a poor 4-putt showing. John went from exuberance to dismay in a manner of minutes. “I have not shot a 9 all year, or even last year!”, he claimed. I quickly put a positive spin on his disappointment with, “And you never shot an ace before in the last 18-years.”
When John birdied the next hole — on a tricky putt in the dimming twilight — I had to ask him, “Was that the ace ball? Because it could not possibly be the same ball you played shooting a 9 with.” John laughed and tried convincing us it was not his coveted ball that made for a hole-in-one. Golfers can be very superstitious, so I will remain uncertain of that.
Congratulations, John Coletta, for a fabulous Ace, Hole-in-One, an Eagle to remember!!