The sky was heavy as I made the 45-minute drive to Ingersoll Golf Club last Thursday to meet my Oakville pal and weekly playing partner for our 10:20 tee time.
The prospect of a double round on Underpar’s same-day replay option was slim if The Weather Channel’s forecast for the day was to be taken seriously. We’d been blessed with good weather all season, if it amounted to only a few holes played today, we could hardly complain.
As I guided the car slowly up the golf club’s meandering entrance road, I took a long look left at the 15th green nestled proudly under close scrutiny of the clubhouse balcony – a reflex response for both Rob Barbisan and me each time we rolled in since that special morning early last September.
The rain the night before and the promise of more to come had trimmed the field of golfers. With added efficiency from cart number 19 (aka, Henderson or Yzerman depending on which one of us you asked), we played unimpeded and very quickly through the early holes.
Rob’s style of play is arguably far more efficient than it is dynamic. A thrifty swing with not an inch of overspent motion. It may not be conducive to the long ball, but it delivers consistent flight paths and impressive scoring results. Like baseball’s tweener and hockey’s flick shot, it is every bit as effective as it is underappreciated.
On this day, Rob’s short game was providing all the excitement. He had made two 15-foot putts to save par before chipping in from twice that distance on the 5th hole. “Man, you’re holing from everywhere, this just may be a magical day. Hopefully the weather holds off ’til we get to fifteen,” I said as I put the finishing touches on a hard-fought bogey.
When we arrived at the 156 yard par-three fifteenth, the site of the first ace he’d ever made and the first I’d ever witnessed on September 3rd last year, Rob hit his shot a touch short and right of the green.
There’s a palpable specter of possibility when playing a hole on which you’ve witnessed a hole-in-one. When I stepped up for my turn, I felt an odd sense of calm over the ball. I was entirely unphased as I backed away for a car rattling past, obliviously, on the narrow exit roadway thirty feet to the right of the tee area.
After resetting and recovering that soundless, mindless, isolation of task and oneness of concentration, I struck a solid eight-iron and anxiously watched the ball track exactly as I had played it out in my head: a high draw starting at the right edge of the green and working back to a short, center pin.
There was an eerie stillness as time stopped and I followed the ball’s descent in line with the pin. I awaited the two short hops and forward roll out toward the hole. The blissful anticipation came to an abrupt end with the thud of the ball contacting a rain-softened front fringe and checking back two feet.
“I didn’t want to say anything to jinx it,” Rob said, “but I got chills when it was in the air.”
Now, one could be forgiven for feeling a little cheated if the story ended here, but as it turns out, we finished the first round with the weather holding off, restocked the cooler bag and set out on an empty course for round two.
As was the pattern most of the day, when we reached the fifteenth hole the second time around the course, Rob had the honour. He generally works off a five-second pre-shot routine and I happened to be fumbling in my bag for a seven-iron when I heard the click of contact and Rob muttering something about it being right. I found my bearings just in time to see his ball trickling back down the slope from the fringe of the green, a little past and right of the pin.
About two or three feet from the hole a cognitive numbness took over. It seemed a combination of déjà vu and out-of-body experience as we watched the ball disappear at the flag.
“It’s in again,” I said, as we looked at each other, incredulously, “You just made another hole-in-one.”
This time we drove the cart slowly up the path in complete silence, eyes surveying the terrain to rule out any evidence that would bring cruel disappointment. Deep in the swirling thoughts of our own heads, we walked slowly down the grassy slope to the green, futilely trying to process what had just happened.
Like last time, Rob’s tentative approach allowed me the first peek in the hole. Sure enough, his white TaylorMade ball was resting comfortably at the bottom of the cup. Within one year he had just made his second hole-in-one on the same hole of the same golf course.
It’s hard to predict precisely how one will react under such monumental and untested circumstances, but what immediately followed was me smothering Rob in an awkward man hug, grabbing his face, and planting a big kiss on his bristled cheek.
“What a great story this is,” I said.
“Yeah, but it would have been a better story if you had made it and we both got one on the same hole.”
Though mine has yet to come, it was a magical day on the links for two golfing buddies.
The National Hole-In-One Association places the odds of an amateur golfer making a hole-in-one at 12,500 to one. Though I could find no data, I suspect the odds of an amateur making two aces would be exponentially higher. It’s hard to even fathom what the likelihood of an amateur making two holes-in-one on the very same hole might be.
Come to think of it, just imagine the odds of a person witnessing the same player making two holes-in-one on the same hole.