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Entry Into the Promised Land

A hole-in-one the entire family can celebrate

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I almost didn’t believe it. 

Golf had tricked me and my family too many times over the years. It did it to my father, a single-digit handicap most of his life. Same for my uncle, a two-rounds-a-week fella in his 70s whom I’ve seen shoot 69 in a tournament. And, to that point, it had done the same to me. Not a single ace among us. The Bacon curse.

I remember Arkansas when I was a teenager, playing with my dad, his best friend, Ted, and Ted’s son, Jake. It was a scramble, and the commotion that followed my supposed hole-in-one was met with hollers and high-fives from groups behind us before we realized the ball had nestled a foot past the hole down a ruthless slope that hid it from excited eyeballs on the tee. 

I remember the Waste Management Phoenix Open pre-qualifier in 2019, when my short iron produced more high-fives on the tee, plus a text to my wife—“I just made a hole-in-one!”—only to realize my yellow Titleist had found the perfect hiding spot directly behind the shaded flagstick. Another 2, and a deflated follow-up text: “Never mind.” 

hole in one
There may be no better feeling in golf than when that ball finally drops and the years of frustration evaporate.
Photo by Geoff Cunningham

My golfing journey has seen balls fly directly into the hole and pop out, multiple lip-outs, some stop on the edge and others bounce clear off the flagstick. 

Golf had hammered me into believing that for every Charlie Kautz, Brad Faxon and Matty Blake (who called it before he made his, mind you) that I watched tee off on a par 3 and not need putter, it would never be me who was buying the drinks and getting the congratulatory texts and the plaque boasting to the world that I, too, had played a par 3 to perfection. 

So it was on the eighth hole at Wine Valley Golf Club—a course with a sweet logo, rolling fairways and firm greens that I’ve been dying to play for years—that I refused to be tricked again. 

This time I knew it went in. I saw it! I watched the ball as it landed on the hill right of the pin, caught the slope and headed straight to the hole. It rolled slowly toward the pin and disappeared. But years of scar tissue demanded confirmation. 

This is where we welcome my playing partner Jake Minard to the story, a buddy of mine who is as unique a person as Jim Furyk’s golf swing. Jake saw that I needed to truly know if this was it, so, before anyone else could move, he hopped in his cart and pushed the limits of that E-Z-Go governor until he reached the green. Forgetting the basic laws of the road, Jake abandoned the cart before applying the brake. The cart slammed into the curb as he sprinted to the green, arms flapping like Phoebe Buffay trying to complete a 10K. 

While Jake ran, I stood, frozen with anticipation, on the tee with one of my best friends, who was getting married in less than 24 hours. Two more close friends playing the hole behind us dropped everything and came to watch the short film unfolding. A ball had flown through the air and landed on earth that had been purposefully designed to move a ball closer to certain parts of the green and farther away from others, and it may have found the promised land. Jake approached the hole and, like a giraffe checking to see if its toenails need trimming, bent straight down from the waist to look in. 

After the longest heartbeat of my golfing life, Jake stood up and raised his arms. I finally believed. 

The tee box erupted like a football sideline after a 4th-and-1 stop. We laughed and hugged and high-fived and screamed like schoolboys. Making a hole-in-one is a combination of so many things, and for years I thought the main ingredient was luck. It still might be, but I no longer care. The curse is broken.