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Posted: March 15, 2013
On Wednesday 13 March, 2013, my golf buddy Joe Violette called me in the morning to join him for a round in the afternoon. We are members at Pinehurst and enjoy all the courses, so we usually show up in the pro shop and pick whatever course is free. We call it playing "pick a number". At 2 pm, I was about to leave my house to meet up with Joe, when the news came out that there was white smoke from the Vatican, meaning that a new Pope had been elected. I called Joe to tell him that I wanted to see who had been chosen, so I would be a bit late. Once the news was out and Pope Francis had spoken to the crowd gathered in St. Peter's square, I figured it was time to catch up with Joe and his Dad. When I called them, they were already on hole 16 on Course 5, so I went into the pro shop and asked the assistant pro if I could join their group on hole 17 and "loop back around" to finish my round. The assistant put me in the computer and off I drove, in cart number 218. Joe and my normal game is an 18 hole gross battle for one beer. Winner takes all. We are both very competitive and have about the same handicap (a 1 or a 2 depending on the month), so these matches usually come down to a stroke or two. In addition to the beer, the winner has bragging rights until the next match, and these rights are quite important, as you can imagine. Anyway, I sped out to the tee on the par 5 17th hole, and the match began. Joe birdied the 17th and I the 18th...we halved a few holes with pars and then started an exchange for 7 holes where either Joe or I won the hole with a par or birdie. After each such case, the victor spends a few moments on the following tee to breath in the air of the honor. Once this ritual and an appropriate declaration of superiority is completed, the tee shots are away. When we arrived at the par 3 13th hole, Joe was 1 up. After his tee shot found the green, I hit a 7 iron that flew straight at the stick but landed a yard long and finished 15 feet above the hole. When it was in the air, it had looked pretty good, so in the cart on the drive down to the green, we started talking about what we would do if one or the other made a hole in one. We decided that an appropriate gesture would be that the person carding the ace would buy a steak dinner for the other. After this discourse was completed and we arrived at the green, I rolled in the 15 footer for birdie after Joe had missed, and the match was all square. I took a few seconds on the tee on the par 5 14th hole for a celebration of reclaiming the honor and hit a drive down the middle. Joe followed suit. We halved the hole in par and went to the 15th tee. The 15th hole on course 5 at Pinehurst is really beautiful. It has an elevated tee with a lake in front of the green, bunkers on the left and right and trees surrounding the back of the hole. Because of this effect, it is called "The Cathedral Hole". With a little wind at my back, the white markers 5 paces in front of the 161 yard white monument on the tee, and the flag up front, I pulled out my Titleist AP2 8 iron and put a good swing on it. It started out slightly right of the stick but drew back a bit. It landed just right of the pin, took one hop and disappeared. I stared down at the green for a moment in disbelief. I moved left and right to make sure it was not just behind the pin, and saw, much to my delight...nothing! I turned to Joe and said, "Man, I think that thing went in the hole!!!" Joe agreed that he thought it had gone in as well, but refocused on the task at hand (the match for the beer) and drilled his shot to the front of the green, just below the hole. When we got down to the green, we did not see my ball...until I found it in the cup! A HOLE IN ONE...but more importantly, a two stroke advantage for the beer match after Joe missed his birdie. I had to quickly refocus, because the 16th hole is a demanding par 4 dogleg right. I took a short time on the tee (no need for the ritual after a hole in one, right?), and hit a 3 wood to the left center of the fairway. Joe was down the middle as usual. I hit a 5 iron that drifted right and missed the green, bounding toward a shrub. Joe was on in two. I had a difficult lie, so I putted out from under the shrub, across the cart path to the green. I was able to get out of trouble, but the ball finished just on the fringe, about 50 feet from the hole. Joe putted up to gimmie range and it was up to me. 3 putt and we were tied for the beer. All this just to tie? Never! I gathered up my thoughts and took a hard look at the putt. It was uphill and going left. I was lagging to get the victory, but much to my suprise, it too went in the hole. A nice final par for a two stroke victory, and to top it off, an ace to celebrate. Who knows if my delay in getting to the course to watch the new Pope helped me once I arrived at the "Cathedral"? I would like to think so. Joe and I went downtown to the Holly Inn to have a nice steak and talk about all of it. It was a great day!