With a 17 mph wind driving into golfers’ faces, ready to amplify any impurity in strike, Friday was a good day for taking bets on the Kenai Golf Course’s 10th hole about whether or not golfers would end up on the green.
Kelly Bookey was doing just that around noon when Soldotna’s Skip Dove strode to the tee with his PING 5-iron. Bookey was taking bets to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club, which was putting on its yearly tournament to accrue funds for youth development programs across the Peninsula.
“Not too many people hit the green today, with the wind swirling like it was,” Kenai Golf Course co-owner Gordon Griffin said.
Dove, 68, has been playing golf since 21. He’s always been an avid golfer and since retiring he’s played about 75 rounds a year.
But Dove, who currently plays to a 17 handicap and has a lifetime low of 9, knew hitting the No. 10 green with the tees and pin back was no sure thing. Griffin said the hole was playing at 152 yards, but Dove said his GPS showed the hole was playing even longer than that.
Dove bet Bookey a dollar, teed it up and took his swing.
“It felt good,” Dove said. “When the ball was on the way over there, I thought, ‘Well, I won a dollar off Bookey.’”
That’s what Dove kept thinking when the ball landed with a nice check bounce on the green and started tracking toward the cup, which is just 4 1-4 inches in diameter.
“I’m still thinking that I’m on the green putting for birdie and I won a dollar off Bookey,” Dove said.
That was until the ball disappeared for a hole-in-one. Dove let the shock of his first ace settle in.
“After this many years, I thought I might be real close, but I didn’t think I’d be getting a hole-in-one,” he said.
Then after a few more seconds, still more reality sank in. This was the Boys and Girls Club Tournament. Stanley Ford had promised anybody acing No. 10 would win a 2013 Ford C-Max, a hybrid car valued at $33,155.
“He was dumbfounded, then he started to let out war whoops,” Griffin said. “Everybody all at once said, ‘The bar is open.’”
Since it came at a tournament and the tee box for No. 10 is just steps from the clubhouse, Dove said there were around 20 people there to witness his top moment in golf.
“Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to this,” he said. “This is the high point of the golfing experiences in my lifetime.”
Golf tradition dictates that a golfer making an ace buys drinks for his golfing buddies. Griffin said there was an open bar in the clubhouse for an hour and a half, but Dove got off relatively easy.
“It was $70 worth of beer for friends,” Dove said. “It’s a small price to pay.”
Both Stanley Ford and Stanley Chrysler had cars available for hole-in-ones at the tournament, Stanley Ford on No. 10 and Stanley Chrysler at No. 9.
Matt Hopson, the general manager at Stanley Ford, said the car dealer buys insurance that covers it in the event of an ace. Hopson didn’t remember the exact amount of the insurance, but said it was between $500 and $800.
With the insurance paid no matter what, the dealers are happy to see the hole-in-one.
“We want them to get a hole-in-one,” said Tim Bornowski, the general sales manager at Stanley Chrysler. “I think it’s awesome.”
Both Hopson and Bornowski have been selling cars for more than 20 years. They’ve put up new cars for aces at hundreds of tournaments and never seen a winner.
“I never had anybody even come close,” Hopson said.
Hopson and Bornowski were both playing in the Boys and Girls Club Tournament, and neither was able to hit the green on the 10th hole. Hopson added that he normally hits a 9-iron on the hole, but had to hit a 7-iron to get his shot pin-high and just a bit off the right side of the green. He said that the wind moved the ball in the air as well.
“I play a lot of golf out there,” Hopson said. “I’ve played with the guy that won.
“He’s just a good guy. It couldn’t have happened to a better person. I think it’s wonderful.”
And the car was just part of Dove’s bounty. Bornowski said the insurance company offers smaller prizes for hole-in-ones on the other holes. Because Stanley Chrysler had a car available on No. 9, the insurance company gave away a Krank Golf Formula 5 Driver, listed on the Internet for $500, for the ace on No. 10.
Dove’s team also finished first in the tournament.
In 2013, the National Hole-In-One Association put the odds of an amateur golfer making a hole-in-one at 12,500 to 1. Griffin said this is the third ace of the summer at Kenai Golf Course, and the second at No. 10.
Because of a recent ace, Griffin said the trophy documenting all hole-in-ones is getting engraved and not in the clubhouse. But to the best of his memory, Griffin said No. 10 has been aced four times in the 12 years he’s worked at the course.
Griffin, who has been involved in the area golf scene for 25 years and can never remember a golfer winning a major prize with a hole-in-one, said there are a number of factors that make the 10th tricky.
The green is protected by a tall stand of trees, so using the flag to judge the wind is useless.
“You have to look at the flag on hole nine,” said Griffin, who has three career hole-in-ones.
Golfers must also carry a gully to get to the green. When the wind sucks down to fill that gully, it creates an unpredictable down draft on the ball.
“This will be the stuff legends are made of,” Griffin said.