According to the National-Hole-in-One Registry, the odds of making a hole-in-one for a mid-handicap golfer is about 12,000 to one. The odds of recording two aces in the same round by one player are around 67 million to one. And the chance that two players in the same group ace the same hole during the same round is around 16 million to one.
But what happened recently at Pine Hills Country Club in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, defies all odds. In fact, there's probably no way of calculating what happened there, and if they hadn't documented it, we probably wouldn't believe it. At the end of the day -- which included a golf outing and shootout – four players made aces at Pine Hills Country Club, and the last one to do it became a million dollars richer. The circumstances, though, surrounding this incredible feat, can only be described as fate, or perhaps for the more skeptical, an incredible coincidence.
"I've been in the golf business for 40 years," said Pine Hills' longtime head pro, John Wallrich, "and I've never heard of or certainly seen anything like this."
The sequence of events begins with something Pine Hills calls its "Hole-In-One Club." There's one for the men and women members of the club, which is located about an hour due north of Milwaukee near the famous Destination Kohler resort and Whistling Straits Golf Club. The idea of the club is that members who choose to be a part of the it and record an ace are rewarded with a golf outing, party and dinner. In July, that honor went to Reed Schmitt, who made an ace. Oddly enough, he actually won $5,000 a few years ago for another ace during an outing at Pine Hills.
But instead of just taking the regular special treatment for his feat this past July, Schmitt, a longtime member who owns a local construction company, decided to do something special. In addition to the outing, which he pushed back to Sept. 13, he contacted a Hole-in-One International and paid for the insurance for a hole-in-one shootout that could pay $1 million for a lucky golfer in the outing. The five golfers who were closest to the pin on the five par 3s at Pine Hills earlier in the day would qualify for the shootout. What happened during the outing and the shootout will never be forgotten at Pine Hills, and because of video taken at the event, can be relived over and over again.
An incredible day at Pine Hills
The first par 3 at Pine Hills is the fifth hole, which was playing 188 yards. It was one of the first holes of the day for Ted Anderson's group. When Anderson, a 50-year-old oral surgeon, hit his shot about five feet from the hole, he put his name on the card at the green, but figured with dozens of groups still to play the hole, it probably wouldn't hold up.
As the day went on, Anderson's feeling that golfers would be sticking the ball close on the par 3s was certainly validated. In his own group, Anderson witnessed Jon Rindt ace the 14th hole. That came after members Dan Olson made a one on the 16th and Keith Robel holed out his tee shot on the ninth.
In fact, according to a story on Wisconsingolf.com, Robel saw that Rindt had hit it to five inches on the ninth. Robel texted his buddy right away and said, "Jon, nice shot, but I beat you by five inches."
About a half hour later, Rindt texted him back: "That's okay; I just had one (an ace) on 14."
So when the round ended, the stage was set. Five players, three of them with aces, qualified for the shootout. That's incredible as is, but what came next is the topper. The pro, Wallrich, who was running the shootout, decided the players should go in order of the holes, so Anderson went first.
For the shootout, the rules required the players to hit from the back tees on the ninth. Anderson wasn't nervous. He said he was too busy congratulating the players who had already made aces.
He employed a 6-iron, one of his favorite clubs from 167 yards. It was a good strike; the ball headed right at the pin. About 100 people around the green started to cheer as the ball hit the green. As it rolled toward the hole, the roar from the crowd grew. Then it disappeared and everyone went nuts.
The 10 guys on the tee then mauled Anderson. Fortunately, the former college wrestler knew how to fall without hurting himself.
Putting it all in perspective
It took a while for everything to sink in for Anderson, a 7.1 handicap who ironically recorded his only other lifetime ace on the ninth hole a dozen years earlier.
"A lot of things had to come together for this to happen," said Anderson, who reserved special credit for Schmitt for going above and beyond to celebrate his ace earlier this summer.
Winning a million bucks is certainly a big deal, but Anderson hasn't even thought about what he will do with the money, which will likely be paid out in smaller increments over a number of years. The memories and sharing this experience with his friends is what stands out for him. Best of all, it's all on video. It can be relived over and over again.
"Money comes and goes," he said. "This is one special memory."
In case you were wondering, the other four players in the shootout still had a chance to win as well. They all hit their shots, none went in, but it's a day they will certainly never forget.