At an age when he probably knows more golfers in heaven than on Earth, Chuck O'Brien has chalked up two holes-in-one.
Oh, to be 82 and playing golf — and writing a '1' on the scorecard.
Chuck O'Brien knows the feeling. He has done it twice. This year.
That's right. At an age when he probably knows more golfers in heaven than on Earth, O'Brien has chalked up two holes-in-one.
That makes three for his career. He got the first one 'about 10 years ago,' he said. You know. Back when he was barely in his 70s.
I first heard about O'Brien on July 31. I was on vacation and had stopped by Kellogg for a mid-afternoon round. Word was buzzing all over the golf course:
'Some 82-year-old guy got a hole-in-one today.'
We played phone tag for three weeks. Seemed as if O'Brien wasn't playing golf, he was out of town. Or if he wasn't out of town, he was playing golf. Finally, we connected.
Tell me about this hole-in-one at Kellogg, I said.
'Well, it's actually the first one I've seen,' O'Brien said. 'The other two, I didn't see go in the hole. I looked all over for 'em.'
That first one was at Newman. Twelfth hole. About 150 yards over a small, grassy ravine to a slightly elevated green. O'Brien got all of the ball off the tee.
'I thought it went over,' O'Brien said. 'I kept looking for my ball in back of the green. Then one of the guys I was playing with looked in the hole. When he saw the ball in there, he was more excited than I was.'
A decade passed. Spring of 2008 came around. O'Brien was out in Phoenix, a thousand miles from the Peoria winter that refused to go away, playing a course called The Lakes. Here came a par-3 hole. He swung. Ball went up, came down, disappeared behind a sand trap fronting the green. O'Brien got up there, and it was
all over again. Couldn't find the ball. Then someone thought to look in the hole.
Darned if the ball wasn't snuggled in there.
Two aces. Not bad for a guy who didn't start playing seriously until he hit retirement. Oh, he had played some when he was really young, then once in a while through those decades we
call middle-age. But you know how it goes. He had a family to feed, a business to run.
'I was always working or busy,' O'Brien said.
In 1990, he took the family business that he had inherited from his father, C.L. O'Brien Plumbing & Heating, and turned over full-time operation to his son. And then he hit the golf course. He still tries to get out a couple of times a week. He'd like to get out more, but Thursdays tend to be good.
July 31 was a Thursday.
O'Brien got to the seventh tee box and surveyed the situation.
Par 3. One hundred thirty-one yards.
He pulled his 5-wood. He set up, drew his club back, came down smooth and followed through. Just like the books and magazines and instructors tell you to do it.
'It was beautiful,' O'Brien said.
Flew high and straight, huh?
'It really did,' he said. 'It was really a good-looking shot.'
Just like Tiger Woods.
'Not that good-looking,' O'Brien said.
The ball plopped onto the expansive green, hopped and rolled to the pin. And dropped in.
This time, O'Brien saw it all the way.
'But I wasn't sure yet,' he said, 'and I wasn't gonna celebrate until I saw it in the hole.'
At least this time, he didn't waste time with a nature hike. He knew right where to look. He walked up to the hole, reached in and took out his ball.
Then he wrote '1' on the scorecard.
First time, third time, any time, that looks pretty at any age. At 82, though, it's just plain sweet.
KIRK WESSLER is Journal Star executive sports editor/columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com, or 686-3216.