You can probably tell where this one is going...

It happens every time I get the picture or see it from a stranger on Twitter. At first, I smile thinking about the reaction right before the picture was snapped. I think about all the fun that person is going to have the rest of the day. I think about how one shot will create a life-time memory for everyone who witnessed it. I downplay what it probably cost them in drinks... It has to be worth it.

And I can’t help it, let’s call it one of my many personality flaws, but those feelings of joy for them turn to jealousy pretty quickly. I wish that would happen to me. Or at least someone I’m playing with that day. I’ve never even witnessed it happening unless it was on a video game. 

Of course, I’m talking about the thing we all chase; the swing where we put it all together and catch all the right breaks; the quest for the lowest score on a hole you can get: the hole-in-one. 

I was a little busy I got the text message so I didn’t have a chance to open it and see what it was for thirty or forty minutes. But when I did and saw the picture of a friend, standing by the pin, holding the flag in one hand with the ball in his palm and one finger pointed to the sky. I knew what it meant. And the range of emotions flowed from there: amazement, joy, excitement, for him; jealousy and melancholy for myself.

I know what the stats say. According to a recent data review of over one million par-three shots on the handicap app TheGrint (coincidentally, that’s the handicap app we use for ourselves so check it out and connect with us there!), there was only a 0.015% of a hole-in-one. That’s only 154 aces in over a million data points. They estimate it would take 6,493 swings from the tee of a par-three to can one. If there were the typical four short holes on a regulation eighteen-hole course, that would equate out to 1,623 rounds.

Stats from TheGrint don't look too promising. For most of us at least.

TheGrint was using their own data, so maybe their numbers got skewed. That’s what I told myself at least. I was wrong. According to the National Hole-In-One Registry, the odds really aren’t any better. Yikes... Not looking good for your boy over here unless I start playing a lot more golf. 

I love a good infographic.

I guess there is still hope. According to the National Hole-In-One Registry, 60% of aces are hit by folks over 50 years old. Here’s hoping my odds increase in about eighteen years.

And there is a little comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one out there without an ace, especially after seeing the stats on how rare it is. Even I, the historian who hates math, knows the odds aren’t any good. But neither are the odds for the PowerBall and I still think I’m going to win that one day too. 

Brett's post on FB says it all... He should probably retire that ball.

It isn’t like I haven’t been close before. Seems like every year there are a couple kick in birdies that should have gone in. They just haven’t... At least, not yet. That’s what makes it all the more frustrating for those of us who haven’t felt that ultimate exuberance yet.

As part of all this, and considering I don’t have a story of my own ace to tell, I decided to reach out to a few golfers and get their story to share. It went about as you could expect with the friends who had hit one more than willing to share while those who hadn’t responded with a mixture of dejection and disgust.

There were more “haves” that I thought. Brent thought he needed more than a paragraph to describe his hole-in-one from a couple years ago. Rob had three to his credit but didn’t have any pictures he could share. He told me all his came in the 1990s so maybe that was before cameras on cell phones were a thing. Brett, the culprit who triggered me into writing this with an ace from last week, hit his with a standard seven iron but the real story was about the ball he used. Roger got one his first few years playing the game and hasn't hit one since. Dustin had one too. He was playing golf when I text him but sent me his picture.

The course is no longer there but the memory will last a lifetime.

You could almost feel the pain in the text messages of those that responded who hadn’t. “Nope. Never even seen one,” Kevin replied. “I wish,” Andrew said, “Bent over and blew one in before as close as it was.” Axline didn’t have one. Neither did Josh. Or Jason. Or Brian. Or Jeffrey. Or Sean. Or my old man. Or Craig. Or Judd. Or Bryant. It was a fairly small sample size, but you get the point. 

I really am happy for all my friends who have one. Really. There’s no sarcasm there at all. That’s the truth. I’m sure everyone else on the “have not” list is pumped for them too. And I’ll be equally as jacked for the “have nots” when they hit one too. Seriously. You can count on me.

One day, hopefully, it will happen. Maybe it won’t. Guess I have to be alright with that outcome too. But it certainly won’t be through a lack of trying. 

Until it happens, and especially after posting this story, I know I’m going to get roasted on the internet by all of you reading this when you join the "haves" list. I fully expect my mentions to be full of pics of you smiling by the pin flag with your finger pointed to the sky. Bring it on. I’ll celebrate with you in the moment. And I promise to be genuinely happy for you.

Just know that when you do that, your name goes on the list and I’ll be coming for you if, and more accurately, when, it happens to me...

Until then, we’re glad you’re here. 

- tMP

Updated: Jun 21

Found the middle of the fairway on hole #2 at Marion.

It was raining when I left my house. The radar on my phone showed that it was likely going to be raining for the entire hour plus drive north. The weather was moving the same way I was headed. I pointed my truck north anyway. I needed the therapy and was willing to take the chance.

I pulled into Marion a little early and the rain was still falling. It wasn’t heavy; it was just the nice, light rain that puts a smile on all the faces of all the good folks down at the local co-op. I was still hopeful that it would let up in time for us to get to play. But as the clock ticked closer to our scheduled tee time, I was huddled on the porch of the clubhouse, peering out through the rain drops at the epic tee shot that awaited on the first hole.

The rain and the tee shot on first hole were taunting me while I waited.

It was great to see Kevin when he pulled in. It had been a couple weeks and I was excited to get to play with him. We spent a few minutes catching up when our host pulled in and went down the drive to the cart shed. We jumped in the car and went down to meet him.

Our host for the day was Roger. Roger found the Middle Pin online somehow and registered as a member on the Middle Pin website (follow the link and click "Get Connected in the top right). He was one of the first people to follow what we were doing that wasn’t a friend or family member. When I reached out to him a few weeks ago, he was all in hosting us at his home course. It was still raining so we decided to head back to my familiar stomping grounds of the porch of the clubhouse to wait it out. We gave Roger some tMP swag. He was more than prepared and hooked us up with Marion High baseball hats and shirts.

Roger’s brother and playing partner for our match pulled in about ten minutes later. It was still raining but it didn’t bother me one bit. I was perfectly content talking over a few pre-round beers while watching the rain. We hit on everything: golf, COVID-19 and how its impacted our lives, baseball, and our collective backstories. Roger and Tyler both thought I was playing a joke on them with my San Francisco 49ers rain jacket. They were originally from Fresno and said they were still just getting over the Super Bowl. Tyler even repped the Bay Area with a Giants putter cover. I could see a little disappointment on their faces when I told them I’m actually not a fan; it was just a gift for speaking at a conference and I liked to wear it in the rain. They were relieved to know that my oldest son is a Niners fan because of that same trip though.

Tyler (left) and Roger (right), the Cali Bros in Kansas, were our gracious hosts for the day.

The rain delay pushed our scheduled tee time back about an hour, but sure enough, the rain eventually let up and we geared up to put a few down range. Roger asked us what the game was and we took the bait. We should have known better. It was their home course after all. For future reference, we'll always take the bait. We settled the stakes and teed it up for the shot I had been staring at for over an hour.

A few words come to mind in thinking of the Marion Country Club. Pure: the condition was immaculate. You could tell this place was well cared for by the staff and members. Hilly: there is quite a bit of elevation change throughout the course, especially on the first and ninth holes. I always love to see places out here in the middle use the contours of the land. Welcoming: not only were our hosts happy to show us around and great company, but as more and more members showed up to enjoy their course, several made their way over to say hi and see who was up on our match.

After playing the course one time through, I commented that it almost feels like two courses smashed into one nine-hole layout. The first three holes are unique with monster elevation change on hole one, a dogleg left second, and a short par-three third. Hole four is where the big change happens: the tee shot crosses a creek and goes back up a bluff to the fairway that then turns directly into the south wind. The fourth green and fifth tee feel like you're on top of a mountain after starting down by the creek below. The dog-leg right fifth hole, facing to the west with the prevailing wind off the left and the fairway tilting the same direction, was probably my favorite. Holes six, seven, and eight, all feature some elevation change but are all designed going north and south making them some of the more difficult holes on the course depending on the wind direction. To put a bow on the round, the ninth hole is a long, down-hill par-three that is surrounded by water short and left of the green. All-in-all, its a very well put together layout that uses the natural landscape and features more elevation change than you'd expect from a small-town, central Kansas golf course.

Kevin stripes a long iron on the fourth tee.

We finished nine holes and all played well but the Middle Pin boys had a COMMANDING one stroke lead at the turn. That lead obviously went straight to our head because we proceeded to lose it on the first hole of the back nine. Tyler eyed my irons and flushed his trial run with my five iron on hole twelve. I didn’t hit a five iron that good all day. We changed the music up; the Cali bros obviously felt right at home with the West Coast rap and Beastie Boys coming from the speaker in our cart. It didn’t seem to matter. The brothers plugged right along while Kevin and I kept stubbing our proverbial toes, especially on the long par-five thirteenth (hole four).

Tyler’s birdie and Roger’s par on the seventeenth while team tMP went par-par pretty much ended the match. All that was left was the long, par-three, eighteenth back down the hill toward the clubhouse. The brothers both pulled their irons a little too far to the left and there was a glimmer of hope for us if they both put them in the creek down the left side of the green. At least, there was hope until I washed my tee shot in the pond short of the green. Roger managed to find his tee shot in the hazard area by the creek and cashed in, literally, an epic up and down for par. It didn’t much matter what we did at that point. The match was over.

That didn't mean that the evening was over though. We made our way back to where we started, the front porch of the clubhouse, to settle up, rehash the round, tell a few jokes, and to wash it all down with a beer. It was a great end to a great day, regardless of who won on the scorecard. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself tonight when my head hits the pillow.

I feel like I say this all the time, but adventures like this are exactly the reason why we started the Middle Pin. Roger and Tyler were awesome and just like us. They just love golf. They love their course. They love their town. And its getting out to places like Marion that reminds me there are places like this one, and people like them, all around here. This was our story and experience playing with them but the names and the place could be substituted out for hundreds of places across our state. We want to live those stories and see these places. We also think our central idea behind the Middle Pin could help a whole lot of them too.

Roger wasted no time pimping his rig with a tMP sticker.

Maybe I would have played Marion on my own. Maybe not. I’d already played in that county before so I can say it probably wouldn’t have been high on my list. It wouldn’t have been the same though. We wouldn’t have met Roger and Tyler; wouldn’t have met some of the other members; wouldn’t have came home with a sweet new hat. On the other hand, it's likely that I would have came back home with a little more money in the Venmo account… And if that's the only bad takeaway from a golf adventure, then I think it was a complete success.

We’ll be back to Marion again. That’s a promise. And also an appeal for a rematch.

As always,

We’re Glad You’re Here – tMP

Updated: Jun 1

This isn’t a blog about anything other than golf. Let’s keep that in mind as we’re reading this. It has a singular purpose: to talk about golf during this challenging time in our world’s history. I know there are bigger issues surrounding what is going on and I’m not smart enough to know much about any of it. I do know that the past few months have altered my life in ways I didn’t think were imaginable six months ago. And there are millions of others out there right now who are just like me. Of course, I’m talking about COVID-19.

Sunset over Chapman, Kansas.

It can’t be understated how traumatic the past few months have been. The death tolls continue to rise and it’s easy to forget (or ignore) that each of those numbers on the death chart was a person. It was a father, mother, brother, sister, a husband, a wife, a child… I’ve been lucky and blessed enough that this disease hasn’t impacted my family that directly, at least up to this point, like it has for millions across the world. I hope and pray that it doesn’t. Prayer, along with following the guidelines set forth by various government entities, is about all we can do at this point.

This disease has changed our lives. Some of those changes are more permanent than others, but they are changes nonetheless. This post is all about my experience over the past two months of this new world we find ourselves in today.

Thinking back on March when the shutdowns and anxiety over this all hit, it seems like it was a lifetime ago. And it all seemed like it happened so fast. I was at work like normal and then all of the sudden, I just wasn’t anymore. Weird to think about.

Should be obvious, but I'm behind the camera on this one...

I’ve been working from home for almost two months now but honestly, there hasn’t been that much to do. At least, compared to what it should have been like during a normal year. Through all of this, I found out that I get a lot of my self-worth from my work. I’m proud of what I do and how I do it. And not being able to do those things makes it feel like a piece of myself is missing.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I guess there has been some “good” come out of all this. For one, I’ve had more free time on my hands. Can’t say I’ve always used that time as wisely or as prudent as I should have, but seems like everyday now affords some time that I can use for my own mental well-being by doing something that makes me happy. Thankfully, a good portion of those days have included playing golf and I’m grateful that myself and you other addicts out there still had access to the game during this time of strife. Strange to say this, but I think this dumb game has been a portion of what has “saved” me during all this. My wife and boys did a great job of saving me too but you get my point.

THIS one's me. Some say that's my best side...

At the end of this year, I’ll look back on the scorecards and remember the rounds, both good and bad, I spent playing this stupid game during these unprecedented few weeks in the spring of 2020. I’ll remember the faces of those who joined me (six feet away from each other of course) and how their laughs and conversation helped take my mind off what was happening in the world and in my own life, even if it was for only a few hours. I’ll remember the weird protocols and rules we played under during the outbreak: the pool noodles or PVC pipe wrapped around the flag stick we longer take out of the cup; cups raised or turned upside down to keep the ball from rolling in; no post round handshakes; anything within four feet is good, no need to put your hand in the cup and risk catching something. Almost forgot my personal favorite: no rakes for the bunkers. I hope to never see a rake on a golf course again. Good riddance.

I’m not an emotional guy and don't talk about my feelings with others. I know that annoys my wife at times. I can’t help it. Just not comfortable letting people that far “in.” Maybe that would change with some professional therapy, but I don’t see that happening because I use this dumb game as my therapy now. It’s a chance to get out of my basement office, get some fresh air, see some faces, and get some new perspective on the world we now find ourselves in.

So thankful for this type of therapy.

I don’t know what the future holds or how all of the pandemic stuff will shake out. Remember, I'm not smart enough to figure all that out. I do know that through all of this change and turmoil in my life, this game, the places it’s played, and the people I’ve played it with, have impacted me so positively.

This really is a stupid game. Easy to say that in light of everything happening in the world right now. The outbreak has had a way of putting things in perspective. In the grand scheme of things, golf is so very unimportant it is hard for an addict like me to comprehend. It's just a dumb game.

And I’m sure thankful for this stupid game in times like this.

We’re glad you’re here…

- tMP

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