Carr Vernon stood over his teed-up ball on the first hole at Westwood Hills Country Club like he had done thousands of times before Friday morning.
The last time he played the par-4 starting hole, Vernon’s 300-yard tee shot ended up in the cup.
It was the fourth hole-in-one for Vernon, who plays on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, his second at Westwood Hills. He’s had a double eagle on his card a couple of times during his playing career, but never on a par-4.
An Albatross ace is about as rare as it gets in golf — it’s only happened once in PGA Tour history.
It had never happened before on the first hole at Westwood Hills with the tall pine trees on the right side of the fairway protecting the green. With County Road 471 out of bounds on the left and water on the right, it can be an intimidating way to start a round of golf.
After one hole, one shot and 3-under par. How does one top that?
“I let everybody off (the second tee) in front of me so I could let my heart stop beating so hard,” said Vernon, who finished his round Thursday at 8-under 63.
The following morning Vernon returned to the same tee box after we talked about his rare bird sighting.
Andrew Magee is the only PGA Tour player with a hole-in-one on a par-4 hole in competition and there have been two on the LPGA Tour and two more on the Korn Ferry Tour.
The National Hole-In-One Registry, a website that tracks aces around America, says the chances of a Tour player making a hole in one on any hole is 3,000 to 1 while an average player’s odds are 12,000 to 1.
What are the odds of hitting a hole-in-one on the same hole in consecutive days?
It’s happened before here in Poplar Bluff.
A groundskeeper at the John J. Pershing VA Hospital who played after work at the old Poplar Bluff Country Club did it in 1989. On Memorial Day, John Stiber recorded his first hole-in-one on the second hole. The following day on the same hole, same result.
“It really was kind of eerie,” Stiber told the Daily American Republic.
At the time, Stiber had been playing golf for five years. He never had another ace and that hole is now part of the walking trail at McLane Park.
“I walked up to the cup and it was in there. I got pretty excited then. I never expected to get one. I quit right there. I told them you couldn’t get any better than that,” Stiber said at the time.
Only it did.
Stiber’s 6-iron off the tee ended up in the hole the very next day.
His mother-in-law, Geraldine Massie, was the only other person to witness both aces. Technically, Stiber only saw the second one since he thought the first one rolled over the backside of the green.
“The people I was playing with said that it went in,” Stiber recalled at the time, “but I kind of just said, ‘alright, we’ll see.”
The following day, Stiber hit the same type of draw shot towards a large tree on the fairway.
“They were kind of getting on me and saying let’s see you do it again,” Stiber said. “This time I saw it go in. I was just laughing all the way down to the hole. I couldn’t believe it.”
I only know this story because I married Stiber’s daughter. The two hole-in-one balls — a Pinnacle No. 2 and a Top-Flite No. 3 — were made into a plaque that hangs in his den.
Ask Google today what the odds of that occurring are and it returns a few news items of it happening recently around the world. One said the probability of it happening is 67 million to 1.
Nearly 31 years later, Vernon took a swing at even greater odds with his tee shot Friday morning at Westwood Hills where he’s been playing since he was able to pick up a club.
The wind was coming from a different direction than the previous day and Vernon’s drive landed to the right of the cart path between some trees. It had the distance, so a chip set up a birdie putt that missed by less than an inch.
Vernon thought that if anyone might have gotten an Albatross ace at Westwood Hills it might have come on No. 6. The No. 1 hole was played as a par-3 at one time due to flooding from the lake but it’s not known if an ace was recorded.
Both questions could have been answered by former club secretary Tom Hoover.
Vernon’s story (which will appear in Wednesday’s edition to start our summer series) reminded me of that plaque in my father-in-law’s den.
Stiber told the newspaper at the time he hoped the string of luck might carry over and bought lottery tickets.
“I usually don’t play,” he said, “but the way things have been going you never know.”
Brian Rosener is the sports editor of the Daily American Republic.