Aces high at local courses

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— Red Cunningham may have taken 18 years to shoot his second hole in one, but it took him only 10 days to follow with this third ace.

Cunningham, 37, was in Carbondale Sept. 3 when he found gold on the eighth hole at the River Valley Ranch golf course. Cunningham's ball, which had just trailed 146 yards on the par-3, was sitting peacefully inside the hole when he and his friends approached the site.

Cunningham had seen the ball go in from his position near the tee but was immediately mobbed by his golf partners who were nearby. It was Cunningham's first hole in one since he was 18.

Ten days later, at the Haymaker golf course, Cunningham had another stroke of luck. On the fifth hole, he swung his 7-iron perfectly enough to drive a ball 185 yards to score another ace.

"The first one was a surprise," Cunningham said. "The guys that had finished the hole in front of me came running back and were jumping around and were excited."

Though he was excited, too, Cunningham said there was a certain amount of luck needed to complete the feat.

"A good shot gets near the hole, but a lucky shot goes in the hole," Cunningham said. "On the first one you're really psyched, and on the second one you're just like, oh, it's in the hole."

Cunningham, who works as a tile contractor, usually golfs about five days a week, though he says he doesn't expect to shoot another ace for a long time. Hole-in-one shots are rare, he says.

This summer, nine aces were recorded by the Haymaker pro shop, and one by the Catamount Club pro shop. Chris McPherson, 30, assistant superintendent at the Catamount, connected on a hole in one on a par 4 at the Sheraton Golf Course on Aug. 31. McPherson recorded the only par-4 hole in one in Steamboat in 2000. He also hit the only ace at the Sheraton this year.

"I had an idea where I needed to hit the ball and all," said McPherson, who used his driver to club his golf ball 345 yards to hole No. 16 for the score.

"You're taking a chance just going for the green, and you're lucky just making the green," McPherson said. "To make it (in one shot) is just unheard of."

Though his shot was incredible, McPherson admits he didn't know what lurked inside the hole until much later. In fact, McPherson decided to give up on the hole, and walked back to his car in disgust after he couldn't locate his ball.

A while later, as his buddy went to pull out the pin at the hole to prepare for a final putt, McPherson heard him mention something about a ball being inside the hole. That's when he and his friends at the course realized McPherson had scored an ace.

"He pulled it out and said, 'This is your ball,'" McPherson said. "We stood there for five minutes, just in awe, saying, 'How in the world did this go in?'"

The two men figured the ball had hit some branches, and then possibly rolled down onto the green before it landed inside the hole. The shot was particularly surprising considering how McPherson performed on the previous hole.

"The funny part about this is that I got a triple bogey on the hole before," McPherson said. "So, I decided (on the next hole) that I might as well go for it."

Josh Graham, 40, who manages Giovanni's Ristorante, had an ace while golfing at the Haymaker course Aug. 17. A pitching wedge in hand, Graham shot the ace on the 12th hole, good for a distance of 108 yards.

"I've only been playing four or five years, so it was kind of a startler for me," Graham said. "I just gave it a really good shot. It went straight over the water, plunked down at about eight feet in front of the pin and rolled down slowly."

Like McPherson and Cunningham, Graham was jumped by enthusiastic friends.

"I had my jaw dropped about a foot, and said, 'Oh my god it went in,'" Graham said. "I was just happy I didn't have to putt."

Though the three men said they were pleased with their accomplishments, they will probably be better off financially if they don't hit any more aces for awhile.

When a golfer connects on a hole in one, it's an unspoken rule that the person has to buy beers for the people in the clubhouse.

"You owe a drink to everyone," Cunningham said. "It's an all-golf rule."

To reach Eric Rineer call 871-4229 or e-mail erineer@amigo.net

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