Lightning struck twice Thursday morning in the form of a pair of holes-in-one for Dennis Swonnell — in the same round, four holes apart.
The 67-year-old Bear Mountain Resort member first conquered the 163-yard par-3 10th hole on the Valley Course with his 6-iron. Just four holes later, he brought the 135-yard 14th to its knees with an 8-iron, both struck crisply and witnessed by partners Keith Walsh and Gordon Barnes.
“It was an exceptional day today, I guess you can say,” said Swonnell, who proudly calls himself the first non-hockey player member of the resort course, which was financially backed by National Hockey League players when first opened in 2003. “I guess I got my dues back today.
“It’s one of those days where, because you play so much golf it’s neat when it happens, but it’s a shock. It’s something you don’t comprehend — two holes-in-one in one day, in one round, is unbelievable.”
The odds of it happening are also astronomical. Back in 1999, Golf Digest reported that one insurance company placed the odds of an amateur making two holes-in-one in one round at 9,222,500 to 1.
The National Hole-In-One Registry currently has those odds at 67 million to 1.
“That’s what the head pro told me,” said Swonnell. “I told him, ‘Well, can’t I get a couple of million dollars for this? That would be nice.’ ”
Instead, he carts away memories to last a lifetime.
“Sometimes when you hit good shots, they go in,” said Swonnell, who then described the tee shots.
“The ball was straight on the pin. I looked at it, but couldn’t see it come down because the lighting was bright. I knew it was on the pin, but I didn’t know how close it was,” he said of the first. “We walked up and I said, ‘Gee, I don’t see my ball. I can’t believe I hit it too long.’
“There’s a trap at the back and I didn’t think I carried it all the way back. One of the guys checked and said it was in the hole.”
If the first was neat, the second was out of this world.
“On 14, I used an 8-iron and the humorous part was one of the guys said, ‘Wouldn’t it be a hoot if you had another on this one.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that would be a real hoot, wouldn’t it?’
“I hit it nicely again, saw it had two little bounces right on the flag and it disappeared. I thought it was either in or just rolled past,” said Swonnell.
“I got into work and it was the talk of the town,” said Bear Mountain employee Cailean Hourigan. “I couldn’t believe it. I was way more excited than he was.”
Swonnell, who played a little as a youngster but didn’t take up the game more seriously until the last 25 years, did have a previous ace, on the 16th hole on the Valley Course.
“I tried to get one there today as well, going for the three-peat,” he said.
The group ended the round and a few drinks were had. And don’t worry, he has hole-in-one insurance to cover the tab.
And if you’re wondering what brand of ball he played: “Well, I played two. I played a Titleist the first time and a TaylorMade the second.”