Goss: The whole story on Dan Smith’s hole-in-one
June 22, 2012 11:04PM
Joliet Fire Department's Dan Smith sinks a putt. | File photo
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:30AM
Big hitters on the golf course are akin to baseball and softball sluggers. They draw attention.
Who doesn’t like to watch a good game of home run derby? Why do you suppose the Joliet Park District hosts its annual long-drive contest in the first place?
Get up there and mash.
However, a hole-in-one requires a different sort of skill and, most would agree, a healthy dose of luck. Yet if you can’t hit the ball far enough to get it to the hole, even Lady Luck can’t help it go in.
Hundreds of hole-in-one reports have come across this desk in my nearly three decades as sports editor of The Herald-News. Some have been on holes that played as short as 100 yards. Most have been in the 130- to 170-yard range.
Dan Smith’s masterpiece earlier this golf season was different. A lieutenant in the Joliet Fire Department, he grabbed his TaylorMade R11 driver on the No. 17 tee at Inwood and let it rip. He and friends Chris Stein and Joel Bartelt were using the blue tees that day, so the par-4 hole was playing at 353 yards.
“We were at the tee, waiting for a group in front of us to get up to the green,” Smith recalled. “The two guys I was with hit the ball right down the middle.
“I thought I would try to take it to the green. I hit it over the top of the trees, as good as I could hit it. Then, of course, it disappeared from our view. We drove up to the green and the gentleman came up to me and said, ‘Did you hit that off the tee?’ ”
Smith’s reaction naturally was, “ ‘Why, did I hit you?’ He said, ‘No, I just got out of the way and the ball went right into the hole.’ I understand it was a two-hopper.”
Smith said another player in the group ahead went up to the hole and took out the Titleist Pro V1 that Smith was playing. “It had the black dot, it was mine,” Smith said. “We didn’t scream or yell or anything. I think we were in shock.”
He then became concerned the ace would not be official since he did not remove it from the cup. But Inwood general manager Brian Legan reassured him.
“Brian said if they told you it went in, then I have to count it,” Smith said.
Conditions were perfect that day.
“The wind was at our backs that hole, the golf gods were smiling on us,” he said. “Weirder things may have happened, but I’m not aware of them.”
Smith said his equipment played a role. “That new TaylorMade R11 driver is the best, and I feel the Titleist Pro V1 is the best ball you can play,” he said.
Improved equipment has mattered in the game. Gone are the days when you never would see a 300-yard drive on your local courses. Extend the yardage markers for those long-drive contests, please.
The ultimate feat of strength and accuracy allowed Smith, who loves playing annually with the Fire Department team in the Ryder Cup charity golf matches against the Joliet Police, to seize family bragging rights.
“My father (Ron Smith, who has worked at Wedgewood for about 20 years) got his second hole-in-one on No. 17 at Wedgewood about two weeks earlier,” Smith said. “I had one on No. 14 at Inwood, a par-3, about 15 years ago in a Fire Department outing.
“My dad was ahead 2-1, but now after this one, I think it’s something like 21/2-2 in my favor.”
Smith, who took up golf as an 18-year-old under the tutelage of coach Gil Bell at Joliet Junior College, said he sometimes plays with the true long hitters.
“Guys like Dave Chizmark and Tony Giese, they blow it by me,” he said.
But this was an occasion when being able to hit one 353 yards — and keeping it straight on a path to the cup — added his name to local lore. As Legan wrote on the hole-in-one report he submitted: “Amazing!”
Smith said he never had a double-eagle, which though extremely rare probably occurs more often than an ace on a par-4.
“I’ve heard of a hole-in-one on a par-4 only twice previously around here,” he said. “Rick Sterioti got one on No. 5 at Wedgewood and Al Van Gampler I understand got one, although I’m not sure where. Those two guys can really crush the ball.”
Everyone digs the long ball, not just chicks.