Raymond “Mike” Hogan swears he’s not a long hitter on the golf course, but what he’s done the last two seasons at The Woodlands Golf Club in Alton tells a different story.
The 62-year-old Brighton resident has achieved something that’s never been done at The Woodlands. He has an albatross and a hole-in-one on a par-4.
In August 2014 Hogan scored an albatross — sinking the ball in two shots on a par-5 — on Hole No. 8. He followed it up with an ace on par-4 No. 9 on April 8.
Most hole-in-ones occur on par-3 holes, so acing a par-4 is rare. The albatross, also known as a double eagle, is also a scarce feat. Both of his shots came from the senior tees.
“In my younger days I was around 285 to 290. Now I hit the ball around 250 on average,” he said. “I might be able to stretch it out to 285 like the day I hit the (albatross). On No. 8 I’ve been on that hole many times for eagle, but No. 9 I’ve only driven that hole one other time and that was like five years ago.”
The hole-in-one is a coveted achievement for Hogan. It’s the only one of his 34-year career golfing. Thinking back to that day, it’s still hard for Hogan to believe he did it.
“There’s a story behind it,” Hogan said. “We usually play the senior tees. There’s a group of us that play Woodlands all the time and that day just two of us showed up. They moved the tees up. Usually the senior tees are like 320 yards, but they moved them forward to let the tee boxes recover from the winter, so it was only about 275 yards out.”
Hogan hit his driver off the tee box and it traveled down the left side, angling toward the out-of-bounds area. As it approached the green, it tailed back and caromed off the cart path. From where Hogan was standing at the tee box, he couldn’t tell where the ball landed, but he wasn’t confident it was all that good.
“It looked like I might have just caught the rough because as wet as it was, because it was April 8, we figured I probably plugged, so Jim (Thompson) hit and we went up and were looking around and couldn’t find it,” Hogan said.
They searched for the ball and Hogan decided to take a drop from about 100 yards out, where he’d last seen his ball. He chipped to within 10 feet of the pin and as he lined up for his putt, Thompson yanked the pin. When he did something popped out of the hole.
It took the duo a moment to figure out it was Hogan’s ball.
“At that time there were some explicit words being said, like ‘What the hell was that?’” Hogan said with a laugh. “When it first popped out it didn’t even dawn on us it was the ball. We thought something was jacked up on the stick.”
Hogan was overwhelmed with excitement.
“The adrenaline I guess, when we got to the next tee I had to step back five times before I could hit the ball because I was shaking so much,” he said. “It was something else. That was my first hole-in-one ever and I didn’t get to see the damn thing.”
As for the albatross, Hogan said his buddies tease him that it’s not that big of a deal because No. 8 is only 425 yards from the senior tees. That’s a short par-5, but Hogan points to its difficulty for the par-5 distinction.
“They’ve got it as a par-5 and it’s that way because the fairway is only like 30 yards wide and you’ve got out of bounds left and hazard to the right and it’s uphill,” he said. “It’s a tough par-4, but they label it as a par-5.”
Hogan used a driver and a 5-iron the day of his albatross, and again he didn’t see it go in. He knew it was on line, but he thought it carried off the back of the green.
“I thought it had to go off the back and as I walked by the pin there it was,” he said. “I just happened to glance in the hole because it was on line and we knew it was going to be tight.”
The two shots won’t soon be forgotten at The Woodlands. To happen on back-to-back holes by the same golfer is a unique achievement.
Golf is a fun pastime for Hogan, who played in the recent Godfrey Open at Rolling Hills Golf Course and always plays in the Wilbur Suhre Memorial Tournament at Oak Brook Golf Club in Edwardsville, among other local tournaments.
“I had bypass surgery a few years ago and I’m 62 and it’s all catching up with me now,” Hogan said, chuckling. “I started (golfing) when I was 28, so it’s been 34 years.”
The last two have been two of the best, though.