My Hole-in-One

Mike Ratchman and Pat HillThe excitement was building as we prepared for the big weekend. Since this was our virgin attempt to play in a hickory stick tournament, we had to locate and invest in the proper outfits and new relaxed swings if we were to expect success in this unique event.

This years’ Region 4 Golf Club Society tournament was being hosted by my uncle, Max Hill, the President of Hickory Sticks Intl, who has one of the largest collection of wooden shafted golf clubs in America. 

All players had to play each and every shot with an original hickory shafted club and Max was providing the clubs for novice players like ourselves who did not yet own our own sets.

A member of our regular foursome, Ray Martinez, was driving back to work on the Friday before the start of the tournament when he had a head on collision and he lost his life in a blink of an eye. 

Ray had left behind his loving wife, his two young daughters and his golf buddies, all in a state of shock.  After much grief-stricken consideration, my partner, Mike Ratchman with Golfer’s Guide, and I had to ask ourselves, “what would Ray do?” and decided we should not cancel our play in the tournament that was scheduled to start the next day, as that was the last thing Ray would have wanted.

So instead, we arrived Saturday morning at Onion Creek Club in Austin, TX, the original host of the Legends of Golf and the birthplace of what is now the Champions Golf Tour, in our knickers, shirts with ties, and Hogan caps along with the attitude of wanting to remember and celebrate Ray’s life. 

Ray had been our A player ever since we first all met 20 years ago at Pecan Valley Golf Course when we piled empty beer cans so high upon the table after the round that we lost sight of Ray. Of course, at 5’3”, it didn’t take as many cans as one may think but, let me tell you, this 5’3” dude could pound the ball and played to a 5 handicap.

Our strategy was that we would start drinking beer and smoking cigars in Ray’s honor on the very first hole and just spend the day reflecting on the decades of great golf outings we enjoyed with Ray. The memories go on and on, mostly golf related but mixed with a number of off the wall, near legendary stories that somehow Ray had gotten himself involved in over the years. All of them were very funny and very entertaining and we still, to this day, talk with him as we play the game we all shared such a passion for.

Ray even has a hole dedicated to his memory at Silverhorn Golf Club in San Antonio, where No. 15 is appropriately named Ray’s Creek in his honor. We are sure he watches down as we hack away when we play there, trying to do him justice.

With this all in mind, and on just our 3rd hole of this shotgun start format, we pulled up to No. 7, a par 3 that normally plays 191 yards but today the tee and the pin were both back and there was a slight wind that calculated approximately 207 yards to the hole. I selected my Wilson Cup Defender driver since my 19 handicap swing could not reach with the hickory mid-iron choices.

What happened next could only be described as a swing from heaven above, and from a low handicapper like Ray Martinez taking over my swing, because with an unreal even tempo and pure textbook contact, the ball was sent in a beautiful path towards the green, taking only three short bounces until it disappeared into the hole, completing my only lifetime achieving hole-in-one. 

The celebration started and the rest of the day was a blur but knowing that, without a doubt, Ray had blessed us, once again, with one final moment in a round of the game we love so much.


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