HAMPDEN, Maine — For a golfer, there is nothing more exhilarating than hitting a hole-in-one.
Jon Small of Hampden has twice experienced the thrill of an ace, but not until recently could he truly enjoy one.
Two years ago, he registered an unofficial hole-in-one playing at Spring Meadows Golf Club in Gray. Small was playing by himself.
“It’s a weird feeling because you’re all excited about doing it,” Small recounted. “I saw this one go in. It rolled in the hole. Then I said, ‘oh my God, nobody’s here’” to witness it.
On June 27, the Brewer native did it again. Small aced the par 4 fourth hole at Hampden Country Club, where he is a member.
“It’s a lot of luck, that’s what it is,” said Small, who was competing in a men’s league scramble with Bill Hall and two other players.
Alex Demers, assistant manager at Hampden Country Club, said No. 4 is listed as 295 yards. It features a significant outcropping of trees down the left-hand side of the fairway and a group of trees right and front of the green.
Small, who hit driver, said No. 4 probably was playing closer to 265 yards, even with the pin near the back of the green.
“We hit the green there quite a lot. The week before that, I had one about 8 inches from the hole,” he said.
“It’s quite a narrow tee box,” Demers said.
“It’s kind of a weird-looking hole. Mostly, if you can judge your shot right, it’s a straight shot,” he added, calling an ace on the fourth hole rare.
Small’s first instinct was that the ball had missed the green, since he didn’t see it go in from the tee box. He only checked the hole after searching around the green.
This time, his playing partners were there to verify the shot.
“The guys all hooted,” said Small, who has been a Hampden Country Club member since 2005.
The course was fairly soft, so he surmised his drive must have missed right, caromed off an elevated spot, then bounced across the green and in.
“I hit a little bit of a draw and it kind of went down the right side toward the green,” Small said.
“It’s a thrill.”
On any given golf swing, the odds of a player achieving a hole-in-one are one in 33,000, according to the United States Golf Register (usgolfregister.org).
There is a history of some lengthy holes-in-one at Hampden. BDN archives revealed two on the fourth hole during the 1990s and even a handful on the 300-yard eighth hole.
One of those was by Hall of Hampden, who witnessed Small’s shot.
Maine Amateur qualifying complete
Augusta Country Club in Manchester will be the setting for the Maine State Golf Association’s first major tournament of the season.
The 96th Maine Amateur Championship will be held July 9-11 at the 6,008-yard, par-70 layout.
The field for the tournament was completed with the playing of three qualifying tournaments at Biddeford-Saco Country Club, Martindale Country Club in Auburn and Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono.
A total of 235 players competed for the right to get into the Maine Amateur field. The 24 low scorers from each of those one-day events will join 54 exempted players in the tournament.
The low 40 and ties after the second round advance to the third and final round on July 11.
There are plenty of proven performers scheduled to tee it up at Augusta, including defending champion Seth Sweet, an 18-year-old from Madison.
He’ll be challenged by the likes of 13-time Maine Amateur champion Mark Plummer, who will be playing on his home course, along with three-time winner Ryan Gay of Pittston and two-time champs Ricky Jones of Warren, Ron Brown of Cumberland Foreside and Rick Ambrose of Bangor.
Gay is shooting for his fourth title after winning in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Among the players who have been in the hunt of late are J.J. Harris of Bath, a runner-up the last two years, and Jones, who finished second in 2010 and 2012.
Nearly half the field earned its way into the Maine Amateur by virtue of past performances. That group includes last year’s low 40 and ties, champions from the previous 10 years and multiple Amateur winners.
Also exempted from qualifying are the club champion from the host club (Plummer), the 2012 MSGA Senior, Mid-Amateur and Junior winners, and the MSGA season points leaders, both adults and Juniors.
Among the leaders in the qualifying tournaments were Michael Bouchard of Waterville Country Club and Joshua Hogan of Falmouth Country Club, each of whom shot a 71 in last Thursday’s qualifier at PVCC.
Brian Bilodeau led the way in the Amateur qualifier on his home course at Martindale as he carded a 2-under-par 69 in the June 25 competition.
In the June 20 qualifier at Biddeford-Saco CC, Brian Knipp of Lake Kezar Country Club fired an even-par 71 to take top honors.