Ateve Norton points to his ball on the fourth hole at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono where he shot a hole-in-one while Susan Hunter kneels in front of her ball, which they believe hit Norton's in the hole, on Thursday, July 16.    Credit: Courtesy of Greg Jamison

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A hole-in-one is a cherished feat for golfers. According to the National Hole in One Registry, an “ace” is recorded only once in every 3,500 rounds played.

However, the odds against having two holes-in-one by two players in the same group, on the same hole, are astronomical: 17 million to 1.

It nearly happened on July 16 at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono. And perhaps it should have.

Steve Norton of Orono recorded his first career hole-in-one, at age 80, playing the 154-yard fourth hole.

But that was only a part of the drama.

Seconds after Norton’s ball rolled into the hole, Susan Hunter hit almost an identical shot, only to have her ball hit something at the hole and deflect a foot or two away.

The other two members of the foursome, Greg Jamison and George Jacobson, claim they know exactly what her ball hit.

Norton’s ball!

One of the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines on Maine golf courses involves putting the cup in the hole upside down or putting a “slice” of a foam swim noodle in the cup so the ball doesn’t drop to the bottom of the cup.

It is designed to prevent golfers from having to reach all the way down to the bottom of the cup so germs from hundreds of hands aren’t being exchanged.

“Her ball clearly deflected off something,” insisted Jacobson, a retired University of Maine professor from Orono. “Steve’s ball was sitting on the foam insert with the top of the ball just at the top of the hole. I think there is a real possibility her ball would have gone in if his hadn’t been in the hole.”

“George is right,” said Jamison, a Holden golfer who is a past chairperson of the UMaine Alumni Association. “Her ball would have stayed in the hole. There was so little space left in the hole [with Norton’s ball and the noodle in it].”

The flagstick was in the hole at the time.

“If hers had stayed in the hole, it would have been a national golf magazine story,” Jamison said.

Hunter tapped in her short putt but the former UMaine president didn’t allow herself to play the “what if” game.

“I didn’t view it that way,” she said.

“I wasn’t up there and nobody took a video of my ball hitting Steve’s in the cup,” Hunter said. “It hit something and it hopped. It was a good shot. And I did make the [birdie] putt.”

Hunter has never had a hole-in-one, but said she came close while in college playing at a course in Pennsylvania.

Norton said there is no question her ball was within the hole or very close to it.

“Maybe it would have gone in if mine wasn’t in it. That would have made a wonderful story,” said Norton, who is a retired UMaine professor. “I told her she could call it a hole-in-one but she said ‘no.’”

At some courses, when the cup is inverted, if a putt hits the inverted cup, it is considered a made putt.

Norton used a 4-iron and Hunter used a 5-iron for their shots, which landed on the same spot on the sloped green before the balls rolled down toward the hole.

Norton said he had flirted with a hole-in-one a few times before and it was a thrill to finally record one.

“It was fun. But it didn’t change the way I played the rest of the game,” said Norton, who wound up shooting a 79. It was his lowest score in 15 years.

Hunter was elated about Norton’s feat.

“He hit a great shot. I’m so glad I got to play with him [Thursday],” said Hunter, who lives on Pushaw Lake in Old Town.

“It was certainly a fun thing to be a part of,” said Jamison, who was paired with Norton against Jacobson and Hunter.

Jamison said the foursome had some on-lookers who added to the memorable experience: two eagles and two eaglets who were flying around nearby.

“That was the fourth eagle of my life,” said Norton, who bought his friends lunch and a beer right after the round.

An “eagle” is recorded when a player’s score on a hole is two strokes below par. On a par 3, it’s a hole-in-one.

“It was such a great day to be out there,” Norton said.