I have always loved sports, but I had too much empathy for my competitors. No matter what sport I played, I had to beat someone to win. I felt bad for them when they lost, especially after they practiced so hard. Then I found my perfect compromise, golf. We sometimes played against other competitors but my experience was that I didn’t have to beat anyone but the golf course. Two of the best reasons I was attracted to the game was that I was playing in the beautiful outdoors and I felt a spiritual closeness to God. We often played with others, but when I had to play by myself I felt God was also on my golf bag. I had some memorable moments golfing with him, but this day was going to be very special.
My extended family friend was going to retire soon. Ray wanted to learn to play golf. When our families got together for a function, Ray always searched me out to pick my brain about his new obsession. During that time he would always ask me if he told me about his hole-in-one on hole #7 at Deep Cliff Golf Course. “What a great accomplishment Ray!” It was made after a year of learning the game. He was so proud and he had every right to feel great because most golfers play their whole life and never get a hole-in-one. I was glad he shared his moment. Unfortunately, Ray passed away shortly afterwards.
Ray’s Rosary was this upcoming Monday night. I was working that day but I got off early at 2pm and decided to play a round of golf at Ray’s favorite golf course where he got his “Ace.” When I arrived at Deep Cliff I was paired with 3 other golfers, all strangers. During the round our conversation got around to, “What brings you down here to play?” Of course I had to tell them about Ray’s rosary that night and about his hole-in-one on #7.
We got to hole #7 and I was the third to tee off. The hole is 130 yards long with a double tiered green. On the left side was a sand trap guarding that side and a very large oak tree shading the green. To the right was a creek flowing to the right of the cart path, which winds its way up to the green. It’s a beautifully designed hole, and is the course’s signature hole photographed many times. I had a short time to reflect on Ray’s wonderful life and his favorite hole before it was my turn to tee off. Then I walked up to hit…
I didn’t think about my swing as I struck the ball perfectly. The ball flew straight at the flag and when it hit the green, the ball stopped just behind the hole. I thought of Ray and smiled. I then turned to the last player in the group and said, “Well, no hole-in-one.” He smiled and remarked, “I haven’t hit yet.” He then reached into his bag to get his golf club and then stepped up to the tee. With one perfectly timed swing, hit his shot. The ball flew over the winding cart path to the green and with two short bounces, suddenly disappeared into the cup. For some reason there wasn’t a lot of celebration after this miraculous event. We all walked quietly along the cart path up to the green. I held the flag pole and as my new companion reached into the hole to retrieve the ball, he suddenly stopped. Before he scooped the ball out he looked up at me and asked, ”What’s his name again?” I smiled and replied, ”It’s Ray Dolen!” He retrieved the ball out of the hole and stood up proudly. As he clutched the ball, he extended his arm up in the air and softy shouted, ”That’s for you Ray Dolen!”
Before the Rosary that night, I called my brother-in-law, Gary Dolen, Ray’s son, to share with him what happened on the course. When I arrived, a dozen of Ray’s friends found me and asked me about the hole-in-one that afternoon. That is why I love golf. More so, that is why I love God being on my bag. Bless you Ray!
Mission City Voices