The odds are so impossible to grip mentally, accomplishing such a thing led everyone to offer Gary Choyka an obvious piece of advice.
“They all said I should go play the lottery,” he said.
But Choyka had already enjoyed a small windfall, plenty enough to cover rounds of drinks at LPGA International after a recent hole-in-one.
“Hey, barkeep, make it a double!”
That’s right, Choyka’s ace on the par-3 third hole at LPGA’s Jones Course in Daytona Beach, Florida, was matched a couple hours later with yet another hole-in-one on the par-3 14th.
“You talk about experiences in golf. It has to be one of the best,” Choyka said.
Well, certainly among the rarest. Odds of an amateur acing a hole are generally listed at 12,500-to-1. Odds against that second ace in the same round: An astounding 67 million-to-one.
Odds of a professional golfer making an ace are roughly 10 times better than an amateur. A second ace by a pro? In the entire history of the PGA Tour, it’s happened just three times, most recently by Brian Harman five years ago.
For what it’s worth, it’s the second time it’s happened in the Daytona Beach area in the past year. Port Orange golfer Jerry Bass did it at Crane Lakes Golf Club in Port Orange, Florida, last February.
Choyka’s aces both came with a 7-iron. No. 3 was playing 152 yards slightly into the wind, while the 14th was playing the opposite direction at 162 yards.
Some aces involve more luck than others, but “I hit both shots well,” said Choyka, 67, a retired school teacher and basketball coach from the Philadelphia area who carries a 10.5 handicap index. The third hole, he suggested, carries some sort of golfing mojo for him.
On the third tee, he watched as one playing partner and then another hit amazing tee shots to within 18 inches of the cup.
“The first one looked like it was going in,” he said. “And the second one, too — we were saying, ‘Go in, go in.’ Then I get up and hit, and it goes in. Amazing.”
It was on that same third hole, last April, in the same Wednesday group of about 20 golfers, where Choyka stood with his foursome and watched Tammie Green — retired LPGA Tour golfer and member of the Wednesday group — pluck her ball out of the cup after an ace. Choyka, moments later, did the same for his first-ever hole-in-one.
Choyka isn’t an overly excitable sort, but said he was a bit amped internally when he reached the fourth tee after his first ace.
“You can see where my scores went up after the first one,” he said, noting that he followed the ace with a double-bogey and played the next six holes in 7-over par.
Bryan Murphy, another Wednesday regular, was playing a couple of foursomes ahead of Choyka two weeks ago.
“I think I was on No. 4 or 5 and I got a text, ‘Gary just aced No. 3,’ ” recalls Murphy. “Later, we’re coming up the 16th and I get another text saying Gary had an ace on 14. The guys with me were saying, ‘Wait a minute, is that the same text as before or did he do it again?’ It was pretty amazing.”
On No. 3, Choyka had a good view of the ball the whole way as it caught a left-to-right slope and tracked cleanly into the cup. On 14, the sun’s glare made it impossible to follow the ball the whole way, but he knew he’d hit it well and figured it was close.
“We couldn’t see it,” he said. “I thought I was about three feet to the left. Once it hits the green, it’s going wherever it wants to go. Somebody up there was looking down and saying, ‘OK, we’ll give you this one.’
“Golf is such a humbling sport. You have your ups and downs. Fortunately, that day someone was looking down on me.”
In the Wednesday group — it’s also a Monday and Friday group for most — everyone contributes to a hole-in-one pot, and while Choyka declined to divulge his winnings from that day, he said it was more than worthwhile to adhere to the golfing custom of picking up the post-round bar tab.
And yes, he did follow everyone’s advice to take a stab at that day’s lottery.
“So I played,” he said. “Didn’t win.”
Some odds are just too long.