CHARLEVOIX — Joe Gaffney did something few PGA professionals accomplished.
He wasn’t even quite sure what it was at the time, or just how rare.
The Charlevoix 13-year-old carded a double eagle — also known as an albatross — on the 456-yard sixth hole at the Charlevoix Golf Club on Aug. 23 while playing a round with Charlevoix standout golfer Jake Beaudoin.
Actually, “carded” is a bit much, because Gaffney doesn’t write down his scores. He keeps them in his head.
If he did, it’d be three little circles around a two. Instead, he kept the ball and wrote the feat and date on it.
But Beaudoin witnessed the feat, and a national tracker of the feat verified it with the teenagers and Doug Drenth at the Charlevoix Golf Club.
TRUST, BUT VERIFY
Michael Christensen, who verifies double eagles all over the world for inclusion in his Double Eagle Club, took note of Gaffney’s accomplishment because of his age.
He’s verified 37 double eagles in Michigan in amateur play.
“I don’t know that there’s many,” Christensen said. “There’s maybe 10 or 15 teenagers worldwide.”
Christensen hasn’t updated his website yet to include Gaffney in the listings on his website (doubleeagleclub.org), but spoke with Gaffney and Drenth to verify to feat.
It’s a coincidence that Gaffney had a witness.
He intended to play the round by himself, but when arriving at the course early that evening, Beaudoin was there practicing on the putting green with Gaffney’s older brother Jack, a senior golfer for the Rayders, and they decided to walk the nine-hole course together. They’d never previously golfed a round together.
Gaffney ended up shooting an even-par 36 for nine holes, with three bogeys and five pars joining the albatross.
“I didn’t realize how big it was,” Gaffney said. “There’s even a club. Some professionals don’t even have a double eagle.”
The 5-foot-6 eighth-grader at Charlevoix Middle School plays basketball, golf and cross country. He normally shoots around 39 on the course.
AGAINST THE ODDS
Double eagles are far more rare than a hole-in-one.
The odds of a PGA Tour player making an ace: 3,000-to-1. For a low-handicapper golfer, it’s even harder, of course: 5,000-to-1.
Christensen said the odds of a double eagle are 100,000-to-1 for a tour pro — odds much longer than a hole-in-one. He said the odds of an 18 handicap golfer firing an albatross are about 6,000,000-to-1. (Gaffney doesn’t have a handicap because he almost always only plays nine holes; 18-hole rounds are required to establish a handicap.)
Dean Knuth, a senior director of the handicap department at the USGA from 1981 to 1997, says they’re better than that but still about a million-to-one shot.
For comparison, the odd of being struck by lightning are one in 555,000.
Around 200 golfers shoot double eagles each year, as opposed to about 40,000 aces.
There have been five recorded “condors” — a hole-in-one on a par-5 or 6 — almost all of which have come by cutting the corner around a dogleg.
“Condor” reportedly become a part of golf lingo as a continuation of the bird theme for under-par scores, with the size of the bird getting bigger as the score gets lower, hence “birdie,” “eagle,” “albatross” and “condor.”
Drenth said it’s the only double eagle he’s heard of in the 125 years of the Charlevoix Golf Club, a course also known as the municipal course, or simply “the muni.”
2 SHOTS FOR MINUS-3
Gaffney said he’s played that hole plenty of times. He plays that course almost every day during the summer.
“I’ve played that hole like a thousand times,” Gaffney said. “I didn’t expect to make it.”
Gaffney hit his drive about 260 yards off the tee.
That left a 6-iron shot from 190 yards out. When he first hit the shot, he thought he should have hit one club up. It started toward the bunker protecting the green’s right side, then bent back, hitting short of the green and kicking on.
“Jake was like, ‘I think it went in,’” Gaffney said.
“We couldn’t tell if it rolled off the back of the green or had gone in because the pin was in the back of the green, but I was pretty sure it went in,” Beaudoin said.
Beaudoin, now a freshman at Michigan State University, said they used his range finder to look at the green and couldn’t see the ball.
“I hadn’t hit my second shot yet, but Joe was pretty calm and just thought it rolled off the back,” Beaudoin said. “I hit my shot up and it was going straight at the pin the whole time and it also rolled very close and then we lost sight of it. As we walked up to the green, we both started to get super excited because we still couldn’t see any balls. Once we did get on the green, we could see one ball on the back fringe and then we ran over to the hole and his ball was in the bottom.”
“I didn’t really know what to do or say,” Gaffney said. “I was so excited.”
Beaudoin called Drenth, who also coaches the Charlevoix High School golf team, from the green. Gaffney called his dad on the next hole.
Now other people call him something different.
“Some people call me ‘albatross,’” Gaffney said. “It’s weird.”
Gaffney basically has only played on two golf courses his entire life, sometimes playing at Belvedere Country Club because his brother Jack works there. That’s also the Rayders’ home course.
“He’s a really talented young man in a lot of stuff,” Drenth said. “He’s already shooting really well and we’ve got a bunch of good young kids coming up, so we hope to reload.”