Starting 2014 with ‘a miracle’

Published 10:59 pm Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Larry Willis of Windsor set a high standard for himself in 2014 during a round of golf on New Year’s Day.

Ace: Larry Willis of Windsor holds the golf ball that he hit on New Year's Day for his first-ever hole-in-one. It came on No. 7 at the Nansemond River Golf Club. (Titus Mohler/Suffolk News-Herald)

Ace: Larry Willis of Windsor holds the golf ball that he hit on New Year’s Day for his first-ever hole-in-one. It came on No. 7 at the Nansemond River Golf Club. (Titus Mohler/Suffolk News-Herald)

As he and two long-time friends reached the green on the 152-yard No. 7 at Nansemond River Golf Club, Willis’ ball was the only one unaccounted for, though he had seen it hit the green.

He recommended checking the hole to one of his friends, who laughingly complied. Willis described what was found.

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“A real surprise,” he said. “Seventy-one years old — first hole-in-one.”

“It was a miracle,” he added.

He said he felt positive about the tee shot, which he executed with a 3-hybrid.

“I felt like I had a good stroke, and I saw it hit the green, but I did not see it go in the hole,” he said.

The ace helped him finish the 18 holes with a score of 81, only two strokes back from his all-time best score of 79. His average score falls between 80 and 90, though he has never taken a single lesson.

Willis belongs to a group called South of the James Golf Club. He played only occasionally before retiring in June 2007, but the “last six and a half years I’ve played right much,” he said.

He, Pinkie Bland and Larry Evans play together nearly every Monday and Wednesday, and New Year’s Day was just a normal Wednesday round until hole No. 7.

“The old saying is what you do the first day of the year is what you do all year long, so they’re looking for more from me,” he said with a chuckle.