GNACSports.com
Larson, Hafer Aces In The Hole For MSUB Golf
Scott Larson and Shealyn Hafer with the balls they hit holes-in-one with this season.
Scott Larson and Shealyn Hafer with the balls they hit holes-in-one with this season.

Friday, October 16, 2015
by Evan O'Kelly, Montana State Billings Sports Information Director

BILLINGS, Mont. – Scott Larson will never forget the first swing of his college golf career.
 
Stepping into the tee box on the 11th hole at Heritage Todd Creek Golf Club in Thornton, Colo., on Sept. 14, Montana State University Billings' Larson wasn't sure what to expect in his debut tournament.
 
Larson has been competitively golfing since he was 14, but his ultimate goal of becoming a collegiate golfer was about to come true as he prepared to tee off.
 
Gazing down the long, 192-yard par-3 hole, Larson reached for his trusty 6-iron as he had done countless times before.
 
It was the same 6-iron he gripped as a junior at Glacier High School in his home town of Kalispell, Mont., when he connected perfectly on the par-3, sixth hole at Northern Pines Golf Club and watched his ball drop into the cup 192 yards away for a hole-in-one.
 
This time sporting the navy and gold in his first tournament as a Yellowjacket, the setting – from distance to par to club selection – was identical, and what happened next was all but fate. Somewhere embedded in Larson's muscle memory was a snapshot of his perfect swing two years earlier, a backswing-to-follow-through in perfect synchrony that his body was able to summon a second time.

Same distance. Same club. Same swing. Same result.
 
After one hole, Larson was 2-under par with an eagle on the leaderboard. After one hole, Larson had drilled an ace in the most improbable, unforgettable, and unrepeatable fashion imaginable.
 
"No one knew it went in, but when we all got down there we realized it was in the cup," Larson said. "On this one I was a little more in shock than my first one. There was more emotion behind it since it was my first swing."
 
MSUB women's golf freshman Shealyn Hafer was in the first tee box 30 miles north at Fox Hills Golf Club, in Longmont, Colo., getting set for the first shot of her career when she heard of Larson's ace. MSUB head coach Shawn O'Brien was offering Hafer advice as she prepared to swing away, while checking the live stat updates on his phone from the men's tournament.
 
"He told me right before my first shot, but it didn't really dawn on me until after the round," Hafer said. "It is crazy cool to have your first college shot be a hole-in-one. I had never seen one; no one I had ever been on a team with had ever hit one before."
 
"I couldn't quite decide if it was a typo, or if Scott had made a swing that he would never forget," O'Brien said regarding his reaction to the live update on his phone. "It took me a second to process that they had started in a shotgun format, and that was his first-ever collegiate swing."
 
LATER CAME HAFER
Fast-forward three weeks to Sand Hollow Resort in St. George, Utah where Butte, Mont., native Hafer and the Yellowjackets were competing in their fourth-consecutive road tournament. Hafer had reached the 15th hole in Round 1 on Oct. 5, and an already frustrating round took a further turn south.
 
Left of the green on the seemingly simple 110-yard par-3 chip shot was a drastic drop off surrounded by red rocks where ill-struck tee shots went to turn into double bogeys. Hafer knew she needed to aim small and miss small, but she winced as her Pro V1 released from her pitching wedge and faded short and to the left of the green. She knew immediately she had missed her mark, and four strokes later her scorecard threatened to give under the weight of her pen as she inked a frustrated '5'.

Working her way through the course a second time the following day, Hafer had a chance at redemption on the hole that had cost her two strokes. "To the right, the green slopes and there's a side hill," Hafer said. "I figured that if I was able to catch that, it would be perfect."
 
Somewhat caught in between club lengths, Hafer elected this time to go with a half swing using her 9-iron in hopes of playing it safe. As quickly as she had lost two strokes the day before she gained them right back as her aim was true on the right side of the green. "It hit the side of the hill, and it didn't even roll," Hafer said. "It jammed into the hole really fast. I saw it go in and I started freaking out."
 
Though O'Brien was at the course for the Yellowjackets' second ace in as many weeks, it wasn't until after Hafer's round that he learned of her incredible shot. "I had seen Shea a couple holes prior to her hitting it, but when her round was over I was still on the course," O'Brien recalled. "She sent me a text message and told me to come see her in the club house. I just had this crazy odd feeling, so I responded back, 'hole in one?'"
 
O'Brien's hypothesis was right on the money, as he congratulated Hafer when she gave him the news.
 
Meanwhile, Larson and his male teammates were in their hotel when fellow freshman Braden Luper made the announcement. "Braden said, 'Shea just hit a hole-in-one!'" Larson said. "I had never been on a team with someone who hit one before so that was pretty exciting."
 
"I hadn't been playing as well as I wanted to, and that hole-in-one was kind of a reassurance for me," Hafer said. "Between my swing change and everything else I have been going through, it was a good boost of confidence."
 
ONE(S) FOR THE AGES
"Hopefully it doesn't take me another five years before we see this happen again." – MSUB head coach Shawn O'Brien on his team's two recent holes-in-one.
 
A feat considered rare across the global spectrum of sport, the hole-in-one pops up from time to time as a reminder of the brilliant simplicity, incredible difficulty, and sometimes pure luck that goes into a golf shot.
 
Any average golfer has the ability to hit an iron shot 100-plus yard: Brilliant simplicity. To analyze the number of factors from wind to slope to club range involved with a given shot is where it gets tricky: Incredible difficulty. Both of these combined with a degree of sheer luck play into the feat recently accomplished by Larson and Hafer.
 
It's impossible to say when those three factors may combine again and result in the perfect outcome.
 
"The first hole-in-one I was able to witness was (alumnus) Jake Letman hitting one as a freshman in Hawaii," O'Brien said. "I had to wait five more years to have our program hit two within two weeks of each other."
 
Perhaps it will be another five years or more before the next Yellowjacket hole-in-one. Perhaps it will come when MSUB resumes its season at the Yellowjacket Spring Invitational in March, as it nearly did on Friday at the Yellowjackets' home course of Pryor Creek Golf Club.
 
Another freshman on the team this year, Kortney McNeil made solid contact on the par-3 second hole of the Elmer Links Course, and watched as her tee shot punctured the green, kicked off of the pin, and came to rest a foot away from the cup. Awaiting the arrival of the ball in a golf cart just off of the green was O'Brien, who momentarily thought he had witnessed yet another ace.
 
"I thought the ball flight looked good initially off of the club, I lost it for a little while, and then picked it up about 20 feet from the ground," O'Brien said. "When the ball hit, it blew part of the back of the cup out. I jumped out of my cart because I was in disbelief that it hadn't gone in."
 
Narrowly missing the opportunity to fish McNeil's ball out of the cup, O'Brien settled for reconstructing the hole in advance of McNeil's tap-in birdie putt.
 
"In a matter of three weeks, our golf program hit the back of the cup three times," O'Brien commented on the three incredible tee shots.
 
The simple question that remains for the Yellowjackets: Who's next?

Copyright ©2017 Great Northwest Athletic Conference. All Rights Reserved. GNACSports.com