Mike Anderson lived a golfer’s dream on April 22.
Well, sort of.
Let’s just call it a COVID-19 hole-in-one.
There’s a new normal in golf with six-feet social distancing, one person per cart, and hole-in-ones that don’t wind up in the hole.
Payson Golf Club added foam rings at the base of all 18 flags a few weeks ago as another precaution to reduce the spread of this highly contagious virus.
Now, perfect putts don’t wind up in the cup.
So, welcome to the new normal on the links.
Anderson, 71, has been golfing for nearly 60 years and had never aced a hole.
But the Strawberry resident was competing in the Payson Men’s Golf Association when his sand wedge shot from the No. 14 tee soared 123 yards and hit about an inch from the pin.
The ball raced to the hole, struck the foam and ricocheted 10 feet before stopping.
It’s an official hole-in-one because of the foam inserts.
It just isn’t what Anderson envisioned in those fantasies golfers can’t help but allow to enter their minds.
“You kind of have to put an asterisk by it because it never actually dropped,” Anderson said.
The ace helped Anderson, who sports an 11 handicap, put a triple bogey 7 on No. 13 out of his mind. He shot a gross 81 for the round.
Anderson, who’ll turn 72 on Sept. 5, became interested in golf by watching Arnold Palmer and a young Jack Nicklaus on TV as a child growing up in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, Ill. So, his dad paid for lessons when he was 12.
He later volunteered for the U.S. Air Force and served in the Vietnam War.
He worked in the computer industry for 20 years before earning his PhD in American History from Northern Arizona University in 1999.
He worked for the National Park Service, living at the Grand Canyon and serving as the park historian. He wrote four books.
He and his wife, Linda, lived in the park from 2001 to 2007 when he worked there.
They bought a vacation house in Strawberry in 1982 and moved there year-round after he retired in 2007.
He’s been playing golf with the PMGA ever since and three other days a week.
Dennis Schwebs is one of his golfing buddies. He also experienced the thrill of a hole-in-one recently.
“Dennis got one on No. 17 a few days ago,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t there for that one but I talked to the guys playing with Dennis and they saw it hit the foam insert.
“I saw Dennis do the same thing a couple of weeks ago on the same hole. I saw it hit the foam but nobody else did. Dennis didn’t count it because he wanted to have more confirmation that it actually hit.
“So it’s poetic justice he did it again.”
But it’s just not the way anyone, including Anderson, envisions getting an elusive ace.
“If (mine) hit the pin with that velocity during non-corona time it could have gone anywhere,” he said. “It could have dropped, but I think that’s maybe a 15 percent possibility. That’s not enough to satisfy me I have a true hole-in-one, although according to the rules I do.
“That’s why I want to get another one where I see the ball fall in the hole.”