Hole-in-one worth the wait for Groton's Curtiss

John Curtiss, 77, of Groton poses with his Bates College golf ball after recording a hole-in-one in March at Little River, N.C. (Photo courtesy of John Curtiss)
John Curtiss, 77, of Groton poses with his Bates College golf ball after recording a hole-in-one in March at Little River, N.C. (Photo courtesy of John Curtiss)

A drinking glass holding a golf ball and scorecard from that memorable day sits in his den in his Groton home.

Those items serve as a fond reminder that you're never too old to notch a hole-in-one.

John Curtiss, who started playing golf 60 years ago, accomplished the feat for the first time in March.

He's 77 years old.

"I never thought it would happen," Curtiss said on Tuesday. "When it happened, I was stunned."

Here's what happened:

John was playing a round with his wife, Sue, and friends Jim and Carol Rooney at The Valley at Eastport Golf Club in Little River, N.C. They live part-time in nearby Sunset Beach during the winter.

"We were having a good time and it was a nice day," Curtiss said.

The day was about to get even better when he prepared to tee off on the par 3, 15th hole. He had come very close over the years to recording a hole-in-one on his home course, Stonington Country Club, especially on the eighth hole. But his ball either rolled just short or hit the pin.

This time, he was right on target.

"It was downhill about 160 yards and the wind was behind me, so I could loft a six or seven iron," Curtiss recalled. "We were quite a bit above it, so you could see the green below you. I think it hit the front edge, rolled to the middle of the green and went in."

Good fortune remained on his side when he finished his round. About five golfers were in the clubhouse bar, so he only had to buy a few drinks.

He put the golf ball, which he got from attending his 50th Bates College reunion, and scorecard in a glass from the bar and brought it home.

This week, Curtiss is having another get-together with seven Bates College friends. Most of them are former college football teammates.

Curtiss, a retired dentist, has led an interesting life. He's a Vietnam War veteran, spending a year there in 1968. He arrived during the Tet Offensive and immediately ran into trouble at Da Nang Air Base.

"All hell broke loose in February (1968)," Curtiss recalled. "I was in the Marine Corps so I was flying in from Okinawa. We would leave to go to the airplane at 11 at night and then we'd start flying around Da Nang. Two times we couldn't land because it was under siege. They were attacking the airfield. The third time, we made it in.

"... That was quite an introduction to Vietnam."

When he returned home, he settled in Groton, where he's lived for about 50 years.

Now that Curtiss has crossed off a hole-in-one on his bucket list, he has another goal in mind.

"I got one more big thing to conquer and that is to try to shoot my age," said Curtiss, who owns a 13-handicap. "I haven't been able to do that yet... I may have to live a few more years."

Short putts

• John "Jumbo" Elliott, a Norwich Free Academy graduate, played in last weekend's 3M Championship, a PGA Champions Tour event held at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn. He finished with a three-round total of 3-over 219 (74-72-73), placing 73rd overall. He had nine birdies, 36 pars, six bogeys and three double bogeys overall. His averaging driving distance was 276.5 yards and he hit 38 of 54 greens in regulation.

• Mark LaPietra, the top seed, has reached the semifinals of the Shennecossett Golf Course men's club championship. He'll play No. 12 Gus Campos on Saturday while No. 15 Corey Jones and No. 3 Mitch Marron meet in the other semifinal match. Jones knocked off defending champion Craig Lambert in his first match.

The 36-hole final tees off on Sunday.

• At River Ridge Golf Course in Griswold, Mike Gasparino was crowned the men's club champion last weekend. He posted a two-round total of 156 while defending champion Matt Bedard was second with a 159. Bob Desantis was the net champion with a 139 and Mike O'Brien was second with a 140. Ken Deremiah and DiMaggio Comfort tied for the Callaway title with a 150.

• Tom Allen won the A Flight club championship at Pequot Golf Club on Sunday, finishing the stroke-play event with a three-round total of 231 (84-74-73). Rick Simonds (235) and Hamish McArthur (239) took second and third, respectively.

In the B Flight, Kevin Rebein won the championship while Karl Boehm was the runner-up and John Bowen was third.

The President's Cup also recently completed play, with Bruce Rebello capturing the title. Pete Smyth placed second. Debbie Pinchera won the Pequot women's golf association handicap tournament.

• Warren Brann won the Elmridge Golf Course men's club A Flight championship match, beating Phil Votto, 1-up.

• Norwich Golf Course will host the 32nd Connecticut Public Links, running next week on Wednesday and Thursday. It is a 36-hole stroke play event. Golfers expected to compete on their home course include: Norwich Invitational champion Josh Cameron, six-time club champion Chris DeLucia, Todd Lavoie, Jeff DeLucia, Rick Vegliante and Jon Caron.

Jones tied for fourth in last year's event at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield.

Pequot club champion James Lathrop, Dave Jones and Tony Susi of Mohegan Sun Country Club, Greg Kosma of River Ridge Golf Course and Justin Beal of Fox Hopyard Golf Club also will be in the field next week.

Kyle Nolin of Tallwood Country Club will be back to defend his title.

• Aces are wild: Laurel Ennis had her first ace last week at Elmridge, pulling it off on the eighth hole on the white course.

• Correction: The runner-up in the Elmridge men's championship final on Sunday was Duane Vance. His first name was spelled incorrectly in Monday's article.

Upcoming events

• Stonington Country Club senior club championship final round will be held on Aug. 20.

• The Connecticut PGA Championship is set for Aug. 29-30 at Keney Park Golf Course in Windsor. Former Black Hall Club assistant pro Adam Rainaud, the defending champion, has won the event two out of the last three years.

• Great Neck Country Club is holding its club championship day on Monday, Sept. 4. Eric Bergstrom has won the men's title four of the last five years while Lynn Kiah has captured two straight women's championships.

• Please email any golf tournament results, aces, or interesting golf-related news to:

g.keefe@theday.com

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