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Golf / By Jay Skurski: Ciminelli’s double ace a real long shot

Kevin Ciminelli might have been better off buying a lottery ticket instead of playing golf over Memorial Day weekend.

After all, Ciminelli’s odds of hitting the Powerball jackpot and accomplishing what he did on the course are about the same.

Playing at Peek’n Peak’s famed upper course in Clymer, Ciminelli made a pair of hole-in-ones in the same round. The odds of that happening, according to Golf Digest, are 1 in 162,562,500.

The odds of becoming an instant millionaire, according to Powerball’s website, are 1 in 175,223,510.

Ciminelli didn’t become rich. In fact, his accomplishment actually cost him about $40 after buying the traditional round of drinks for the clubhouse. It did, however, give him a pair of priceless memories.

Ciminelli aced the par-3 third hole by using a 7-iron from 172 yards for his first career hole-in-one.

“I didn’t even want to play that day, because we played 36 holes the day before,” he recalled of his round, which came as part of a bachelor party weekend. “I started off kind of rough the first two holes.”

The ace was the first of the 30-year-old Ciminelli’s golfing career, which began when he was 4 years old with his grandfather, Nick Sabo.

He didn’t have to wait long for the second one.

He sank his tee shot on the par-3 13th hole with an 8-iron from 161 yards.

“It was a downhill kind of hole,” Ciminelli said. “I saw it bounce and it just shot across the green into the hole. I’m like, ‘Guys, it went in.’ They didn’t believe me. They thought I was just being cocky. So we ran down there and when we saw it was in, I went bananas.”

Ciminelli finished his round with an 82 – a bit better than average for the Brierwood Country Club member who has a handicap of 11.

“A couple days later, I still couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It was fun trying to figure out the odds of that happening.

For the amateur golfer, Golf Digest puts the odds of making a hole-in-one at 12,500 to 1.

“I don’t ever see myself getting one again, just because of the odds,” Ciminelli said. “I can’t plan for it, that’s for sure.”

It won’t be for lack of trying, though. Ciminelli said he plays two or three times per week when his schedule as an employee at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport allows.

“I’m not a really serious player,” he said. “I just like to go out there and have fun.”

Dwayne Randall, the golf director at the course, said the staff was initially skeptical of Ciminelli’s story. But each hole-in-one was witnessed by players outside of Ciminelli’s foursome.

“It’s something that I’ve heard has happened a few times in the history of the game, but only a few times,” Randall said. “It’s definitely a first for me, so it’s pretty cool to know that it happened here.”

As for that lottery ticket, Ciminelli bought one the next day. His luck continued, sort of. He won $2.

U.S. Open goes the distance

It’s U.S. Open week, which is my favorite major of the year for a couple reasons. One centers on the fact it truly is open to anyone who can qualify, the other is the test it annually provides the best golfers in the world.

About that second point, though, I see an issue this year. Chambers Bay will feature the three longest par-4 holes in U.S. Open history – No. 14 at 546 yards, No. 11 at 537 and No. 13 at 534.

I’m all for the pros not tearing up a golf course, but that’s ridiculous.

Take a player like Jim Furyk, for example. The former U.S. Open champion averages 274 yards off the tee. That means if the course plays from the tips one day and Furyk hits an average drive, he’ll have distances in of 272, 263 and 260 yards in on those holes. That means even with two well-struck shots, Furyk might not be able to reach the greens in two on those holes.

That’s not supposed to be the idea. There are other ways to test a player’s game. Waxing the greens and demanding precision off the tee by making the rough gnarly are too familiar Open setups that do just that.

Simply lengthening the course to a distance that puts it out of reach for a good portion of the field isn’t the right approach. Here’s to hoping the USGA realizes that and doesn’t use the tips on all of those holes every day.

With that said, here are three picks for this week:

1. Jordan Spieth – Choosing the second-ranked player in the world is going with the chalk, but there is good reason. Spieth, the Masters champion, has been on fire all year. Even better, his caddy, Michael Greller, used to loop at Chambers Bay. USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said earlier this year it will take more than a few practice rounds to win this weekend. Spieth will have more course knowledge than most in the field.

2. Phil Mickelson – In his second attempt to complete the career Grand Slam, Mickelson has praised Chambers Bay. He’s also compared it to the links-style courses found overseas, which Mickelson has a newfound love for after winning the Open Championship in 2013. So he’s got the right attitude, which is part of the battle, and also comes in with the momentum of a top-three finish last week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He’s also saved his best for the biggest tournaments, finishing second in each of the last two majors. This might be his best chance to finally win a tournament he’s finished runner-up in a record six times.

3. Patrick Reed – When Chambers Bay hosted the U.S. Amateur in 2010 (along with another course), Reed shot 68. He has a great short game and is looking to add a major championship to his growing resume.

While all three picks might seem like favorites, it’s worth noting that eight of the last 10 major winners have been ranked inside the top 20 in the world.


• Adam Ball tied a tournament record in shooting an 8-under-par 62 over the weekend to win the Monroe Invitational at Monroe Golf Club in suburban Rochester.

Ball, a senior at VCU, finished at 5-under 275 for 72 holes. His round of 62 tied the tournament record set by PGA Tour pro Dustin Johnson in 2007.

Three locals played in the event, which draws a field of amateurs that ranks just below the Porter Cup in terms of its strength. East Amherst’s Danny Yustin finished tied for 36th at 2-over 10-over, while Buffalo native Jacob Kreuz tied for 52nd and and Lockport’s Desmond Stoll tied for 69th in the 78-player field.

• Rain postponed the Buffalo District Golf Association’s Men’s Mid-Amateur championship Sunday. The new date for the event is 1 p.m. July 6 at Niagara Frontier Country Club, with dinner to follow. Those players in the field who intend to play don’t have to do anything, those who can’t play are asked to email to let tournament organizers know.

• Lackawanna’s Liam Friedman qualified for the New York State Open earlier this month with a round of 1-under 71 at Stafford Country Club. He finished two shots behind Chris Malec and amateur Andrew Bieber, who each shot 3-under 69. Friedman, an assistant pro at Orchard Park Country Club, will now take a place in the Lenox Advisors New York State Open, which will be held from July 14-16 at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale.

Crag Burn’s Peter Creighton is the first alternate from the Stafford qualifier after shooting 1-over 73, while Rob Krajewski, who like Friedman is an assistant pro at Orchard Park, is second alternate after a round of 2-over 74.

• Local golf news of note is welcome at the email address below.