Livonia — The early bird gets the worm.
Or, in this case, the prize.
Tom Young was one of the first golfers out on Monday morning at Whispering Willows Golf Club for the Detroit News/Golf Association of Michigan Hole In One Contest. His effort was an impressive benchmark: 2 feet, 2 inches from the cup at the seventh hole, from a distance of 132 yards.
Young’s mark lasted almost all day — until one of the final golfers in the afternoon, Brian Gulick, had his turn. Gulick matched Young’s mark of 2-2 and a random draw broke the tie, making Young the overall winner.
The annual event brought scores of golfers from all ages and ability levels; the only qualifying requirement was having hit an ace. Each competitor took up to four tries to get closest to the pin in what has become something of a reunion event for some of the golfers, who return year after year in search of their next ace.
“My friend, Tim DeWitt, and I do it every year and have breakfast at 6:30,” said Young, 61. “It’s always a good way to start your day, any time you’re golfing.”
Young used a wedge for his winning shot, the best finish he’s had competing in the event. Last year’s effort was 12-6 and he said his closest in the contest was about four feet, but Monday’s win was his crowning achievement, outside of his original ace.
When Gulick, 63, arrived about 4 p.m., he looked at the leaderboard and was somewhat daunted by the mark he had to beat. But he was able to match it with a masterful wedge.
Monday’s shot was reminiscent of his hole in one, which came not too far away — when he used a 5-iron on the fifth hole from 203 yards, also at Whispering Willows, in 1996. On that special day, Gulick had his wife and father with him.
Gulick coached the golf teams at Redford Thurston and Livonia Stevenson and he came later in the afternoon because he needed to finish his teaching day.
Jack Schadowski had the first of his three holes in one in 1973 at Warfield Greens in Fraser.
Schadowski is still going strong, celebrating his 90th birthday on the golf course, in his fourth Detroit News/GAM Hole In One Contest on Monday.
His shot was 26 feet, 10 inches, but it’s not about the competition, as much as it is spending time with his family — they helped him start the early birthday celebration over the weekend — in Lake Orion.
The super senior division (age 80 and above) had all the suspense it needed in back-to-back contestants. First, 86-year-old Duane Dunne put his shot 10 feet, 6 inches from the hole, looking to have the winning shot, considering last year’s winning distance for the division was 11 feet, 6 inches.
The very next golfer, Dominica Guzzardo, 86, had an answer. Guzzardo’s shot was 10 feet from the pin — and that mark stood for the remainder of the day.
The thought of teeing off weighed on Nathan Munteen for most of the day.
Munteen, 12, was one of the youngest competitors in the contest, and unlike almost all of the other entrants, he had to wait until his school day was done to hit his shots. The contest lingered on his mind for most of his school day and his mother got him to Whispering Willows about 3 p.m. — just before his appointment for braces at 30 minutes later.
Munteen, from Livonia, got his ace at Idyl Wyld at age 11 — but he never saw it.
“My golfing partners and I were chest-bumping, but I didn’t see it go in,” Munteen said.
Overall: Tom Young, 61, 2 feet, 2 inches
Junior: Tyler Klimas, 15, 19-7
Women: Sandy Szuba, 40, 50-10
Senior women: Maria Lobbestael, 61, 14-11
Men: Robert Janik, 52, 3-7
Senior men: Brian Gulick, 63, 2-2
Super senior men: Dominic Guzzardo, 82, 10-0