It was early October. The air in Las Vegas, Nevada was still not real crisp but it was better than the 120 degree temperatures that had baked the desert golf courses in July, August, and September. It was a good day for a hole-in-one.
Doug took his awkward stance at the tee during a routine round of golf for his University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) golf class. His arms were stiffer than most players. His body was rigid and didn’t sway with the perpetual breeze as did the leaves of the palm trees that lined the fairway. Doug’s eyes were on the ball and he never took them off the ground until he was sure the ball had landed; usually twenty to thirty feet in front or to one side of him. When Doug did stroll off of the tee and onto the lush greenery of the Black Mountain Golf Course, there was a difference to his gait; a stiffness to his walk like an unsynchronized action to every movement as if the coo-coo in a time clock was off.
The rest of Doug’s foursome watched where the ball went for him. On this October day, six eyes traveled down the fairway and onto the green of hole #6. They couldn’t see it all but they knew where their eyes took them as the ball rolled over the edge of the cup.
“WAY TO GO, DOUG!” Hands came flying in Doug’s direction as they landed upon his shoulders and back. He stiffened once again.
“What a guy!”
“Can you believe it?”
“Pretend you hit that one for me, Doug.”
“I’ll buy you a beer at the end of this, Doug.”
“Nope, I don’t drink beer.” Doug looked at them with a poker face and added, “Where’s my ball?”
“Where do ‘ya think, Champ?” asked one of the guys.
A sudden smile loomed across Doug’s face. “In the hole?”
“You got it! You, Douglas Harrington, made a hole-in-one.”
“Can I get it now?”
All four of the young men smiled in harmony. “Now’s the time, Doug,” said one of them.
“My grandpa made a hole-in-one once. He got a trophy but he’s dead now. I remember he kept the ball,” proclaimed Doug.
“Are you going to keep your ball, Doug?” asked the young man with the baseball cap.
“Sure. Maybe grandpa dropped it there from Heaven,” said Doug.
“Just maybe he did help, Doug, but I think you hit it on your own. This one’s for you to keep, buddy,” said the friend as he plucked the ball from the metal lined hole and handed it to Doug.
Doug’s eyes glanced quickly to the ball and then up toward the sky. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to.
Three young men learned something that day in October, 1991 that will hopefully travel with them for the rest of their lives. They learned that, although handicapped by the syndrome of autism, one of their own experienced a triumph in a golfer’s life by making a hole-in-one, and they too, were sure that Doug’s grandpa was watching down.