Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.

When Patrick Curran made a hole-in-one on Aug. 15, 1978, he saved and inscribed the ball as a keepsake of what he figured would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. It turns out he underestimated a bit.

Twenty years and two weeks after that ace at Brentwood Country Club, he was playing at Holbrook Country Club and, sure enough, he made another hole-in-one. He saved that ball, too, and has done the same thing plenty of times since then. By his count, the 58-year-old Oakdale resident has made 24 holes-in-one.

The most recent was on Aug. 24 at Timber Point Golf Course in Great River, the course closest to his home and his heart. He has made six of his aces there. But he has scored holes-in-one all over Long Island, as well as in South Carolina, Florida, California, Puerto Rico and Mexico. He had forgotten about the latter one until his wife, Joyce, unearthed a certificate from the Marina Vallarta course (dated May 23, 2000) while the two of them were combing through memorabilia for this story.

"It's rare, there's no doubt about it. I don't know why I kept the first ball. I guess I never thought I'd get another one," Curran said at Timber Point on Labor Day, after a round in which he didn't make an ace. "I do hit the ball pretty well, don't get me wrong. But for some reason, they go in. It's amazing."

Some might say a bit too amazing. Even though he never plays alone and always gets his scorecard signed by a playing partner, his resume invites skepticism. "I understand that, I really do," he said. So does Andy Carracino, head pro at Timber Point, who has known Curran for years (and has three career aces).

"You don't want to doubt people, but when the same guy keeps coming in with holes-in-one . . . " Carracino said. The pro's trust in Curran was bolstered three weeks ago when the golfer's perfect 3-hybrid shot on Timber Point Red's 193-yard fifth hole was witnessed by two men who work in the pro shop. Curran wasn't jumping up and down with elation, the way most ace shooters do. He clearly had been down that road before. One of the staffers was playing with Curran again the following week when he missed yet another one by a fraction of an inch.

Had it gone in, the ball would have merited a special place in the Curran home. A wall is devoted to a case that displays each of the hole-in-one balls, along with the ball with which he made each of his three double-eagles on par-5 holes (two of his aces were on par-4s, at Brentwood and The Ponds in Lake Grove).

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Curran said he always follows the hole-in-one tradition of buying drinks for the house, but got off easy with No. 24 because his ace came at 9 in the morning.

He is Long Island's answer to Art Wall, the former Masters champion who made more than 40 holes-in-one. Curran's secret, along with being lucky, is that he is good at the game -- a longtime scratch player, he now is a 5 handicap after three back surgeries -- and, he said, "I play every day."

Growing up as one of nine children in Port Jefferson, he made spending money as a caddie at what was then Harbor Hills Country Club. He fell in love with golf (unlike his wife and their six children, none of whom play) and played throughout his 40 years in construction. Patrick Curran Custom Homes Inc. built 1,700 homes on Long Island before he retired in May.

"The clubs were always in the truck. I was playing between 300 and 400 rounds a year," he said. "Back then, salesmen used to take you to play golf. The minute the guys saw a salesman drive up, they'd yell 'Fore!' because they knew that I was leaving."

He has spinal stenosis, which he considers an occupational hazard. "When I play golf," he said, "I feel better."