Becoming a good friend of a pro golfer who was in the U.S. Open was a big deal for Darryl Garner of Amityville. Garner even played a round with James Kamte, who had played a practice round with Tiger Woods. It just wasn't the greatest thrill of his golf career. Not even close.
A week earlier, Garner had scored a double eagle.
He holed his second shot on the par-5 468-yard 18th hole at Eisenhower Park's White Course from 205 with a hybrid club. "I saw it go on the green and said to myself, 'Oh my God.' I didn't believe that," he said the other day.
In golf lingo, it is called an albatross because it is so rare. "We didn't even know it had a name, until Darryl called absolutely everyone he knew," said Doug Marriott, a friend who was playing in Garner's group that day.
It is less known but more special even than a hole-in-one on a par 3, as Jed Wilder can tell you. Wilder, a Manhattan resident, made a double eagle on the 479-yard par-5 third hole at North Shore Country Club last week - after having made a hole-in-one on the same course's ninth hole about a month earlier.
"With the hole-in-one, it was more of a relief to finally get one," said Wilder, a 4-handicap who shot 74 the day he made 2 on the par 5. "There aren't a whole lot of double eagles."
In fact, no one has scientific odds on making one. A Golf World story a few years ago said that on the PGA Tour between 1983 and 2003, pros made 631 aces but only 56 double eagles. The percentage of albatrosses is likely even smaller among amateurs.
There is no clear indication on how it became known as an albatross, a word that normally signifies something bad. When Gene Sarazen made his famous double eagle at the 1935 Masters - the shot that some say popularized the tournament in Augusta - he was quoted by at least one source as calling it a "dodo."
"To get one, you have to be strong," said Marriott, who has had several eagles but never a double eagle, "and really lucky."
Garner was lucky he didn't get razzed by Marriott and their other regular playing partner Steve Drummond for failing to break 90 on June 11. A 10-handicap, Garner had not had a spectacular round and his buddies were prepared to let him hear it. Sure enough, though, after that round, all they talked about was the way he saved 89, with a deuce on the final hole.
"I've got the scorecard and the ball I hit it with, too," Garner said. "A Titleist Pro V1-X."
He acknowledges having shouted when he thought it might have gone in. He really let loose once Marriott drove his cart to the green and signaled that it was in the hole. "That's when, he claims, he fainted," Marriott said.
It was the start of an eventful month for Garner, who was at the Open and followed the compelling young South African player who had attracted attention by playing with Woods. Garner got talking with him when Kamte was speaking with a mutual friend. "This kid can play, man," Garner said. "He is so humble."
Wilder was humble about the shot that gave him a place forever in North Shore club lore. He said he used a 6-iron from 193 yards. A golfer up ahead said it looked like it had gone in the hole.
"I thought it probably rolled off the green," Wilder said, happily surprised to see the ball in the cup. "Pretty cool."