It was an hour that could have been part of a script from “The Twilight Zone,” according to Marshall Zimmerman.
However, after quickly looking back at his 18-hole round of golf during an American Cancer Society outing June 22 at Airport Golf Course in Gahanna, the Blacklick resident recognized this was fate not fantasy, his chance to encourage others’ faith and hope.
“No words can explain this,” Zimmerman said. “I said, ‘Why is this happening to me? This is going to be newsworthy.’ I came to the conclusion that God was giving me a platform in order to give others the message of hope.”
Zimmerman, who is 55 and had been golfing for 30 years without recording a hole-in-one, made two that day in the charity scramble.
He recorded his first on the 175-yard No. 8 hole, using a 5-iron. He then used a pitching wedge to ace the 99-yard No. 17.
“I truly just knew I was going to make the one at No. 17,” Zimmerman said. “I didn’t want to jinx it, so I didn’t tell anyone. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was in. I just had the feeling that the first one came from above. When we reached 17, I had this knowing-calm that I was going to do it again.”
“It was a crazy scene after the second one, for a guy who had never even recorded one in his life,” said Tim Kurtz, who joined Zimmerman, Mark Dennis and Jeff Radomski in the foursome of friends who attend Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna. “The message that Marshall wants to send to all those people suffering from cancer is that miracles do happen, so never give up.”
Zimmerman’s confidence at No. 17 was buoyed by his shot-making throughout the round.
“After the first (ace), I made a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 9 and a 30-foot eagle putt on No. 10,” he said. “I couldn’t miss. It was just one of those things. I finished the round with a 20-foot birdie putt on 18. It was like on ‘Caddyshack’ when the bishop was having the round of his life in the rainstorm.”
The odds of making two aces in the same round are about 67 million to 1, according to nationalholeinoneregistry.com.
It wasn’t just beating the odds on the golf course that left Zimmerman in awe. It was a number of other coincidences that had him thinking he received spiritual help.
He was playing in the event for the first time, in memory of his father Norm Zimmerman, who died of lung cancer on June 23, 2006. Zimmerman also was honoring an aunt, Betty Phelps, who died of breast cancer earlier in June, and was celebrating his 89-year-old mother-in-law Betty Longest being a breast cancer survivor of 20 years.
“I looked back at the whole day and just started piecing it together,” Zimmerman said. “It started when I was leaving the house. I went back and changed into the shirt that was given to me on Father’s Day by Natasha (Ballard). She’s not our daughter, but she stayed with us when she attended Capital (University) and we partially funded her schooling because she had a rough family life. My wife, Karen, was a guidance counselor at Reynoldsburg (High School) when Natasha was there. So we sort of took her in after our two children had moved out.”
Ballard graduated from Capital in 2010 and recently earned a teaching position at Gahanna Lincoln, where she was named girls soccer coach.
“Out of love for Natasha, I changed shirts,” Zimmerman said. “Plus, it was almost to the day that my father died seven years ago and my aunt just died recently. I was with church friends. I never had a hole-in-one before and then I get two in about an hour. Plus, I had that feeling I was going to get the second one. Something happened there.”
Zimmerman thinks he was used as an example.
“If I can beat the odds on a golf course and have something special like this happen to me, all these people afflicted with cancer need to have faith that they can beat their odds,” he said. “I can call it a miracle. Maybe others wouldn’t, but they have to believe they can beat the odds no matter how great those odds are and how bleak things can look at times.”