VALENCIA — Talk about a triumphant return to golf.
Bill Bender, 26, of Mars, certainly made one May 2 at Rittswood Golf Course.
A former Mars High School golfer and an avid player, Bender had not played a round of golf since last fall. He headed to Rittswood May 2 toplay 18 holes with his father, William Bender, and friends Greg Tabisz and Drew Dillner.
Golf courses in Pennsylvania reopened May 1 after being shut down in March by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I got out to the range once in March before everything got shut down,” Bender said. “Besides that, I hadn’t played a round of golf since October.”
One wouldn’t know it by the way he played the No. 10, 495-yard hole Saturday at Rittswood. He wound up with a rare albatross — double eagle — on the par-5 hole.
“I’ve been here for years and can’t recall another double eagle happening,” Rittswood co-owner Jennifer McManus said. “Bill is a very good golfer and plays here often, so he knows how the course played.
“But to do something like that, just after we reopened ... It’s pretty amazing.”
Bender’s drive off the tee traveled approximately 290 yards and came to rest in the middle of the fairway.
“We were hitting into a slight wind and I was able to play that,” Bender said of his drive. “I was set up pretty well for the second shot.”
He used a 4-iron for that — but was still 205 yards from the hole.
Bender struck the ball solidly — and straight.
“It looked like it was headed right for the flag,” his father said. “The rest of us didn’t get a real good look. We needed another shot to get by the green.”
By the time they got there, Bender knew where his second shot had wound up.
“I was just hoping it’d be close,” Bender said. “When I saw the ball was in the hole, I was shocked. I let out a bit of a scream.”
This wasn’t Bender’s first major achievement on a golf course. A 2011 Mars graduate, he was part of the first Planet golf team to win a section championship.
In 2007, as a young teenager, he scored a hole-in-one on the No. 11, 155-yardpar-3 hole at Lake Vue North during a business golf outing. His father was playing in the same event that day.
“We weren’t in the same foursome, though,” Mr. Bender recalled. “I think I was in the group ahead of him that day.
“When I got the news of his ace, I squeezed my hot dog so hard I got relish and ketchup all over my new golf shirt.”
According to Golf World magazine, odds of a golfer hitting a hole-in-one are 1 in 12,500. Odds of scoring an albatross are more than one in a million.
There are approximately 40,000 holes-in-one struck by golfers in the United States each year. There are only 200 double eagles.
Now a residential contractor, Bender says he plays golf two or three times a week. He plays at Rittswood five to 10 times a year.
“That’s when we were allowed to play,” he said. “I’ve missed it.”
Bender finished his round Saturday with a five-over-par 77 at Rittswood.
“It was a steady round,” he said.
With one notable exception.